Thursday, September 27, 2012

5 years

This is how we celebrated.

I had planned to make one of his favorites meals, beef stew. Long story short, that didnt work. This morning, in a rush and semi-late-panic, I remembered to pull something out of the freezer for supper. The nearest thing ended up being hamburger patties. So we had cheeseburgers for supper. They were delicious.

Accompanied by a mixing bowl full of ceasar salad. Just lettuce and cucumbers, because thats what we could afford to buy on the go of this non-pay week with three birthdays (my mom, step-dad, and sister) in it. Also, we basically survived on that back in our skinny days of non-work gypsy living, so the salad was sentimental. :)

Jeff got to cheat with his favortie naughty beverage. And I took a few sips.

Best part? I worked much later than anticipated and had literally no time to make something better than oxygen for dessert. Jeff picked up a cake and decorated it. I love him.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Unfulfilled Longing

What does it feel like, in your belly?
What does it feel like, in your heart and soul?
To know that you carry the most precious thing in the world?

How does your brain work, your eyes see, your hands touch
When you know you think/see/touch for two?
What does his face look like when you tell him?
What do his eyes look like when he puts his hands on your bump
And know that's part of him in there?

What are your very first thoughts, when you learn?
Are you afraid, joyous, anxious, bursting with sunshine?
What does it feel like to be in love with your own creation?
What does it feel like to carry a little tiny thing that is completely innocent?

What does it feel like, that moment, that one singular moment
When you hear its voice, its own little voice
For the first time? When you hold it for the first time?
When you look into its eyes, into its pure soul, for the first time?

What does that love feel like?
How do you not burst with feeling?
How do you let anyone else but your lover hold and care for that precious tiny bundle?
How can you go to sleep at night without irrational anxiety?

What is like to have a child?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cleaning out closet and life

I was cleaning out my closet, and putting away the spring & summer clothes, when I fell on a shirt I had squirelled away from ages past. And by ages past, I mean from 6-8 years ago. The shirt is made of black velvet, extremely low cut, had the red anarchy A patch, strategic holes where I had sewn chains, and ludicrous pentacles galore.

You see, when I turned 16, I went through a goth/punk phase for a few years, which transmuted into my skank phase later on. There are very little pictures of me, I think my grandmother is the only one in possesion of one, actually. IMO, the less evidence, the better.

Back to the shirt, I had completely forgotten that I had kept this shirt, and essentially hidden it away. Having it fall in my hands was like an instant flashback. I compared that shirt to the rest of my wardrobe. Stark difference. I had, have, and probably always will have this tendency and preference for dark and especially black clothing. And that is where the differences stop.

I dont own any more low cut shirts. I dont own any more velvet shirt. Purposely ripped clothing has been replaced by wear tears, and chains have been replaced by mending thread. There are no more A's, there are no more pentacles. I would never wear this shirt, not as a costume or as a joke. This shirt belongs to someone else.

Epiphany, of a kind. Ive been strugging for the past year about taking those two paths, which is how I feel my mind, soul, and heart have been divided. Old Cynthia vs New Cynthia. Goth skank vs modest wife. Rebellious anger vs prayerful intent. Will to force change vs will to upkeep & create.

But seeing that shirt, and knowing I couldnt even fathom wearing it anywhere, ever, forced me to look at things like they were. I can feel some sorrow, yes, about not being the same 16 year old anymore. But I cannot be that 16 year old, because I took her and evolved her into something so much better. I still have that passion for change, but I channel it into something completely different.

Im a responsible adult. I have the right to drink, gamble, own & drive a car, get into and out of debt, vote, I have complete control over every aspect of my personal life. I am married to the most wonderful man in the world, and should I be so blessed maybe one day God will see fit to give me children. But for now, I have the awesome responsibility to be a replacement mother for 8 beautiful 2 year olds. I challenge and get challenged in ways previosuly unthought.

Why in the world would I mourn Old Cynthia, when she is part of New Cynthia, just less angry at the world?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

My love of soup

Ah, soup. The perfect lunch (or supper). I love all soups, and I can eat even my most detested vegetables (which, now that I think about it, isn't that many) in a pureed soup version and relish every minute of it.

Ive finally figured out that an easy way to have lunch on the go ready is to make a few batches of soup (or chili, stew, that kind of consistency) and freeze it in portion sized containers. The night before, I take out a container and BAM finished. That plus any leftovers means whole weeks of easy lunches. For example, in the freezer right now, I have carrot ginger soup, cream of broccoli and cauliflower, and am about to make roasted red pepper and tomato soup. Both of those things, might I add, were bought fresh, roasted or peeled/de-seeded and then frozen, which makes this recipe that much faster. If you don't have the tomatoes pre-prepped, follow these instructions on how to do them, and these instructions on how to roast peppers. It is not necessary to make a good soup to have either of those things done, but be prepared for the little hard skin sticks from the tomatoes, and the roasted part just adds extra smokiness.

butter & o.o.
1 large red or Spanish onion
3-6 minced garlic cloves
about 2.5 lbs tomatoes (I had a mix of Roma and Heirloom)
2-3 roasted red peppers, de-seeded
1-2 cups of broth
freshly cracked pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
couple shakes of hot sauce

So the first thing you want to do is to grossly slice up that onion in half rings, and start to caramelize it in a pot in which the butter and the o.o. have been melted. The heat should be at med-low, to ensure you do not burn the onions. Frequently stir them until the are translucent and brownish in color. Should your onions start to burn, lower your heat and stir more often. If they should stick, scrape up the brown bits at the bottom with a wooden spoon. Those are tasty bits, as long as its not burnt. This took about 15-20 mns. Once they look like this, your done.

Next is to incorporate the garlic. Roast for another few minutes. Add the broth and bring up the heat to medium.

Add the peppers and tomatoes, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, pepper. Let that whole mixture bubble away, for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a blender and blast until completely smooth. The soup is creamy and thick, deliciously smokey, and such a beautiful bright red orange, you know just by looking how delicious it is. Now is the time to taste it, and if you'd like, add some hot sauce. I usually add a couple of shakes because I like that extra  bite.

I'm not an expert on fat content and caloric content, but I would be willing to bet that it is both low fat and low calorie, should that be something you are looking for. In any case, its high flavor, which is what counts for me! The rest is just an added bonus!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Put up 2012 pricing

So I have been canning and freezing alot this year, in fact, this year is the year where I have increased my 'putting up' by about 150%. Previous year, Ive put up a few jars of this, a few of that. Never really thinking, how much do I need to get through the year until the next in-season produce? I felt good that I was slowly breaking the ice with a few cans here and there.

But this year, I feel like Ive made alot of progress. I really focused on what was in season, what could I do with it, what will we eat that I can freeze/can to limit all ingestion of unknowns. Not to mention the money we have saved. But to prove that to myself and others, I wanted to price what it was that I had put up.

I shucked fresh corn so that we wouldn't need to buy any canned corn and froze it, a little over 10 cups of it total. The corn was ultra fresh (as in, just broken right off the stalk), and cost 5$. The biggest deal I can find right now is .50$ for a can of 200ml niblets. So it would cost about the same for the same amount (maybe a few cents in my direction). I didnt save any money on that, but I sure as heck saved my tastebuds, as the two arent even comparable in taste.

 I canned about 16 cups of roasted corn salsa, all made with fresh ingredients. I cant find roasted corn salsa, so I will compare the price of regular rojo salsa to mine. Lets start with rojo at 4.50 for 500ml. So that would equal up to 36$ of salsa. My ingredients (tomatoes, onions, green bell & jalapeno peppers, corn, cilantro, few odds and ends I had) cost 17$. Not to mention the ridiculous amount of sodium in store-bought salsa, making salsa for the win!

On to tomatoes. This one is a hard one to calculate because of all the ingredients that went into each batches, so I broke it down. Lets start with whole (peeled/seeded) tomatoes. I have maybe 7 cups of tomatoes. This cost me 3.5$ (I bought them in bulk). I found .79$ for 500ml. So that equals 2.76 for the same amount. So canned tomatoes actually wins this battle price-wise.

Next is sauce. I made 24 cups of tomato/garlic/herb sauce. I fashioned it after the sauce we usually buy which is Hunt's, sells in 500ml cans (so 12 portions) which cost at is lowest 3 for 5$, which equals to 20$. The total cost of making this was 7$. Team canning WINNING!

I made 10 cups of spaghetti sauce. We dont buy canned meat sauce, we seperately buy all ingredients, very often not on special. Last time I made that large of a quantity, it cost me 18$. Buying the tomatoes (rather than canned sauce and canned tomatoe chunks) changed the entire taste and value of the sauce, making it a ridiculous 9$ Savings of 9$ for the canning lady!

Last is 10 cups of spicy marinara vegetable sauce. The closest thing flavor and ingredient wise that I liken it to is the glass canned sauces, which could be unfair since they are pricier than cheaper version. But lets indulge. Those sauces come in at 4.50 for 500ml, and the grand total of my sauce was 6.50$ This includes mushrooms, peppers, carrots, zucchini, leeks and celery as vegetables, dried and fresh herbs. Thats a savings of 15.50!

Next is beets, since Im the only one who enjoys them, I only canned 2 ltrs of them. The beets cost 3$, I have vinegar and sugar in bulk quantities, so the quantities I used cost mere pennies. Canned beets are 1.50 for 500 ml, so I saved 3$ (imagine what I would have saved had we all loved beets and ate them like mad!).

Strawberry jam is up, though I feel maybe like I shouldnt count that as my regular canning as I make jam as a side job. It cost 9$ for about 8 liters of jam. I believe that jam is around the 2.00$ mark for 500ml, so I saved a whopping 23$ by buying strawberries in season, and in bulk (they were slightly overipe, but it made for a naturally sweeter jam :D)

Last but not least is pickles. Ah, les lovely cornichons. I made 6 liters of dill pickles, and 4 liters of bread and pickles. I think the pickles go for 2$ a liter, and it cost me 10$ total. Thats a savings of 10$ for my pocket!

So that amounts to a grand total of 93$!! About a week and some's worth of groceries! A payment on a bill (two even)! How crazy is that??

And thats not counting all the other stuff, like huge squash cubed and frozen, herbs (you pay the same price as in stores, but the quantity is HUGE in comparison), I bought mass quantities of carrots that I havent prepared into soup (I freeze in individual portions so I can easily unfreeze lunch for work) yet, and the apple/autumn squash season is about to begin, which means lots of canning and freezing to come!

I am so happy to know that the time I spent on this was worth it in the end! NUTS!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Seatbelt ON

A quick post about pickles.

I think pickling cucumbers is probably the easiest thing when it comes to food preservation. Seriously, a few minutes and you've got a few jars of delicious dill spears or sweet bread and butter coins, If ever I give a class on canning and preserving, making pickles is most definitely the first thing I would teach.

But I digress.

One trick that Ive used for the last couple times is called seat belting. What the heck is seat belting? Well you know when your pickles float, even when you've packed them tighter than rats in a tunnel? Well seat belting is an effective way to make sure those suckers don't move an inch. And its so easy to do.

You simply pack in those spears as hard as you can, leaving no space, and wedge two spears in a crisscross way, tight enough to keep the rest of the pickles down, like a barrier. Thus appropriately named seat belt. Simple, and it makes your jars pretty enough to give as gifts, should the receiver be ridiculously prickly and snobby about floating pickles. Ta-da!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Post-Op taste buds

Im seeing so many changes to my taste buds after the operation.

At first I thought it might be because of the medication, but Ive been off those for a long enough time not to be affected anymore. Everything tastes different. Everything store-bought tastes worst. Like, literally disgusting.

I taste salt in EVERYTHING. Example, yesterday I found a long lost May West J had left behind in the pantry. Wasnt too old, maybe 1 month? Decided I had been doing so well I would take a bite and enjoy the sweetness of it. BIG mistake. All I could taste was salt, and some sort weird chemical metallic taste. At first, I chalked it up to being in the pantry too long, but when I made pre-made soup in a can (I know, but I have no more broth left), it tasted so disgusting I had to throw it out after two spoonfuls. Then my mother brought me some soup she had made, simply pureed cauliflower and broccoli in broth I had made and given her awhile ago. It tasted divine. Complete confusion.

You see, Ive harped about the nastiness in those cans, but secretly I actually liked the taste, so it really was about refraining myself from eating them. But now, all I taste is something I cant even put into words. It doesnt taste like food, swallowing it is like swallowing shit. Excuse.

So would that mean that my week and a half of eating nothing but the blandest coldest smoothest foods (applesauce, yoghurt, ice cubes) flushed not only my entire system but my taste buds of everything that was crap? Do I have, like, a child mouth, that I have to start retraining in taste? Ive apparently rid my body, my mouth, and my brain from the desire to eat the things that are not food. A few days after the operation I kept saying how much I was craving a poutine from KFC (of all weird places). Now, I cant stop craving avocado, the crunch of corn, I want to bite into a tomato. I have never been attracted enough to a tomato to eat it like an apple. But now I want to eat it. And cucumbers. What the heck is going on?

If what I am speculating is true, then this is a gift completely unlooked for. And it will change my life. I give in to cravings, fast food is like crack. It was, in fact, easier to quit popping pills and other stuff than to stop eating fast food. I guess we will have to see what develops!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Seed Scattered and Sown

Is not the bread we break,
a sharing in our Lord?
Is not the cup we bless,

the blood of Christ outpoured?

The seed which falls on rock
will wither and will die.
The seed within good ground

will flower and have life.  
Seed, scattered and sown,
wheat, gathered and grown,
bread, broken and shared as one,
the living Bread of God.

Vine, fruit of the land,
wine, work of our hands,
one cup that is shared by all,
the living Cup, the living Bread of God.
- Dam Feitein

Monday, September 3, 2012

Pickled beets in 6 easy steps

Canning beets is a super easy though a bit time consuming way to preserve the delicious tangy sourness that beets have. Beets are super low in fat and calories, deliver a punch to your tastebuds, and are an excellent source of folate, and contains a significant amount of fiber, manganese and potassium! Plus they have such a beautiful deep purple color that it will instantly brighten any plate.

A few tips prior to start canning: beets are beautiful yet very staining, so please dont wear your Sunday best while canning. Old shirt and pants and an old apron are highly reccomended. As well as gloves, if available, unless your ok with having purple fingers for about two weeks afterwards. Clean the instruments you use between the steps ASAP so as to remove the stain, wipe countertops and knives as well. Beet juice is actually an excellent natural dye, FYI. So knowing that, be prepared for some staining. This whole process also takes time, so dont start if you cant finish.

Step 1
Purchase the amount of beets you need from a local farm (or better yet, grow your own!). Beets dont shrink or expand so if you buy 2 ltrs, be prepared to can 2 ltrs.

Step 2
Pass the beets through water in a colander, roughly rinsing off whatever detachable dirt there is. Its ok if they have some dirt left on them, theyll be squeaky clean by the end of the whole process. Cut off the two ends and any serious pockmark.

Step 3
In a large non-reactive pot, boil the beets whole with their skin still on for about 15-20 mns, until you can easily spear them through with a knife.

Step 4
Drain in colander, rinse thoroughly, and let cool before touching. Now is the time to prepare your glass jars. Wash and disinfect all jars, rings and tops. For added taste, I slice a little red onion at the bottom of each jar, but that is up to you. They are excellent without.

Step 5
Once you can easily hold one, start peeling. The peel should come off with extreme ease. You can either plop them down whole or cut them to your desired proportions. I do a jar of whole one (usually reserve the smaller ones for that), a jar of coins, and the rest cut into quarters. Don't ask me why, I just like the variety.

Step 6
Once you have filled the jars to the top, allowing for 1 inch headspace, all that is left to do is to add the vinegar. Boil the amount necessary (remember that you dont need 1 cup of vinegar for one 250 ml jar, the beets take up room!), add a bit of sugar if you like to cut the sourness, and some lemon juice. I used 4 cups of vinegar, 5 tbsp of white sugar, and 1 lemon's worth of juice. Boil that mixture up, and fill your jars up. Cap and process in a water-bath for 15mns. My grandmother actually skips this step, and technically the heat and acidity should seal the jars by themselves. Its up to you, if you feel confident enough, go right ahead! Store in a cool dry area, and I suggest waiting 2 weeks for the pickling to start before you pop open one of these suckers. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Fall is here!

FALL IS HERE! FALL IS HERE! FALL IS HERE! I feel like prancing around like a little child throwing leaves in the air! September (I don't care that its not the date of) means FALL, and fall means lots and lots of good things!

Harvest time for soooo many good things, like APPLES! I cannot wait for apple picking time, Ive already seen advertisements for Ile St-Bernard self-picking apple orchards and a few other places. Ooooh the goodies I will bake! I have been praying lately for a solution to our minimal freezing storage, as J's parents were supposed to purchase a new freezer and give us their 'old' one, but that didn't turn out. I'm using the freezer for so many things (I freeze alot of vegetable and fruits, whole meals, pies, etc), and I have no space to do so. His aunt popped us a surprise by saying she was going to give us one of hers, so I am very excited to be able to start freezing in mass quantities! A step forward in the right direction of eating mostly local and in season foods!

New groups/new decisions to be made at the daycare! We always start our new groups in September, to follow the routine of schools, and I am excited to meet new little faces! I am also going to be making some decisions by winter about my personal career and family future. We have been talking alot about a possible career change (not that big, really), maybe going back to school, finishing/advancing the schooling we do have, finally founding a family (or deciding that maybe family life isn't whats in store for us.. a little shocking, I know).

My 5 year anniversary with Jeff, and our 1 year wedding anniversary!! WHAT? As if! J and I were just talking about this in the car today. I said something along the lines of my disbelief at having a whole entire year pass by us so fast, he replied with: I cant believe your not in jail (from my presumable murder of him). Thats why I married the guy. Were celebrating by having a horseback riding adventure, a gift given to us by our uncle (the guy who married us). Imagine the scenery with autumn colors, a 2hr horseback ride by ourselves in the woods, then a cabin just for us? So romantic! I simply cannot wait, and I am very grateful that we get to do something so special for the two of us and it not costing us anything, besides gas and whatever food we pack! What a blessing, especially in these tight fiscal times!

Talking of tight fiscal times, I have made a list of the essential things I need to can for the winter, and this year I will test out if my quantities were correct, and if I should have done more of this or less of that. Ive learned through the last couple of years that even though I want to can EVERYTHING, we dont eat EVERYTHING. So my list includes salsa, tomatoes, tomato sauce, beets, dill and sweet pickles, pickled broccoli and cauliflower, jam, apple pie filling and a few sauces (like BBQ and a sort of asian for our stir-frys). I can chicken and veggetable broth on the go as need recquires, and Im still experimenting with making ketchup and mustard that is accepted by Mr.J. As well as trying whole canned peaches and pears. I feel like I forgot a couple of things, but thats all Ive got for the moment. Im also going to focus alot more on the freezing aspect (bread, muffins, cakes, pies, etc).

I can already smell that crisp air and hear the leaves crunching underneath my boots as I walk hand in hand with the love of my life, all snuggled up in a cozy sweater, and maybe a light scarf and mittens! Ah, autumn, I love you so!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Life is like a box of drugs

Faith in good times is easy. When everything is going awesome, when everything is going your way, its simple to say a little prayer here, feel grateful there. The real issue comes when life sucks, and you cant see then end, and you feel like your dying, or maybe death is the better option that what it is your currently living through. There is nothing harder, nothing more excrutiating, than saying thank you God for what I DO have, because who the hell has the heart to look on the good side if your surrounded by your own personal hell?

But what I am very sloooowly learning, is that God is with me every single moment of my life. High times, low times, hellish times, He is here with me with His all encompassing love and I really feel like when I feel like shit and Im full of pain and hurt, He hurts that I hurt, like my mother would. When I was bad tripping hard and yelling at evil hallucinations, she was there with her eyes full of tears, hurting that I hurt, she couldnt do anything but be here and wait for me to ride it out and hold me afterwards.

That's exactly what I feel God is doing, but for my soul. I, as a human always in sin and hurt, continuously go through bad trips. There is no getting around that. There is going to be shitty moments for the rest of my life. But I feel better about that, because I know my friends and family will always be here for me to hold me up, and help heal my heart and my body. And God will always be here to heal my soul.

I just have to let Him.