Saturday, December 30, 2017

A request for some magic

The magic is needed for an amazing family I have only met once but I can tell you - despite what they may say - I feel like they saved my life and my family.

It all started this past summer when my husband, daughter (11 years old) and I were visiting my husbands family in England and decided to do a road trip around England.  It was an aggressive road trip that we had planned which took us from Birmingham, to Holyhead back through to Blackpool through the Lake District to Penrith, up to Carlisle where we would cross over to Hartlepool down through York and back to Birmingham.  We left on a Tuesday and got back on a Saturday - spending each day getting up driving and exploring on the way to the next place spending only one night.

The first leg to Holyhead went really well. The next day we set off on what we knew was going to be our longest leg - from Holyhead to Blackpool then though the lake district to Penrith. Now we were relying entirely on the GPS in our rented vehicle and when we left Blackpool we had set our sites on going to see Scafell Pike.  We travelled through the lake district to a place called West Waters as a stop over point on the way the Penrith.  When we had originally set our route it took us back and all the way around the lake district which seemed odd but again we were just following the GPS. After spending some time at West Water and being amazed by the beauty we got back in the car but because we never actually made it to the mountain the GPS was having difficulty so we had to reset and have it go just to Penrith.  While we did that I looked at the map we had with us and wondered why we had to go all they way around the lake district when the GPS binged and had a new route. 

We followed the GPS directions down the small and windy roads until we go to the bottom of a mountain. There was a sign on the bottom of the road that warned about using the road in the winter, there was a phone booth.  The road looked very curvy but nothing crazy. We set up the road and saw a warning side about the steep incline of the road. Little did we know that we were starting to go over Hardknott Pass. Now if you don’t know Hardknott Pass if tied for the steepest road in England with a 33% grade and razor sharp switch backs (that aren’t visible from the bottom).  It is known to be extremely dangerous (al of this we would not find out until after our ordeal). 

We started up the pass and quickly realized that this was not going to be an easy trip up the mountain as my husband tried to switch out of 1st gear but almost stalled. We kept going and we scared as all hell wishing we had tried to find another way but again we had a limited map of the area and were relying on GPS. We made it to the top of the pass when my husband hit a pothole that couldn’t be avoided and we heard a loud bang. My husband swore, my daughter asked what was wrong and all of sudden the warning light for the tires came on.  We pulled over and quickly realized we had a very very flat tire. Thank god we were at the top of the pass because there was a small place that was flat that we could move off the single lane road and try and change the tire. 

We got out of the car and unloaded the trunk to try and change the tire only to find that there was no spare only an inflation kit. My husband, who used to work with tires knew that it wouldn’t work, but I insisted that we try anyways.  As we started the inflation kit we could see a 2” gash in the side of the tire as the liquid started squirting out. 

My daughter and I started to freak out. We turned on our phones to see if we could get signal and nothing because we were at the top of a mountain. I knew that there was a phone at the bottom of one side but no houses or anything close. We looked over on the other side and could see a farm house with a light in the field on. After some quick discussion we knew our only choice was to walk to the farm house.  

for the safety of the vehicle we left my husband in the car with the limited supplies we had and my daughter and I started the very long hike down the mountain. I could barely keep my composure as my daughter tried to calm me. We allowed ourselves a few minutes of panic as we walked and then tried to keep it together. I kept wondering if someone would be home - if they could help - what we would do with nothing around us. I was scared of who would be living in the home and that i was putting my daughter in risk.

The walk down to the farm house was long and dangerous on the road - much further than we thought. The worst part is we had no way to communicate with my husband whom we left at the top. As we walked a rainbow appeared over the farm house and I hopped this was good sign. I took a picture - this is the only picture I have from the entire experience from leaving at the other side of the pass.

We got to the farm house and knocked on the door. A gruff farmer answered the door and I explained. he closed the door, came back and then handed me a phone.  I tried to call the number we could find for the car rental help line. When I got them on the phone I got very frustrated because they kept asking for the registration (in Canada it would be insurance papers) as I would later find out it was the licence plate number of the car.  I was having difficulty explaining to the people on the phone I couldn’t just walk back to the car and get the information. It started to get colder, windy and rain as I cried. I knocked on the door again and begged for help the farmer took the phone, closed the door and tried talking to the people on the phone. I looked through my phone (the only thing we had brought with us on the walk down the hill) and found a picture I had taken of some of the rental information - funnily enough so we could get out of the lot at the airport. I knocked at the door and the farmers wife answered the door. I gave her my phone and said here maybe this will help.  She left the door partially open and went to give the information to her husband. 

At this point I asked if my daughter could use the washroom as she needed to go and not just pee. the Farmers wife left her in and again left the door partially open. At this point i sneaked into the kitchen and just stood at the door and saw their dogs. I tried to make conversation with her (Sandra) while still sobbing - she kept trying to say to me to calm down - it was just a flat tire. my daughter came down and joined us in the kitchen.  Sandra was having major issues with the car rental company - largely due to our location and the time of the day. 

As she waited for them to sort out what was going to happen we kept talking and she invited us to sit at the table - she could tell i was still very upset and I explained that we had left my husband with very little at the top of the mountain and I was concerned about something happening to him. We had passed no vehicles on the way up or down but there was a chance and they could have hit the car. Sandra had her husband drive up to the top of the pass to get my husband. During the long wait for him to get back down she kept fighting with the car rental company about what to do as we still had to get to our hotel in Penrith - another hour away. She also called and talked to the Hotel in Penrith to explain our situation, she allowed us to call my in-laws to let them know what had happened. 

Our husbands arrived back at the farm house as Sandra was fighting with the recovery company that they weren’t going to be able to do anything until the next day. I was panicking again worried about where we would spend the night. Sandra finally got off the phone and said that they would drive my husband back to the top of the mountain to fetch ALL of our stuff and then drive us to our hotel. This whole experience started around 3:30 pm and us arriving at the farm house around 5:00 pm. Our husbands went up to fetch everything and around 11:00 pm we set off for the hotel - which we didn’t understand meant driving on small tiny roads through the mountain and another mountain pass at night. We got to our hotel just after midnight after which her husband would have to make the trip all the way back to the farm house. 

They had kept the key to the vehicle and assisted the next day in the recovery of the vehicle co-orindating with the recovery company. We found the next day talking with the Inn owner and the recovery company that this couple has this situation happen a lot and they often provide a phone or information or help to people in trouble and the recovery company. 

This family - with two small daughters took us in - calmed us, provided comfort and went out of their way to help us and provide us with safety. If they hadn’t had been home or provided help I don’t know how the night would have turned out. They kept insisting it was just a flat tire - but on the dark mountain road in the middle of the night in a completely new situation it was the scariest was thing we have ever faced. 

I have no idea where they would want to go - but I think visiting Canada would be amazing for them. 

This family deserves some magic in a small attempt to make up for the debt I feel my family owes them. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Happy Anniversary to my Husband

Marriage if a funny thing - it is an agreement between two people to live together and have a life together through "richer and poorer; good times and bad; in health and sickness" until the end of life. I have a friend is in many ways an inspiration to me and she has often written about her and her husband celebrating that they have not killed each other. I find this fitting way of looking at marriage.

My husband in many ways is my best friend. He is the person that I want to go see scary movies, funny movies, share a bowl of popcorn with. I love hanging out with him and doing many different things. But that is the easy part of marriage - that is the rich, good and healthy times. It is the hard times the difficult times where you sometimes just want to punch the other person that makes marriage tough.

It reminds me silly enough of the movie Just Married and the speech the Dad

Some days your mother and me loved each other. Other days we had to work at it. You never see the hard days in a photo album... but those are the ones that get you from one happy snapshot to the next. I'm sorry your honeymoon stunk but that's what you got dealt. Now you gotta work through it. Sarah doesn't need a guy with a fat wallet to make her happy. I saw how you love this girl. How you two lit each other up. She doesn't need anymore security than that.  

So to my husband: three years ago we stood together and made each other promises, we haven’t always done well on those promises but like we know they are always a work in progress. They were simple promises based on love and respect. We have had our ups, downs and fights. But through everything there has been love. I am amazed every day that we ended up together and at all of the crazy, stressful and amazing adventures we have been on together. But there is no one else in the world that I would rather: drive up a crazy dangerous mountain road; zip line; explore abandoned buildings; cook; cuddle; take trains, planes and cars with than you. So here is to the last three years of not killing each other and here is to the next year and lifetime of crazy adventures. I look forward to continue growing with you and falling more in love with you each and every day.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Learning how to Balance

It was my mission last year to set out on a year of discovery and adventure.  Starting at some point in 2015 my culinary adventures started lighting up and I began discovering more my love of cooking and baking. 

I mean I have always loved cooking and baking but my culinary adventures really started taking off and I became more interested in trying different things from different areas and making as much as possible from scratch. My culinary adventures went really well and it was really amazing until I started a new job.  I have been at this job now for about 16 months and it has been really difficult. I have been working longer hours (a lot of overtime) and frankly often I come home on certain days and even the thought of picking up food on the way home or making a grilled cheese sandwich is too much work. This has resulted in a lot more eating out than I want to and a lot of time not cooking or baking. 

It has been difficult because I want to practice and work as much as I can on my skills but then I make of making spaghetti and meatballs but - that's at least 60 to 90 minutes with proper resting for the pasta.  This is far too long on some of the work nights. So I have been trying to find a way of balancing the need to stop eating out so much, the need to be able to make quick meals that are still good, and the need to practice difference skills. 

Finally the other night - for the first time in a while I found some balance with Spaghetti and meatballs (I LOVE making pasta) and Meatballs area an easy item (one of the first things I made for my husband). I managed to achieve balance in two ways. First I used store bought noodles. I used the cold water technique from Alton Browns "Everyday Cook". I was going to use store bought sauce and then make the meat balls from scratch.  Although as I got into the swing of things I made the decision to make home made tomato sauce. I have a quick Gordon Ramsay version for Chicken Parmesan that I modified slightly.  

At the end of the night we had Spaghetti and meatballs - it took less than 45 minutes all told (that did involve some cleaning) and the meatballs and sauce was from scratch.  (I should mention I also had the monkey helping me and was teaching so I think all told I could have probably gotten that down to 30 minutes. I consider that a success and honestly - with taking a few short cuts I still felt great about making it myself.  Even better I was energised, excited and happy after a long day.  I just need to give myself the permission to take the short cuts. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

What have I been up to

SO I may not have been on here much lately but that doesn't mean I haven't been cooking. I would love to say that I have been cooking up a storm but honestly the last few months have been extremely difficult and I'm having a pretty hard time. Cooking for me is my happy place and the thing that makes me happy. But honestly, every time I hear chefs talk they talk about needing the love and that your emotions show in your food and frankly it's true. When I have moments of happiness and joy - I cook and my food is stellar. That being said - the other times I have tried to cook to help find my joy again my food has been less than stellar. 

I don't know when or how I'll get through this rough patch - I just know I'm thankful for the person who is around and helping me keep myself together. 

In an attempt to remind myself of my joy - I have gone through to look at the things I have made that I need to blog about and the new things I have made that didn't make the list. Right now I'm at 66 things I have made - only 300 more to go! LOL it's getting difficult because I make new things but I don't think they qualify for the list because the entire thing isn't new - eg. the pork tenderloin I made with the glaze and Orange Habanero Mojo was a new recipe and new because I don't often do glazes or sauces but I mean it's pork tenderloin which I have made lots before - so it didn't make the list. 

  1. beer battered onion ringsHam and Cheesy Egg Crepes with Mustard Sauce Recipes 
  2. Garlic Aioli 
  3. Chimichurri Sauce with Beef tenderloin and home made fries
  4. Curried Cauliflower soup with Red pepper pure Curried Cauliflower Soup with Red Pepper Puree - Chef Michael Smith
  5. Chicken Parmesan with Spaghetti and Tomato sauce
  6. Pineapple carrot cake with brown butter frosting
  7. Mother's day Mexican Feast
  8. Hasselback potatoes and grilled pork tenderloin a la Rodriguez with a guava glaze and orange Habanero Mojo
  9. Cheese Soufflé
  10. Home made fettuccine with pesto and toasted pine nuts
  11. Homemade pork tortellini
  12. Five spice marinated pork on top of garlic ginger sweet potato purée with five spice apples
  13. pea and goat cheese filled ravioli
  14. Buttermilk fried chicken with buttermilk waffles 
  15. Gumbo with Dirty Rice

Monday, May 22, 2017

Getting back into the grove

So it's been just over a year in the new job - well I guess one year two weeks and time has flown by.

The past year has brought me many struggles on a number of fronts but a couple of months ago I saw a light and started to change directions. Trying to find a balance between all or nothing in all areas of my life.  I have gotten back to a really good work schedule - minimal over time compared to too much over time.  I have come back to cooking and not every night but a lot of nights - cooking from scratch a lot of the time too. I have started seeing a nutritionist and she is wonderful. I have started back to my home gym not on a routine basis.

Here are the things I have learned and somethings I still need to work on

  • As much as I LOVE to cook I have to learn that it is alright to make Mac and Cheese no one will judge me for making a box of KD - only I will. It sounds silly but since I started this journey one of the most difficult challenges has been accepting that it is ok to not be a rock star chef every night of the week - some nights it is about basic survival and making sure there is supper on the table. I still struggle with this one. 
  • Balance at work. I think I've got this one coming closer. This long weekend I had to take some time and go into the office to catch up on work. That being said I committed at the outset that at least one day I would do no work and I would sleep in. Well that's today. I slept to noon, got up watch some Top Chef Canada, made giant apple pancakes for "breakfast" (4:00 pm) and I'm about to make two cakes. But I am taking some time off in the summer to compensate. The monkey is most important  - spending the time I have with her and teaching her is the most important thing.
    • Nothing I accomplish in my life will matter if I mess up raising my children
  • Balance working out.  5 years ago I weighed ... a lot less than I do now and it is daunting to think about it because I know how much work it took me to get down to that weight and I wasn't done. I let a lot of "things" unnecessary things get in my way of continuing with my success. I also didn't go about it the right way. I kept detail logs of everything - how much I ate, measuring everything - how much I exercised.  It was not sustainable. Plus I find that hard to balance now with my love of cooking all things bad for you. I need to get back to a balance - and I'm getting there the days I have run or walked before work I feel so much better. I just need to remember that feeling.
I'm back though - maybe not as much here and I'll try to be here but balance is hard. 

But I something came up on my memories on Facebook and it reminded me just how far I have come. 
 This picture is from 2014. I was so proud that I had made burritos at home. As you can see I had made the meat and the rice - everything else was store bought and prepared - salsa, guacamole, beans etc.
The picture on the right is from Mother's day 2017.  I asked for a day where I could cook with my daughter and the husband would clean.

Everything on the right is home made:
- marinated flank steak
- corn tortilla's
- warm grilled corn with lime dressing
- guacamole
- salsa
- refried beans 
- pickled red onions 
the only thing store bought was the sour cream and cheese. 

This is a reminder of how far I have come and how far I have yet to go!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New year new me? resolutions?

Gee I look back at the start of last year and I was motivated - motivated to explore my love of cooking and baking - motivated to try out for MasterChef Canada and then what happened?

It is hard - I hate new year resolutions and I hate the phrase "it's a new year, be the new you" or the sentiments along those lines.  I don't want to me a 'new' me I want to just be me.  However, the new year is a good time to slow down, relax, look at life and contemplate where you were, where you are and where you want to be.

For me the last year has brought about one seemingly minor but significant change that has affected my whole life. I started a new job in roughly 9 months ago. The job is on paper a better job overall than my last.  It is less money right now than what I was originally making (not by much and not that I'm complaining), but with the type of job it is - I get a pension, benefits, sick days, vacation days, paid overtime and a lot more job security.

Honestly, I was a bit shocked at fist with the job and the hours it demanded - but frankly the work was worth it.  I was willing to put in major overtime to achieve a number of goals that I had when I took over the department. Unfortunately, I knew that meant some sacrifices around home, like time with my daughter, less time for cooking, less time for the husband...I was willing to work with the team I had and the hours for a period of time and we had a goal but then things got flipped on their head and ... well the overtime got to stop for a few months (seems like a good thing right? well no) because it has lead to the craziest few months of my life.

In the last two months I have had to make up for that pause. I have picked my daughter up from school twice or maybe three times. I hardly take her to her activities (thankfully I have supportive parents who pick her up and help with weekday activities). I hardly have time to spend with my husband. I don't have the time or frankly the energy to cook. Normally, I look forward to Christmas as a time to plan a 10 course meal for the family, but this year I was thankful to sleep in, watch TV and cook a turkey from a box :).  I think I spend more time in my office than I do at home (basically in 6 months I have worked 200+ hours of overtime that has been recorded - this does not include time I put in away from the office).

I think for a period of almost 8-weeks I didn't cook more than a handful of times and those times that I did cook it was not my "normal" cooking - it was boxed - or prepackaged food which is very sad for me.

When I look at this I find it very hard because four years ago I was in a similar situation but I hated my life, I hated everything in it, I wasn't in a happy marriage, I was in a career that was sucking the life out of me, there was nothing that made my happy (other than the gym and my daughter).  The difference now - I'm in a fairly happy marriage (man of my dreams - love him to pieces - but we don't get enough us time together. We need more of that!), I love my job (don't love the hours), I love my daughter, I am happy with my house, I need to get back to the gym. So I guess it's not that similar - the only thing that is similar is the lack of balance (I've never been great at balancing aspects of life at the same time).  So looking forward to the new year what does it hold for me and the family?

Well another two months of craziness - I can't avoid that at work unfortunately but I'm trying to find ways to manage and work with that and set some more boundaries.  In the next coming months I need to continue cooking - I'm keeping with my goal of 365 new recipes and 52 new techniques (but I'm not limiting myself on the time in which I have to achieve that). I am also going to lay off the pressure and recognize that if I want to make spaghetti and meatballs that maybe it can come pre-made in most of it's form I don't need to do everything from scratch - this way I keep cooking and trying new things but without the hours and pressure after long days at work.  More time focusing on my daughter and spending time with her - god is she ever amazing. More time with the husband - he is a great guy, truly supportive of me and my goals and I miss him lots. Finally, the gym - i need it. cooking makes me happy and feel warm but it doesn't relieve stress like the gym did.

So happy new year and happy reflecting.