Getting my knife skills back

Chop. Chop. Chop.

I’ve been cooking here and there for years, but lately I’ve been trying to make more of an effort. Part of it is cause my brother is home, and he likes to get involved in projects. Part of it is my trying to get into a new routine.

Last week we made tomato sauce from scratch. Yesterday I made a vegetarian curry, with chickpeas, cauliflower and potatoes. It’s a dinner time staple at our home. Tonight I made a summer favourite. Due to the heat, I had no interest in cooking, so I made amba salad. (Sidenote: I did however, teach my brother how to cook white rice from scratch.) Amba is pickled mango from Punjab, and is sold in oil or vinegar, and is eaten like a condiment. It’s not sweet at all, but it retains its hairy texture in a sour and spicy sauce. Maybe hairy is the wrong word, but it retains that absolutely delicious mango texture.

When I was on my own, studying abroad, I suddenly had these crazy cravings for this food. I used to hate it as a kid, but went through 1L in about four months. That’s nuts by the way, I mean, imagine eating 1L of ketchup or mustard that quickly! I used to make myself this salad to stave off homesickness and scurvy.

Here is how to make the best summer salad:

Ingredients:
2-3 tomatoes
1/2 English cucumber or 1 smaller type
1 green pepper
Amba
Salt and pepper to taste

Optional ingredients:
Green onion
Sweet (vidalia) onion
Parsley
Lime juice

Method:
Dice veggies: tomatoes, cucumber, pepper onion, etc. and put it in a bowl. Scarf this spicy and refreshing concoction down. If you put onions, don’t kiss anyone. This is what mine looked like:
Tomatoes, green pepper, parsley, vidalia onion and some salt n pepper. I ran out of cucumbers earlier today making something else. The yellow is the amba.

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50 Loads of Laundry

The nice thing about no longer having a job is being able to do all of those little things you’ve been putting off when you were working. Like taking clothes to the tailor, shoes to the cobbler, repairing that sleeve that was unravelling, and so on.

And ironing. But first, in order to have things to iron, it’s important to actually wash all those clothes. And over the last three days I haven’t done 50 loads of laundry. But it’s pretty close, from sheets and towels, to all of the articles of clothing that gets me, my mom and my brother through our days, I think it’s a bit ridiculous. Wednesday I did five loads, and Thursday I did another three. Today I hope I’ll manage to do all of those picky items that can’t go into the washing machine, and get some ironing done! (obviously I haven’t been very efficient about this but there is only so much room to hang all of the stuff that doesn’t go in the dryer).

Oh my goodness the ironing I have to do. Tuesday I ironed one shirt, and it *only* took me twenty minutes. But that’s probably because it wasn’t too wrinkled and it had short sleeves. I think I will work on this more so that it won’t be the most agonizing task in the world.

In other news, if you see my brother, you should ask him about his iron. After six months of comparison shopping online, watching endless product demo videos and reading a limitless amount of user reviews, he actually bought an iron. It’s a Rowenta and has like a million extra steam holes and it weighs like ten pounds. He’s obviously really happy about it, but I haven’t seen him iron yet.

Camping Recap

As I mentioned, I went camping. We left on Saturday and came back on Monday. It was… interesting. It could have been better and it could have been much worse. In general it was great except for the fact that I have something like 30 bug bites over three days.

I really enjoyed the planning part! It’s a weird thing, but I love it. I had spreadsheets of equipment, color-coded by we was going to bring what. There was a shopping list and a vague itinerary. It was all pretty great. We never left on schedule in either direction but it hardly mattered.

On Saturday, we hit the road a bit late after buying all the groceries and packing the car. It took ages. Then. Got a bit lost finding our campsite after finally reaching the national park. We went to the Mont Tremblant national park, by the way. It’s pretty lovely and well-maintained.

We arrived as it was getting dark, so it took us some time get our tents up and the fire going. We ended up preparing and eating dinner by lantern-light, because we were so late.

Sunday, we went hiking and then ate lunch in the car, as we had packed sandwiches but were not hungry by the time we reached the peak of our trail. Our site was near a lake, and there was a beach with soft and fine sand. We re-packed a cooler and then spent an idyllic afternoon drinking and swimming and reading on the beach. It was lovely!

Monday, we ate and went back to the beach. Since some of the group were having issues with our feet we didn’t do a lot of hiking, and it seemed for the best. We were all pretty stressed from various circumstances in the city and this seemed like the necessary escape we all needed. An hour or so later, we left the beach and got on our way home.

The only hiccup in the trip was that we had a nail enter one of our wheels, which meant we had to use the spare and find a garage to get the tire patched. We drove about 45 minutes out of our way to drive under the best conditions. Shortly after we had replaced our tire and got back on our way, thunder and lightning and hail all struck at the same time. This was so scary!

But we made it home ok. Which is the important part!

Gone Camping

I have set out camping today. Let’s hope it is a good experience!

As a child, camping was not my favourite activity, but it wasn’t the worst either. I’m a city girl through and through, but I think it’s time to head out, and clear my head of the city and kick back with some close friends. While I planned this before I found out I was losing my job, I am lucky that it coincided nicely with my last day.

When I was under the age of 10, we went out to the Adirondacks or maybe the Laurentians and went camping for a couple of days. My family and three or five others all came together, pooled resources and gear, drove out and enjoyed the wild. We went hiking, which we used to to a lot of as a family. I hated sleeping on the ground.

At sleepaway camp, which I attended the summers I was 12 and 13, there were three-day trips. The first year it was a canoe trip. Nothing stayed dry. It was a coed trip with boys and girls in separate tents. Hormones ran wild, but I don’t think anyone actually “hooked up.” This was the first time I ever saw leeches.

The second year, I went on the “easy” hiking trip. It was not easy for me, as this is when I distinctly remembering the severity of my shoulder pain. We slept in a shelter that had hard wooden bunks. I may have sprained my ankle, and spent some time soaking it in the frigid lake. I think I was fine afterward though.

In high school, for a school trip we went on a hiking trip. 40 girls went hiking together, with tents all lined up in rows. There was a rustic house nearby that we had use of to cook and wash ourselves. The trail I was sent on had yellow jackets, so I refused to go further. Many of the other girls got stung twice.

In 2009, I went camping with some male teenaged cousins and one pair of parents. It rained a lot and our tarps were inadequate. We went hiking, and we also went to a natural water slide in some rapids. We jumped off some of the rocks, which was terrifying and amazing. We slid down some others where there were “paths” that we used as slides. The water was freezing but we continued for ages. It was incredibly fun. The hiking was also fun, even though I was slow. I ruined my sneakers, as they never dried out properly and moulded by the time I took them home.

We’ll see what this trip brings!

Keeping track

Part of the point of this project is to log all of the activities and create some accountability. And I’ve had to start doing that more seriously with my money.

I’ve started a thing, which is keeping track of how much I’m actually spending. I always know an estimation of how much I’ve spent, but I’ve never added it up unless my credit card statement did it for me. To top it off, my brother’s love affair with Excel has rubbed off on me a little, and I’ve actually started a spreadsheet tracking the amounts, the dates and where. I don’t categorize, cause Mint does it for me, but this forces me to think about my spending after the fact. Which is good. Like was it really important to spend this money on that thing or experience or that food? Oh, no? Well then perhaps I shouldn’t purchase whatever it was again.

That part is nice, because I find I am kind of an absent-minded spender. Even if I vow not to spend any money for a day or a week, it’s like oh, but I have to pay my phone bill, and I need to do this maintenance thing, and this item of clothing is falling apart. And then the promise of no money spent goes out the window. Kind of like a diet, where your tummy is rumbling because you keep thinking about much food you can’t eat. A little annoying, but I’m hoping this will help me out a bit in understanding things that are important to me financially and in living my life the way I want to — not the way I should, or feel compelled to.

It’s handy dandy! Let’s see how it will affect my spending in the long run.

Some more prep time for me

So here we are: middle of July and what do I have to say about it?

Well for starters it is too damned hot to run. I don’t know why I forget that it gets this hot, and so I suspended my gym membership. Not sure if that was a smart move on my part, but I sure am biking as much as possible in penance (also, entering the metro is a bit like entering hell. It is disgustingly hot in there).

Hopefully this crazy heat will be sustained for my camping trip. Jorge and I and a couple of friends are sorting all of that out, and getting set up to leave Saturday morning. Should be pretty excellent. Apparently the trick for me was to go with people who already have the equipment, since I have a solitary sleeping bag and a backpack which holds about 3L if I’m lucky. I am too urbanized for this shit!

It’s cool though cause I’m planning the meals. This is my sole contribution, aside from copious amounts of bug spray. I figure if I can get as much prep done as possible on Friday evening and Saturday morning, we should be in good shape for the following days.

I am also working on moving out (away?) again. We will see what this round this brings into my life. This includes working out my financials all over again. It’s kind of surprising about how much there is to notice in my habits that I don’t realize. Perhaps that’s the point of habits though.

So lots of research and lots of outdoor activity: I am getting brown! (unintended but totally awesome consequence).

Yoga and more yoga

At the beginning of the month I received an unlimited pass for one month. And that’s pretty much all I’ve been doing for a while. It’s been pretty handy: it’s exercise, it’s an after work commitment, it’s relaxing, and it requires quite a bit of focus and dedication for me to get through the class.

I’ve been happy to go often. The studio is in a decent neighborhood, where many of my friends live. It makes things simpler in the sense that I am usually already around the corner to go see someone.

No running lately. I’m on a bit of a hiatus from that. But Jorge and I have a camping trip lined up with some friends, so that should be fun! I haven’t gone camping since 2009!

Some things I remember: falling asleep by 9pm, a pay-as-you-go shower, waking up in the middle of the night to find part of my sleeping bag submerged underwater, wonderful coffee and doing yoga in the mornings in order to stretch out and ether ready for the day.

This should be interesting…

I now know how to patch and change a tire. But don’t ask me to do it again.

Last night I was on my way to yoga, I was feeling good, I had gone to the dentist (no cavities!), and all my gym clothes were CLEAN! And I was biking over to the studio and hit a rough patch of street where some construction is happening. It was just after 6pm so stores were closed and I didn’t have my bus pass. *ominous sounds*

So instead of having my bike fixed, I called a friend who said he was unavailable to help. I bought a patch kit and fixed my puncture by myself. Mostly…

First of all: yoga class started at 6:30, I got the puncture around 6:10 and I only got out of the store at 6:25. They do not accept latecomers, so that was a wash. Here is a timeline of what happened next.

6:40 Arrived home after walking my poor bike to the house
6:55 Finished watching a series of instructional videos on how to 1) remove one’s tire from their bike, 2) fix a puncture with a patch kit.
7:00 Accumulated the following supplies: 1) latex gloves because I am a priss, 2) the bike patch kit, 3) a rag, 4) several wrenches, none of which worked on loosening the bolts on either side of my wheel.
7:10 Went upstairs (was working in the garage) to ask the building’s maintenance coordinator whether he had a wrench I could borrow.
7:20 Received said wrench. He also insisted on loosening the bolts for me so I wouldn’t strip them.
7:25 Managed to pull the tire and the tube off.
7:35 Cannot find the hissing noise and run off to find a bucket to submerge my tube.
7:40 Found the puncture! There are two in one small area. No wonder it ran out of air so fast!
7:41 Have sanded the area and applied rubber cement. Hang out for 5 minutes as the video instructed and don’t drink any water yet even though I am so thirsty.
7:46 Apply the patch! I think the hardest part is over but am just kidding myself.
7:52 Insert the tube into the tire. Semi-inflate it and realize that is a bad idea. Do not realize that I should just press on the air valve to let some air out.
8:10 Finally get the tire on the wheel. I am sweating so profusely that my gloves are wet on the inside. I am still so thirsty.
8:35 Struggle for a while to get the wheel back on the base so I can just tighten everything and be on my way. No such luck.
8:42 Decide that I will just head upstairs for a glass of water and wait for my friend to come home.
8:43 Run into the maintenance coordinator again (Concierge? Building manager? He is a nice gentleman who manages renovations and repairs…) He comes downstairs with me again.
8:45 He realizes that these is only one particular angle where the wheels will enter the hub. We rotate the screws several times and eventually get it to fit in!
8:48 I think everything is in good shape, pump the tire and ride it for a moment. It turns out the tire is not on the wheel correctly. I take out the air again ūüė¶
8:53 My mom is worried and comes down to check on me.
8:55 My new friend has no tool for this tire, but comes back with a wide screwdriver. He adjusts the tire so that it is now properly on the wheel.
9:00 I pump that tire back up. It’s over!
9:02 Stumble back into my apartment and wash up.
9:05 Pour myself a drink and consider that $15 to take it to the shop to be repaired is #$%&ing worth it.

So I know how to do this. But I never want to do it again.

Volunteering redux

Alright, I have officially passed the halfway mark to completing 100 hours of volunteering!
I spent two weekends volunteering at the Montreal Fringe Fest and it was fantastico! I made lots of new friends, picked up some new skills, challenged myself in ways that I wouldn’t normally have to in my life, etc.
I have to say that it was one of the most fun instances of volunteering that I have ever done. I got to man the beer tent and give out drinks. I got to make sure that the money coming back from shows checked out. I got to courier tickets all over the neighbourhood to the various locations.
I also got to see a lot of live shows. Went to dance parties that only started at 2AM. Biked, and biked, and biked some more. Enjoyed the sounds of the street festival outside. Hung out in A/C when I needed to. And discovered some of the better sushi in the city.
Not bad for giving away one’s time. Thanks all Fringe organizers for helping me reach my goals!

June and the half-year recap

Whoa, whoa, whoa guys.

It’s halfway through the year and what do I have to show for it? Hmm..

  1. Blog twice a week (am pretty good at it except for recently!)
  2. Develop a weekly yoga practice (have gone consistently for the last month!)
  3. Go camping (um…)
  4. Travel somewhere new (still not sure if it counts)
  5. Learn how to play chess
  6. Learn how to throw knives (working on it! still suck though!)
  7. Take defensive driving classes
  8. Get a tattoo (need to replace this)
  9. Write a collection of short stories (oh… I said I was gonna edit these eventually, right?)
  10. Create one big painting (still need a workspace)
  11. Do 100 hours of volunteer work (halfway there! update to come!)
  12. Email my grandmother at least once a month (not too bad, we’ve definitely been more in touch)
  13. Improve one of the many languages I’ve kind of learned (still going to Spanish and working on it at home on my own)
  14. Cut or dye my hair
  15. Donate $1000 to charity (gotta finalize my charity choices)
  16. Run a 6-minute mile (in training!)
  17. Learn how to walk in high heels
  18. Learn how to iron my clothes and polish my shoes (sooo lazy!)
  19. Become financially savvy (working on it!)
  20. Build something
  21. Gain 250 followers on Twitter (reconsidering)
  22. Learn how to type properly (getting awesome at this!)
  23. Learn how to do bike maintenance (I can pump my own tires now!)
  24. Learn how to cook [something complicated] (um, still not decided)
  25. Move out (hmmm… this is a tough situation)

So I still need to cross off a whole bunch of things to get this list going. I think typing, camping and the short stories will be next. But stay tuned, I might just turn all that on its head!