Staying Hydrated in Style

I wasn’t going to post about this, because I do it so often and it’s so simple that I never even think about it.  But the Pie suggested it might be a good idea to let you in on the deal.

Summer Drinks 3
Gren also gets hot in the summer.

I get dehydrated really easily in hot weather and summer in Ottawa is very, very HOT.  Hot and long, temperatures often going up as high as 50°C (122°F) on humid days.  And when I get dehydrated I tend to faint and that is super embarrassing.  Therefore, I drink a TON of water.  But water gets so boring after a while, so I dress it up a little and then I can pretend I’m at some fancy spa.

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We have to keep the curtains shut to keep out the afternoon sun. It makes the shadows very interesting.

I have a pretty glass bottle that I keep in the fridge full of water, and it’s a simple thing to just add a bit of natural flavouring to it.  My go-to refresher is lemon water.  I just cut the ends off a lemon, and slice the rest of it small enough to fit in the mouth of the bottle.  Then you just leave it for a few hours and BOOM.  FLAVOURED WATER.

Summer Drinks 1

Another good refreshing option is adding a sprig or two of fresh mint from my mini garden to a handful of fresh raspberries.

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For something more subtle, try cutting up half a cucumber and sliding that into the water.

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And the extra fancy option is a few sliced strawberries and some fresh basil leaves.  I think this one is actually my favourite now.

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I find that I can keep topping up the bottle for a couple of days before the vegetable matter in it starts to get squishy and needs to be composted, and the water starts to lose the flavour.

What’s your favourite combination?

 

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Our New ‘Hood: Walking the Farm

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You might not know this, but there is a giant farm smack dab in the middle of the City of Ottawa.  And our new place is right across the street, so it’s become Gren’s new stomping grounds on his morning walk.

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This is the Central Experimental Farm, a government-run combination research facility, recreational area, and national historic site.  Ostensibly, it belongs to the Canadian department of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

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There used to be an Experimental Farm in every province in Canada at one point; due to budget cuts and demands on space, there are only a few left.  The flashy heritage/tourist stuff, and the baby cows and things are all on the opposite side of the farm, and it’s a little bit of a long walk for Gren’s short legs, but he loves wandering between the different fields.

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He also loves rolling in all sorts of objectionable materials on the verges.  I suspect it’s mostly goose poop.

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Dogs must be leashed in this place (they don’t want them mucking about with their farming experiments) but Gren has adapted quickly to his Flexi lead.

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I used to walk through the other side of the Farm every day to get to Carleton University. You can see Dunton Tower, part of the school campus, in the distance:

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Looking back the way we came, you can see the gray Ag buildings across the street from the farm.

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The day I walked through and took these shots they were just getting ready to seed some of the fields on this side, so there were people and equipment everywhere.  I’m excited to watch it change as planting season begins!

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August in Photos: the Skinny

You may recall me saying that I was going to take a photo a day for the month of August, seeing as it was going to be such a momentous month.  Well, here’s my little August gallery.  You can see the ones that didn’t make the cut on my Flickr here.

1 August:

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Dad admiring the new paint job on the old Cape Spear lighthouse.

2 August:

2 August 2013 2

Last day at work in the Lawffice Liberry.  For five years this was my exclusive domain.

3 August:

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Met a very calm snowshoe hare at the Salmonier Nature Park.

4 August:

4 August 2013

It was raining, so I painted the bathroom. Apparently yellow wasn’t neutral enough. Oh well.

5 August:

5 August 2013

Still raining. HARD. We stayed inside.

6 August:

6 August 2013 2

Dad and I went to the Crow’s Nest (a members-only club for naval officers) in January of 2008 when we were thinking of moving here. Today we bookended our time in Newfoundland with another visit. Here is the angle from the “hidden” door down the stairway.

7 August:

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The first Wednesday in August (weather permitting) is Regatta Day, the oldest regatta in North America (195 years old in 2013).  This is our view from blueberry picking up behind the Johnson Geo Centre.

8 August:

8 August 2013 4

After some hectic back and forth, we sent Gren off on the plane to stay with my parents. This is one of the extremely nice and helpful security officers using cable ties to make sure Gren stays put.

9 August:

9 August 2013 3

We had to re-paint my office to a more neutral colour. I was trying to get excess paint off my brush.

10 August:

10 August 2013 3

Down to the essentials now in our pantry: booze, Oreos, ramen …

11 August:

11 August 2013 2

Our house is surrounded by trees, and the moving shadows the sun creates as it shines through the blowing leaves is quite spectacular.

12 August:

12 August 2013 2

Today I packed up the kitchen. My parents bought these plates at the Denby factory when we lived in England over 30 years ago. I bet they’ve moved almost as many times as I have.

13 August:

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One last walk along the jetty after breakfast at the downtown Cora’s.

14 August:

14 August 2013

I had a job interview over Skype today, so this was where I spent the most important part of my afternoon.

15 August:

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Moving day. The movers were late and when they arrived they were unaware they were supposed to be moving the whole house so it was a little frazzling but we got it done.

16 August:

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Sun in an empty room. My favourite Weakerthans song (which is based in turn on this painting).

17 August:

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Our first morning in Ottawa.  Gren was very happy to have us back with him.

18 August:

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Brunch at the new home of Mags and her boyfriend, the Flying Dutchman. YUM FRESH FRUIT!

19 August:

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Best shawarma in the city is Castle Shawarma on Rideau Street. They have spicy garlic sauce that is incredible.

20 August:

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Today we got the Pie fitted for some suits to wear to interviews at Moores. Looking pretty slick.

21 August:

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My dad was painting the woodwork on the ground floor. He may have accidentally painted me in passing.

22 August:

22 August 2013

Our fourth wedding anniversary. Crazy how time flies.

23 August:

23 August 2013

Grenadier reunited with his sister Bakhita at Bruce Pit.  Both of them reunited with some mud.  This is the picture I took BEFORE Bakhita stuck herself in the middle of an enormous puddle and refused to come out.

24 August:

Two Processor Pies

Gardened with Mum today. Harvested a ton of rhubarb. Obviously I made pie.

25 August:

25 August 2013

ICE CREAM! THERE’S AN ICE CREAM TRUCK ON MY STREET! ICE CREEEEEEEEEEEAM!

26 August:

26 August 2013

Out for a misty stroll on the Ottawa River Parkway. Reminds me of St. John’s.

27 August:

Star Wars Exhibit 27 August 2013

Caught the Star Wars Identities Exhibition at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum. Epic. Like, literally.

28 August:

Cottage Life

We weeded out the path at the back of my parents’ house today, and got to use the weed torch on the remainders. I love setting things on fire.

29 August:

Cottage Life

Hanging out at a cottage with some friends. Gren actually swam voluntarily.

30 August:

Cottage Life

Cottage life: early morning on Mississippi Lake.

31 August:

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The Pie started growing this beard at the end of July, just to see if he could. He’s a little tired of it now so I recorded it for posterity and he’ll shave it off tomorrow.

And that was August!

Puffy Pumpkin Pancakes

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We sent Gren ahead of us to Ottawa a week before we moved, so he wouldn’t get stressed out during the chaos of moving.  But in the days following his departure, we kept finding ourselves looking for him, or expecting him to suddenly appear.  We kept  having to remind ourselves we would see him shortly, but it was still sad.  Anyway, you all know that we feed Gren pumpkin regularly to keep him, well, regular.  After he left, I had almost a full can sitting around, so we decided to use up the last of our flour and whip ourselves up some pumpkin pancakes for breakfast one day.  Not very seasonal for August, but they were darned tasty anyway.

Puffy Pumpkin Pancakes 1

Turn your oven on to 250°F and chuck in a heatsafe dish (this will keep your cooked pancakes warm until it’s time to eat).

In a bowl, whisk together 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour (or a gluten-free equivalent), 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.  If you have pumpkin pie spice on hand, that will do instead of measuring out all the other spices.  If you’re feeling lazy.  I also added in 1/4 cup sweetened desiccated coconut, for texture.

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In another bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups milk, 3/4 cup pumpkin purée, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 1 egg, and a drop each of vanilla extract and coconut extract (optional).

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Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ones.  The batter will be pretty thick.

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Scoop about 1/3 cup of the batter into a heated pan and cook for however long it takes for you to be happy with the consistency of your pancakes.  These ones are pretty thick so it took a while at medium heat.  The batter makes about 12 pancakes.

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Serve with butter and maple syrup, or whatever else floats your boat.  LIKE BACON.

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Root Beer Bundt Cake

Potluck
Potluck insanity. Too many tall friends.

Every year during the winter holidays we get together with our Ottawa friends and have a potluck.  We started doing this when we were all students because it was the one day we could guarantee that we were all in town at the same time and we could spend some time together.  We even get fancy with the planning, starting with a Doodle scheduler to pick the right date (if you’ve never used their free software to make an appointment, check it out).  Then we set up a Google spreadsheet to figure out who is bringing what, to ensure that not everyone arrives with chips and dip and that the people who are bringing appetizers don’t show up just as we’re starting dessert.  Inevitably the spreadsheet gets hacked by someone (or everyone) and chaos ensues.  Graphs and pie charts and graffiti abound.  It’s madness.  But fun.  This year the Pie and I decided to host, and as each person brings a dish, this was the Pie’s contribution to the festivities: Baked’s Root Beer Bundt Cake.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

He’s made it before, for my birthday, and it’s always a favourite.  Anything Baked does is a favourite with us.  The problem is that because I was busy doing my own thing and making a superb leek and leftover turkey pie (which I will save as a post until the next turkey-related holiday), I didn’t actually get a chance to photograph the finished product.  So you’ll just have to guess as to what it looked like.  Sorry.

Now, the recipe calls for 2 cups root beer to go into the batter.  Don’t you dare use diet root beer — you’ll regret it enormously.  Use a stronger-tasting brew like Dad’s or Stewart’s or even Barq’s to get the best flavour, and feel free to replace some of the liquid with a root beer schnapps or even a tablespoon or two of root beer extract.  Not having any of these things, however, the Pie decided to make himself a root beer concentrate.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

He started by pouring two cans of root beer into a pot. Then he simmered it for about half an hour to boil off the water and reduce the liquid.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

The resulting fluid is dark and opaque, and we hoped it would enhance the flavour of the cake when added to the regular root beer.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

While you’re doing that, preheat your oven to 325°F.  Generously butter a large bundt cake pan.  Dust the inside with flour and knock out the excess.  If you don’t have a bundt pan you can make this in an angel food pan.  If you have to make it in a pan that doesn’t have a hole in the middle you will need to cook it a bit longer and keep an eye on it so the bottom doesn’t burn.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

In a small saucepan, melt together 2 cups root beer, 1 cup cocoa, and 1/2 cup butter and stir until the mixture is smooth.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

Add in 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar and 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar and whisk that until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

Root Beer Bundt Cake

Remove that from the heat and allow to cool a little bit. You want it to cool a bit (enough that you can poke your finger in it and it will be nice and warm but not hot) because you’re about to add in 2 lightly beaten eggs. And if you add the eggs in while it’s still hot they will cook on their own and that will be super gross.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

Add the eggs in and whisk thoroughly.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

In a big bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour with 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

Gently pour the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture and fold with a spatula until just combined.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

You don’t want pockets of flour or anything but you want the batter to still be a mite lumpy.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

Pour that into your prepared bundt pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until you can stick a skewer into it and it comes out clean.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

Set that puppy on a rack to cool completely.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

In the meantime, you can make your root beer fudge frosting. In another bowl, whisk together 2oz melted dark chocolate and 1/2 cup room temperature butter. Add in as well 1/4 cup root beer, 2/3 cup cocoa, and 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s (icing) sugar and beat until smooth.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

When you cake is cooled, plaster on that icing in a haphazardly charming manner and eat it all up. Cover what’s left over in plastic wrap and keep up to a week at room temperature.  Sorry again that I have no pictures.  It disappeared! Instead you can have a picture of Gren in the Christmas hat that he hates.

Gren on Couch

Russian Potato Salad

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One day, way back in December, it was brisk and sunny in St. John’s, and then by the afternoon it looked like this:

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Fortunately, a few days after that, we had a rare sunny day, where the light poured into my kitchen even into the afternoon (which, considering my windows face north and east, is amazing).

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But BAM.  It was that alluvasudden-it’s-winter phenomenon that seems to happen to many Canadian cities.  I was preparing for a pre-holiday potluck and Kª had just informed me (online from tropical Kansas) that Kº had gotten a job in Russia and that they were moving back there in February, and taking Il Principe and the Incredibly Little Hulk with them (not like they would have left them behind, of course).

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Having recently read Sasha’s recipe for Russian Potato Salad (or Olivier Salad) over at Global Table Adventure, I thought that it would be fitting for me to make this easy and cheerful salad for our holiday potluck (and I definitely left a substantial chunk of it with Kº when we left for Ottawa).  So this one’s for you, the Russians-who-formerly-lived-downstairs.  Прощайте и удачи.  Have a safe trip!

First, we boil.

Plop 4 large eggs into a pot of water, bring that to boil, then turn the heat off and let that sit with the lid on for about 20 minutes.  In another pot, boil up 3 large carrots and 2lbs potatoes.  Boil them until they’re just tender, not mushy.  Rinse them with cold water to cool them down and then peel them.  It may sound tricky, but it’s actually easier.

Then, we chop. Gren helped/cleaned the floor.

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Chop up those eggs quite fine.

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As well as 3-4 large dill pickles.  Make those into tiny cubes.

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In fact, cube everything, your potatoes, your carrots, as well as 1lb cooked ham.  You’ll also want about 2 cups peas (I used frozen), but you don’t need to chop those.  That would end badly.  I also chopped up those green onions I’d been saving.

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Mix all that cheery goodness together and season with salt and pepper.

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I also decided that potato salad isn’t potato salad without some paprika.  This is a sweet smoked variety from Spain.

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Then you slather on the mayonnaise, about 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups, depending on your preference.  Only dress the salad you plan to eat, as it will get soggy after a while.

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Tasty!

Off to See the Wizard — But Tidy Up Before You Go.

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Bakhita in motion.

Good morning!  Today we’re taking Ali Does It west as we travel home to spend the holiday season with our families.  We’ll be in Ottawa for a WHOLE MONTH.  During this time, Gren will have his second birthday (hopefully he’ll be able to celebrate it with his sister, Bakhita, who also lives in Ottawa).  And Cait and I will be starting on a new category of blog posts for you: Mad Science.  Because who doesn’t love science?  I know I do.  Especially when it involves things that fizz or glow.  So stay tuned for a wide variety of madcap experiments in the coming months.

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From left to right: unnamed female puppy, Gren, Paddy (Gren’s dad), and Bakhita (Gren’s sister).

And not to fret!  I will continue to blog while I’m home with the family — in fact, I will probably make them help out, so we should have uninterrupted posts all the way into the new year!

Cleaning Microwave 2

Before we go, though, I have a quick cleaning tip for you.  I hate leaving a dirty house.  I just can’t stand coming home to a mess, dirty laundry and expired food and stale whatever.  I’m not in the mood.  So the Pie and I tend to do a whole-house clean before we go, just making sure the surfaces are clean, things are dusted, the laundry and dishes are done, and the fridge is empty of anything that might expire in our absence.  It just makes for a better homecoming, especially when the first thing we do upon our (usually late night) reentry is open our suitcases in the middle of the living room and make a big mess.

Now, there’s a lot of work to do in the days leading up to our travel — usually the Pie is writing exams and I am packing and getting Gren ready for the airplane.  So anything that saves me time and effort is number one in my books.  So here’s a handy tip for quickly and lazily cleaning your microwave — while you do something else.  And this even works on super gross, super crusty microwaves.  Trust me.  I own one of those kind.  I’m a terrible housekeeper.  And I’m freaking LAZY.

Take a small bowl and fill it with about a cup of water, maybe a cup and a half.  Whatever floats your boat.  Then add in a few tablespoons lemon juice (you don’t have to be all elitist and use fresh lemons for this — bottled lemon will do just fine).

Cleaning Microwave 1

Pop that bad boy into the microwave in the middle and nuke it for 3 minutes.  Then leave it in there, without opening the door, for another 5 minutes.  While cool and awesome science is going on behind that door, you can work on cleaning something else.  Or check Facebook.  Or play with your dog.  That is up to you.  What is happening is the steam from the boiling water is loosening baked on goo, and the acid in the lemon is breaking up all the grease.

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Then take your handy dandy scrubby sponge and simply wipe away all that grease and grime.  That’s all it takes, is a little wipe.  I kid you not. It’s that simple.

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Even gets the stuff on the ceiling of the microwave. Easy peasy.  And even if you forget about the microwave, all that lovely condensation will have done its job, even if you come back an hour later.

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And once the lemon water in the bowl has cooled, you can dip your sponge in it and use it to sanitize your counter tops and cutting boards. BLAMO KABLAM.