LYJ

Month: August, 2009

Spinning the Wool

I’ve started a new hobby – knitting! Hence the name of the post, although it’s more like “knitting the yarn” but that sounds even more awkward than “spinning the wool”. It was Etsy that did it, with its pictures of pretty gloves, hats, and little trinkets made from knitting. And people selling knitting patterns…including clothes for dogs! Since Skylar started wearing t-shirts and sweaters, I thought maybe if I learned to knit, I could make him a nice outfit before I leave.

I found a super helpful website called KnittingHelp.com that has a wealth of information and is well presented. It’s a good place to start and I made my first few techniques and swatches using help from this website. I highly recommend it to beginners. I am now working on a Paw Print Cloth:

It looked simple enough to be my first project. I’ve only done about 10 rows but I am exhausted. There are already bumps and knots in it, but I’m telling myself that it’s okay because it’s for practice. I will work on it and hopefully get the hang of knitting soon!

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Gilmore Girls, My Comfort

There are few things that I keep going back to time and time again because they give me lots of comfort. The TV show, Gilmore Girls, is one of them. There is so much charm, luxury, and fairytales. Too bad there are only 7 seasons…

That’s a rather hoochy (and possessed) picture of Lorelai but Rory looks lovely. For the last two summers, I’ve gone through the whole series just for fun. It’s many hours wasted, but in comfort. I’ve introduced this comfort to Shawn, who is now hooked on Gilmore Girls like many other boyfriends. He hasn’t started talking faster yet but hopefully that will follow soon… 🙂 I heard once that the location where they filmed Gilmore Girls is available for visits…I would love to go see the set one day.

New things come in Threes

I jumped at a chance to use Shawn’s mom’s car to go grocery shopping and I was determined to make it a worthwhile one…by buying way too much groceries! But almost all of them were on my grocery list that I planned out last night and wrote out twice – once as I could think of the items and the second time, organized according to food categories. 🙂

First on the menu was baked macaroni and 3 cheeses (old cheddar, parmesan, and cottage cheese) as it was on allrecipes.com.

mac and cheese

It was not as good as I had hoped, especially considering what rave reviews it received from other cooks. But Shawn still inhaled it in and I packed some for leftover lunch tomorrow. It oozed with cheesiness but perhaps there was too much cottage cheese…this will require a bit of tweaking in the future.

So next was baked kale chips. I’ve read about them on other food blogs and high recommendations on allrecipes page swayed me to pick up some green kale at the grocery aisle. I made kale chips exactly as instructed and…

kale chips

I did not enjoy these…neither did Shawn. They had a funny taste to them and no matter how many I ate to try to like them, I simply could not finish even half. So I moved onto a new venture, which was sure to be no-fail – a golden kiwi!

golden kiwi

It looked like a kiwi (except a bit yellower) and smelled like a kiwi but it did not taste like a kiwi…it was much more sweeter! You’ll notice that the white center part is smaller than in normal kiwis. I personally think the center is the best part because it’s the sweetest so I was a little pooped when I saw this cross-section. But when I tasted this golden kiwi, it was so sweet like sugarcane! I put a few dollops of Stoneyfield Organic Sunday’s Best Vanilla yogurt onto sliced pieces of this kiwi.

kiwi and yogurt

Yummy! Dinner had some rocky moments but it had a happy ending. 😀

Be a Tourist!

I’ve been in a limbo lately with idleness…well, not really. The days are getting more beautiful but I’ve been inside most of the times, it seems, because I was playing Tales of Vesperia or shopping on Etsy. So I made it a goal to get outside yesterday and enjoy some sunshine.

Shawn and I went outside and started walking towards the river. Then we decided to go to the Mendel Art Gallery to check out some exhibits and pay a visit to the Museo cafe, which was highly recommended on some online page I cannot remember. When you think you’ve seen it all and done it all, it’s good to think like a tourist and revisit places of interest!

The Mendel has a plant conservatory that is small in size but cute. There are lots of tropical plants and a little fountain. I found a (non-commercial) cotton plant with real cotton!

me and cotton

There wasn’t anything terribly exciting at the exhibits…just some paintings and an installment where you can listen to someone recounting their dreams and a whistling above that. I was more interested in the Museo cafe, where we shared a beautiful cup of hot chocolate and a warm cinnamon bun.

museo

The baristos (?) were brewing coffees to order individually, just as I saw in Coffee Prince (a Korean comedy drama series). I would like to stop by here again in a few months for a nice cup of coffee!

Autumn

Autumn is my favourite season…it’s very beautiful in autumn. One of my favourite movies, ‘When Harry Met Sally‘ has a great autumn scene where two friends stroll through a park.

Some of my best family memories are in autumn, going to visit a pumpkin patch farm for a picnic or playing in a pile of leaves that my dad collected in my front yard. I love the crunching of leaves and how they gather in every nook and cranny that I ignore at all other times during the year.

Here is a very memorable story that I read when I was 9 years old:

The Last Leaf by O. Henry

In a little district west of Washington Square the streets have run crazy and broken themselves into small strips called “places.” These “places” make strange angles and curves. One street crosses itself a time or two. An artist once discovered a valuable possibility in this street. Suppose a collector with a bill for paints, paper and canvas should, in traversing this route, suddenly meet himself coming back, without a cent having been paid on account!

So, to quaint old Greenwich Village the art people soon came prowling, hunting for north windows and eighteenth-century gables and Dutch attics and low rents. Then they imported some pewter mugs and a chafing dish or two from Sixth avenue, and became a “colony.”

At the top of a squatty, three-story brick Sue and Johnsy had their studio. “Johnsy” was familiar for Joanna. One was from Maine; the other from California. They had met at the _table d’hote_ of an Eighth street “Delmonico’s,” and found their tastes in art, chicory salad and bishop sleeves so congenial that the joint studio resulted.

That was in May. In November a cold, unseen stranger, whom the doctors called Pneumonia, stalked about the colony, touching one here and there with his icy fingers. Over on the east side this ravager strode boldly, smiting his victims by scores, but his feet trod slowly through the maze of the narrow and moss-grown “places.”

Mr. Pneumonia was not what you would call a chivalric old gentleman. A mite of a little woman with blood thinned by California zephyrs was hardly fair game for the red-fisted, short-breathed old duffer. But Johnsy he smote; and she lay, scarcely moving, on her painted iron bedstead, looking through the small Dutch window-panes at the blank side of the next brick house.

One morning the busy doctor invited Sue into the hallway with a shaggy, gray eyebrow.

“She has one chance in–let us say, ten,” he said, as he shook down the mercury in his clinical thermometer. “And that chance is for her to want to live. This way people have of lining-up on the side of the undertaker makes the entire pharmacopeia look silly. Your little lady has made up her mind that she’s not going to get well. Has she
anything on her mind?”

“She–she wanted to paint the Bay of Naples some day,” said Sue.

“Paint?–bosh! Has she anything on her mind worth thinking about twice–a man, for instance?”

“A man?” said Sue, with a jew’s-harp twang in her voice. “Is a man worth–but, no, doctor; there is nothing of the kind.”

“Well, it is the weakness, then,” said the doctor. “I will do all that science, so far as it may filter through my efforts, can
accomplish. But whenever my patient begins to count the carriages in her funeral procession I subtract 50 per cent. from the curative power of medicines. If you will get her to ask one question about the new winter styles in cloak sleeves I will promise you a one-in-five chance for her, instead of one in ten.”

After the doctor had gone Sue went into the workroom and cried a Japanese napkin to a pulp. Then she swaggered into Johnsy’s room with her drawing board, whistling ragtime.

Johnsy lay, scarcely making a ripple under the bedclothes, with her face toward the window. Sue stopped whistling, thinking she was asleep.

She arranged her board and began a pen-and-ink drawing to illustrate a magazine story. Young artists must pave their way to Art by drawing pictures for magazine stories that young authors write to pave their way to Literature.

As Sue was sketching a pair of elegant horseshow riding trousers and a monocle on the figure of the hero, an Idaho cowboy, she heard a low sound, several times repeated. She went quickly to the bedside.

Johnsy’s eyes were open wide. She was looking out the window and counting–counting backward.

“Twelve,” she said, and a little later “eleven;” and then “ten,” and “nine;” and then “eight” and “seven,” almost together.

Sue looked solicitously out the window. What was there to count? There was only a bare, dreary yard to be seen, and the blank side of the brick house twenty feet away. An old, old ivy vine, gnarled and decayed at the roots, climbed half way up the brick wall. The cold breath of autumn had stricken its leaves from the vine until its skeleton branches clung, almost bare, to the crumbling bricks.

“What is it, dear?” asked Sue.

“Six,” said Johnsy, in almost a whisper. “They’re falling faster now. Three days ago there were almost a hundred. It made my head ache to count them. But now it’s easy. There goes another one. There are only five left now.”

“Five what, dear. Tell your Sudie.”

“Leaves. On the ivy vine. When the last one falls I must go, too. I’ve known that for three days. Didn’t the doctor tell you?”

“Oh, I never heard of such nonsense,” complained Sue, with magnificent scorn. “What have old ivy leaves to do with your getting well? And you used to love that vine so, you naughty girl. Don’t be a goosey. Why, the doctor told me this morning that your chances for getting well real soon were–let’s see exactly what he said–he said the chances were ten to one! Why, that’s almost as good a chance as we have in New York when we ride on the street cars or walk past a new building. Try to take some broth now, and let Sudie go back to her drawing, so she can sell the editor man with it, and buy port wine for her sick child, and pork chops for her greedy self.”

“You needn’t get any more wine,” said Johnsy, keeping her eyes fixed out the window. “There goes another. No, I don’t want any broth. That leaves just four. I want to see the last one fall before it gets dark. Then I’ll go, too.”

“Johnsy, dear,” said Sue, bending over her, “will you promise me to keep your eyes closed, and not look out the window until I am done working? I must hand those drawings in by to-morrow. I need the light, or I would draw the shade down.”

“Couldn’t you draw in the other room?” asked Johnsy, coldly.

“I’d rather be here by you,” said Sue. “Besides I don’t want you to keep looking at those silly ivy leaves.”

“Tell me as soon as you have finished,” said Johnsy, closing her eyes, and lying white and still as a fallen statue, “because I want to see the last one fall. I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of thinking. I went to turn loose my hold on everything, and go sailing down, down, just like one of those poor, tired leaves.”

“Try to sleep,” said Sue. “I must call Behrman up to be my model for the old hermit miner. I’ll not be gone a minute. Don’t try to move ’till I come back.”

Old Behrman was a painter who lived on the ground floor beneath them. He was past sixty and had a Michael Angelo’s Moses beard curling down from the head of a satyr along the body of an imp. Behrman was a failure in art. Forty years he had wielded the brush without getting near enough to touch the hem of his Mistress’s robe. He had been always about to paint a masterpiece, but had never yet begun it. For several years he had painted nothing except now and then a daub in the line of commerce or advertising. He earned a little by serving as a model to those young artists in the colony who could not pay the price of a professional. He drank gin to excess, and still talked of his coming masterpiece. For the rest he was a fierce little old man, who scoffed terribly at softness in any one, and who regarded himself as especial mastiff-in-waiting to protect the two young artists in the studio above.

Sue found Behrman smelling strongly of juniper berries in his dimly lighted den below. In one corner was a blank canvas on an easel that had been waiting there for twenty-five years to receive the first line of the masterpiece. She told him of Johnsy’s fancy, and how she feared she would, indeed, light and fragile as a leaf herself, float away when her slight hold upon the world grew weaker.

Old Behrman, with his red eyes, plainly streaming, shouted his contempt and derision for such idiotic imaginings.

“Vass!” he cried. “Is dere people in de world mit der foolishness to die because leafs dey drop off from a confounded vine? I haf not heard of such a thing. No, I will not bose as a model for your fool hermit-dunderhead. Vy do you allow dot silly pusiness to come in der prain of her? Ach, dot poor lettle Miss Johnsy.”

“She is very ill and weak,” said Sue, “and the fever has left her mind morbid and full of strange fancies. Very well, Mr. Behrman, if you do not care to pose for me, you needn’t. But I think you are a horrid old–old flibbertigibbet.”

“You are just like a woman!” yelled Behrman. “Who said I will not bose? Go on. I come mit you. For half an hour I haf peen trying to say dot I am ready to bose. Gott! dis is not any blace in which one so goot as Miss Yohnsy shall lie sick. Some day I vill baint a masterpiece, and ve shall all go away. Gott! yes.”

Johnsy was sleeping when they went upstairs. Sue pulled the shade down to the window-sill, and motioned Behrman into the other room. In there they peered out the window fearfully at the ivy vine. Then they looked at each other for a moment without speaking. A persistent, cold rain was falling, mingled with snow. Behrman, in his old blue shirt, took his seat as the hermit-miner on an upturned kettle for a rock.

When Sue awoke from an hour’s sleep the next morning she found Johnsy with dull, wide-open eyes staring at the drawn green shade.

“Pull it up; I want to see,” she ordered, in a whisper.

Wearily Sue obeyed.

But, lo! after the beating rain and fierce gusts of wind that had endured through the livelong night, there yet stood out against the brick wall one ivy leaf. It was the last on the vine. Still dark green near its stem, but with its serrated edges tinted with the yellow of dissolution and decay, it hung bravely from a branch some twenty feet above the ground.

“It is the last one,” said Johnsy. “I thought it would surely fall during the night. I heard the wind. It will fall to-day, and I shall die at the same time.”

“Dear, dear!” said Sue, leaning her worn face down to the pillow, “think of me, if you won’t think of yourself. What would I do?”

But Johnsy did not answer. The lonesomest thing in all the world is a soul when it is making ready to go on its mysterious, far journey. The fancy seemed to possess her more strongly as one by one the ties that bound her to friendship and to earth were loosed.

The day wore away, and even through the twilight they could see the lone ivy leaf clinging to its stem against the wall. And then, with the coming of the night the north wind was again loosed, while the rain still beat against the windows and pattered down from the low Dutch eaves.

When it was light enough Johnsy, the merciless, commanded that the shade be raised.

The ivy leaf was still there.

Johnsy lay for a long time looking at it. And then she called to Sue, who was stirring her chicken broth over the gas stove.

“I’ve been a bad girl, Sudie,” said Johnsy. “Something has made that last leaf stay there to show me how wicked I was. It is a sin to want to die. You may bring me a little broth now, and some milk with a little port in it, and–no; bring me a hand-mirror first, and then pack some pillows about me, and I will sit up and watch you cook.”

An hour later she said.

“Sudie, some day I hope to paint the Bay of Naples.”

The doctor came in the afternoon, and Sue had an excuse to go into the hallway as he left.

“Even chances,” said the doctor, taking Sue’s thin, shaking hand in his. “With good nursing you’ll win. And now I must see another case I have downstairs. Behrman, his name is–some kind of an artist, I believe. Pneumonia, too. He is an old, weak man, and the attack is acute. There is no hope for him; but he goes to the hospital to-day to be made more comfortable.”

The next day the doctor said to Sue: “She’s out of danger. You’ve won. Nutrition and care now–that’s all.”

And that afternoon Sue came to the bed where Johnsy lay, contentedly knitting a very blue and very useless woolen shoulder scarf, and put one arm around her, pillows and all.

“I have something to tell you, white mouse,” she said. “Mr. Behrman died of pneumonia to-day in the hospital. He was ill only two days. The janitor found him on the morning of the first day in his room downstairs helpless with pain. His shoes and clothing were wet through and icy cold. They couldn’t imagine where he had been on such a dreadful night. And then they found a lantern, still lighted, and a ladder that had been dragged from its place, and some scattered brushes, and a palette with green and yellow colors mixed on it, and–look out the window, dear, at the last ivy leaf on the wall. Didn’t you wonder why it never fluttered or moved when the wind blew? Ah, darling, it’s Behrman’s masterpiece–he painted it there the night that the last leaf fell.”

No copyright infringement intended.

Food Experimenter

The other day, I bought quinoa and tonight was the night to be adventurous with it! I am on a mission to clean out my pantry little by little. So I grabbed a Quaker’s Honey Bran Low-Fat Muffin Mix and decided to whip up something for breakfast/snack.

Health-Kick Carrot Muffins

DSC03750

  • Half a package of Quaker’s Honey Bran Low-Fat Muffin Mix
  • 1.5 cups cold water
  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, drained & cooled (boil dried quinoa in 1/2 cup water for 15 minutes)
  • 1 cup grated carrots (just use a cheese grater)
  • 1/2 ~ 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, depending on how you feel
  • 1/4 ~ 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, depending on how you feel

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2) In a bowl, mix together the muffin mix, flax seeds, oatmeal, cooked quinoa, carrots, cinnamon, and cloves.
3) Pour in 1 cup of water and get the dry ingredients wet. Pour the rest of the water to get that perfect muffin batter consistency – kind of watery but thick enough that it sticks to your wooden spoon.
4) Spray the muffin tins with non-stick spray. Fill up the muffin tins just past 3/4 of the way full.
5) Bake for 20 ~ 25 minutes. The best no-fail test to see if they are done is the toothpick test. Poke the centre of few muffins with a toothpick (all the way in) and if it comes out clean with no gooey mess, it’s done!

The quinoa adds a great nutty flavour to the muffins! It is very high in protein content, fiber, iron, mangnesium, and phosphorous. It also has a balanced set of essential amino acids. So that half a cup of quinoa and a battery of other healthy ingredients can really start you up to a wonderful day!

Simple Things to Brighten Your Day

You know the days when you need a little happy boost?

The weather has been pretty depressing lately but little chirpies came to visit the tree outside my window! Can you find them all?

DSC03724

Here are some simple things that leave me with a smile:

– Checking out the latest in cuteness at cuteoverload.com. How could you not laugh at the dreaded fearsome ninja and Lord of the Rings pocket pet? Or this baby hedgehog? I have a thing for animal hands/paws so this is super cute to me!

– Browsing allrecipes.com for people’s pictures of foods they made. If there are any that look and sound good, I add them to my online recipe box.

– Grocery shopping and visiting Farmer’s Markets.

– Youtubing the latest WCS competition/showcase clips (see Dance Post #1 – West Coast Swing) or live performances of my favourite artists, such as the one below!

While I love spending time doing the above things, I often forget that they are also time-wasters…

Dance Post #1 – West Coast Swing

My first exposure to swing dance was in a dark grungy second level open cafetorium where booze flowed and men were too old (and too happy). I went because there was a free lesson and it was something new to try with my high school friends. That night turned me away from social dancing for a long time. While I had tried out different dances, I held back on taking swing classes. Shortly after meeting Shawn, he invited me to join his lindy hop class and even offered to pay for it but I refused.

Then one day, I watched this:

Could you believe that all of that was improv? I immediately fell in love with West Coast Swing (WCS) – it was groovy, free-flowing, fun, sexy, and versatile. I liked salsa dancing but after a while all the songs started to sound the same for me and it wasn’t as fun anymore, but WCS could be danced to mellow Norah Jones, funky Prince tunes, and even that apple bottom jean song. Unlike sultry latin ballroom dancing, it was very common to see older people doing WCS and doing it well.

My favourite WCS dancer is Ben Morris. He is a super suave dancer and a great leader. He is a lindy hop champion as well. His current dancer partner is Melina Ramirez, and I’ve noticed their videos just recently in the last year or so on youtube. Here are some samples:

I took four beginner WCS classes in Toronto and it’s too bad that I had to move to a town that doesn’t do enough WCS…whenever I went home, I tried to squeeze in a trip to the Dovercourt House for Julie’s classes. I am thrilled that there is a dance group dedicated to WCS in Adelaide so I am looking forward to that, although slightly bracing myself for any disappointments (such as it was in Saskatoon).

Bye Elmo, Hello Quinoa!

I was super excited to pick up an Elmo TravelBug on the university grounds last month!

Then things got stressful. After reading up on TravelBug etiquettes, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to hang onto it until I return home or go abroad. The goal of TravelBugs is to travel as much as possible and if they can travel long distances over the mountains and across the oceans, then kudos to them. I had to get rid of him fast but it wasn’t that easy to find a geocache big enough for Elmo.

I held onto it nervously and carried it around everywhere in my purse. I took it to the Regina trip last weekend hoping to put him in a big cache. With Shawn’s iPhone battery on low, I located a geocache big enough near Shelby & Ryan’s place. When Ryan found the cache, we opened it up to find another Sesame Street character, Bert. So I snapped a picture of them together.

Elmo and friend

I put him into the cache and let out a sigh of relief. Elmo is in good hands of new geocachers who are travelling to the States this week. I haven’t done any geocaching for a while but I think I needed a break from it. No matter how fun it is, it’s slightly less fun to do it often. I have enough things to keep myself occupied these days…like what to do with this:

Quinoa

I picked up some quinoa at the Regina Folk Festival. I had heard about it being a ‘superfood’ but could never find it in big grocery stores. I am not sure how to cook it either. I put in two spoonfuls into my morning oats one day and they were quite crunchy. They reminded me of what I call ‘little bird food’ in multi-grain breads and perhaps that’s what they are! In any case, I need to look up all the wonderful things to do with this organic golden quinoa from Saskatchewan. 🙂

Food bloggers unite!

I read two food blogs on a daily basis – Carrots ‘N’ Cake, and Kath Eats Real Food. The writers of these blogs along with a few others planned a Healthy Living Summit in Boston. It’s a meeting for food bloggers and those who read them. I am currently watching it live online but they are talking about blogging technicalities (getting readers, making money, etc.) right now, which isn’t something I am interested in.

In the spirit of food blogs, here is what I made the other day: Pork suimei, Korean dumplings, and boochujeon.

DSC03718

I got both suimei and dumplings from Eastern Market in Saskatoon, which is a decent Asian supermarket. One negative would be that there are not enough fresh produce – although I did find boochu (Asian chives) to make the boochujeon. Suimei and dumplings are steamed in a bamboo steamer and they were not so good at all…they tasted pretty old and freezer-burned – yuck!! The boochujeon was pretty good and reminded me a bit of home. My recipe for boochujeon is similar to the one Maangchi‘s but without squid or scallops.

I am getting ready to go for coffee at Lawson Heights with the Websters and friends. It’s a dreary rainy day and I missed my chance to go to Zumba class at ClubMynx but it could still be a good day!