Tag Archives: food

Is My Cat a “Social Eater”?

I was browsing through the Ottawa Humane Society listings one lunch time, checking out the new cohort of cats and dogs looking for new homes. It’s not that I’m looking to add a friend for Ivy, but for entertainment purposes, I enjoy reading the cute biographies and appreciate the effort that goes into writing each one.

In the description of a handsome domestic short haired cat named Bryson, I paused when I read: “I also would love it if you could spend meal times with me in the beginning as I can be a social eater.”

“Social eater”?… is that a thing? Is that what Miss Ivy has been trying to tell me for all these months?

When it comes to her wet food, Ivy always seemed to prefer being served dinner in the basement. I always assumed it is because it is one of the quietest spots in the house. If that’s her preference (and now habit), I’ll happily oblige her.

But in recent months, she introduced a twist in the meal game.

Now, when she’s hungry, she’ll leave whatever room we’re in, approach the staircase, look down, and wait… and wait… and wait… until I get up from what I’m doing, at which time she proceeds to meow to catch my attention.

When I approach her to ask what she would like, she takes off for the basement and looks back. If I’m not following, she meows, increasing the volume gradually like a teenager might do with their sound system.

One day, I gave in and just followed her downstairs. When I arrived, she dove face down into the food bowl, merrily enjoying her meal. Continue reading

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Filed under Cats, Humour, Misc blogs

Inspired by the Creativity of Others

A few days ago, I attended a concert at the National Arts Centre, here in Ottawa, to see The Tenors perform with the National Arts Centre Orchestra conducted by Jack Everly.

Much like all of the Pops series concerts I have seen in recent years, the concert brought me on a roller coaster of emotions, between goose bump moments of arias and their triumphant crescendos and moments where I felt a tad verklempt, hearing favourite songs performed live in brilliant new arrangements.

Throughout great performances like that, I can’t help but ask myself, “How do they do it?” How much of it is natural aptitude and how much is hard work? How many thousands of hours each performer put into their craft over the years, to become one with their instruments and to make it look so easy? How hard did each one have to work to achieve this level of proficiency, to produce such beauty that can elicit such strong emotions from spectators?

This inner monologue replays in my head again and again whenever I feel deeply inspired, whether it’s at a concert, in a museum, in a theatre, reading a book or watching a great movie. It’s like a vortex of creativity, swirling around, reaching out and stirring up my own artistic momentum to keep doing what I love doing, keep practicing, work hard and don’t let go.

I sometimes pause and wonder if I will ever get to the same degree of skillfulness and versatility in writing as someone who can pick up an instrument and play a song, just like that. Then I think to myself that I have been known to pull a rabbit or two out of a hat on a few occasions.

Whether it’s a blog post that I was able to commit to paper in one sitting in under two hours (it doesn’t happen often, but it does), a blog post that successfully reached out and really struck a chord with readers, or writing a piece at work that was exactly what was requested, offering the right words at the right time, and being able to do so under crazy time constraints. I reassure myself that I am on my way. Continue reading

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Christmas Traditions, Past and Present

What is it about the holiday season that has us so deeply entrenched in tradition?

Is it the reminder of the eager anticipation we felt on Christmas morning, waking up to see what Santa brought? Is it the feast for the senses throughout the month of December? Is it the reminder of a simpler, gentler time?

Or is the totality of the experience, combining the recreation of old familiar traditions with the new experiences that get woven in as the fabric of our lives changes?

Here are ten such traditions that have formed an important part of the holidays for me over the years:

10. Shopping
I recently blogged about how shopping in December is so much fun, I now shop in November. But in all seriousness, I do have very fond memories of being a store clerk in my high school and university years and how much I enjoyed helping last minute shoppers find the perfect holiday gifts. In those last days leading up to the big day, there was magic and electricity in the air that made time fly, helping customer after customer ring through with their purchases and hurry out the door to their family, friends and festivities. I enjoyed that role of a sort of Christmas Elf so much, things may come full circle as something I might reconsider in my retirement years.

9. Christmas cards
Ever since I was a child, I enjoyed sending and receiving Christmas cards through the mail. As I got older I realized that it was impossible to see everyone over the holidays unless I had my own magic sleigh, 8 reindeer and unlimited time. Sending cards is that opportunity to tell someone that I am thinking of them, even if we don’t see each other that often, as well as the chance to convey my best wishes for the new year. True enough, electronic cards, email and texts can still convey the message so much more efficiently, but I still like the ritual of the mailbox and the “Aww!” moment of opening a card, reading a nice greeting and the joy of the ongoing connection with the sender. Plus, when I find a perfect card that captures an inside joke, makes someone laugh, or strikes the right chord in one way or another, it can be a beautiful thing.

8. Baking
Is there anything that helps to stir up the memories of Christmas past than the sweet smell of baking favourite holiday treats? In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I do find myself puttering in the kitchen more than usual, reviving old favourites to bring to potlucks, parties or to give as gifts. When that sweet smell gently fills the house, it really does whisper “Christmas is coming”. Date squares, pecan squares, butter cookies and rum balls, are just some of the traditional indulgences that I revive annually. Continue reading

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New Year’s in New Orleans

Even though our Ottawa winter was heralded with warmer than usual temperatures and no snow by the time Christmas rolled around (a fairly unusual occurrence), John and I packed our bags and headed out for a winter escape (planned several months ago) for a bucket list destination: New Orleans, Louisiana.

The beauty and the majesty of the mighty oaks in front of the Oak Alley Plantation

The beauty and the majesty of the mighty oaks in front of the Oak Alley Plantation

After a fairly easy-going travel day (thank you Mother Nature!) we arrived at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, happy and reassured to find our luggage made it as well. The uneventful travel day was especially sweet since it was New Year’s Eve and because we had made it with plenty of time to spare to take in the festivities. I admit I was mentally prepared for the possibility of spending New Year’s Eve in an airport due to weather, mechanical or logistical issues like missed connections, but in the end everything worked out! YAY!

Our first destination was the Court of Two Sisters Restaurant in the French quarter for a special dinner to ring in the New Year. It did not take longer than for the appetizers to arrive to fully appreciate the great things I had heard about southern hospitality, given the kind, warm and attentive nature of the team that greeted us with open arms. What an amazing way to start a vacation! We then decided to take a gentle stroll to burn off some of the calories, and to take in the merriment and festive spirit that was in abundance throughout the French Quarter. We concluded the evening in Jackson Square, a great vantage point to take in the brilliant fireworks show and traditional dropping of the fleur-de-lis to ring in 2016.

Our chilly New Year’s Day began with Continue reading

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The Chicken Lottery

Chicken Batch cooking has become a way of life in this household, since the discovery of my intolerance to wheat products 10 years ago. In a nutshell, it just means preparing food in a full recipe that serves 6, 8 or 10 people and freezing the leftovers. It isn’t really rocket science, but in this day where cooking at home seems to be a dying art in our fast-paced world, it just means returning to our roots somewhat. Our mothers and grandmothers did it almost every night, so why can’t we?

In my case, to take it one step farther and make it even easier, I separate and freeze the leftovers in single serving containers. That way, I have a complete and balanced meal in one container, ready to bring to work for lunch or to pop in the microwave to enjoy anytime I need a quick meal.

It takes a bit of preparation and organization, but it definitely pays off in the long run when I know exactly what went into each meal, I am not risking the repercussions of an accidental dose of wheat, and I can control portions of everything that I make.

Sometimes, the fun part of batch cooking is the ability to buy regular or family-sized sized portions of ingredients and know with certainty that with careful planning, little will get wasted. Better yet is the prospect of getting a deal or being able to save money on the ingredients, especially when the recipes you would like to make align with the weekly specials at the grocery store.

Then we have those serendipitous moments like the chicken lottery:

Some of the grocery stores nearby sell prepared (gluten free) roast chickens as a convenient option for busy families on the go. To me they are also Continue reading

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Ten Years Gluten-Free

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES It is hard to believe that it was 10 years ago that the nutritionist said, “I think we found our culprit: it’s the wheat product family”. At first, the news brought instant relief in that we finally knew what the problem was. A moment later, the relief turned to panic in terms of “How the heck will I live without wheat products? Wheat is in everything! Where do I begin?”

Ten years does not seem that long ago, but in the wheat-free/gluten-free world it was a lifetime ago. The awareness and popularity of the products over the years have paved the way for greater competition and for companies to try to outdo each other and to have clients reaching for their pocketbooks.

However, back in 2005, some of the first gluten-free cookies I tried were… well… bad. Frankly, the packaging they came in might have been tastier. It wasn’t easy, but I survived on a lot of salad, grilled chicken and home-made shepherd’s pie in that first year. I am so thankful that times have changed.

What led me to the doctor and nutritionist’s office in the first place was a series of digestive issues that were seemingly getting more intense as time went on. In the months that preceded those visits, my stomach was often bloated, distended and often so noisy when it came to post-lunch digestion, to the point that I was embarrassed to attend afternoon meetings. I tried to drink as much water as I could to help drown the sound, but then I just had an orchestra of digestion noises AND gurgly, bubbly noises.

It was the month I turned 40 that things took a turn for the worst. At first, I thought it was just a little overindulgence Continue reading

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Please Don’t Pass the Salt

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES If there was ever a factor that might tag me as the black sheep of the family it is this: my aversion to salt. Throughout my family, we have hard core salt lovers, including my own parents. As a child, I remember my Dad putting salt on his food without even tasting it first, which always seemed odd to me. I also remember my Mom checking her food first then occasionally sprinkling salt over my food and me whining in an exasperated tone “Mo-o-o-om, I don’t want more salt”. The fact is, I never really acquired the taste for it… even to this day.

I am not saying I don’t eat salt at all, of course I do. It is in everything. But in the war of salty vs. sweet, in my opinion, sweet wins. A full salt shaker will probably last a good 2 years in my house. A box of salt may very well last longer, used exclusively for cooking and baking. When guests come over, I have to make a concerted effort to remember to put the shakers on the table as they rarely get a workout when it’s just me. How many people do you know who have to dust the salt shaker?… it’s not to the point of cob webs yet, but some day perhaps.

To navigate the salty snack food universe, if I get a craving for nuts, I will often get the unsalted ones and then add just one small sprinkle of salt myself. Potato chips can get dangerous for me because if I eat regular ones, I can eat a handful and put away the bag after that. But put a bag of sodium-reduced ones in front of me (which I think taste better anyway), don’t blink, as they will disappear quickly. The same goes with pretzels, one handful and I’m fine for the day. I like them, but the salt itself is what deters me from going overboard… that is unless I can get someone to lick the salt off them first.

Unfortunately, I have not been so lucky with popcorn. I don’t know what it is but with some popcorn brands, I wake up the next day with my lips very red and plumped up… not a great look on a dude. To feed the popcorn craving, I have been contemplating the idea of getting a hot air corn popper (again) but all I remember from my first one was having a disappointingly high number of unpopped kernels in each batch. Plus, I really don’t have space to add another gadget to my kitchen… Hmm.. maybe if I got rid of the salt shaker.

As I get older and seemingly retain water like a sponge (temporarily), Continue reading

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