Saturday, October 27, 2012

Looking Back

Yesterday I was on the radio. This in itself is not a big deal — for seven or eight years (the mythology in my mind mixes with the reality, I can't be sure of facts anymore) I hosted a radio show on our city's local campus and community radio station. Every Friday afternoon, for two hours I would play my favourite music, talk about bands, and talk about whatever. I was young, the show was kind of silly, but the entire experience was more life-changing than I could ever communicate.

When I was a teenager, I didn't fit in at my small-town high school.  I didn't even live in the small town -- I lived in between the town and the city, I was in between being cool and being a nerd, there was no place for me. When I was about 16 I discovered the radio station and it's accompanying magazine, VOX, and felt like I had found my people. All of the kids (and back then the hosts were mostly actually university students or people in their very early 20s) seemed so fun, and smart, and just like the kind of people I wanted to hang out with. I would later discover that they were all of those things so much more.

My first year of university I couldn't join the radio station. I was too shy. My years of being an outsider coupled with my natural personality crippled me from going into the dingy little station and signing up as a volunteer. My friend Dave, who I had gone to high school with, was brave enough though, and after meeting a few radio station types at a party I went to with him, I mustered up the gumption to go volunteer. I also had wanted to be a music journalist since I was in elementary school (this is true -- in grade three I listed "writing for Rolling Stone" as what I wanted to be when I grew up). Things went slow at first -- I spend most of my time keeping to myself and transferring CDs from their jewel cases into plastic sleeves.

And then something happened. The training director, a girl a couple years older that was friendly but just as awkward as me, told me that she was going to train me to be on the radio. I told her I wasn't interested in being on-air, I just wanted to help out. She gently told me that was unacceptable and set me up with a DJ to mentor me. Through a weird series of events, within a couple months I had my own show during one of the most prime slots that the station had to offer. I was nervous, I knew a lot of people thought I didn't deserve the spot, but I persevered and created a music show that was popular and generally well-received. Eight years later (or so?) at the annual on-air funding drive I broke the station's record and made $10,000 in two hours.

So, what's the point? My experiences at CJSW and VOX changed me from a painfully shy girl who loved music into a still shy, but able to get over it woman who was able to pursue the kind of work I wanted, talk to the people I wanted to talk to, and pretty much stop being afraid of what people thought about me. I made friends there that are still some of the dearest people in my life. So yesterday, when my friend Derek (who joined the station at the same time as me) asked me to help him with his funding drive show, I said yes.

And here's the really important part: I brought my seven-year-old daughter. And I told her that one of my fellow DJs from back in the day has a teenage daughter who now has a show of her own. And I told her that she could have a show of her own one day. Derek asked her if she wanted to be on air, but she said no, because she was too shy. Give her time.

She wants to write for Vogue when she grows up, by the way.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fake Peanut Butter Puffed Wheat Squares

My goal for this school year has been to make more homemade snacks for the kids lunches/babysitting at the gym/etc. As much as I love to cook, I do find that those little packaged cookies and granola bars are so tempting for the convenience and I've got to put a stop to both my and the kids' addiction to them. As most foodie moms know, school snacks can be a challenge, in a large part due to the strict no nuts policies that most schools have these days.

I found a recipe in an old issue of Everyday Food for Chocolate Peanut Cereal Bars and I adapted the heck out of it to make something that was less junky and also peanut-free. The result: Fake Peanut Butter Puffed Wheat Squares. Now, these are not "health food" by any stretch of the imagination, but I know exactly what's in them, I know they're peanut-free, and I know they're delicious, which is more than I can say for a pre-wrapped bag of cookies.

Oh, and my kids love them and actually eat them. Which, as any parent can tell you, is a major victory.

Fake Peanut Butter Puffed Wheat Squares:


Cooking Spray and parchment paper
8 cups puffed wheat
1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 3/4 cups mini marshmallows (roughly 1 bag)
3/4 cups fake peanut butter (we used soy butter, but pea butter would work too, or if you're not taking them out of the house, feel free to go crazy and use peanut or another nut butter)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Coat an 8x8 baking pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper (this will make it easy to remove the squares once they're set). In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat and add the marshmallows, fake peanut butter, and salt. Stir over heat until the marshmallow have melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.

Pour the puffed wheat into a large bowl and dump in the melted marshmallow mixture. At this point the marshmallows should be slightly cooled, but still pliable. Stir in the chocolate chips. Depending on how warm the marshmallows still are, the chips may melt a bit, which is okay. If you want the chips to stay in tact, let the mixture cool a bit, but be aware that it may be harder to mix.

Press mixture into the pan and let sit for about 30 minutes, until it is set and solid. If it is still too gooey to cut, let it sit longer, or refrigerate until it gets a bit harder. Lift the parchment out of the pan, cut up the bars or squares, and enjoy!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dinner and a Show

This blurry instagram picture has nothing to do with this post, but I like to look at things that are refreshing and delicious.

It's been my lifelong dream to attend an evening of dinner theatre. I know this is a strange, and kind of tacky dream. When I was a child in the early '80s dinner theatre was a big thing, with D-list stars like Jamie Farr or Joyce DeWitt coming to town to star in productions of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum or Damn Yankees. It seemed glamorous to me. As I grew older it seemed delightfully bizarre.

Now, I don't want to come across as one of those jerks who likes to go and laugh at people with less than sophisticated taste as they pay big money to see questionable theatre productions. I actually really enjoy things that are on the earnest and even pedestrian side. My husband claims that I really like things that I know are bad, but not in an ironic way. I like tribute bands, I like musical ice shows, I like karaoke. I knew I was going to love dinner theatre.

So when my sweet husband saw a groupon for a Madonna impersonator at our city's most prestigious dinner theatre go on sale ON MY BIRTHDAY, he jumped at the chance to buy four tickets. It seemed like a no brainer -- a combo of dinner theatre, a tribute band, and a seafood buffet! So we hired a baby sitter, put on our best clothes (dinner theatre has a dress code), and dragged two friends along.

This is where I should point out that if a theatre production needs to hock tickets through groupon, there might be a problem.

Anyway, we tucked into our buffet dinner and ordered a round of double "Stargaritas." We were primed to see Madonna, she came out with her average looking back-up band and a couple of back up dancers. It wasn't great, but our expectations were low. "Madonna" stepped off stage for a costume change, came back for another number, and then announced to the audience that her back-up band was comprised of members of Canadian '80s hair-pop band Platinum Blonde! A quick Google image search confirmed this, although it should be noted that singer Mark Holmes was certainly not present.

So, Madonna steps back off stage, and then Platinum Blonde launched into Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me." Then they did Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl." Then U2's "With or Without You." By the time they got to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing'" we began to fear that it was only a matter of minutes before we were subjected to Don McLean's "American Pie." And where the hell was "Madonna," anyway? My friend went to inquire at the front desk and was told that "Madonna" hurt her voice and may or may not be back. When my other friend marched to the desk to demand our money back (and I will tell you, dinner theatre is not cheap), we were told that we'd have to go through Groupon for that, but that they would pay for our two rounds of Stargaritas.

Okay, free Stargaritas isn't the worst deal in the world. Madonna did come back to hoarsely hobble her way through "Material Girl," and according to some Facebook research she did three more songs during the second hour-long set, but we left at intermission and went to a swanky lounge for a round of nice drinks (after all, we'd saved so much on the Stargaritas). And Groupon did refund our $200 for the tickets without any questions (excellent customer service btw). So all was good. But I still want to take the theatre's offer of giving us "premium seating" on our next visit if Joyce DeWitt ever returns to town.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In Defense of Food Instagrams

 I've noticed in the last while that there's been a load of backlash against people who take pictures of their food. Little jabs and snipes about not caring what bloggers have for lunch (an oldie but a goodie), that kind of thing. Does my friends' Instagram/Twitter/Facebook feed have a ton of pictures of people's lunches and dinners? Yep. Do I mind? Not at all.

I take a lot of pictures of food, and not just for my blog (obviously, since the posting here has hardly been fast and furious). Instagram is handy, so they show up on that feed, but I don't post them on Twitter or Facebook unless they're noteworthy. I take pictures of food I make and food I order in restaurants. Some people see food pics as a brag, but I think it's more than that.

When I make chicken kiev (which, tragically, does not photograph well) or a Boston cream pie, it requires hours of work. And the visual fruits of my labour disappear the second a fork is stuck in the food. I like to cook. I'm proud of my cooking. And damnit, I think I deserve to keep a record of what I've made. The thing is, I may never again make a Boston cream pie or a caramel pecan chocolate cheesecake. There are so many recipes out there to try, the only way I can hold on to that fleeting moment of deliciousness is through the magic of Instagram.

Same goes for restaurants. I will likely never return to Le Cirque or Vij's or Canter's Deli. A chef's tasting menu is oft never repeated. Just as I like to look at old photographs of my seven year old when she was two, I like to look at pictures of pastrami sandwiches and fois gras mousses of days gone by.

So, you foodie haters, lay off of us hungry Instagrammers. We may fetishize food, but there are bigger crimes to complain about on your Twitter feed.

Staycation Part 1

 Hey! I'm a little slow at this whole getting back to blogging business, but I assure you, I'm committed. Just not as committed as I am to the other deadlines I have, but you know how it is. So, we took our annual road trip vacation at the very beginning of the summer this year, in order to fit in a bunch of other fun things like the Folk Fest and kids' summer camps, but it's left all of us yearning for adventure. So, on the August long weekend, after going to a birthday party at the local pool, we packed into the car and pointed it towards beautiful Stavely, Alberta.

Stavely! I've lived in these parts for pretty much my whole life and had never heard of Stavely. And for fairly good reason. About 10 minutes south of Nanton (which is worth stopping in if only for their excellent candy story and insanely overpriced antique shops), Stavely is a blip on the map. Their main street consists of the grain elevator you see above, a Chinese Western restaurant, the hotel/tavern, one antique store that seems to be perpetually closed, and another one that specializes in guns and features a shirtless, beer-drinking dude sitting in a lawn chair outside, frightening away would-be customers. And there's a Hugarian restaurant called Judit's Kitchen, which is the whole reason we drove out there.

Judit's is pretty new, and it's also pretty awesome. I thought it would be run by an old Hungarian granny, but this traditional European restaurant is actually operated by a nice young couple that I'd put in their early 30s. The food is very traditional: goulash, stews, fruit soups, schnitzel, etc. It's really reasonably priced and, I can only assume because I'm not Hungarian, super authentic. I had the cold fruit soup, which was filled with yummy berries and plums.

I also had the beef stew. And yes, that is homemade spaetzle. For those of you who have children so picky that they won't even eat the pure starchy goodness that is spaetzle, there are also cheeseburgers and fries on the menu to keep your little ones happy as you dig into your goulash.

So yeah, Stavely. This is the scene across the street from the restaurant. I wouldn't call the town quaint, but it certainly is interesting. Next time I'm going to force my husband to take me out to the Gopher Hole Museum in Torrington. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What, who's this?

Sorry, what's this? A post? The first in almost a year and a half? Yep. I know I've been absent. But I've had good reasons -- kids getting bigger and busier, we bought a new house and moved, husband got laid off, husband started new business, I've had to start working and writing for actual money again... but as I type them, they sound more like excuses than reasons.

 I've recently been inspired to start up here again, so start up I shall (I declare... this is really going to look embarrassing if this is the last post this blog ever sees). There will be a shift, since no time for blogging also means no time for crafty stuff, hence no crafty stuff to blog about, but I promise it will be fun. Or at the very least, I promise it will be fun for me.