Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Doing Hard Things 

I think I come by it naturally to push myself to be better, to do more , to achieve a higher standard.  Growing up I was surrounded by parents who continually did hard things and worked very hard to accomplish good results. My siblings are hard workers. My husband is a hard worker.  We are good stock, you might say.  None of us content to ever just sit still and let life just wander by.
Last summer my family moved, which was a big endeavor as we changed towns and so have had to restructure all life's details. My oldest son lived the weekdays away from home in his first full time seasonal job, a few cities away.  And in the fall I finally returned to school to get my advanced diploma in the culinary arts.  It took me three years to return after the completion of my basic diploma in 2014 - but thanks to the sale of the house it was finally the right time to work that into life.
It was a long 15 weeks for me, still adjusting to our new environment whilst settling in our five children and homeschooling gr.11, 9, 6, 3 & 2 - before and after my own classes.  Head to the ground, plow through. Don't look up, don't you take your eyes off the goal. 

My school was located in the heart of Hamilton, above the farmers market.  Walking through street musicians , fresh produce and even the hussle and bussle was all very  hygge- when not overwhelming.

My first sessions were in theory - most dreaded math. Cooking gives me energy but the thought of sitting for hours in front of the text books drained me of almost all I could give. But the smiling faces of the faculty and staff were a great encouragement as was a certificate of recognition. Yup, I got a participation award , but it was enough to see me through the long theory portion. 

Finally in the kitchen I was able to apply myself to the thing that gives me great joy and peace. There is no greater feeling to me than to take "nothing" and shape it into something beautiful , nourishing and satisfying to those who partake. 

 It was not without challenges as I found I had often more enthusiasm than my peers but such is life. This was perhaps my single most disappointment as I had really hoped to enjoy the challenge of younger and perhaps more talented students. But it was worth it to dig within myself and compete against my own standards.

 I was privileged to represent the college at an event at the city hall.  And I passed with Honours - one of the goals I had set for myself going in.
Although I did little to advance my own personal business, I was able to do a few orders over Christmas and a Christmas Treats and Entertaining demo and presentation for a group of 50 women.

 I'm so glad that I took this time to really finish well.  My oldest is just under two years away from his own college days and then I will have a child entering college every two years for the next ten years. My husband will then be retired.  This truly was my last, at least foreseeable, chance for ME. Not a bad run for a 41 year old, wanna be Chef.  Oh, and I received a job offer on my last day of class. The opportunity to do what I love. Serving  and feeding about 50 residents in a private seniors home- once a week and one weekend a month. I can homeschool my children and I can "live the dream". Yes, I am blessed.

Last day of school, a beautiful goodbye to a chapter in my life

Friday, June 30, 2017

Food & Health are not gods

I don't blog much - mostly I'm just not a huge fan of handfuls of advice and rants. Especially from me. I watch the selfies and self promotion disguised as whatever makes the person posting feel  justified and it is a big turn off. A character trait I do not wish to embrace.

So why today's post ? Honestly, because I feel like I'm at a fork in the road - these things happen from time to time and are really just a necessary part of going on. And if I were to be honest,  every now and then I just need a little time and space to feel like I've been heard.

I have so much to look forward to , some of which I am already looking back on. 
Recently we took a big family trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia.  We've done so much as a family already all across Ontario and we even went to Disney a few years ago. But this was special because it was our family's first airplane trip. Time just keeps on going - which for my weary being delights me.  But as happy as I truthfully am to have time clip along I would not want it to pass in vain. So when I was able to work a big catering job in the spring I knew right away that this was how I would want to enjoy those profits.

Now I sit surrounded by boxes. In five days we will be packing up the only home two of my kids have known and heading to a nearby , smaller town to a new to us house. We've been here for almost nine years. In the spirit of honesty a major motivation for wanting to move was the feeling of all my walls closing in from the amount of history this place was packing.  I cherish all the memories I've made here but on a selfish level I crave a piece of anonymity. Opportunities to embrace a dose of solitude. The space my boys need to redefine their own identities. A chance to grow in new directions.

But the biggest thing that weighs heavy on me is what may to others seems like the smallest. Food.
It started 16 years ago while pregnant with an allergy to apples - frustrated by the reaction my mouth was having I stubbornly continued to try to eat them. Then pineapples ... then pears.... then by my fourth pregnancy cherries.
Then came the fifth, sixth and seventh pregnancies adding peaches, almonds, hazelnuts, nectarines -
eventually even my scalp would bleed using products that contained extracts.  An allergy test revealed it was a birch pollen allergy.
At this point I also can't eat tomatoes, carrots, potatoes and I'm noticing that bananas and melons are becoming an increasing irritation so I'll have them at most once a week. 

Adding to this was the passing of my 40th birthday. Which ushered in a new metabolism and loss of muscle mass.  What was a girl to do ? I thought if I was motivated enough and followed people who had success I could figure this out. But to my dismay I'm finding that the current style of motivation is #noexcuses  followed by their list of things they've overcome and endless streams of selfies and food pictures. And it frustrates me to a level that brings me to blog. 

I cook. That is my passion. Do not tell me food isn't love because I will write another blog on how it is. Don't  tell me to eat what I can because what I can eat is expensive protein - which I won't eat all of while six boys/men fill their own plates with starches to adjust to our budget. I can eat citrus - which I quickly discovered that making my main fresh food attacked my mouth with far too much acid. I can eat berries (some) - which again are more expensive and I have another member of the family who cannot eat tiny seeds.  I can eat many tropical fruits - which again are costly , imported and out of season. Each bite is a dollar that takes food off my growing boys plates.  I can have  meal replacement shakes.

Which are moderately  costly but do provide me with essential vitamins and keep my diet balanced. And although it goes against all my personal views of family meals and what real food should be I drink it while I contemplate the death of my food philosophy.  And it all brings me sadness that perhaps others can't understand.

I recently read a #noexcuses style post from a mom who said "don't tell me you don't have time because what I hear is 'it's not a priority'."  And she couldn't have been more right ... and wrong.
It's so much a priority - but at the expense of so many more important things. So many. Things that represent who I am, what I believe, how I serve and love and minister.
And I try to make peace with it all - to eat oatmeal and eggs and water. Right now I'm really broken writing this because it matters to me.  And if I fail and I'm fat and you are disappointed or don't believe me that I am trying then I'll have to be okay with that. I won't spend my days taking pictures of  super foods I've come up with for myself. I won't spend my money  or my time on personal trainers or even diet fads , containers or equipment. I won't give praise  to a company for any success I may achieve.

I will continue to do that which I believe God has called me to do - to use my gifts to extend His love to others.  To embrace the family meal and believe that it is God who continues to provide the increase of any deficiencies my personal body may face. To fill my home with guests and nourish them in a variety of ways.  To bless my neighbours with sweet gifts - do you realize that God's manna was like wafers sweetened with honey? (Ex.16:31)

Food is a gift from God. It is not meant to be idolized through diets as a means to sculpt ourselves into the envy of others or a living advertisement for a company. Or a constant thought even. If we were to be honest we sometimes look at heavy people as thought they have poor self control , make poor choices or are gluttons. But what about the super fit ? Who think about food all the time, spend their efforts on the physical rather than the spiritual and are consumed with things that are not lasting? 

Perhaps this will make me unpopular. My intention is not to offend. I believe in good nutrition and of being good stewards of our bodies while we are here but don't be self deceived. When our first thought and our best efforts are not on God's service , it doesn't matter which side of the scale we are on.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Salt of the Earth

Salt of the Earth 

So I got a wee little spoon today at the antique market. It is actually for my "salt" collection.

During a difficult season of life a wonderful friend gave me a box of Sea Salt Flakes and a lovely card encouraging me to continue being "salt of the earth". It meant so much to me. I bought my first little salt container and displayed some of that beautiful salt to be a reminder to me of what I was to aspire to but also to encourage me that someone saw that in my life despite the turmoil around me. It blessed me immensely. I've added a little to my collection and each time I do it's a time to remember the love expressed to me, the encouragement and the mandate to be salt of the earth to someone else.
(Smoked Sea Salt, Red Wine Infused Sea Salt,
Flaked Sea Salt , Cyprus Black Lava Mediterranean Sea Salt)

Matthew 5:13 You are the salt of the earth.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Rolling !

Rolling ! 

"Rolling !"
The call goes out and the set goes quiet.  My mind once again locked in the moment.

The boys have been doing on and off background work now for the last 3 years.  Mostly tv shows and mini-series.  Nothing too serious, just some limited exposure to life behind the scenes. They earn a little cash, meet up with friends who may be working the same day.  Sometimes the day is very long, the food can range from wonderful to horrible and holding can be spacious or tight. It all depends on the particular day or scene.

At the beginning of the summer we were asked to consider a new role as a "Stand In" in an upcoming major film. The pay was great, the commitment overwhelming, the content questionable at best. It seemed a comfortable resignation when production thought M's hair was too short , or not just right for the part.  We were however, then asked to stand in one week.  That first day they fell in love with M and the casting director approached us about traveling the following week with them for filming. 

In the end there was nothing to consider as I have four other children at home and a husband who works shift work. It was simply out of the question to abandon the entire family on a whim.  They were able to find another stand in to fill in and  the following week M was invited back to set. At that point we had been offered the role again but ultimately agreed to go on a two week commitment basis - forgoing some of the added financial benefits but maintaining a level of scheduling freedom.

For several weeks M's role kicked into high gear. He was fully invested on set and they loved him. He built relationships with the crew and other stand ins , and even hit it off with his main character counterpart ! If you don't know what a stand in's role is it is simply a person who looks similar to the actor who stands in while lighting and cameras are being adjusted. They can also be used as photo doubles in filming long shots from behind where the character himself is not fully in view.
This is actually a surprisingly big role. Much time is spent on set measuring angles and location of where the actor will stand. When the actor arrives, the stand in steps out and is replaced by the actor.

Some of the big challenges we faced were the amount of traveling to different locations , childcare for the other children, time away from family and my spouse and call times as well as the overall lack of productivity on my part during long periods of sitting with M. Call times are very general and can change at any time. Occasionally , a call time would only come in from my agent/production after my son was in bed. We might have to wake up at 5am to travel to set or be on set until after midnight.  Because of my son's age he was able to work an 8 hour shift, plus a one hour lunch and if needed, two hours of overtime.  That's eleven hours, plus travel to different cities. One day I spent 16 hours between set and travel !

Being on set is all about "hurry up and wait".  You can sit for hours. Sometimes in complete silence depending on where you are being held. Sometimes you are sitting outdoors in the varying weather conditions. In any event, there is no reasonable expectation of being able to do anything on any given day but wait. On this set our ears would be tuned to hear the familiar "Second Team!" , which meant M would quickly get himself to the scene for directions. "Rolling" or "Quiet on the set" meant not a sound until you hear "Cut". 

We learned all the lingo  and enjoyed the perks of the kraft truck and on many days there was time to enjoy the surroundings. Toronto gave us a chance to be safely in the night life of the big city.
Elmira gave us a serene and peaceful setting of Amish life, complete with horse and buggies.
We went to Elora Conservation and at lunch break went swimming in the gorge and roamed a bit through the woods. 

For me it was wonderful to see my nervous pre-teen come into his own. Find a place where he was confident, owned his role and was able to step out into independence to a level a few years ago I worried I would never see.  He truly formed bonds with everyone he met.  He found ways to get some school work done.  He would work long , long days and still come home and deliver his newspaper route and help with chores. 

As I write this we are heading into a week of break time. A time to work on a big job I have for my own small business. But also for me a time to reflect on where we are going from here.
There is a month left to taping - at least.  At this point we are going to be in Toronto in studio for the remainder of it. This is a lot of travel time.  As homeschoolers I need to reset our home to ensure the success of our school year. As a small business owner I need to align myself for the busy Christmas season. As a mother I need to invest in my other children who have sacrificed their summer too and all their regular sports and music lessons. As a wife, I need to nurture my husband who has been forced to fill in a gap while maintaining his own hectic shift work schedule.

There is no doubt that our season has come to an end. Thus far the content has been fine but it is a horror film and I am aware that the studio portion will be more than I would endorse. A genre I struggled to even participate in to this point. 

The only remaining thing to do is notify my agent who asked that I reserve my decision to next week. I know she is hoping the break will refresh us. But I am confident that there is only one right choice to make going forward. I know production , and my agent, will be disappointed but ultimately I have six people counting on life returning to it's normal rhythm. 

The official facebook page photo
In a world of technology and pokemon catching I feel so blessed that he applied himself to his studies
In beautiful Elmira at the historical Kissing Bridge

Headed into Toronto in the afternoon

The sun's gone down and we are still on set !
One of the tighter holding areas... Hamilton
The Kraft truck -
Elora Conservation - kids went for a swim during their lunch hour
One of my favourite pictures,  this kid has definitely found his confidence
Heading back to set in the back of the pick up - even the drivers were like an extended family.
Core group of boys that spent the summer together on set. Fabulous kids !


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Finding Ground

Finding Ground

Just about a year ago I wrote a deeply personal post about being Insecure . At that time I was struggling to gain confidence in my new culinary world. Scared to death of being a little fish in a big pond.

This past year continued with it's own challenges  to overcome. Though I went into this season a little battered , I also went in a little stronger. The things that knocked me off my feet last year were lessons. I'm slowly learning that though God isn't changing everything around me He is equipping me. I say this even on the heels of some more profoundly difficult times for my personal life.

I wrote in my private journal about the therapy I often found in the cooking process. How it was a reminder to me that I could take piles of sugar and flour and make them into something beautiful. And if I can do that with such simple things, surely God can take the "piles" of stuff in my life and make something beautiful of it too. I reflect on this a lot , actually.

With the CCFCC President
One of the things that most scared me was associating myself with professional chefs. I so desperately wanted to be around people who could inspire me and just glean from their experience but I was also paralyzed by the fear that they would not find me worthy enough.

I'm so glad I took the chance. I would not have believed it last year if anyone had told me but I not only joined the Canadian Culinary Federation (CCFCC) but last week,  I attended their annual conference.

They were friendly and welcoming - but taught me quickly that I had to put aside my low self esteem if I was to fit in. I had to be proud of what I do, confident in my skills and training and confident in the way I spoke and held myself.  Yes... who knew - the cure to insecurity would be confidence and assuredness.  Well, fake it 'till you make it , anyway !

I don't know where this year will lead. Many days I still feel a sense of hopelessness.
But I'm learning who I am. And who I am can't be taken from me by my circumstances, other people or even my own state of mind. God is molding me. Preparing me. Creating me into something good.
He takes the stuff in my life that seems random and carefully works it together to make something beautiful.
And every time I cook, I remember.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

I wonder, as a ramble, if everyone feels the way I do.
If everyone at some point anyway, stands in the middle of their world and just looks at the rest of life going on. Alone.  Visible, yet invisible. Like you are screaming at the top of your lungs but there's not a sound and people just keep on moving. Wrapped up in their business and their troubles that go unnoticed, too.

Or,  I wonder if I've been standing knee deep in disaster and everyone has always seen that except me. Oblivious to the sinking sand I'm in, clueless that I'm slowly drowning. It's just part of my identity that people aren't even shocked by because it just has always been that way.

It's a strange place. I don't know whether to accept it, fight it, embrace it. My place that is in this world.

I go from choking down anxiety until I literally feel the pain radiate from my heart into my lungs and then through my body - to cautious laughter but never reckless abandon.  I keep it carefully measured. I have found that the very best mask is a smile. Though I'm sure I must look like a fool no one really seems to notice that everything in me is whispering "just die to self".  Because if I can achieve that, if I can really hand myself over, nothing can shake me the way that it does.

It's all too complicated now to unwind. I believe in healing and total restoration on the other side of eternity and I doubt it is worth the effort to even try it here. It is worth it to pursue the eternal. It all just hinges on that, doesn't it ? Which makes us really all equals both here and there. Each of us fighting to survive in a world we don't even belong in to achieve the same reward, the same status, the same glory.

And in that I find my value, my purpose, my freedom.... myself.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Quick & Easy Pie Crust ?

There is a quick and easy pie crust recipe going around on facebook lately. I'm busily setting up my entry as two pies bake in the oven.

I warn you in advance. I am a skeptic. I refuse to use the oil. Instead, I opted to make one with butter and one with coconut oil.

I was taught that the success or failure of a pie pastry depends on how the fat and flour are mixed and how the gluten is developed.

A flaky pie dough is created when you cut the fat into the flour making tiny particles. When the liquid is added the flour absorbs it and develops some gluten. When you roll out the dough, the little bits of fat and moistened flour and flatten and become flakes separated by the layers of fat. Thus it is important to have really cold fat that won't melt when you handle it and why for me, I opt to use a fat that is in a solid form.
Experience tells me that this cannot possibly be a flaky pie dough.

That's ok. Flaky dough is better suited for the top of a pie anyway so I'm crossing my fingers that this will come out as a decent mealy pie dough. Better suited for custard filled pies because it won't absorb much liquid.

So that's the theory lesson on pie dough.

Let's get started.
I made a Cranberry Custard Pie and a Vanilla-Bourbon Pumpkin Pie.

Substitute any fat but keep your proportions the same
Here's your recipe :
Easy Pie Dough

1.5c flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBS sugar
1/2c oil
3.5 TBS milk

Mix ingredients in pie plate (fork & fingers).Pat and press out into the pie plate. If no filling is added , prick crust with fork.
Bake 375, 15 minutes
Work fat into flour , try not to over handle it !

Press down into pan
Vent it by pricking it with a fork

Cranberry Custard Pie ingredients
Want to make the Cranberry Custard Pie ?

Pulse in blender or chop up 12 ounces of cranberries and add 3/4c sugar and lemon zest.
Spread mixture into cooled crust - I used the coconut oil crust for this one.

Whisk together 2 eggs, 2/3c heavy cream, 1/4c sugar and pour over top.

Bake until set, about 45 minutes.

Pour in the custard !
Here are the Results 

Not thrilled with the filling itself but of the two pie crusts this one had a more pleasant flavour. A mealy dough which tasted more like shortbread than pastry. Non offensive but missed the mark.

This cranberry custard was delicious and the only reason I just kept on eating. The texture was inconsistent and it didn't even hold it's shape. It had a terrible mouth feel as a result and I wouldn't recommend using coconut oil with this recipe if you decide to use it for convenience.

Overall , I did not like the recipe. If I were going to simplify my life with a one dish , press in , easy crust, I would go with a graham crust.

Let me know if you have better luck !