So, I’ve been keeping a secret.

Yes, part of the reason I haven’t been blogging much is that I haven’t had much time for it since I went back to work in January. But.

Derek and I are in the process of splitting up. Have been for months… the most civilized, amicable, non-acrimonious separation imaginable. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it is a mutual one. We have made our decision public in stages — our immediate families and closest friends first, then slowly letting wider and wider circles of acquaintance in on the situation. But, procrastinator that I am, I’ve put off announcing it here. Nothing specific happened to cause the break — no infidelity or other drama/nonsense — we were always  very different people, and we just weren’t working as a couple any more, despite our great love for our son. So, I’ll be moving to my own apartment this summer, within walking distance of work and a new French daycare for Sam that takes kids at 18 months; Derek and I will be sharing custody 50/50. Eventually I’ll start posting about the transition — choosing, decorating, and moving into my new place, adjusting to life as a single working mom — here on the blog… just not quite yet. What I can say is this: I don’t know why, but I feel strangely certain that this decision is the right one for us, and that the future will be good. Anyway, if my radio silence has had you wondering, what’s what’s going on with me.

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Maybe I should change the category to “Soupy Wednesdays”

I don’t ever seem to get tired of soup. Here’s the one I made today — almost a stew. Very hearty… perfect for a snow day. It’s based on Mollie Katzen’s Minestrone from The Moosewood Cookbook. Sorry for the long absence; I’ve gone back to work, and let’s just say that blogging has become, well, less of a priority.

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
1 large parsnip, diced
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 medium bell pepper, diced (yellow is pretty with the other colours here)
4 cups water
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, including juice
1 1/2 cups canned kidney beans (other cooked/canned beans or chickpeas would be good here)
1 cup dry pasta, any shape (I used bowties)

1. Heat the olive oil in a big pot. Add onion, garlic, and salt. Sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes, then add celery, carrot, parsnip, oregano, and basil. (She also calls for fresh black pepper here, which would have been good, but I left it out to keep the soup mild for Sam, then forgot to add some to my bowl.) Cover and cook over very low heat about 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add bell pepper (oops, I put it in with the other veggies… and it was fine), water, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes. Add beans and simmer another 5 minutes.

3. Bring the soup to a gentle boil. Add pasta, stir, and cook until the pasta is tender. Serve topped with minced fresh parsley (if you have it… I didn’t) and grated parmesan (which I forgot… soup was delicious even so).

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I am ridiculously pleased with this cake.

On Saturday we had Sam’s godparents over for a belated birthday dinner; they brought the main course, and I made the cake. At first I was just going to keep it simple and make a boring square cake, but that didn’t feel festive enough. So I did a bit of looking on Google Images for ideas for car cakes, since Sam is utterly fascinated by anything that has wheels right now. (Luckily he has more vehicle toys than I would have ever thought possible.) Holy cow did I see some impressive, gorgeous work out there, crazy realistic 3D racecar cakes — way more involved and complicated than I was prepared to do at the last minute on Saturday afternoon. But then I came across a picture somewhat similar to this, and I thought, OK, I can do that. So I baked a smallish rectangular carrot cake that I then cut to shape, with two large, shallow (flat topped) cupcakes for wheels. I used the traditional cream cheese icing for the body, Nutella for the wheels, and (again thanks to the wonders of the interwebs, because I really did not want to be making coloured icing and figuring out how to pipe it), cut out fruit roll-ups for decorations, with some large sprinkles to spell out his name. It is clearly a homemade, not professional cake, but I think it has a certain humble charm, no? At least not a candidate for Cake Wrecks, I hope… (If you don’t know Cake Wrecks, you should go check it out now: OMG hilarious.)

Anyway, here’s the fabulously moist, reasonably healthful carrot cake recipe I used, courtesy of my dear MIL Shirley. You will note it has NO DREADED RAISINS, although I suppose you could add some if you are one of those raisin fans…

Carrot Cake

1 cup grated carrot
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar (I used brown sugar)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I chopped them finer than usual for Sam’s benefit, and toasted them in the oven as it preheated)
14 oz can crushed pineapple, drained

Whisk eggs, oil, and sugar together in large mixing bowl. Stir flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon together. Add to egg mixture and blend thoroughly. Mix in carrots, nuts, and drained pineapple. Pour batter into greased 8×8-inch baking pan. Bake at 350F for 40 minutes or until cake tests done.

Cream Cheese Frosting

125 g cream cheese (I double this)
3 Tbsp butter, softened
1 1/2 cups icing sugar (I halve this — I like a very cheesy, not too sweet frosting)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice

Beat all ingredients together until smooth and creamy, and frost completely cooled cake.

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Belated New Year’s Resolutions

Quickie post before the now-working mama goes to bed. Sorry I have no pictures to illustrate. In 2011, besides the previously mentioned “blog at least once a week,” I resolve to:

1. Use my CPAP machine. Except for a couple of nights, have been doing pretty good on this so far this year. Wish it didn’t leave me feeling dehydrated, though (even with the steam thingie on). Even my eyes are red, itchy, and dried out.

2. Take my vitamins. Have been remembering most days. I have put a “pill organizer” on my shopping list next time I’m at the drug store to make this even easier: fill it with my vitamins once a week, stuff it in my purse to take to work, and then no excuses for forgotten vitamins.

3. Make Sam laugh daily. Needs work. Mama’s too serious, doesn’t play enough with Dude. This is the most important one, though, given that my time with him is now seriously curtailed since I returned to work from mat leave today.

Am I secretly hoping to eat better, be more organized, go to bed earlier, exercise more, lose weight, and get happier? Of course I am. But such resolutions are doomed to failure. I figure the three I’ve listed above are actually achievable, and will all contribute to improving my health, energy, and happiness.

OK, it’s late, time to GO TO BED!! I’m working tomorrow!! (And yeah, if you’re wondering: work is work. It was good to be back, despite the usual excess of rich food, and the usual dearth of email/mainframe/software access which will require hours on the phone with the Help Desk in India before it all gets sorted. *Sigh.*)

Oh, and speaking of laughing babies and work, here’s a fun article for today’s Link of the Day: Tell your boss: Research shows viral video watching increases productivity.

Posted in All about Me Mondays, Link of the day | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Look what I made!

I made this little tree for the K-W Knitters’ Guild annual handmade holiday ornament exchange. (Ornaments do not have to be knitted, but they must be made by hand.) The ornament I made last year was sad and pathetic and was not picked until close to last (I certainly didn’t bother photographing it), so I wanted to make something a little more worthy this year, since some of last year’s contributions by my fellow Guild members were just spectacular, as was the case again this year. This little number is my own design, made up entirely out of my own head. I traced a tree shape from a cookie cutter on two layers of storebought felt (I wasn’t quite dedicated enough to make my own felt, especially since white wool doesn’t always felt reliably), then strung some pretty beads from my newly acquired stash donated by my friend Kristen and sewed them on. I sewed the two trees together with gold embroidery thread using blanket stitch, then stuffed the ornament with polyfill before finishing. I’m really pleased with the result, and as hoped, it was snatched up very quickly! I picked out a yarn ball made by one of my Guild friends, similar to this. (I should have taken a picture before putting away the Christmas tree yesterday.) Now I will always think of her when I hang it on the tree every year!

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New Year’s Resolution #1

I was going to save this for next Monday’s narcissism post, but hey, there’s no time like the present. So I am officially announcing: one of my resolutions for 2011 was to write more in my blog. To this effect, I have signed up for WordPress’s Post A Week challenge. Go me!!

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I may be obsessed with soup.

So I had some leftover roasted butternut squash that wasn’t really appealing to eat plain a second night in a row — it was a bit grainy and stringy and kind of blah, not as delightfully sweet as some winter squash I’ve had in the past. Since I’m always happy to eat soup, especially creamy puréed soup, I thought, OK, let’s see if we can find an appealing squash soup recipe. I recommend this method of finding a new recipe if you are pressed for time or just don’t feel like leafing through your recipe books (or don’t collect recipe books like I do). It’s rare that I don’t feel like looking at a recipe book, but I am sometimes too rushed for time. I fired up the website allrecipes.com (others you can try include epicurious and Tasty Kitchen), did a search on “squash soup,” and made the one that had the highest rating with the most number of reviews, Mary’s Butternut Squash Soup. I made the modifications suggested by several reviewers: subbed in butter for margarine, chicken stock for water and chicken bouillon cubes, and roasted squash for raw, and reduced the amount of cream cheese. OMG it was dead easy, and SO delicious! Easily made vegetarian by substituting vegetable stock for the chicken stock. The cream cheese adds amazing richness. This one’s a definite keeper. Great way to use up leftover squash.

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