Monday, November 28, 2011

If My Inspiration Returns

Our four year old princess has been sick for a bit now.  What started out nearly 2 weeks ago as a fever and cough progressed to what we thought was the flu, then maybe nothing, then maybe Roseola, then.... We really don't know.  Any of the above are still on the table, but the bottom line is that she has this wet, lingering cough that is keeping her (and me) from sleeping well and has been the suspected root cause of her throwing up at least 3 times in the past week and a half.  Taking medicine also triggers her gag reflex (though not immediately - a few minutes after willingly taking it).  Now she won't take anything at all.  I don't blame her, mind you.  All of this has left me quite stressed.  And tired.  Very tired.

This week I have a couple of things requiring my time in the kitchen.  I need to make cupcakes for the kids for an event with a group that says it's "nut aware."  We've come to realize that what they mean is that they know peanut allergies exist.  Period.  It doesn't mean that they take any steps to choose safe snacks for affected children.  Don't get me started.  I wish that Babycakes mini-cupcake maker was available in Canada. 

Anyway, there is also my ladies gourmet night.  We're doing a goodie exchange and tapas.  We need to bring 4 1/2 dozen of something, plus appetizers for 8.  I have my dishes in mind.  Pink grapefruit "Turkish delight" (jelly candies, which I'll roll in white sugar and citric acid, for zing), and Asiago frico cups filled with balsamic drizzled arugula and topped with some smoked prosciutto.  Sounds simple?  And it is.  Except my motivation has vanished along with my energy.  I'm debating going at all at this point.  I want to, but I don't, kwim?

What I really want is to take an evening when all of this sick is over and get a hotel room, by myself.  I want to zone out alone, just staring at the wall if I choose to, knowing that short of a fire in the potted plant in the hall or a Spider Man wanna-be smashing through the window in my room, I will not be required to do anything.  Nothing will be demanded of me.  No one will need me to fetch water, get a snack, find socks, wash clothes....

I guess I'm just feeling a bit burnt out.  There is enough positive to keep me going right now.  It's just hard to focus on when I'm so worn down.  Little Miss is really doing okay.  We'll take her to the doctor later, just to find out what's going on and if it's running its course.  I can't imagine trying to give her anything for it at this point.  She's so gun-shy that we'd never get it in, let alone figure out how to make her keep it down.  But I'm heading into the negative again.  Ultimately she's still relatively perky, still cuddly, still her happy self.  Just not as often.  And her brother, who I need to stop referring to as "Little Mister" now that he's turned seven, is taking the lack of attention relatively well.  Must remember to focus some time just for him today.

I'm going to take some time to dwell on the pluses, rather than the minuses, and see where that gets me today.  Prayer is a great way to shift from looking inward at the bad stuff to outward at our blessings.  I'll admit it's not always my go-to solution, though.

So, if I end up roasting the chicken I bought on the weekend (assuming it's still good) rather than sticking it in the freezer, we can assume things are looking up.  I'll Tweet about it later and let you know.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Let the season begin

And just like that, we're hurtling towards Christmas.  Wasn't it just Hallowe'en?  Wasn't it just early October?  So now we sit, on the edge of the cliff, ready to base jump into "the holiday season."  Some have already taken the plunge, diving headlong into the lights and trees and garland and bows.  Others hang back from even peering over for another few weeks.  Me?  I'm gearing up to rappel down for a bit, easing into things so that I don't miss a lot on the way by.

I began playing Christmas music the other day.  Just a little, and mostly instrumental.  I'm not ready for full fledged choirs singing Angels We Have Heard on High yet.  Though I'll admit that I've begun dreaming of a White Christmas and longing for a little snow (it was 17C yesterday).

And I've begun... no, not baking.  I don't bake a lot at Christmas.  I've begun making candy.  I found a bag of my beloved Meyer lemons on the weekend and spent part of yesterday turning them into candied peel (and some bonus lemonade and Meyer lemon infused simple syrup). 
Yes, only one picture. Photoblogger I'm not.
I's so simple to make candied peel.  Last year I made quite a bit.  I love nibbling on it through the season.  The kitchen smelled amazing (until I shattered the plastic spray bottle of vinegar, anyway).

Candied Citrus Peel

2 Cups citrus peel
Boiling water
2 1/2 Cups white sugar, divided
1 Cup water

Scrub the fruit to remove any wax (organic is worth it here).  Peel it and cut the peel into strips (I make mine pretty narrow - think shoestring fry).  Place in a medium saucepan and cover with boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes.  Strain and repeat 2 more times (it helps to have a kettle of recently boiled water handy).  If you're doing grapefruit, you may want to repeat the process for a total of up to 5 times, as it tends to be more bitter.

Meanwhile, place 2 cups of sugar into a medium saucepan with 1 cup of water, over medium heat.  Stir to dissolve the sugar.  Add the blanched, strained peel and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the peel is soft and translucent.

Strain the syrup into a container to save and spread the strips of peel on a wire rack set over foil or parchment.  Once cool, toss them in the remaining sugar.  Epiphany moment - I added a little citric acid as well, to cut some of the sweetness and complement the lemon flavour.  It's wonderful! Spread the pieces out again, keeping them separate, and leave them to dry for several hours, or overnight.

These can be dipped in chocolate, nibbled with a cheese and nut tray, or chopped up to add to fruit breads, muffins and cookies.

Oh, and I've also been replaying our kick off to Christmas last year.  The amazing Chorus Niagara Flash Mob that we got to witness.  Still the best way I've ever started the holidays!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Of Hallowe'en and Chicken Soup

It was a quiet Hallowe'en (am I the only one who still uses the ' in that word?).  Not just because there seemed to be fewer kids out and about, but also because 3 of the 4 of us were losing our voice.  Hubby stayed home from work (always nice on my birthday, which was also yesterday) because he "woke" -aka barely slept- with a really sore throat and almost no voice.  Never good when you have to do work in schools.  My voice was fine until the evening, and ditto Little Mister.  I caught a cold a couple of weeks ago, and am still coughing up a bit of the last of it, and the guys seem to have caught a bit of it now too.  Little Miss seems fine, after getting over it quickly already.

*Bunny trail - There weren't too many costumes last night that made me pause, though there were a few really over the top gory masks.  But there was this one... a girl of about 16 maybe, handing out candy with her mother.  Her dress was the Candyland game board.  Not sure where she got it, or if she found the fabric somewhere and made the dress, but either way there was a measurement issue, because not only was the dress SHORT, but let's just say that this girl's ample jujubes were spilling out of her candy bag. /Bunny trail

So today, with November here, and our routine back to normal after a fun filled evening of Trick or Treating, I've retrieved the capon carcass from Thanksgiving (remember U.S readers that Thanksgiving was nearly a month ago here) and I'm simmering it to make us a very nourishing stock for dinner.  I do not want a repeat of last February, when we lost the whole month to illness that consumed all of us.  And I've realized that our current diet is not exactly supporting our health.  We've been blessed lately with a little extra money, and sadly we've spent a disproportionate amount on take out and restaurant food.  *sigh*  I have no excuses to offer.  I just know that our current habit has contributed to our current lack of well being.  And I want to change that.

The stock is simmering.  The house smells amazing.  Like a warm, soothing hug wafting down the hallway.  Glorious healthy fat is rendering out, along with minerals and other assorted nutrients that will provide us with what we need to nourish our bodies, soothe sore throats and bring us together at the table (in our own home).  There is a whole head of garlic in the pot as well.  Little Mister has requested lentils and barley in his bowl (it's his favourite soup).  I think I want some noodles and hot sauce.  Hubby will want some actual meat in his, and Little Miss... I don't know that she has an opinion.  LOL