I can't believe it's almost Christmas. I do realize December just arrived but it still feels as if the holidays are right on my doorstep. I guess I've fallen for all the marketing pressure. They start pumping it out right after Halloween. I try to ignore it but somehow it seeps in.

I'd love it if Christmas wasn't about the presents. Or if everyone stuck to the rule of only handmade gifts. That's a hard rule if you suck at making gifts. Not everyone wants a popsicle stick ashtray, or underwear made from macaroni.

I know a family who does secret Santa every year. Ya, I know, big deal. What they do differently is that they pull for names the day after Christmas so they have a whole year to make something great. That's the catch, they have to make their gifts. You can perfect a lots of false starts when you have 365 days to work with. I'm making Jess a scarf since the one I made for myself is fabulous. This is only my second knitting project so who knows how it will turn out. Unfortunately, Jess will be getting it for Christmas whether it works out or not since I won't have time to knit another one. If I had the whole year to knit I'd be able to crank out several crappy scarves before I hit the jackpot.

To buck consumerism, I try to think of inexpensive gifts for my girls since I think they have enough stuff. Reya is getting some yarn and knitting needles, and I am going to teach her how to knit. Wini wants to bake a cake, so she is getting a new cake pan, the dry ingredients in a jar and a recipe. Ruby may get a lump of coal since she is still young enough to be convinced that that is a great gift. And I can say I made it myself.

Happy holidays everyone.

Butter Tarts

2 cup white flour
1 cup shortening
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp cold water

1/2 cup of raisins
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1tsp lemon juice

Blend shortening and flour with a pastry cutter until crumbly. In separate bowl combine salt egg, vinegar and cold water. Add to flour and shortening and mix until just combined and no more. The key to dough is to handle it as little as possible. Form dough into a ball and wrap in cellophane. Place in freezer for 10 minutes. Roll dough out on a floured surface to about 1/8" thick. Cut out circles and press into a greased muffin tin.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Pour boiling water over raisins and let sit for 5 minutes and then drain. Stir together butter and sugar. Blend in corn syrup, eggs, vanilla, and lemon juice. Stir in drained raisins but don't stir so much that the mixture bubbles. Fill pastry 2/3 full. Bake 15-20 or until pastry is golden.



Well it's official. I'm a bonafide health nut. I started juicing. I should put on a sweatband, and start drinking raw eggs for breakfast. I've always been health conscious but it's probably more for vanity reasons as opposed to real health concerns. If I were a slim, high metabolism, I can eat whatever I like and still look fabulous kind of gal I'm not sure I would ever get off the couch. I would fill my bedroom full of Cracker Jacks and eat my way out of bed every morning. I would use ice cream as a milk substitute for my cereal. At lunch I would use slabs of chocolate instead of bread for my ham and cheese sandwiches. I think you get the picture.

But alas, I am not that girl. So here I am juicing. And I wouldn't swap my fresh juice for any skinny girl genes. That was a lie.

I do like my juice. My buddy Neil gave me a comprehensive tutorial on the machine and a few recipes. He also lent me his juicer which is great. I've already mailed my letter to Santa with my request. I sure hope he gets it in time.

I'm brand spanking new to this juicing thing so if you have any recipes or tips please send them to me.

Green Elixir

3 green apples
2 whole lemons
3 celery stalks
1 cup torn romaine lettuce
2 cups chopped and densely packed dark greens (kale, collards or parsley)

Wash all of your produce. Quarter you apples. Turn your juicer on and start shoving it in. Enjoy and feel virtuous for being so healthy.
This will yield a larger batch of juice then one sitting - store in vacuum sealed thermos for next day or freeze it.


Eat Your Greens

I'm always trying to eat more greens. I love my greens but they are not all made equally. Let's face it the ones that taste the worst are usually the best for you. Why did Nature do that? Was she trying to hog all the nutritious ones for herself? Was it her way to feel physically superior to us? Let me give you a hint Nature, throw a quick hurricane at us and we soon realize who's boss.

As adults, it's fairly easy to convince ourselves why we should eat kale, swiss chard and the other gross tasting vegetables but try telling that to my kids. So far I've only been able to convince my 3 year old. She'll happily eat a bowl of kale chips, or steamed bok choy. My other kids are harder to fool. When faced with a plate of stinky greens, a common statement from my four year old is "It smells like poo". This is a hard argument to debate. I'm not sure she'll believe that a plate of feces is going to make her strong and healthy. Maybe I should present them with a real plate of feces and then give them the option of eating brussel sprouts instead. Isn't good parenting all about giving kids choices?

The other night I made a great side dish of brussel sprouts. The adults at the table loved them but the kids wouldn't eat them. There was no references to poo so maybe I'm making some progress.

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Maple Syrup

15 brussel sprouts
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp maple syrup
4 slices of bacon, diced
1/4 cup of walnuts
salt and pepper to taste

Steam brussel sprouts until tender. Drain and cut lengthwise. Heat oil in a pan on medium high heat, and add sprouts and bacon. Stir occasionally until bacon begins to crisp. Add balsamic vinegar stir well. Let brussel sprouts sit until they caramelize slightly. Add syrup and walnuts, toss and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.


Hand Models

I went over to a friend's house this week for craft night. She hosts craft night every 3 weeks. The last time I was there was 6 months ago and I hadn't made any progress on my project. I'm a craft lover at heart but obviously don't make a lot of time for it in my daily life. I have lots of ideas and use to keep a craft journal of future artsy endeavors. My first undertaking was to create a blog where I would try and use the word "craft" in as many sentences as possible until all things crafty in a 10 block radius would spontaneously explode. It was going to be the highlight of my crafting career.

I am trying to relearn knitting. I have only knitted silver wire for my jewelery business and wanted to try yarn. Well I tried it and it was crappy. I'd pick up my knitting project from time to time and contemplate how I could improve it. I concluded if the yarn wasn't going to put in any effort to look better why should I. I decided the best thing for everybody was to punish my knitted mess for being so ugly. So I left it in the corner for 6 months and gave it my best cold shoulder.

Then it was time for craft night. I took my sorry excuse for knitting to my friend's house and tried again. I unraveled my bastard child and gave birth to my new favorite. One day she is going to grow up and be a scarf. Not just any scarf but one that came from a humble Value Village beginning to an overachieving front porch star. She'll put all my other winter accessories to shame. She's only 30 cm long but may one day wrap all around my neck if I don't run out of yarn. When you see me all bundled up on a winter's day sometime in the near future, don't forget to compliment me on my scarf.

Blue Cheese Dip with Sweet Potato Chips

4 large sweet potatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
4 oz blue cheese
2 heaping tbsp cream cheese
1 cup yoghurt
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh rosemary
2 tbsp fresh dill
1/2 tsp hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Slice sweet potatoes 1/8 " thick and toss in olive oil. Bake at 415 F for 10-15 on each side or until crispy. Combine the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl. Mash together well and serve with warm sweet potato chips.
NOTE: I would like to take this opportunity to thank my two hand models in the photo above. Laura and Emily, I couldn't of done it without you. There would be no blue cheese dip without your dipping support.



I made a risotto the other night and it got eaten so fast that I didn't have a chance to photograph it. So you are stuck with a picture of me and my daughter. I'm the non feline.

I've always loved Halloween. My mom used to make all my costumes. When I was six, I was Wonder Woman. I thought I was pretty hot stuff in my costume. I spent the night wielding my super powers, flying around in my invisible plane and collecting as much candy as possible.

We used to live across the street from a girl named Michelle. Her house wasn't the most kid friendly house on the street, but that was no reason to avoid them on Halloween night. You have to optimize your opportunities when you only have one block to work. I pranced up to their door and yelled "Trick or treat". Michelle's mom opened the door and asked me what I had dressed up as for Halloween. "Wonder Woman" I replied proudly. "No" she responded surly "You are Woner Woman". And then she tossed me a Tootsie Roll. Deflated I looked down at my shirt to see that she was right. I was Woner Woman. My mom had forgotten the D.

So I went home and ate my whole bag of candy. No just joking. I wasn't that traumatized by it. I just like that story and it gives me warm thoughts of past Halloweens. I do like a poorly executed homemade costume. I always give those kids extra candy.

Mushroom, Bacon, and Walnut Risotto
from The Mediterrasian Way

6 tbsp olive oil
2 onions finely chopped
4 slices of bacon, diced
2 cups arborio rice
2 cups white button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup white wine
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and cooked onions until softened. Add bacon and cook 2 minutes. Add rice, mushrooms, garlic, and walnuts for 1 minute. Add stock, wine, salt and pepper, bring to a boil, cover with a lid, and reduce heat to low. Simmer gently for 20 minutes without lifting the lid. When done, stir in cheese and serve.
This is the easiest risotto ever.


Big Pants!

I haven't been cooking much lately. I've been blessed with friends who have given me lots of food so I don't have to cook if I don't want to. It's much more practical to send food than flowers when hardship is on our doorstep.

The thing with hardship is that I never think I have it so bad. That doesn't mean I don't cry myself to sleep when I need to or think certain aspects of life suck sometimes. The difference is that I can always put it in perspective. My general attitude towards life is that someone out there in the world is struggling more than me. Someone has to work harder and overcome more obstacles than I ever will. There are people who can't afford to feed their children, or are in constant pain, or are simply unhappy.

Every day I am grateful for what I have. And I don't need no stinking gratitude journal to keep track. In yo face Oprah! Sorry I got sidetracked. I am blessed to be able to have a warm bath on a Sunday afternoon, afford a membership at the YMCA, and eat gobs of Halloween candy in elasticized pants. Who needs more than that in a lifetime? Really just the elasticized pants will get you pretty far in life.

Baked Pumpkin Seeds
I know, I know it's so last year but they are tasty.

seeds from a pumpkin, unwashed with goop on
equal parts soya sauce, olive oil, sesame oil
Fleur de sel to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste

Remove seeds from pumpkin but don't wash them. Keep them goopy. Coat with soya, olive and sesame oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake on a cookie tray at 375 F for 10-15 minutes or until golden.