Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Worth the Wait

In Grade 10 I took a photography class. I had to fulfill an arts requirement and given that paint-by-numbers is about the extent of my artistic skill, I figured photography was my best bet. I expected to get through the class quietly and hopefully without embarrassing myself totally. What I didn't expect was how much I would enjoy it and develop a passion for it.

The problem at that point was that photography was an expensive hobby and of course, since we were still shooting with film, it required a darkroom. So in the (many) years since my intro photog. class my passion wained some. I thought I had pretty much forgotten how much I loved snapping pictures of my surroundings.

And then I started blogging. Blogging meant taking pictures again and then I discovered the beauty of photoshop and how much easier it is to develop and manipulate your own pictures at home. I've been shooting with a point and shoot to this point and I knew I wanted to move up to a DSLR but I figured I'd wait a while to make the investment.

Then two weeks ago I dropped the camera in Georgian Bay. Interestingly, I was in pursuit of a 50 cent tennis ball that Dolan left out on the thinning ice when the $200 camera slipped out my pocket and disappeared through the ice.

Logic - also not one of my strongest suits.

The point of all this is that 15 years after I first consciously thought about my surroundings through the lens of a camera I am now the proud owner of a DSLR...and man am I excited!

So, here are a few shots from my first weekend of camera ownership. Learning the ins and outs of my new-baby is half the fun.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


It is a well known fact that Border Collies are the smartest breed around. I knew this before the arrival of Dolan-dog. What I didn’t know was that not only are they smarter than all other dogs, they are also smarter than all humans. Or at least this human. The thing about Dolan is, not only is she an incredibly intelligent Collie, she is also an incredibly stubborn Husky.

The decision to adopt Dolan was, to say the least, spur of the moment. More precisely it involved a visit from a friend with a litter of abandoned pups and the split second decision to grab the cutest one and hide her from Sea Bass until the friend had left and we had no choice but to become puppy parents. Yes, I am sneaky…and manipulative. What of it?
I knew what her breed mix was and I thought I understood what I was getting in to. However all the research in the world could not prepare me for a dog that is smarter than most of the people I’ve met in my life and even more stubborn than I am. Believe me, that is an impressive level of stubborn.

In our first year together I was brought to tears more times than I care to remember. I could often be found walking down the street alternating calling out “Dolan! Here Dolan! Come to Mommy!” And incoherently blubbering something along the lines of “Fine, I don’t care anymore. I’m not you’re Mommy. You’re a homeless dog now.”
Hmm, perhaps I’ve said too much? The thing about Dolan is that she is smart enough to pick her battles.

A year and a few months into our life together she no longer runs away at every opportunity, instead she chooses her moments. She only runs now when there is something really worth while running for.
It’s an interesting thing to observe.

We’ll be on our beach enjoying a lovely, stress free walk. Dolan is off-leash this time of the year because the beach is empty, the neighbours know her, and, well, the dog needs a good run damnit!
Dolan is running along, obeying my every command not to run onto people’s property or dart off out of sight. I’m feeling immensely pleased with our progress and deeply in love with my beautiful puppy girl.

And then suddenly I’ll notice her take interest in a particular sand dune and I immediately tense up. “Dolan…no puppy, down here.” Now, the majority of the time she will look at me and head back down the dune to continue her obedient jaunt on the sand. But every once in a while she turns her head, looks right at me and I can see the calculation in her eyes.

The damn dog is smart enough to know that upsetting me is simply worth the occasional risk. It takes only a split second, but in that time I can see her weigh the options. Listen to Mommy and go about her business without incident – but miss out an interesting smell, some small animal to chase, a neighbour to greet. Or, say to hell with it and deal with the consequences after her moment of doggy freedom. I see all of this run through her mind before she darts off to have her fun.

In the past I would perhaps chased her, which only gives her permission to run farther. Yelled incessantly for her, which only hurts my throat. Shouted threats, which only makes me sound stupid and ineffective, or I would have sat and cried, which admittedly feels kinda good. I enjoy catharsis under any circumstance.

At this point in our lives together though we’ve reached a compromise. Determine for yourself who got the better of the bargain. Dolan picks her battles and I in turn pick mine. I let her chase her shadows and in turn she returns to me quickly and without causing much trouble.
I call her right to me upon her return and she pretends to be sorry and that she won’t do it again. We continue our walk in peace. No more tears and empty threats. Happy dog, Happy human.

But a note to all prospective dog owners out there. Think twice before getting a Dolan-dog, unless your ego can handle a dog that’s smarter than the average human.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Here's one of the things I am noticing about myself this year - things I took for granted for most of my life I now find myself stopping and marveling over. This is especially evident given the time of the year. This spring, the re-awakening of my surroundings is offering me countless moments of wonder and excitement.

Some of this I believe has to do with early onset senility. Seriously, things that I know that I used to know were somehow ejected from my mental storage locker and now when I'm confronted with them in my daily comings and goings I'm amazed and awed.

I'm hoping this happens to everyone - right? right??

Having taken up gardening, the germination of seeds is a wonder to me. Everyday I examine my seedlings and feel pride in their growth. The budding trees send me running home to share the news with whoever will listen...mostly everyone seems to think I'm insane. But I'm used to it. It's ceased to bother me.

Whatever the reason for my return to simple amazement, I don't think I care. I'm just going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Potato and Herb Soup

So I decided to use our completely insane return to winter as an excuse to try out a new soup recipe.

Have I mentioned how much I love making soup? It's so simple, involves relatively minimal effort, at the same time leading to such delicious, hearty results.

Also, thanks to the general deliciousness, those who enjoy the end results tend to assume that the effort involved were far greater than they actually were. Once again, I love soup.

This soup I found in an Irish cookbook and adapted it a bit given my somewhat lacking inventory of fresh herbs and also just to make it my own. On that note, here it is, my recipe for what is my new favourite soup.

4 tbsp butter
1 large onion chopped
1 1/2 lbs. potatoes (4 large potatoes) *
1/4 tbsp fresh parsley
1/4 tbsp fresh chives
1/4 tbsp fresh thyme **
1/4 tbsp fresh marjoram
pinch dried oregano
pinch herbs de provence
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup cream

*Be sure to evenly chop your potatoes and onions. This is important so that they'll cook evenly.
**I had to use dried, I didn't enjoy it, but I did it anyways.

Melt your butter in a large pot. Add your diced onions and potatoes to the butter when the butter is foaming. Stir to coat your veg. Season with s&p. Cover the pot and sweat down the veg for about 10 minutes. Uncover and add your chopped and dried herbs. Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are soft. Puree the soup to a texture your happy with. You can certainly make the soup totally smooth, but I always like a soup with a bit of chunkiness to it. Add your cream at this point and you're ready to serve.


potato and herb soup on Foodista

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Little Heat for a cold "Spring" Day (Pasta with Roasted Pepper Sauce)

It seems appropriate to share a recipe that will warm you from the inside out on a miserable day in April, locked in the house by a snow storm. Mother Nature you are a cruel mistress!

Pasta with Roasted Pepper Sauce

3 red bell peppers
1 scotch bonnet (or other hot pepper of your choice)
1 cubanelle pepper (I like the cubanelle because it is slightly hot but is still a sweet pepper)
1 large onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup heavy cream
1 or 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts (to your liking)
parmigiano reggiano cheese

First thing's first - roast your peppers. I do mine in the oven under the broiler. You can certainly do them on the grill as well. Rotate the peppers so that each side gets blackened and blistery.

Also get your pasta water on to boil. The sauce really doesn't take very long. As far as choice of noodle for this dish I like something along the lines of an orecchiette.

I like this because the pasta kind of acts like a little bowl for the thick sauce, so you get a lot of sauce with every bite. it's not always easy to find orecchiette, so just keep the shape in mind and go with something like it.

While you're peppers are roasting, toast your pine nuts. Just put them on a skillet on a low heat and keep a
very close eye on them. They're sneaky little buggers and will burn quickly if not tossed often.

When they're ready put them in a sealable bag and let them steam themselves for about 10 minutes. This makes the next step - removal of the skin - much easier.

(p.s. even though the skins are easy to remove, this is still my least favourite part of the process - messy sticky)

While your peppers are steaming it's time to saute your onions and garlic in your olive oil. Saute them until they're translucent. Just get them nice and tender. Don't forget to season with s&p.

Remove all your skins as well as the seeds and membranes from the peppers. Much of the heat from the scotch bonnet comes from the membrane so keep that in mind when you're removing them.

Put all your peppers in a food processor and add your toasted pine nuts. Process them all up together. It only takes about 30 seconds. Then add the mixture to your garlic and onions in your pan. Be sure to season the mixture with s&p well. The peppers really need the balance of the salt.

Stir everything together and then add the cream. Heat the mixture until it's heated through evenly and toss with your pasta.

Serve it with your parmesan.

...out of orecchiette - Sea Bass gave his vote to rigatoni.