Tag Archives: Food

My Top Ten Guilty Pleasures

I’m on a campaign to strip the guilt out of all my guilty pleasures. Needless to say, it’s not easy going (have you noticed, we humans seem to be hardwired for guilt?). But in the meantime, I thought I’d share my top ten guilty pleasures with you. You probably won’t be surprised that my list contains quite a few bookish things …

1. The Snacking Reader

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Anyone else do this? I LOVE to eat while I’m reading. The habit started when I was a kid; put a book in my hands and I’d automagically reach for an apple. I remember the first time I read a Hercule Poirot mystery that featured Ariadne Oliver, I was so happy: here was a fictional mystery writer who loved to eat apples all the time (presumably, then, while she was reading, too).

If I didn’t have kids, you’d probably find me sitting at the dinner table every night with a book propped on the salt and pepper shakers, long-suffering spouse by my side. However, once you have kids, you find you have to do that role-modelling stuff. So usually I just eat much slower than everyone else, then when everyone’s all done and hopping mad to leave the table, I graciously give them my leave and then surreptitiously whip out the latest read.

2. Red Wine and um, Salami

[I was going to upload a picture of a salami

but then thought better of it. You’re very welcome.]

The secret’s out! I like to have a glass of red wine every night (purely for medicinal purposes, of course). Since it’s for medicinal purposes, the wine itself doesn’t qualify as a guilty pleasure (don’t you just love how that works?!)

My problem? I like my wine with food, but since I usually relax with a glass of wine late at night, I’m not about to haul out the grill and cook up a rib steak (much as I’d like to). I’ve found that salami (the dry cured kind) works just as well with red wine. It’s not particularly healthy for you, true – but the way I look at it, it surely must be healthier than an 8 oz rib steak, right? When, that is, I can stay disciplined and only have a few slices (and that, my friends, is a battle to be saved for another post).

3. Plants vs. Zombies

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Lest you start thinking all my guilt comes from food (although, now that I think about it, there’s a very clear association there …), let me introduce you to my current addiction: Plants vs. Zombies. I love my iPad version, which I bought for a whopping $2.99, and which has given me much gaming pleasure. I’ve defeated the adventure mode level three times now, and am trying to accumulate enough to purchase the final bonus game pack.

My eight-year-old has it on his PC and loves the game, too, so lately a lot of our dinner conversation has centered on PvZ strategies (accompanied by a lot of eye-rolling from Ward, who refuses to go near the game. But that’s just because he’s an Angry Birds aficionado).

4. Cracked.com

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I don’t really know why I feel somewhat guilty about having the Cracked.com feed in my Google Reader, but I do – just a little bit of guilt. But I grew up reading MAD and Cracked magazines, you know. Not that it’s nostalgia that has me reading Cracked.com these days. I just find a lot of the posts quite fun – and I especially like the posts they do on conspiracy theories and hoaxes. I love the snarky humor, and of course, there are quite a lot of bookish and film topics. But I always have this funny feeling while I’m reading a Cracked.com post that surely, I’m a little bit old for this kind of thing now …?

5. Britain’s Got Talent on Youtube at 2 a.m.

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It’s not that I feel guilty about watching Britain’s Got Talent on Youtube. I don’t – everyone knows how much I LOVE this kind of TV talent show, and Britain’s Got Talent is one of my favorites. No, it’s the fact that I always seem to get a hankering to watch it at 2 in the morning, right around when I really should be falling asleep. One thing always leads to another (aka searching out old favorite clips) and before I know it, it’s 3 a.m.. Which, at my age, is most certainly Not a Good Thing.

6. Magazines

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I admit it. I’m a magazine junkie. Just ask Ward – he’ll give you all the confirmation you might need. When we made the big move to the city (trading down about 2000 sq. ft. in the process), I had to face the big question: what to do with all the magazines I’d accumulated over the years? Sadly, there was only one answer. I just hope they all found good homes with good people who will, at the very least, create cool artsy collages with them.

Where’s the guilt in being a magazine junkie, you might ask? Here’s the thing: most of the magazines in my stash were still unread. Yup. Of course, things are a little bit better now, because I’ve gone digital with almost all of my magazine subscriptions, so at least they’re not physically piling up taunting me with all of their naked unreadness.

7. Blank Notebooks and Journals

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I simply cannot resist a blank notebook. I’ve amassed boxes and boxes of these over the years, many of which sport a line or two I jotted down in some fit of motivation (I’m rather prone to these short spurts of motivation which quickly peter out to nothingness, I’m afraid). My absolute favorites are Moleskines, which, as it turns out, is actually a good thing, because it’s rare to find a Moleskine on sale, and my accumulation habit usually has a lot to do with bargain bins.

This is what happens when I pick up a brand new blank journal at a store (usually nicely marked down): I hold it in my hot little hands and dream about all the creative nuggets that I’ll write into the beautiful blank pages … Alas, you all know the end of this particular story, no?

8. Browsing the Kindle Bestselling Freebie Lists

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I know. You’re asking yourself, “why on earth does this count as a guilty pleasure?” But it does. You see, my TBR pile is ginormous. It really and truly is. And every day I’m online, I come across yet another great title to add to the title, courtesy of all the wonderful book bloggers I know who post such fabulous reviews. I have holds galore at the library, and honestly, am never at a loss when it comes to reading material these days.

But does that stop me from browsing the free lists? Nah. Not at all. So I stuff my Kindle full of free books, and feel such guilt because I’m actively growing this TBR pile when I should really be trying to reduce its size. To make matters worse, I’ve found quite a few treasures in the bestselling freebie lists on Amazon (probably because my “secret weapon” is scanning the sample chapters first before I’ll even consider downloading a a book, free or otherwise), which, of course, means more authors to put on my “to watch out for” list. It’s a vicious cycle, folks.

9. Gel Pens

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I actually DO use all the gel pens I buy, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling guilty about it. Probably because I buy them every chance I get. There are gel pens in every corner of our place, and I know Ward’s eyebrows always go up a fraction of an inch (or centimetre, as we say here in Canada. No, actually, we don’t. We still say inch. Which is kind of funny, when you think about it) whenever I get another fresh new batch of pens. Not that he ever says anything. But still, I feel the guilt.

In other words, gel pens are another thing I can’t resist, and I love nothing better than shopping for them at the art supply store, where you can buy them INDIVIDUALLY! (Seriously, I can spend days standing in front of those little pads they mount to the shelves so you can test out the gel-ness of the pens.) These Sarasa gel pens by Zebra are my go-to pens; I use them for writing in my notebooks (you know, the ones in point no. 7 above, whenever I feel that short spurt of motivation). But I also love the more colorful pens, too. Guilt, guilt, guilt. Yes.

10. Deep Fried Anything [Well, Almost Anything]

image Onion Rings

Here we go, back to food again. I do draw the line somewhere when it comes to deep fried foods, though. The 75 deep fried foods here, for example – probably not my kind of thing. But I do tend to gravitate toward deep-fried deliciousness. I discovered this when I first started on Pinterest and realized I pinned an awful lot of pictures of yummy deep fried foods. And not only was I pinning them, I was also sending the links to Ward, with the endearing line “Make this, pretty please?”

So, needless to say, our deep fryer has been getting quite a workout lately. Which ultimately means I am now in need of a workout (or ten) myself. Ahhh, guilt, you are such an easy thing to spawn …

So there you have it – my top ten list of guilty pleasures. What about you? Any of my guilty pleasures fit the bill for you? What guilty pleasures do you indulge in every now and then?

Inspiration Monday: Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! According to my “posting schedule”, today is Inspiration Monday, and I’m thinking that love and inspiration go hand in hand quite nicely (well, I don’t actually have a “posting schedule” – I just like the idea of it!).

We celebrated on Friday evening, with a “family” Valentine Day’s dinner at a local vegetarian restaurant, The Jasmine Garden. It was our first visit there, but most definitely won’t be our last – our entrées were really lovely, and even Dylan, the picky-eater, enjoyed his dish of pasta and sauce (to be on the safe side, we got sauce and parmesan cheese on the side, which turned out not to be necessary).

The two vegans in our group (my daughter and my husband) enjoyed the fact that nearly everything on the menu was “vegan-friendly”; they really enjoyed the vegan ice cream, too!

And to top things off, we discovered The Jasmine Garden as a result of this blog. This is a great example of the wonderfully synchronistic (and sometimes convoluted!) way this whole blogging thing works sometimes. Last June, I’d participated in the book blog tour for the Alison Dare graphic novels, by J. Torres and Jason Bone. As a result, I ended up following J. Torres on Twitter, and vice versa.

One day, in the fall I think it was, Torres tweeted about taking his wife out to lunch at a local vegetarian restaurant. I knew he lived in the town next to me, so I asked him which restaurant, and that’s how I discovered The Jasmine Garden.

Don’t you love how it all worked out?

Today, Ward (my husband) surprised me with roses and pho noodle soup take-out (does he know me, or what?!). So I got to celebrate Valentine’s Day twice.

I see now that this whole Valentine’s Day post has gotten very food-related (funny how that happens). I’m going to continue with a mini, just-for-me celebration tonight by making the bacon cheddar pinwheels Margot posted over the weekend! (I sometimes have to do a bit of cooking Monday nights, if Ward doesn’t have time to make something for dinner before he leaves to teach classes. He didn’t have time today …)

So today I’m realizing (1) how much I enjoy food and (2) how much food inspires me. Maybe it’s time to shake the dust off my old food blog (can one blog adequately about food when one doesn’t cook?).

How was your Valentine’s Day?

Photo credit

Making Magic: Appreciation

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(Photo credit)

I am immersed in deadline after deadline right now, and in days of yore (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase in a post!) I would have let myself be pulled into a static, drone-like existence, working long hours day after day, late into the night.

No fun, no creativity, no laughter. Just work, work, work.

But I’ve been surrounded by so many creative, fun things, and I realized I don’t have to slip into that drone-like state. I don’t lose my creativity just because I’ve got too many deadlines hanging around.

Yes, I can continue to make magic in my life, even when I’m busy. And that alone inspires me.

So you’ll all be seeing a series of Making Magic posts. Today is Appreciation day, where I look back on the past few weeks and love all that’s gone by – a lot of life happened to me in the space of a few days! – and most importantly, remember there’s more to come, in this moment, and this moment, and this moment.

Because that’s really what life is – it’s filled with moments, and I’m always free to choose to focus on all the happy, glittering, fun moments.

Even when I’m knee deep in an index (or three or five).

Appreciation List

Hayley met Tim Burton yesterday! Hayley’s a member of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Next Wave committee, and as a special treat, TIFF arranged for Burton to meet with the board members for an hour yesterday. Hayley said he was so very down-to-earth, and gave them this very lovely piece of advice: Do a bit of everything. Don’t just focus on being a director. Be lots of different things.

I really loved hearing this – it was such a good reminder that creativity isn’t confined to any one thing. And the more creative I am, the more I get my hands in there, in project after project, the more the creative sparks fly every which way and totally light up my life.

Dinner with Nigella Lawson. Yes, I took time off from work last weekend to have dinner with Nigella Lawson at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. I went with my sister, Dawn, and we had such a great time. Nigella was warm and gracious, and during the Q & A, Ward texted me questions, and Dawn asked one of them! (I was too busy texting and tweeting …)

Nigella Lawson

Yes, that’s a terrible picture. I only had my iPhone with me. But luckily my sister had her camera so she has some good pictures, which she says she’ll send to me. On the other hand, I was able to get some great close-up shots while Dawn was busy chatting with Louise Dennys, the publisher of Random House Canada; as an event planner, my sister definitely knows a lot of people (including the chef and the wait staff at the Royal York!).

The night ended with my sister taking me out to Pravda, a vodka bar. I’ll just say here that vodka is not as tasteless as I once thought it was. I’ll also say a sort of thank you to whoever kept putting drinks in front of me all night. Needless to say, I was, um, slightly hung over the next day …

But I had fun!

NaNoWriMo. Okay, so there’s a good chance I’m not going to make my real NaNoWriMo goal. And I’m okay with that, because I’ve had a lot of life happen the past ten days, and it’s been really a lot of fun. I also know that I can do this, I can complete this novel, and the next, and whatever else takes my fancy. And I’m very grateful to NaNoWriMo for helping me see this.

I’m going to “win” the regular NaNoWriMo this year. I’m almost at 42,000 words, and there’s still a full week left, so I have no doubts. Yes, I’m deep in Deadline City, and I’ve missed a few days of writing, but I’m going to keep plugging away at it. And I intend to have the first draft completed by the end of this year.

PiBoIdMo. I haven’t been keeping up with PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) the way I’d intended, but I’m still having fun with it. So far I’ve jotted down about 12 ideas, two of which are keepers.

And I’ve learned something very interesting: sitting down with the intention of brainstorming ideas is like exercising a muscle. It’s hard when you first start, but the more you do it, the more creative you get. And the whole process is just so much fun, you realize how much you miss when you don’t exercise that creative muscle.

Husband who cooks. Okay, so he’s pretty committed to being vegan, but my husband cooks the most delicious things, and does not hesitate to whip me up a meat or seafood dish anytime I request.

sushi rolls

Lately he’s mastered the art of sushi rolls, and since he enjoys making them as much as Hayley and I enjoy eating them, we’ve all been in seventh heaven food-wise. And yesterday he made a special set of sushi rolls with smoked salmon in them, which were so delicious.

He’s also been making these samosas that are really delicious. He fills them with a lovely Indian potato mixture and we have them with chutney or plum sauce. And we’ve discovered that our little picky eater will eat these as long as they’re made with a Mac n Cheese filling!

Christmas! I’m really delighted because we got a head start on Christmas this year: we put up the tree and all the decorations on Friday. In years past, we’ve had our “Christmas tree day” right in the middle of my deadlines, and it just isn’t so much fun when you’re doing it as a “break from work”. This time around, we spent the whole day shopping for a few new ornaments, getting the house ready, putting up the tree – we always make a little “tree party” of it, just for us, so we finished up with a viewing of Santa Clause 2, accompanied by sushi rolls and samosas.

iPhone Games. I’ve been letting my Inner Geek have some play time every day. So there’s no way I can write an appreciation list without mentioning all the iPhone games I’ve been having such fun with. They help make work go by faster, because I’ve developed a bit of a reward system: every 45 minutes or so (I usually time it according to the number of pages I’ve indexed), I let myself take an iPhone game break. So I end up feeling like I’m having fun, even though most of the time I’ve been working!

I know what you’re thinking. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, does it? And that is very true. Which is a very good thing indeed.

And now, back to work …

And now that I’ve reminded myself what a fun time I’ve been having, I’m motivated now to tackle this workload. All I have to do is take a deep breath, plunge back in – and remember to keep coming up for air and a little bit more of life.

Thanksgiving Feast!

This year my sister Dawn hosted Thanksgiving dinner; yesterday, we went downtown to her place, armed with our own contributions to the feast (all courtesy of my husband Ward, since, as most of you know, I’m not the cook around here).

This year, with both my husband and my daughter going vegan, the Thanksgiving table was a little bit different. (No Tofurkey, though: one thing that happens when you get a vegan who really likes to cook is that you don’t see a lot of store-bought, processed vegan food on the table.)

Ward made pumpkin-sage soup, vegan dressing, and two versions of spiced-rum pumpkin pie (one vegan, one non-vegan). He’d prepared the regular spiced-rum pumpkin pie (plus a Scotch pumpkin pie) for last year’s Thanksgiving feast, and everyone had loved it, so he thought he’d make it again, plus experiment with a vegan version. He also roasted all the pumpkin seeds that were the side effect of preparing the pumpkin-sage soup.

My sister did her part by making most of the side dishes she prepared vegan, with the exception of the collard greens and the baby potatoes. She absolutely adores collard greens with bacon, so she made a vegan version, and a non-vegan version. The baby potatoes were also done in two versions – one with, and the other without, parmesan cheese. She also made an additional vegan gravy (mushroom), which was just spectacular on the two types of dressing.

The buffet table was set up with two sections. Here’s the meat section – we had ham, and roasted Mennonite chicken (Dawn took a poll and discovered what we all kind of knew anyway; we are all far more fond of chicken than we are turkey). One of the dressings (the non-vegan one) is at the front of the picture (all taken on my iPhone, by the way, so please forgive the quality). You can see the regular baby potatoes in the upper left corner.

Thanksgiving feast

The meat side of our feast

And here’s the vegan end of the buffet table (not that the rest of us non-vegans avoided this end – it just made it easier for Ward and Hayley to get their food without constantly having to ask, “is this vegan?”). Dawn made the most delicious mashed sweet potato and coconut (yes! coconut!) dish; Ward’s going to give it a try at home, because we all loved it so much. Ward’s vegan cranberry and chestnut dressing is on the right hand side of the picture; it was very delicious with the mushroom gravy.

Vegan feast

The vegan side of our feast

And, because I can’t resist (I’m getting hungry all over again), here are shots of some of the individual dishes (ie the shots that turned out okay enough to post):

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Yummy roasted pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin-sage soup

Pumpkin-Sage Soup

Chicken gravy

Chicken gravy on the stove top

Mushroom gravy

Mushroom gravy on the buffet table

Roasted Mennonite chicken

Roasted Mennonite chicken

(If you’re interested in the vegan recipes, I’m pretty sure Ward will be posting them on his blog in the near future, so you can keep checking there; he loves all your comments, by the way.)

It was such a great Thanksgiving dinner. My mom and my Uncle Joe also came, and my cousin Casey and his girlfriend Osana. And we had all the kids there; our three, Sean, Hayley and Dylan, and Dawn’s two, Julian and Cole. After dinner (I had two heaping plates and was so stuffed I could barely move), we watched the first two episodes of Outsourced, my sister’s latest television “find”, and ate pumpkin pie (with fresh whipped cream for most of us) with tea.

Absolutely lovely, and I was filled with such appreciation for this holiday; it’s nice to have a day set aside to officially give thanks for all that we have.

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!

Weekend Cooking: Vegan Planet, by Robin Robertson

Vegan PlanetLast month my daughter Hayley announced she’d like to give a vegan diet a try.

So, the next time Ward and I found ourselves in a bookstore, we decided to buy a copy of Vegan Planet, by Robin Robertson. Well, okay, it was more like Ward browsed around for a vegan cookbook and found Vegan Planet; I was too busy looking at all the fiction (you know how it goes …).

Ward’s always been fascinated by the vegetarian lifestyle. Back before our youngest, Dylan, was born, he actually went vegetarian for a year. The only problem was, at the time he wasn’t into cooking the way he is now, and the only vegetable he liked was broccoli. So a “vegetarian” diet for him back then translated into cheese and more cheese! Not exactly the healthiest option.

But now that he’s into cooking, he’s really conquered a lot of his old food dislikes (yes, he has eaten anchovies … and capers!); with Hayley opting to be vegan for a while, he decided to join a 21 days of vegan challenge that a vegetarian friend of his told him about.

So that left me as the sole omnivore in the household, my oldest having just moved onto campus and my youngest being primarily what we call a “pastararian”, as in he eats pasta and cheese and pasta with sauce with no “stuff” on it and not much else.

But I have been very, very surprised by my new (mostly) vegan diet (“mostly” because Ward very thoughtfully will make a meat dish every now and then just for me – he’s been very faithful about sticking to his own 21 day challenge though, going so far as to start using soy milk in his coffee).

Ward has cooked up about fifteen different recipes from Vegan Planet so far, and they have all been absolutely stunning in terms of taste. He even made a chocolate cake that was utterly delicious!

I was actually thinking that maybe all vegan cooking is like this – highly flavorful and very filling – but Ward’s vegetarian friend has been cooking some of the recipes you get emailed to you when you sign up for this 21 days of vegan challenge, and she says most of them haven’t been very good at all.

So I’m guessing that Vegan Planet is just an excellent cookbook. There is an Asian stir-fry recipe that is better than anything I’ve had while dining out (the links to recipes in this post are to Ward’s Sensei Cooks blog, by the way); it’s also quick and easy and Ward says he’s quite happy to whip it up for me anytime (in fact, that’s what we’re having tonight, since he’s away for most of the day at a Jodo training session up at Guelph.)

It used to be my favorite, but now it’s a toss-up, because Ward made some really delicious Korean-style scallion pancakes the other night that I find myself yearning for at all times of the day.

Hayley’s favorites are a white bean cassoulet, which Ward has made twice now, as well as this vegan version of Pad Thai (which is also on my favorites list).

Ward’s not sure whether he’ll stick with a totally vegan diet after the 21 days of the challenge are up; we both know, though, that the Vegan Planet has changed our perspective on vegan food (which I used to think must be bland and not very tasty).

I am pretty sure that the majority of our meals in the future will be vegan. Sure, it’s very healthy, but even better, the dishes are so tasty and as a bonus, the house smells wonderful when Ward’s cooking!

I’m participating in Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads with this post; for more delicious cooking-related posts from book lovers, head on over to the latest Weekend Cooking post and check out all the other links!

Anticipation

As Eloise would say, I love love love spring!

Lilies of the Valley

Lilies of the Valley

Last year, we had just a scattering of these beautiful lilies of the valley along our rock wall. This year, they’ve migrated to the soil running along the top of the wall and at the base of the tree trunk – huge drifts of them, all doing very well in the semi-shade at the side of the house.

I’m really looking forward to the handful of days they will be in bloom – they have such a beautiful fragrance.

Lilacs

Lilac

Lilacs

After our lilacs bloomed last year, we didn’t have time to cut down the dead blooms, so I’ve been a little worried that perhaps we won’t have as lovely a showing of lilacs this year as we did last year. But judging from the flower buds we’re seeing now, we’ll have a wonderful display this year.

Our lilac trees are among my favorite – I have a love affair with scented flowers, and the lilac’s fragrance is sublime.

Strawberry Plant

Strawberries

I planted this little strawberry plant in a sunnier part of our garden last year, and it actually bore fruit that very summer! Unfortunately, by the time I realized this, the birds had beaten me to the berries. This year the plant is already much bigger than it was last year, and I’m going to remember to keep checking for ripe strawberries.

Peony

Peony

Our two peonies are in bud; they are such big, beautiful, droopy flowers and brighten up the place so much when they’re in bloom. I planted this one about three or four years ago, and we have a smaller, baby one that was planted a couple of years ago. They both have a gorgeous, light fragrance.

I love the anticipation that is early spring! We also have poppies, irises, tiger lilies and a lot of other flowers that I won’t remember until I see them in bloom (which prompts a note to self: really need to start a gardening notebook).

Today, I had lunch outside.

Lunch with Kurt Wallander

Despite a very cool morning (I huddled comfortably under a fleece blanket while I sipped my morning coffee this a.m.), the weather had really warmed up by noon; I sat in a t-shirt and ate and read. Pasta, scrambled eggs (with marvelous Thai chile sauce), homemade cilantro and chili naan bread and floral red tea.

I was accompanied by Henning Mankell’s Firewall (a Kurt Wallander mystery). It was rather strange sitting there reading about about a bleak, cold Sweden getting ready for winter. This is my second Kurt Wallander book, and while I find the tone of the mysteries to be on the depressing side, I’m enjoying the reads a lot.

What are you anticipating this spring – books, flowers or otherwise?

Strawberry Bread (Or, Another Reason I Really Like Twitter)

Strawberry bread.

Up until a few days ago, I’d never even heard of strawberry bread. And there I was yesterday, sinking my teeth into a taste of summer to come.

strawberry-bread

The picture doesn’t do it justice. It was good – and, I think, will be even better in the summer, when we’ll be able to buy really fresh and juicy strawberries from local farmers.

And I’ve got Twitter to thank for this lovely slice of summer!

On Saturday, I’d popped over to Twitter just for a few quick tweets and see what people were up to.

I was in luck. Kristin Callender (@KCBOOKS on Twitter) tweeted something about her kids loving the strawberry bread.

I was like, strawberry bread?

I want some!

Kristin graciously sent me the link to this recipe. I printed it out and gave it to Ward with high hopes. “This sounds sooooo good,” I enthused. “I’m dreaming of strawberry bread now.” Hint, hint, nudge, nudge.

Luckily for me, he decided to give the recipe a try. I’d read the comments and suggested less cinnamon and more strawberries might be good, so he fiddled with the recipe and …

it was perfect!

Here’s Ward’s version of the recipe.

I’m now thinking of all the other fruits we can try with this recipe – peaches, blueberries, raspberries, pears … The possibilities (and deliciousness) seem endless.

Up until yesterday, I’d only ever had dried fruit bread – I love the idea of sweet bread made with fresh fruits. Do you have a favorite fruit bread recipe?

Banana Views: Being Chinese-Canadian

I am almost finished (almost almost almost – so tantalizingly close) with this latest clump of deadlines and I’m really looking forward to settling back into the blogging life again.

In the meantime, though, I wanted to introduce you to my sister Dawn’s new blog. I take great pride in it, because she finally succumbed after years and years of persuasion (read: nagging) on my part – Dawn’s a real food lover, and lives the most amazing foodie life deep in the heart of Toronto. She has tons to write about, and I know she’ll just love her new cyberhome, Banana Views.

Have you ever noticed that sisters can so often surprise and delight one? And that’s what Dawn’s done this time around – she’s surprised me and delighted me, because as it turns out, Banana Views doesn’t focus just on wonderful food and city life; she’s also been posting about life as a Chinese Canadian.

It’s funny – all these years and I’d never read anything my sister’s written. And so another wonderful discovery I’ve made is that she’s a superb writer. Funny and quirky, too. Just the kind of writing I love to read. Here’s a quick sampling:

Red, White and Yellow. This is Dawn’s inaugural post, where she explains, with a good dollop of humor, what her blog is all about. Once you read it, you’ll understand why she named her blog “Banana Views”.

Dinner with Richard. I may be biased, but I think Dawn’s food writing gives Ruth Reichl a run for her money. And she has such a knack for meeting interesting people who quickly become fellow foodie friends.

Breakfast of Chinese Champions. Dawn whips this up for breakfast, but around here, whenever Ward’s teaching classes (aka “Are we having pizza, going out for dinner or having eggs on rice” night among my kids), I’ll often serve this dish. It’s easy, filling and delicious. And yes, even the extremely picky eater in our family will eat this. But no, I’ve never made it with quail eggs …

Hangover Remedy # 1. Dawn does a lot of socializing – she’s usually booked through to the next year when it comes to parties and get-togethers; her life is a whirlwind of social activity. Including the occasional night of too many bottles. This post talks deliciously about one of her favorite hangover remedies, and I bet it’s one most of us haven’t tried before.

Can Two Wongs Make a Right? And this, her latest post, gives you a very good idea of the delights to come.

I’m really looking forward to reading my sister’s blogging thoughts this coming year!

Saturday Randomness: Halloween, NaNoWriMo, Twitter, Food and Comments

Happy Halloween to everyone who celebrates Halloween! It looks very windy outside my office window right now – hopefully the wind will die down before all the trick-or-treaters hit the sidewalks tonight.

I’m feeling a little random today (have you noticed I get this way at least once a week?) So I thought I’d throw all my scattered bookish and non-bookish thoughts together into a post for today.

First, Some Halloween Pumpkin Awesomeness

New Moon and Yoda pumpkins

Twilight fans, wouldn’t you just LOVE to have this New Moon pumpkin standing outside your front door? I’m rather partial to the Yoda pumpkin myself.

There are many more incredible pumpkin carvings here!

NaNoWriMo Starts TOMORROW!

Yes, that’s worth some caps. And I am so behind – I’d planned to get some work deadlines tucked away before November 1st, and now I have one day to get at least one finished (the best laid plans, and all that …).

And when it comes to my NaNoWriMo novel, well, let’s just say “unprepared” is the word that comes to mind. I don’t even know what the names of two of my three main characters are.

Luckily, Twitter came to my aid. This morning, I met @CarmenRenee, who sent me a link to this great article on succeeding with NaNoWriMo. I felt much calmer after reading the article. I might end up at the starting line calling my two characters Thing 1 and Thing 2, and you know what? I’m okay with that. Truly. If it gets me writing the approximately 1700 words I’m aiming for tomorrow, well, that works for me!

And Speaking of Twitter

I’ve decided that Twitter + #NaNoWriMo = Writers’ Watercooler/Cocktail Party/Awesome or What (take your pick). Writing my NaNoWriMo novel this year will not be an isolated experience, and I’m looking forward to taking part in the community feeling as I write (or after I write).

I have also been on Twitter much more now that I’m using Evernote. I hadn’t really been going on Twitter all that much when I was on my iPhone, mainly because one of the things I like most about Twitter are the links I come across, and it was just too frustrating for me to see a great link that would be useful for the future (I’m a link packrat), and have to get out of my Tweetdeck app and email the link to myself.

But now with Evernote, I just send a quick DM (direct message) to the special account Evernote has set up specifically for this kind of thing, and the tweet gets saved. So quick, so easy!

My Husband Has Become a Blogging Machine (Or, What I’ve Been Dining On This Week)

I mentioned recently that my husband has taken over blogging at our food blog, Muse in the Kitchen (after a year of persuading on my part, I might add). And he’s loving it! My job is to edit and format his posts (he insists he’s not a good writer, but he is. He just has his own style, that’s all) and add my two thoughts in at the end of each post.

Unlike me, Ward is not a procrastinator. And since he cooks at least one or two recipes five nights of the week (the other two nights he’s teaching classes at his dojo) he’s got a lot of blog posts in the works. Every time I log on, there are three or four new draft blog posts waiting for me to edit (at least, it seems that way!)

Here’s the latest good stuff we’ve been eating this week:

Spicy Spiral Bread: perfect for the lunchbox, and it’s got a great vegetarian bean filling!

Green Tea Cheesecake: this was an unusual and not-too-sweet dessert that we served at our dinner party last Saturday (the night of the Readathon)

Grilled Sesame Baby Bok Choy: one of the first recipes Ward created, this is our “go-to” dish when we want a quick and easy vegetable entrée

Asian Marinated Flank Steak: another go-to recipe of ours, Ward tinkered with a Martha Stewart recipe and came up with this delicious and very easy flank steak

Grilled Shark and Bakes: I wasn’t here for this one, which is actually the reason Ward made it (I don’t really like shark). I can vouch for the fact that the “bakes” (grilled) are delicious, though!

Comments and Commenting

I’ve been so busy doing things (well, thinking about doing things, I guess) to get ready for my very busy November that I haven’t had a chance to respond to comments here, or to go visiting all the wonderful blogs in my Google Reader.

So I just wanted to end with a huge thank you to every one of you who’ve stopped by this week to read my ramblings! You’re what makes all this blogging stuff fun!

What are you up to this Halloween? And how’s your November shaping up? If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, are you raring to go, or feeling unprepared?