On Halloween Night

Source: Pottery Barn

On Halloween night there are witches in the air
Very scary ghosts and goblins everywhere
Bats and rats and vampires are a fright
And they all creep around on Halloween night

I wrote this poem when I was eight or nine years old and still remember it perfectly.

Halloween was always a fun experience at our house when I was a kid. My parents would pull down the designated ‘Halloween box’ from the top shelf of our storage room and inside would be an assortment of old costumes, decorations and maybe (if we were lucky) a left-over treat or two.

As much as I enjoyed designing and putting together my costume, decorating the house was the most exciting part for me. My sister and I would stick posters in the windows, hang cob webs around the house, change the front entrance light bulb to orange, and of course put our prized jack-o-lanterns on display. One year we even bought a ‘spooky’ sound track and played it on a tape recorder expertly hidden in our garage. It was so scary cool!

Now I live in an almost exclusively adult building and apart from the little girl who lives across the hall, I don’t get any trick or treaters. There’s no real need for elaborate decorating or jack-o-lanterns to place proudly on display. I have to admit, I look forward to the day that I can pull out a specially designated ‘Halloween box’ of my own and go to town.

But, for this year at least, Halloween will be fairly low key. Dinner at a friend’s house, handing out treats to the neighbourhood kids, and (if I’m lucky) maybe a left-over treat or two.

Happy Halloween Everyone.


Embracing New Flavours

I’ve been pretty busy with many things happening in my life lately; dinner parties, Banff escapes, Zumba classes and coffee dates, interspersed with an icky flu that took the wind out of my sails for a few days.

But, the biggest thing occupying my schedule as of late has been a career transition. I recently accepted a position in a department so drastically different from my current role that I sometimes wonder what the heck I was thinking when I applied.

And then I remind myself, this is exactly what I need.

One of the best pieces of advice I received was from a Project Management Professor who told me to diversity my career as much as possible. Take bites from different slices of the pie and embrace the different flavours.

I’ve been very fortunate in my current role to take on a lot of responsibilities not normally given to designers so ‘fresh’ in their careers. I had an opportunity to apply my skills, be challenged by demanding projects, learn important lessons from a variety of people, and contribute to the success of the team and the company. I’d spent a few years in the role but began to ask myself, “Are things going to be all that different three years, five years, ten years from now?” The answer…probably not.

So, starting November 1st I’ll be embarking on a new career path filled with schedules, budgets, dashboards, sticky notes, project management, and a whole schwack of things I probably can't foresee at this point. Sound like fun? I guess that’s yet to be determined but I’m up for the challenge!

Hand me a new fork!


Give Thanks

Also known as "My First Thanksgiving". 

This year my mom will be hosting a big family Christmas so we decided to keep Thanksgiving low key. I also thought that this could be an opportunity for me to test out my culinary skills (which are basic to say the least) on a very forgiving audience should it turn disastrous. It was a small affair, with just my parents and my sister in attendance. I did a bit of planning, choose basic recipes and wrote down a grocery list of all the things I needed to purchase in advance. I tried to keep things as simple as possible and referenced the Joy of Cooking for most of the meal.

I didn't have the pressure of trying to meet a definite a meal deadline, but I started cooking fairly early in the day to give myself plenty of time to get everything organized and prepared. 

I started with the stuffing, chopping up cilantro, celery, mushrooms and onions (tear)...

We decided to forego the large turkey and opted for two roast chickens. There was only four of us and there would be plenty of leftovers anyway. My mom decided we should called them the 'twins'.

I stuffed the twins and used safety pins to close them as I didn't have a needle and thread on hand (oops, forgot about that). Fortunately they did the trick! I popped these babies into the oven and let them roast away.

I moved on to the potatoes while my sister prepared the yams (sorry, no pics). She was a great help and had those roasting along side the twins in no time.

The next task was the brussel sprouts. I have never before worked with brussel sprouts so this was a bit of an experimental time for me. I cleaned, chopped and steamed the sprouts as per my handy companion, the Joy of Cooking, suggested. Took a little more prep than I expected but still fairly basic.

A simple strawberry salad was assembled. Fortunately I had experience with this one before! My secret ingredient? Sesame roasted cashews served up with a low-fat sesame thai dressing. Delish.

The twins were ready to be carved, a task I left for my Dad. The gravy was made, the food was plated and we were ready to get this meal started!

The end result.

No Thanksgiving meal would be complete without Mom's homemade apple pie. The apples came right off the tree in their backyard. Doesn't get much more wholesome than that! 

All in all, my first ever Thanksgiving dinner turned out very well. I'm sure improvements could be made but nobody complained, the plates were polished off and leftovers were requested. 

I should also be sure to mention that I wasn't trying to prove that I could handle the whole process on my own. I had a lot of help and it was a great opportunity to spend time with family, learn from each other and laugh along the way. 

And for that I was most grateful.


Just Call Me Alice

I recently stumbled across these photos while visiting a design blog and thought they were too cool not to share.

Located just a block from the New York Public Library, Manhattan coffeeshop, D’Espresso, gives the impression that a library has been tilted on its side. Sepia toned photos of bookshelves are printed on tiles and wrapped along the floor and walls. What a cool concept!

Too bad I don’t live in Manhattan. But, should I be in the vicinity any time in the near future, you may just find me here sipping coffee, book in hand, with a little white rabbit nearby.


Time to Lace Up

”A fast body-contact game played by men with clubs in their hands and knives laced to their feet.” - Paul Gallico

Well tonight is the opening night of the 2010/2012 NHL season and I can guarantee that my television set will be tuned in to watch the big game. I wasn’t always the greatest hockey fan but I have learned to enjoy the game (almost as much as football). Plus, D is a season ticket holder now so I’d better learn how to carry a half-relevant conversation while cheering in the stands during home games.

But for those who have no interest in tuning in...

 Ten fun things to do instead of watching the hockey game:

(1)     Catch up on the latest episodes of Grey’s Anatomy
(2)     Go shopping for some fabulous fall boots
(3)     Take the dog for a walk along the river
(4)     Jigsaw puzzle, sodoku, take your pick
(5)     Take a relaxing bubble bath in the soaker tub
(6)     Try your hand at single-crust plum and apple pie
(7)     Catch up on your reading list
(8)     Dust off the old board games, or crack a new deck of cards
(9)     Open a bottle of wine (need I say more)
(10)  Go for a manicure/pedicure combo
(interestingly, I've never had one of these but I'm opening up to the idea).

Keep y'er stick on the ice!



A Colourful Autumn Weekend

Even though Summer is officially my favourite season of year, there is something to be said about the beautiful fall colours, bountiful selection of fresh produce and hours of weekend football games that Autumn brings.

D is on call this whole weekend so I’ve been filling my calendar with all sorts of activities to keep myself busy too… and I must say it has been nothing short of great*.

Record temperatures brought a beautiful sunny Saturday to our city. I spent the entire morning getting a good start on the necessary weekend chores that need to be done (cleaning, bills, laundry etc) so that I could spend the rest of the weekend doing Whatever-I-Wanted! After dancing with my old friend, the vacuum cleaner, I met with a great friend  (who doesn’t require an electrical outlet) and we walked all along the riverbank taking in the beautiful colours and wonderful smells that nature brings. We stopped for some sushi and then met with a third friend for a couple drinks on a sunny patio a few blocks south. Flowers were readily available at the local grocery store so I picked up a couple bunches along with the usual grocery fare. There are very few days of the year that we can comfortably sit outside at night so when D got off work shortly after 9pm, we decided to forego dinner at home and sat on a patio in a quaint neighborhood just across the river. It was glorious.

One of my favourite ways to spend a Sunday is to hit the local farmer’s market. We’re fortunate to have one near by so I gathered my things and set off. The market did not disappoint. I picked up some fresh corn on the cob, ambrosia apples, a jar of homemade borscht (to satisfy my Ukrainian tastebuds) and some organic beef. I’ve never bought meat at a farmer’s market before, so I’m looking forward to seeing/tasting the difference. Here’s hoping I don’t over-cook it – I’ve been known to ‘forget’ things on the stove only to come back to a smoking mess. 

One of the treasures I’m most excited about is a lemon tart I grabbed from a popular bakery stand. Apparently the crust is made from shortbread and the filling, a delicate balance of sweet and citrus. Here’s hoping I can resist until D gets home in four or so hours. Thank goodness my football team is playing on TV so I can focus on cheering them on instead of drooling over the lemony-goodness.

Oh, who am I kidding, I’m still gonna drool!

* Of course I wish I could share this weekend's festivities with D but such is life with his busy schedule. Here's hoping for great weather next weekend too!