Friday, March 30, 2012


I've decided to (mostly) stop cooking meat at home.  I'm not going vegetarian (yet), but I think I can meet my nutritional needs with a lot less meat in my diet.  So, I stocked my kitchen with iron/protein rich vegetables and grains, and I kicked off my flexitarian lifestyle with a dinner of quinoa cakes with a tossed green salad.

I've been checking out quinoa cake recipes all over the place.  Mostly, they call for a couple cups of cooked quinoa, some herbs, a couple of eggs, half a cup of grated cheese and about a half a cup of something to bind it all together.

It's really easy - just mix the ingredients together, make some small-ish patties and then cook them on a hot grill.

I have issues in my kitchen, in that the salesman opted not to tell me that the heat from a gas stove would destroy (and void the warranty) of the vent on a over-the-range microwave.  Instead, he sold me both a gas stove and an over-the range microwave, and as a result my smoke detector goes off at least once a week.  So, I don't fry much on the stove.  Instead, I use my friend the panini press/grill.  It actually worked out really well in this case, because it pressed all the patties down to a consistent thickness.

Also - don't touch these for a few minutes after you put them on the pan.  You don't need to add any oil or grease to prevent them from sticking, but leave them alone for a bit so that a good crispy crust can develop on the outside.  On a frying pan, I'd cook them for about 3-5minutes per side.  On the panini grill, which cooks both sides at once, I left them for about 5 minutes total.

This was an experiment, so I used basic ingredients like cheddar cheese and bread crumbs for binding.  I think they worked out well, so the next time I think maybe I'll up my game with feta or goat cheese, fresh herbs instead of dried and oats instead of breadcrumbs.  

These were yummy.  The truth is, I had planned to cook these and then whip up a quick salad.   I wolfed three of them down, straight off the grill, and then had to remind myself to make the salad.  They were that good.

Another idea is that the next time I make them, I might make them a little bigger and put them on a bun to eat like a hamburger.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

If You Haven't Got a Penny...

The Canadian Gov't announced today that it will stop producing pennies in the fall.  Apparently, pennies cost more to produce than they are worth, so prices in Canada will be rounded up to the nearest nickel.  (YEAH!)

Coincidently, I have a penny collection... kind of.  I never really set out to collect pennies, I just find that they tend to fill up my wallet.   So, I got into the habit of going into my wallet every once in a while  and taking all the pennies out.  I don't know if I saved them, really, but once I got into the habit of setting them aside, I sort of got out of the habit of paying for things with pennies.  I usually end up paying with a larger coin and get pennies back.  

I started with a cup that I threw my pennies into at first.  It turned into a jam jar and then a mason jar.  Now I've got the pennies in a gallon-sized jar.  Just the other day, I was wondering how many pennies there were in there.  I don't expect they're worth all that much, but I've always figured that one day I'd cash them in and buy myself a treat.  Now, I'm thinking that they might be worth a little more if I save them for a while longer, until pennies are a thing of the past like the $2 bill.

For once, it seems that one of my mindless quirks might actually end up paying off.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hunger Games

I don't know any of the actors in this movie, but loved the books.  I'm going to see it tonight, feeling hopeful but not overly optimistic.

Please God, let this be a better movie than the Twilight series.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

We've decided

This is where we're going:

Venice - wander, get lost on purpose, see colourful houses on the lagoon islands, see (maybe ride) gondolas, eat pasta
Bologna - food tour, market tour, cooking classes, eat pasta
Florence - see David, Gelato Crawl (GTS!),  photography/walking tour, eat pasta
Cassino - bittersweet but necessary... short stop to pay respect to an uncle who died in WWII
Amalfi Coast - boat tour, check out where the olives and lemons grow (likely gone by the time we get there), eat pizza and pasta
Istanbul - to see if you're paying attention

You may notice that we'll be pretty light on some of the typical tourist attractions on this trip.  Ginny, my aunt, and I are eerily similar and we agree that we'd rather learn about the culture and see the scenery than to stand in line.  David is the exception, because his life-long residence on Ginny's bucket list is our reason for going to Italy.  We do want to learn all about Italian food, however.  And eat a lot of it.

Edited to add:
Isobel from IsobelandCat’s blog is remembering her kitty tonight.  She is asking that we all join in and light a candle today and tonight and put it in a window to remember the pets in our own lives and to remember Cat too. She suggests we all clink a glass of something of your choice. 
So, here's to you Winston & Clementine, Millie, Mourning, Oliver, Ellie, Mystery, Asparagus (Gussie), Raisin and Lulu.  I miss you all.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dumb Like a Fox

Tallulah talks to me.  She may not speak, but she's very clear in her communication.  If she's hungry, she paws her food bowl.  If she's thirsty, she paws her water bowl.  If she wants outside, she stands at the door and barks.  If I open the door and she doesn't want outside, she takes a giant step back.  I'm pretty confident that I understand what she's trying to tell me most of the time.

Cotton, on the other hand, is not the best at communication.  If he wants something, he stands and stares at me until I figure it out.  The Stare can mean hunger, thirst, a need to go outside, boredom or pretty much anything else.  His stare and my resulting guessing game have been what we've done his entire life.

On top of this, I suspect that Cotton's not 'all there' anymore.  He's good when he's got his routines, but his mind wanders, he gets distracted easily and I get the distinct impression lately that he's not always quite sure what's going on.

This morning, for instance, Cotton came to stare at me.  He generally gets a freeze dried chicken breast in the morning, so, I got up to get the dogs their chicken.  Tallulah gets hers in the kitchen.  She gobbles hers down in seconds and has been known to then steal from Cotton, so I take his chicken to his crate for him.  Usually, he gnaws on it for about 10 minutes before it's gone.

This morning, I put Cotton's chicken in the back of his crate and then went into a different room.  A moment later, I noticed him at my feet, staring at me again.  I figured that I'd distracted him by leaving the room (his crate is behind my desk so he's used to me sitting there while he eats) so I finished what I needed to do and then brought him back to his crate.  ... and found a certain poodle lying down with her head shoved inside, licking up crumbs.

My first reaction was to just let it go.  If Cotton doesn't want his chicken taken from him, he shouldn't leave it unattended.  But, the Dude stood at my feet for the next 20 minutes and stared at me.   Clearly, since he stared at me that long, he must have needed/wanted something.  I checked the food and water bowls and offered to let him out.  None of that was what he wanted.  I figured that he was upset about having his chicken stolen, and that he wanted me to replace it.  So I eventually gave in to the puppy dog eyes and I got him another chicken.

This time, I closed the door to the room to lock Tallulah out.  I tossed Cotton's chicken into the back of his crate, and watched him climb in to get it... and saw him inhale the whole thing in 30 seconds.

I think the little bugger conned me into giving him extra piece of chicken today.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Soooo Good.

Yum.  It's all I can say.

And, you're welcome.  Because you are going to be  thanking me for this.

Spinach Artichoke Heart Dip Pasta

1 tbsp Olive Oil
4 cloves of Garlic
1/2 cup of light cream cheese
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 light parmesan cheese
14 oz can artichoke hearts, chopped
10 oz package of chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
a couple good shakes of hot sauce
1 tsp red pepper flakes
12 oz whole wheat pasta (I used bow ties)

  • Cook the pasta.  
  • Meanwhile, add oil to skillet.  Add garlic and saute for a few minutes.  
  • Add cream cheese, cut into small pieces, sour cream and wine.
  • Add chopped artichokes,  spinach, and the milk.  Mix well.
  • Add parmesan (shredded is best here, vs the powdered grated stuff) and stir until melted.
  • Add hot sauce and pepper flakes, then the cooked & drained pasta.  Mix well.

Unlike the actual dip, this isn't too bad for you.  The recipe serves six, and each serving as 10.6g of fat, 50.1g of carbohydrates, 367.9 Calories and 16.4g of protein. 

I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but I can't.  I made a few changes and lighted it up - am thinking about swapping the wine for lemon juice - but the basic recipe came from a site I found on Pinterest, called Budget Bytes.  It's worth having a look around there - they've got some pretty great ideas.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Home Show Remorse

I went to the home show yesterday.  I love the annual home show, but I questioned the wisdom of going this year (when every spare penny is spoken for.)

While there, I bought a Magic Mesh Hands-free screen door.  Actually, I bought one and a friend bought one.  I wasn't going to buy one, but it's a lot cheaper to buy two than one, so she talked me into it.

Something was in the back of my head, telling me it was a bad idea, but I couldn't think of why.  So, I went for it.  Today, I opened the box to look at it, and very promptly said a string of four letter words.

There ain't no magic mesh that can contain a cat inside the house.  And Himself ain't no outside cat.

So, if you or anybody that you may know want a Magic Mesh hands-free screen door, let me know.  I have one available for cheap.

I also bought a mandolin, for cutting veggies, etc in the kitchen.  I'm pretty attached to my knives and, in general, I don't use many other cutting implements.  However, I wanted something to help me julienne carrots, etc, and thought I might also use it for salads/stir fries if it was as useful as the promos all said.

I brought my mandolin home and used it to dice some tomatoes, cucumber and bell peppers.  It mushed the tomato, and broke the pepper.  The cucumber was so long it was awkward to hold with the handle, so I ended up removing the safety handle, and promptly sliced a thin layer of skin off of the pad of my thumb.  It could be that the mandolin just requires more practice to be useful, but I suspect that I'll stick with my knives.

The more I think of it, the more I'm convinced that I probably should have skipped the Home Show this year.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

An Informational Poll

I know what I should do in this situation, but curiosity has me wondering what other people would do.  I've been asking friends and family their opinions, and everybody seems to differ.

Back in February, I put myself on a strict budget for all variable expenses- food, car, entertainment, pets, clothes, etc.  I'm going to get my Line of Credit (LoC) paid off in two years if it kills me.  Then, if I find that I can maintain it, I'm thinking about keeping to that same budget and paying off the house that much faster.

Since I started living off the strict budget, I haven't always spent the full budgeted amount.  I'm actually surprised and pretty darned impressed with how much I've got left over, but I'm not sure what I should do with the extra.

Should I:
  1. Spend it like fun money - it's my reward for staying within budget
  2. Set it aside until I have enough for a Murphy Bed.  *** 
  3. Put it on the LoC and leave it there
  4. Put it on the LoC until I go to Italy, and then take it back as fun money for the trip
  5. Add it into savings for the Italy trip.  (I've saved up enough for flights, hotels, food but not a lot of extras.)
  6. Put it into a different savings account without earmarking what it's for
***  I told myself when I committed to this budget that I wouldn't do any fixes or changes to the house unless they addressed structural or safety issues.  However, my spare room - where I work all day - is jam packed and a Murphy bed would make things a lot more comfortable.  It's a want, not a need, but I know a skilled carpenter who is looking for work and willing to give me a deal.

I've already made up my mind, but I'll wait until I hear what you say before I tell you.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


  • I found a sale on pillows last week, and stocked up for SirDigsALot.  Cotton hasn't had a pillow in his crate since he dug through  every spare pillow that I had on hand.  When I went to buy replacements, everything I found was $20 or more... even at discount stores.  I'm not paying that for a pillow that he'll dig through in a month.  He's been limited to blankets and rugs in the bottom of his crate, which means he hasn't been in the crate for over a month.  Since I found the pillows for $3 each, he's been in there almost constantly, digging away.  I think I should go buy some more pillows before the sale is over.

  • I finally found a glucosamine source for Winter that he'll take.  It's a liquid that I pour over his kibble and he really seems to like it.  After a little over a week, he's a lot less cranky and I'm hopeful that it's helping him out with the arthritis in his hips.  The only problem is that it's made of shellfish, which I'm allergic to.  For the last week, I've had a constant case of mild hives on my neck and chest.  I can't decide what's more important  - less itch for me, or less pain for him.

  • For the last week or so, Tallulah has been waking me up at night.  She's supposed to lie on her bed at night, and knows that she's not supposed to get up.  Recently, she has started to suddenly torpedo out of bed in the wee hours, and fly across the room.  I wake up and tell her to go lie down, which she does, but it takes me forever to fall back to sleep and then she does it all over again.   The truth is, I suspect that the cat has been hanging out on the other side of the barely open door, taunting Tallulah; but it doesn't matter.  Tallulah's a Standard Poodle.  She's smart enough to rise above.  Even more important, at two o'clock in the morning, I don't care who started it.  If I have to get up to finish it, somebody's gonna sleep in the basement.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Decoy

I try to drink three big glasses of water during my work day.  This can be a challenge when your cat believes that whatever is yours is actually his.  I've had to find a way to work around him.

He gets his own glass.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Appliance Fun

Good:  Yesterday, following instructions I'd found online, I took apart my washing machine to avoid a hefty repair bill.

Better:  Today, I put it back together again and it works.

Best:  Deep inside the bowels of the washing machine, I found money.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Retribution, and a little worry.

Friday night at about 11:30, my neighbour heard a bang against his window.  He looked outside and realized that kids were throwing eggs at his house.  He got up, threw on some sweats and hightailed it outside.  Their house is on the corner, and he could see that the kids had egged the front, side and back of the house.

By the time he got out there, they were working their way down along the alley in the back.  Knowing that if they saw him coming down the alley that they'd hightail it out of there, he hopped into the truck he had parked out front, drove down the street in front and around  to park and wait for them at the other end of the alley.

When they arrived, he turned on his truck lights (saw a bunch of eggs magically fall from their pockets) and approached them.  It was a group of four 12 and 13 year olds, if you can believe it.   They were having a sleep over at the one kid's house, and had decided to walk over to the local Macs store to pick up some late night snacks (and apparently some eggs).   He handed the ringleader his cell, and told him two make two calls:  the first to his parents, and the next to the RCMP.

The first call didn't go so well.   The mother denied very strongly that her kid would do anything wrong, let alone egg somebody's house.  She couldn't believe my neighbour's nerve, that he'd accuse her little angel.  She promptly got off the phone and drove down to meet them on the street, where she tore a strip off of him for accosting her child and his friends in the middle of the night.

Luckily, the second call went better.  The little angel had the honor of reporting himself to the RCMP, and then handing the cell phone back to my neighbour.  He's a traffic cop, so when he explained the situation, the RCMP arrived right away.  After they calmed the mother down, the RCMP constable had a chat with the kids and low and behold, got them to confess.  (As if the pile of broken eggs at their feet wasn't enough.)

The police wanted to charge the little buggers, but my neighbour didn't see the benefit to that.  He said that they're young and stupid, but there's no sense in giving them criminal records.  At that age, and fines that they were charged with would have to be paid by their parents.  So, instead he made arrangements for the kids to return in the morning to clean up the mess.

Saturday morning, there was a bit of excitement when a police car, two parents and four kids arrived with scrub brushes, soap and water in hand.  They scrubbed the house front to back.  One mother who was there went to personally apologize to my neighbours.  She explained that her son had only just started to hang out with the other boys this year, and that they'd met through their hockey league... and she said they won't be spending any more time together in the future off the ice.  Her son had apparently sworn up and down that he hadn't thrown any eggs, and although she believed him,  she wanted him involved in the cleanup because he should have spoken up and stopped them.  Then, once her son was finished with his cleaning, she rolled up her sleeves and did it again (saying she wanted the cleanup to be perfect.)

The other mother - the one who tore a strip off of my neighbour, and denied her son's involvement - stood on the sidewalk with her arms crossed the whole time.  She didn't say anything my neighbours (not even to apologize for her own behaviour the the night before) or the kids.   In fact, they almost had the impression that she was there more to protect her child than she was to make sure he cleaned up his mess.   The other two kids showed up without parents...  since charges weren't laid, we don't even know if their parents were informed of their nocturnal activities.

Kids do stupid things... I did my own fair share.  (Although, I never egged or TP'd anybody's house.)   I don't begrudge kids who push their boundaries - in fact, I expect it to a certain level.  I do question a lot of parents out there, though.  Why would anybody think it's OK to let a group of four 12/13 year old boys wander the streets at 11:30 at night?  And when they do go out and do something stupid, why wouldn't you get involved, apologize for your lack of guidance, and then work with your kids to make sure that they learn better?  I've got to say that, except for the kid with the one seemingly involved mother, I don't hold out a lot of hope for the other three.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Submission

Have you read "The Book of Awesome"?  I haven't read it cover to cover, but I like to periodically open it up and read random entries.  It's a good reminder for me that life can be cool.   And today, I thought of a submission:

Scratching under your little dog's chin with one hand and behind the ears with the other... all the while, watching his ears bounce and listening to him moan in ecstasy... that's awesome.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Battle

All of these (poor quality) pictures were taken during the day today, using my blackberry.

It appears that Himself has not yet caught on to the correlation between my full view of the screens and my ability to purchase the kibble.  Apparently, sitting on the warm laptop is more important.

We'll be working on this concept in the days to come.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My Poor Dog

There were some moments of distress last week, when I needed a distraction.  I'd just gotten home from a friend's place, and it was too late to go out again.  TV wasn't keeping me occupied, and I couldn't concentrate on a book.  So, I did what no poodle owner should ever do in moments like these.

I have Tallulah a haircut.

I thought I could work around them, but now her bald spots (a result of alopecia, not caused by me) are showing.

I've got an appointment with the groomer, to get her fixed up as much as possible so that the afro can grow back.   In the meantime, I'm contemplating going out and getting myself a chia pet to avoid future situations like this.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Cleaning out the cupboards

I had a few days between when the cupboards started to seem bare and when I went grocery shopping, so I shopped at my own kitchen.  I should point out that I broke some of my 'whole food' rules, because   there were some limited options... and that's what I had in the cupboards.

For the base, I went with a mix of quinoa, lentils and brown rice
  • 2/3 cup quinoa
  • 2/3 cup brown rice
  • 1/3 cup beluga lentils 
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cup water
I rinsed the grains, then mixed everything together in the pot.    Truth is, I questioned the curry, but it's what I had.  Maybe next time I might go with garam masala.  Or, I might skip the spices altogether and go with some onions, fresh herbs and diced veg.  I think this mix could be fairly versatile, and go with whatever you throw into it.  It turned out well, but a whole meal it didn't make.  I had something else brewing...

Everybody seems to be blogging about pulled pork lately.  I'm not a huge fan of the stuff but after reading about enough times, I figured I might as well give it a shot.

I had a 2 pound lean pork roast.. sorry, I don't know what kind.  It wasn't a tenderloin, but it was almost as lean.  I threw it in the slow cooker with a cup or two of ginger ale, a diced onion and a couple minced garlic cloves.  I left that on low for about 4 hours, and then drained the ginger ale before shredding the pork and adding about a 1/2 cup of bbq sauce.  I didn't want anything really saucy - just enough to give it a little flavour.  Then I added a couple cups of shredded cabbage.  Don't be a cabbage hater.  It's good for you, and you can't even tell it's there.  Mix it all up, and leave it in the slow cooker for another hour or so before serving on a pile of the grains from above.

In the meantime, I steamed some asparagus, and chopped up a tomato to add some vitamins and make the meal a little more well rounded. 

I've got enough of the stuff that I'll be eating it for a week or two, but it's not so bad at all.  Pulled pork has never been at the top of my favourite foods list, but I suspect that the grains will be on the menu again before long.  

Friday, March 2, 2012

Things I Know to be True

It isn't easy to live on $200/week for food, pet stuff, fun stuff, and car stuff -  especially when you stick to it, so that when the money's gone, you don't get anymore stuff until the next week.

This week, I was surprised to learn that the cat had eaten all of his prescription diet food.   He convinced me that he couldn't survive until Monday on celery alone, so suddenly a big chunk of my $200 was gone.  

I've got 37¢ to my name (in the budget) now.

It's a sad day when your cat's grocery bill trumps your own.