Agitated, aggravated, annoyed, exasperated, irked, irritated…aaaahhhh!

Ever had one of those days when, for some reason, everything just seems to annoy you.  I mean everything.  The sun is too bright.  You hit every red light.  Your hot lunch gets cold.  Your phone rings too often.  You get phone hang ups.  You get everyone asking for something and there just aren’t enough hours in the day.  Worst of all, every question that anyone asks you just seems irrelevant (basically stupid).  Well, my day started like that and I was getting really angry and I had no idea why?

I slept wonderfully.  Last night I was baking banana bran muffins and blueberry muffins and they turned out fantastic.  So good and moist.  A miracle really!  I woke up well rested because I slept with the window open and there had been a nice, cool breeze.  No humidity whatsoever.  I had wonderful, happy dreams too.  Just super!  I had pre-made my breakfast the day before, so no need to rush to scarf down food before work. I even had all green lights driving in.  Got to work seven minutes early.  So why oh why, was I feeling so agitated?

My phone was ringing and, really, it’s my job to pleasantly answer it, but I felt like everyone calling today was just calling to irk me.  I had two hang ups within 20 minutes.  I had two from non-existent people…they said, not a word.  People coming to the office were looking for people who were either on holidays or on lunch, and they felt like hanging around and chit-chatting.  Grrrrrrrr…I was NOT in a chit-chat mood!  What the heck was my problem today?

I decided to Google my question:  “Why am I angry today?  Well, it seems that many, many, many people have searched this question before.  There are links to numerous websites that are really just dedicated to anger management.

I checked out a few of them.  Some explained that I was suffering from depression.  That was more for the “you wake up and feel angry all day, everyday” people.  Mine was just one angry morning.  Most had various forms of this advice:  feel your anger and then let it go.  That sounded silly….so I decided to try it.  I cursed (inwardly) and asked myself why I was angry and since there didn’t seem to be a good answer, I dropped it…like a hot potato  (good advice I found on Tiny Buddha).  Anyway, I oftentimes find that when I am frustrated I just let the powers that be take over for me and I will receive my answer in one strange way or another.  Today it was via Google.  Sounds crazy, but not as crazy as being stuck in a funk for no apparent reason. 

The most interesting thing was that, after I had dropped it, I did feel better.  Suddenly I remembered all the good things about today.  The sun was shining, brightly, and beautifully.  I remembered that my drive in to work was beyond fantastic.  It was like all the cars had moved out of my way to let me get through those green lights.  My breakfast was delicious, and eaten without interruption, so I got to enjoy a nice, hot meal.  Even lunch was great.  I had volatile spaghetti.  (Volatile because I usually end up with spaghetti splatter somewhere on my person.)  Yet, today, not even a speck of red and I was wearing a white sweater!  Miracle?  Maybe.  Changing my attitude actually changed everything around me (or maybe just my perception of it) but same happy result.

Oddly, the phone ended up ringing less and the callers were legit…no more hangups.  The favour asking, for some reason, had dissipated.  I was having a happy, feel good day.  I will have to remember the Hot Potato of Anger trick next time I’m ready to lose my mind and freak out on some unsuspecting soul asking for a favour. 

Either that or my favourite backup plan.  I read the children’s book Alexander, and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  (Maybe I’ll move to Australia.)

Mmmm … savory tarts

I believe I had mentioned before that I love to cook.  My favorite meal:  the appetizer.   I love going out to dinner with Monkey Breath…a.k.a. my niece.  (One day I will explain my obsession with giving people bizarro nicknames…lol)  For now I will just tell you about our dinner dates.

Our meal outings involve us turning to the first page of the menu.  Yes, appetizers.  I can forgo any main meal and just enjoy nibbling and noshing on a variety of treats.  Well MB is the same.   Once we order our variety of nibblers, we suddenly have no room for our plates since every appetizer comes out on a large plate all prettily decorated.  But who cares right?  We will have garlic bread with cheese (always cheese…you recall that obsession of mine).  We will have sticky, chicken wings.  We will order mozzarella sticks.  We will order an oriental salad.  On other days, we will have nachos with cheese and bruschetta (Monkey Breath’s all time favourite).  Quesadillas are wonderful too.  We LOVE the appetizer dishes. Sadly, our great need for diversity has us clutching our stomachs because we just have to try everything and our bellies just don’t have that much expansion room.  So, we are extremely grateful to have those lovely little take away containers given to us so that we can enjoy our meal again the next day.  Hopefully we will have made some room in our stomachs by then.  Mmmmm, sooooo good.

Now, I told you that story so that I could tell you this one. 

While grocery shopping (at a leisurely pace) this past weekend, I came to the cheese counter to find out what yummy cheeses were on sale this week.  Mozzarella was on sale so that was good as I was running low and my cheese-aholics would surely be craving some soon.  I wandered around some more and saw that all the Greek cheeses were on sale.  That was nice.  I love making a salad for my lunches comprised of tomatoes and cucumbers and feta.  No salad dressing needed as the feta has a nice, salty taste to it and the juice from the tomatoes mixes nicely with the cheese to make a sort of salad dressing all on its own.  I was just about to leave the Greek display when I saw it.  OMG!  It was halloumi.  Yes yes…real halloumi cheese!  

Now, you may be asking yourself, what the heck is halloumi?  Short description:  It’s a brined cheese made of goats and sheep milk.  The longer description is that it has a higher melting point than other cheeses (i.e. mozzarella) so you can fry it, grill it, bake it.  Really neat right?

So, about two years ago, in the local newspaper, there was a recipe for halloumi tarts.  Wiseguy read it and said, “We should make this.”  Hmmm, what the heck was halloumi?  So, we went to our favourite grocery store and asked for this bizarre sounding cheese and yup…they actually had it.  We brought it home.  Opened up the plastic packaging and cut off a taster piece.  Hmmm, kind of salty, cheese.  Kind of like mozzarella, but firmer.  Then we took our recipe and began creating.  After baking, it was time to taste.  Mmmmm.  Just one more tart.  Mmmmmmm.  Ok, this is the last one.   Mmmmmm.  Ok, all gone…we have to bake some more.  Well, for the last 2 years I could not find this cheese again.  So, imagine my surprise and overwhelming joy at seeing that it’s back!

Let me tell you, this is definitely one recipe that you will love to make again and again. So easy and quick and your guests will love it.  Especially when it’s hot out of the oven.  Opa!

Welcome to my World of Appetizers!  (I will surely be posting many, many more for you to enjoy)

Halloumi Tarts

Ingredients:

  • 36 cherry tomatoes (quartered)
  • 5 oz. (about 1 ¼ cups) halloumi cheese (cut into ¼  inch cubes)
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 36 mini pie tarts
  1.  Preheat oven to 375 °F
  2. Place pie tarts (unbaked) on cookie sheet
  3. Place 4 tomato quarters in each pie tart. 
  4. Wedge about 3 -4 pieces of halloumi cheese between the them
  5. Season with chopped thyme
  6. Bake for about 15-30 minutes or until the pastry and the cheese is a bit browned
  7. Allow to cool a bit before serving

 Serves 12 people (approximately 3 each)

There was some assembly required,
but now ready for the oven

All baked and ready to enjoy.
OPA!

Remember to look up…

Does your brain have these kinds of thoughts running through it:  I hope there isn’t a big line up at the grocery store.  Just have to grab a few things and then go home and let the dogs out quickly.  I have to drop off my library books because they are due back today.  Oh I must remember to get a new battery for my watch.  I hope that meat is thawed for dinner.  What else should I make with it?  Darn, forgot about the dry cleaning.  I’ll get that tomorrow.  No, drat, I can’t.  I need that shirt for tomorrow.  I was having a typical crazy day like thatThen something happened.   I had to stop at yet ANOTHER red light.  Aw….c’mon!  This is a long light too!  I huffed and puffed and looked at the clock then sat back and looked up.  I smiled.  I forgot how beautiful the sky was.

So, I sat there at this everlasting, red-light, intersection, and smiled like a crazy person.  I saw the puffy white clouds just hanging around.  I saw two birds chirping and whizzing about each other, just playing and having fun.  Then a bee flew by (ok, I closed my window for that one) but it was pretty.  Then I noticed the escarpment and how pretty the trees looked in the afternoon sun.  Deep breath and relax.  I thought, “I will make it to every place I need to be and everything will be fine.”

I do believe in a higher being.  Being Catholic I grew up with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  I have read up on other religions as well.  There is always a god of some sort.  There is something that watches over us and if we actually just believe that everything will be fine, and let this higher being take control, our lives will be easier.

I have found that the older I get the more I realize what is most important in life.  I will play and cuddle with my dogs instead of vacuuming.  Dust will always be there (and it will outlive me), but spending happy times with those around me is what matters most.  I stress a lot less about cleaning. 

I used to actually collapse into a dishevelled pile in a corner whenever I just finished cleaning and then found crumbs, again, on the floor.  WHY ME!  Crazy right?  I do think about how my “perfection problem” used to affect everyone.  I would want every meal perfect.  I would want my house spotless.  If something was not going right I would lose my mind and yell at the people I most cared about.  Why?  Why did I find inanimate objects to be more important than the living, breathing people and animals around me?  That was an awakening moment.

Now, if a meal screws up or I run out of time, no biggie.  I know that everything will be fine.  I will have my internal peace and those people who love me won’t care if everything is perfect.  Those that aren’t particularly my biggest fans, well, I realize that I can’t and won’t be everyone’s favourite person.  My opinion of myself is what matters most.  By loving myself, and who I am, I can’t help but be a happier person and those around me will be happier too (mostly because I won’t be freaking out on everyone). 

Sure, I still have my meltdown moments (Wiseguy can attest to that).  It usually happens when I think I’m all on my own doing everything.  When I remember to look up and see how everything is working out fine for wildlife, I realize that the universe is taking care of me as well, if I would just let it.  Have some faith and go with the flow.

How hot was it ?

“It was so hot, that while driving home, I believe my underwear melted.”  This was the comment I made to co-workers back in 2001.  My awesome Toyota Tercel decided that since it was volcano temperature outside, it would be best for my air conditioning to stop working.  Boo hoo for me.

I believe I am a magnet for failed air conditioning systems.  Honestly.  In 2010, on the hottest day of the year, the air conditioning unit in the building conked out.  We needed a new thinga-ma-jiggy.  Since the building was old, the part would hopefully be in, (yes, hopefully) within 2 days.  Luckily, it was ONLY two days.  It was difficult trying to figure out what to wear as NAKED was not an option.  My profession (phone picker upper and paper filer) does not allow for that type of wardrobe.  As such, summer dresses that absorbed all heat related moisture were the winners of those two days.

Flash forward.  The year is 2011.  The place is still the same building.  The inspection at the beginning of spring for the air conditioning:  “Yes, it’s all working well, but your fan might need replacing in the A/C unit”.  Uh huh.  Didn’t get a good vibe off that report.  Now, what do you think happened?  Weather report:  “Heat advisory is in effect for….”   NO!  Not again!  Day one of sweltering summer and….hmmm, all is well.  Air is on.  Coolness in the building.  Great!  Day two…back in the building and internal temperature reads:  Dante’s inferno.  How comforting.  Much better news when repair technician showed up.  He had “connections” so he would be back with the part in the morning.  As in NEXT morning?  Waaaaaaah!

I do realize that it’s that time of year again.  Summer!  How exciting!  Fantastically wonderful for all you sun worshippers and pool owners.  Those who despise our Canadian winters can’t wait for this time of year.

I myself prefer fall.  That time of year when all you need is a light sweater to be comfortable.  There is nothing dripping off the edge of your nose.  There are NO mosquitos.  You rarely get sunburned in the fall.   The foliage changes to such wonderful colours.  You can sit around a campfire and roast marshmallows because it’s not too cold and not too hot.  See, all these positives.  Yay autumn!

So, you summer-loving-sun-lovers…I need you to explain to me WHY this is your preferred season?  I really am trying to find the good points, but losing pints of sweat is not a bonus in my books.  Laying very still every night on my bed, wide awake, as I wait to feel a bit of chill off the ceiling fan on my hot feet.  Even trying to find a cold spot on the bed…that’s like trying to find a parking spot at the mall at christmastime…virtually IMPOSSIBLE!  The thought of turning my stove on…ugh.  The thought of ice cream for dinner is a definite possibility.  At least I am not adding to the unbearable heat.

I am sure I will hear the lecture about the “dry” heat compared to “humid” heat.  Yes, opening my door to leave the house reminds me of opening my oven door…except there is no yummy smell.  It’s a wall of hot air that stifles my breathing.  (This is only comparable to its polar opposite of extreme cold in wintertime.  You know…that first deep breath of cold air that will make your lungs want to collapse.)

Quick flashback…remember the days of yore when there was no air conditioning?  The family would pack up bed sheets and / or the top mattress and bring it all downstairs into the cool, dank basement so that you could get some sleep.  My parents grew up with many siblings and were used to sleeping together in one room.  Ixnay for that working with our family.  There were body odours and the accidentally released (hee hee) gases that would fumigate the room.  BUT…at least it was cooler.  During the day you would pretend to get water from the kitchen sink…then sneak some open- fridge-door-cooling-off time.  My mother could hear that fridge door every time.  You tried anyway and the reward was worth it.  Aaaaaahhhh, cool cool air.

So here we are again.  Extreme heat warning.  Drink lots of water.  Find places that have air conditioning.  Don’t think about the air conditioning at work.  No need to let IT know that summer is here.   Think cool thoughts.  If all else fails, I’ll just keep checking the flyers for sales on underwear. 

Molto Bene !

About three years ago, I told Wiseguy that we should move to Venice.  No, I don’t speak Italian.  I don’t have any Italian friends.  (I do have some Italian relatives…but I non parlo Italian).  I think Vespas are just the coolest ride ever!  I love any and all pasta dishes.  I have an absolute addiction to pizza.  Your question is most likely, why Venice and not another Italian city? 

Back in 1989, I went on a gondola ride.  I was enamoured with the view of the old, tall buildings.  The gondolier talked about the history of the city.  He pointed out historical landmarks.  He spoke of the Venetians, past and present.  I loved the way we glided slowly through the water.  (Mind you, at that time it, it smelled more like a sewer than the sea.)  I loved how the gondoliers would sing when they got to an intersection to let other gondoliers know that they were approaching.  My mind began to wander.  I imagined myself sitting at one of the cafes sipping a glass of wine, watching all the tourists rush about.  I pictured myself living in one of the apartment buildings.  I dreamt of going out daily to get fresh baked bread.  I would learn the language and speak it fluently.  I would be a Venetian.  The ride ended, but my dream never did.  

Although we haven’t moved to Venice (yet), I never gave up on several of my wishes.  I wished that one day, Wiseguy and I would go on a gondola ride together.  Yes.  So sweet and romantic (and soooo corny…but that’s me)  This year, my wish came true. 

On our trip to Europe, I got to celebrate my birthday in style.  A trip to Venice and a gondola ride.  Molto bene!  I had told Wiseguy many times that he would enjoy the gondola ride.  He had heard that the ride was big bucks and that you floated through stinky, sewer water.  I informed him that,over the past few years, they had been cleaning up the waterways.  I hinted that we wouldn’t know how good or bad it was until we got there and checked it out.  The debate continued.  In the end, birthday wishes (or maybe his curiosity) won out. 

After the long drive from Croatia to Venice, Wiseguy recommended a wee bit of rest away from the crowds.  And there it was.  Wish number two.  We found a little cafe on one of the side streets.  It was away from the din of the tourists.  We had a glass of wine and just enjoyed the peace and quiet.  Our senses also got to enjoy the wonderfully, aromatic smell of fresh pasta sauce as large plates of spaghetti floated by us via waitress.  Even better, the smell of fresh baked pizza wafting through the air.  What a beautiful moment it was.  But I digress.  Time to find us a gondolier!

We wandered back to the centre of the square and saw three gondoliers.  How did we know?  Well, they each had on black pants, a striped blue and white shirt and a lovely straw gondolier hat with a blue ribbon on it.  We picked the middle man and followed him down a side street.  His knowledge of the English language was excellent!  Better still, it had that little lilt of the Italian accent as he spoke.  Melodica voce!  We wound through the little side streets, passing little cafes as we walked.  We got to an opening and there it was.  A shiny, black gondola.  It had metal horses on the sides and large fancy tassles.  There were two velvet covered chairs and a velvet bench seat with a colourful blanket draped casually on it.  We boarded, got comfy, and then we were off! 

Our gondolier, Sebastian, has been a gondolier for 17 years.  His father retired and the horses and pictures and chairs on the gondola were originally from his dad’s gondola.  How wonderful.  He sang out little songs as we neared corners.  He waved happily to his fellow gondoliers,  “Ciao Mario!”  We heard about how Venice is slowly sinking.  We heard about Don Juan and Marco Polo and were shown where they lived.  We heard about how the rich Venetians built churches on every island in Venice.  We heard about the one rich Venetian that wanted to be king.  “Well”, the others said, “off with his head!”  Yikes.  Don’t upset a Venetian!  After about 50 minutes, our cruise was over, but thanks to Sebastian, our memories will last forever. 

Wiseguy really enjoyed the ride.  He told the kids all about his experience and how one day, they must go on gondola ride.  Now THAT should tell you something.

Sebastian, if you are reading this, we purchased a little memento of our visit to Venice.  We named the gondolier Sebastian.

Grazie Sebastian

Give up what ?!!!!

I feel like I am 23 years old.  On the inside.  On the outside, my 43-year old body is telling me a different story.  As we age, there are fun things that begin to happen.  It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, you notice the changes. 

There are expiry dates on body parts.  I truly believe this.  Suddenly ankles seem to make weird cracking noises.  Back pains…upper and lower.  It’s like there is a bullseye on your back.  “Aaargh….Ow….I can’t move or stretch or bend or breathe!”  Nothing like it.  Eye twitches, joint pains, Achilles heals, tendonitis, stiff knees, weird moles, etc. This is the age of “I slept funny”.  Sleeping used to be easy.  Close your eyes and sleep.  Now, you never know what crick you will wake up with the next day. 

I decided to talk to my sister-in-law about making my life healthier.  She is a practitioner of homeopathy, naturopathy, kinesiology, iridology, acupuncture.  Yes, quite the mouthful, but  basically…she knows her stuff!  Anyway, I started a NO chip / chocolate / candy / ice cream / sugar / anything-defined-as-snack-food eating style.  The new “old school” eating style.  Go back to natural foods and include some daily exercise.  SIL recommended that I start off with a cleanse to purge my body of toxicity.  At least 10 days on this cleanse and come out a brand new you. 

So, she sent me a list of items I COULD eat on this wonderful cleanse.  All veggies and legumes, grains, chicken and fish.  Awesome!  Now, over to the right side of the page was the NO list.  No beef or pork.  Fine.  No fruit.  That’s ok, I’m a veggie lover.  No potatoes.  No bread or anything made with yeast.  Done.  And then I saw it and was horrified.  NO DAIRY.  What?  That means NO CHEESE.  This was sacrilege!  She calmly replied:  “You can give up cheese for ten days.”  Me…give up cheese!  NO! NEVER! NEIN! NYET!  I love cheese.  I love cheeses.  I love everything cheesy.  I love Blue cheese. I love Swiss cheese.  I love Cream cheese.  Bocconcini and Jarlsberg and Gouda and Ricotta and Cottage cheese and Mozzarella and Provolone and Fruilano and Parmessan.  I even love Kraft processed cheese slices.  As you can obviously tell….I LOVE CHEESE!  To make matters worse, I have infected my family with the desire for cheese.

It started with The Wiz.  Kraft cheese slices, my goodness.  Fantastic with Kraft Dinner macaroni.  Mmmmm.  So creamy.  Who cares if it’s a leftover scrap cheese made anew.  It is amazing!  He also loves good ol’ cheddar especially shredded on nachos.  Yum!  The Princess and The Debater agree, hands down, that mozzarella is the best (preferably Salerno brand).  They refer to it as  “The Good Cheese”.  That white brick of yumminess never lasts long.  We have even infected the family newbies.  Actually, The Baker just prefers cream cheese, but that still counts.  The Artist is now a renegade Mozzarella fan.

Cheese is the rescuer of many a failed dinner recipe.  Cheese elevates dishes to a new level.  Gooey or creamy…nothing like cheese.  To get nice smiley faces in pictures we tell everyone to say “Cheese”!  Need I say more.

Thank you to the cows or goats or sheep or buffalo that provide this lovely snack / meal.  Thank you to the cheese makers.  You are artists.  You are creators of taste sensations.  Thank you to all the retailers who have decided to sell such varieties to us consumers.  And thank you to my patient sister-in-law.  Although giving up cheese would make my body feel better, you let me be and don’t judge me for my cheese addiction. 

P.S. In the end, I did take my SIL’s advice.  I decided to proceed with the cleanse and forgo cheese for 10 days.  After just 3 days I was feeling more alert and more energetic.  Any bloating I had experienced before was gone.  It was wonderful! I felt great! 

I must be a fast healer.  I accomplished in 3 days what should have taken 10 days.  Time to celebrate my victorious achievement!

Mmmmm….ham and cheese pizza.
Yeasty, white flour dough.
Wood oven baked crust.
Congratulations to me!
Bon appetit!

 

I’m back!

Did you miss me?  Maybe yes, maybe no, but let me tell you why I have not been blogging my little fingers off.

Wiseguy and I went to Europe.  No, it was not a last-minute decision.  We had booked our tickets back in February and the day had finally arrived for us to fly away and have a wonderful vacation in Europe.

Normal people book the summer off and jet away.  They take at least 3 to 4 weeks to enjoy the historical beauty of Europe.  In case you haven’t realized it yet, Wiseguy and I are not “normal” people.  I prefer the title of “unique” people.  As such, Wiseguy and I decided that we could really only be away for 10 days.  So it began.

We landed in Munich, Germany.  We drove for 8 hours down to a cozy little village in Croatia where FIL was anxiously awaiting our arrival.  After we unfurled ourselves from the mini car…ahem,  I mean “compact” car….we sat down and enjoyed our arrival.  We had driven from Munich through Austria, Slovenia, and into Croatia.  It was a looooooooooooooooong, but beautifully scenic, drive. 

The next morning we awoke to the sound of chirping birds…and the occasional crowing rooster.  We sat outside and enjoyed our new surroundings.  The panoramic mountains off in the distance.  We breathed in the fresh air.  Mind you, every once in a while you would get that one swirl of wind that would bring your nose to attention.  The smell of fresh manure from the neighbouring cows.  Mooo to you too!  I had a buddy goat that lived next door to FIL’s house.  (He belongs to the gypsy clan.  Yes, FIL’s neighbours are gypsies.)   As I would look at my goat friend he would baaa aaaaah at me.  Basically he was telling me to leave him alone while he grazed happily on his breakfast of grass and weeds. The neighbours also had two pigs of a variety I had never seen before.  One was black and the other was black and white.  The black and white was wasn’t speckled or striped.  His head and front two hoofs were white and then, I guess he got hit with paint or something, because his back half was black.  Unique right?  They also had a horse and old wooden buggy like they had on Little House on the Prairie

Honestly, being in Europe is like a time warp.  You have the modern stores in the cities but you drive 20 minutes out, village way, and BAM… farms and farm animals.  Nothing has changed.  The houses are the old cement and brick houses.  Some of them are old wood paneling.  The large vineyards there have been passed along from generation to generation.  Old ladies are wearing the babushkas on their heads and they have the trademark large, roundish black skirts with navy blue aprons.  They wander through their fields picking weeds out by hand.  Time warp right?

I will slowly share my adventures in Europe with you.  Traveling through Europe and taking millions of pictures to share with my family, was wonderful.  But being home and being able to hug and hold my family…that’s the best trip of all.  Welcome home!