food sourcing.

Huzzah! A blog post!

I was not having a good week last week. I've been burning the candle at both ends and was feeling really, really run down. My sister, A, happened to call which was very exciting in and of itself, since she currently lives in Melbourne and the time difference makes it hard for us to talk much. When I told her how I was feeling, she didn't really respond with the usual, you have to take care of yourself and work less etc., she asked me if I was eating properly. I realized that I wasn't really eating properly. Apparently, sometimes it takes your YOUNGER sister to take care of you!

Though it doesn't take just eating better to make life better, she totally had a point and so in the last few days, we've been eating better. Instead of toast and crackers for every meal: Homemade fish tacos! Mushroom and broccoli pasta! Stir fry! Actual breakfast! And I'll be darned if I don't feel better.

The crazy thing about A's suggestion is that lately, I've had sourcing good food down to an art these days, so it was weird that I wasn't taking advantage. And that's the real point of this rambling post: acquiring good food. Back when I wasn't running my own business and N's wasn't as busy as it is now, we never worried about what was for dinner much. We'd decided what we wanted between the two of us through texts and either N or I would pick up what we didn't already have to make dinner happen. Fast forward to a few months ago: it's no secret that going back to school and starting your own businesses mean budgeting. But, especially because N is in food industry and because we're sorta tree huggers around here, we want to get food from the best places we can.

About two years ago we started buying an eighth of a cow at once from a farmer outside Vancouver with a group of other people. The quality, and might I add price (in a good way), of the meat was unparalleled. We'd also pilfer my parents' freezer on trips back to the motherland for any venison they didn't need. (This year, there's been no venison because my poor dad spent much of the autumn sick and eventually in the hospital, but I digress and he's well on the way to getting back to his regular hockey playing, deer hunting self.) N's mom would also help us out by bringing bacon and other delicious pork products when she came to visit from the local butcher near their cabin. All that meant that we had to buy an apartment-sized deep freeze a couple years back, but I think in the money we've saved from buying/acquiring meat this way has paid for it already. We still haven't found a great source for chicken, but a friend recently mentioned that she's found someone so that may change soon.

That left the rest of our food. (I'm a good Albertan: meat first.) As our budget has gotten tighter, we've taken to buying a large amount of groceries less often. We found that that ultimately brought our grocery bill down because we were planning our purchases a bit better. It also meant that we didn't have to go to the grocery store often, a place I really hate. A few weeks ago, we signed up for Green Earth Organics, a service that delivers produce to us once per week. N had GEO back when he lived with five other dudes in a house, and though it seemed a little bit decadent to me to have someone bring us produce, I'm now totally sold. Unpacking that box is definitely the highlight of my Thursday (unless, you know, I have actual plans on Thursday night other than watching reruns of Star Trek on Netflix or, gulp, working). One of the best things about having produce delivered is that I don't have to go to the grocery store very often now at all AND, more importantly, I think we're saving money because we're more aware of the food we have and because it's fresher, it lasts longer, so way less gets wasted. I'm a total convert.

Having a freezer full of meat and produce taken care of has turned me a little bit into one of those extreme couponing people, except without the coupons. Now I'm all about putting a grocery list together throughout the month (yes, the month) and then shopping for the rest of our stuff on 10% off Tuesday (including, OceanWise fish, just in case you were wondering if I'd forgotten that other, other white meat). That's right, me and the old ladies, with their orthopedic shoes and grocery trolleys, battle it out on the first Tuesday of the month to fill our pantry. Life is better when I don't have to worry about what's happening for dinner.* We just open the freezer, pantry and fridge and make something, because we know what we have good stuff. I think our system has saved us some decent cash and has definitely saved me annoying trips to the grocery store. We run out of eggs, milk and cheese more often than monthly, but that's all available at the drug store two blocks from our place, so it works out to be a pretty good system. So, just in case ya wanted to know, there is the way we do groceries.** Got any tips yourself?

*Truth be told, I've never worried much about what we're having for dinner, since N is the cook in our household. When I'm by myself though, I do worry and since N does a lot of the coking, I don't really mind being the grocery scout.

**I always feel weird writing posts like these ... like who cares about how anyone gets groceries, but I care! For some reason I LOVE reading other people's tricks for this kind of stuff, so I figured, why not? Now that I'm not blogging here more often, but am updating my professional website pretty frequently, I figure that this blog is going to become more of a diary for me anyway, so you may get more and more stuff like this.


oh right, i have a blog ...

As you may have noticed, I have been an absentee blogger, as of late. Why, you may ask? I'm not sure that I can begin to answer that question, but it's due, in large part to the fact that I started my own business last October (right after finishing the web design program at BCIT) and I just haven't had the head space to blog as much lately.

Last year was just plain hard. Deciding to go back to school fairly impulsively, makes finances and time, really tight. (It's not that going back to school was impulsive, it's just that the timing was impulsive.) But now, I'm doing what I've wanted to do for years: run my own business. The funny thing about getting what you want, is that it never looks exactly like you'd imagined! I now totally understand why people say, when you start a business, you won't actually be working on the paying work eight hours a day. Ha! There is all the other stuff that you don't bill for that you don't remember about when you work a salary job. Then, there's the work/life balance. That balance was my main reason for going into business for myself. I wanted more flexibility with my time and more power over the projects I was working on. All of those things have happened, but let me tell you, it is HARD to morph into the relaxed, life part of your day when your desk is two metres from the couch! There is always something to do.

That said, I love what I'm doing now. The people that I get to work with are fantastic and fun, and the work has exceeded my expectations. I'm now working for myself, but also teaching in the program that I just graduated from. It feels great to be teaching and has given me a new-found respect for every teacher that I've ever had (including the bad ones) and for my parents and family members (my sister, N's sister etc.) who teach or have taught.

I'm hoping to be back here a little bit more, but I'm not going to make any promises. I love this little blog. It was the creative outlet that I needed when I was deciding what my next career move would be. And fiddling with it gave me the taste of coding that only whetted my appetite to learn about coding and programming. I'm forever grateful to this blog and the support that I've had for it. I hope to be back here soon. xoxo

{Photo from our magical trip to Hawaii over New Years. Another post for another time ...}


small joys.*

{A little Christmas cheer on the mantle.}
 I love this time of year. Though I know that the rain, grey and cold weather of January and February are right around the corner, October, November and December are really wonderful. The last several months have been some of the busiest of my life, and December will be no different, but I'm really loving the small joys these days. Coziness abounds and I'm loving warm dinners with friends, hanging out with N in the evenings and working hard even though I mostly want to hibernate.

Here's to a cozy weekend, for you, too!

{Candles in the evening.}

{Nailing a lattice pie crust, if I do say so myself. Thanks to The Joy of Cooking which once belonged to my aunt.}

{Having a beautiful place to work (complete with the desk N made me) ... even if I don't have the time to keep it tidy.}

{GI Winter Ale. Oh how I've missed you.}


the best pumpkin pie. ever.

I love pumpkin pie. I start thinking about it in September and practically count down the days until Thanksgiving, so that I can eat as much of it as possible.

I've made a pumpkin pie every Thanksgiving for the last several and none of them have been quite right. Well, Thanksgiving is more than a month behind us but this year's pie was finally right, thanks to my friend Eve's recipe. I made one little tweak to her recipe, to suit my own taste (see the brandy section), but otherwise the recipe is the same.

Since American Thanksgiving is a few days away, I thought I'd finally post this. We're doing a Thanksgiving repeat this weekend because some of our friends were away for the meal we had at our apartment and I'm going to make this all over again. I only hope it's as good as I thought it was last month!

Brandied (or Whisky-ed) Pumpkin Pie (via Eve Rockett, via The Vancouver Sun)
Pastry for a 9 inch single pie crust (I used this recipe to make my crust.)
1 (398 ml) can pumpkin
1 1/4 cups evaporated milk
3 large eggs
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1 l/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
l/2 tsp. salt
l/2 tsp. ground ginger
l/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
l/4 cup brandy (I used whiskey instead and a tablespoon or two of maple syrup.)
Whipped cream for garnish
Line pie plate with pastry. Trim pastry and leave a l inch overhang. Fold overhang under, pinch to form high fluted edge.
In large bowl beat pumpkin, milk, eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and nutmeg with mixer at low speed. Blend until well mixed. Stir in brandy.
Place pie pate on bottom oven rack; pour pumpkin mixture into shell. Bake at 400 F for 35 minutes. Cover pastry edges with foil if pastry browns too quickly.)
Reduce heat to 325F and bake an additional 15 minutes, or until knife inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool pie completely on rack. Refrigerate. Before serving, garnish with whipped cream.
Makes eight servings. 

P.S. I'm not abandoning, this blog ... really I'm not! It's just that things have been wonderfully busy around here and it's unfortunately not the priority it once was. I'm hopeful that I'll be back here more soon, but I'm not really into forcing myself into something that is supposed to be for fun, anyway.


start with a cupboard.

 When this whole William Morris thing started, I read on Pancakes and French Fries that the best advice to take, when starting this project, was to start with a drawer. Well, that's exactly the advice I took when restarting this project, only it was a cupboard, not a drawer.

This weekend, we're having a large Thanksgiving dinner (that I'm very excited about). Our big dinner parties usually consist of a gaggle of our friends coming over to cook, eat, drink and clean up. This often starts in the middle of the afternoon and often ends in the middle of the night and often involves various people taking naps on our couch. In anticipation of the big dinner, for what is definitely my favourite holiday, I figured that we'd better get the kitchen in ship-shape since cupboards and corners will be poked into. N already cleaned the fridge out last week so I took it upon myself to tackle this cupboard. It really didn't need much, just some reorganizing, tossing of chip bags with only crumbs in them (?) and moving medicine to the bathroom.

When all was said and done, it wasn't the most exciting of reveals, but it does feel good knowing that I won't be embarrassed when anyone pokes around for some sage this weekend. I even decided to show our very high tech budgeting system that resides in the cupboard, even though it's a little embarrassing! But hey, it works.

 With the season rapidly changing, I'm actually looking forward to sorting out our apartment more. This summer was rough on the old girl, and she needs some TLC.

This post is part of the William Morris Project. I'll be linking this post to the inspiration: Pancakes and French Fries.


cleaning house.

{Part of cleaning house: laundry and an improvised door-jam clothesline.}
It has been over six weeks since my last blog post. I'm not sure how this accidental hiatus came to be except that life has been unmanageably busy as of late. More than that, life has expanded in ways that left little room in my head for blogging. In the last six weeks I unexpectedly went to Edmonton to hang out with my beloved Nana after she fell and broke her leg, went to California to attend the beautiful wedding of my cousin, finished a bunch of school projects, finished laying out a forthcoming book, went on a few hikes, was reminded that life is impermanent and fragile, saw entirely too little of my friends, replaced my trusty computer and enjoyed my family's company.

This weekend though, was a turning point. As summer officially settles into fall and my program at BCIT set to wrap up in two weeks, I'm grateful for some time to slow down. I spent the weekend literally and figuratively cleaning house. (Nine loads of laundry! Eleven hours of sleep on Friday night! Lots of thinking about whether I actually like the frenetic pace of my current life! Long chats with N about everything! Beer and pretzels! Brunch!) I feel like the last six weeks have gone by so fast that I didn't even see them happen. They just came and went with no time to think about them. I don't want to always live like that, but it is nice to be reminded why the quiet weekends and idleness are so special.

Fall has always been my favourite time of year and I think the last six weeks have reminded me to notice it. To notice that it's not so warm anymore, to notice that my body wants to be back in the pool, to notice that I'm suddenly starting the life I was dreaming of before I went back to school. I hope that means that I'll be back in this space more often again. As part of my 'cleaning house' I plan to hop back on the William Morris bandwagon (if Jules at Pancakes and French Fries can do a project a day this month, I can probably handle one per week) and to start plotting my new business (more on that in a future post). There will be some cleaning up of my web house too, so look for that! It feels good to be back.


garden update.

My motivation to do any type of William Morris activities the last couple of weeks has been pretty low. Between school, work, a cold (during the summer?) and all the other things that make up life, I haven't been up to much. Today, however, we decided to get outside and weed the garden and clean things up a little bit. There aren't any before and after pictures, because it's pretty hard to tell the difference from a photo, but it definitely feels like a difference! The garden is growing like crazy and we're already talking about expanding it next year and what we'd do differently. So far it's yielded a few zucchini, lots of lettuce, tons of herbs, a few carrots and a few small bunches of flowers. If you'd like to see what the garden looked like about six weeks ago, click here.

This post is part of the William Morris Project. I'll be linking this post to the inspiration: Pancakes and French Fries.
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