Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Grandma is Here!

My mom has arrived for a 10 day visit.  Needless to say Liam is VERY excited.
He sure loves his Grandma.

*Photos are from last summer when we visited Grandma on her farm.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Party Mamas- Halifax Style

Have you seen the show Party Mamas?  It follows people around as they plan the biggest, craziest most extravagant (and expensive!) parties for their kids.  One recent episode showed a California Mom throwing a Christmas party in 85F degree weather complete with real snow and a reindeer.

I watch it in fascination of something I will never, ever do.  Liam's had 1 actual birthday party that involved sending out invites to people who aren't on our extended family list. And any birthday that he's ever been invited to has been pretty standard.  Pick a location - bowling alley, museum, pool etc.  Enjoy the facility for 1 hour and then have cake and presents in their party room for 1 hour.  Go home.

This weekend Liam got invited to a party at a bowling alley.  The party was for one of his friend's older brother, who was turning 11. It was a night time party (7:00-9:00) which seemed late to us, but hey, Liam is 7 not 11, so what do we know?

Soon after we arrived, we realized that this was not your ordinary bowling party, where there are 1-2 lanes reserved for the kids and the party room in the back.  The ENTIRE bowling alley was decorated for the birthday.  A table was set up as you came in and the birthday boy was handing out name tags and tickets for door prizes.   They had bowling contests, dance contests, hula-hooping contests.  There were tables of chips and snacks and drinks set up and they eventually brought out 3 cakes.  They had a pinata that they actually let the kids whack with a stick instead of pulling the safe little strings at the bottom. This is a friend from school and we recognized kids that spanned at least 7 different grades. Our rough count, since they were a blur of activity, was 40+ kids.  The birthday boy was on the PA system asking if people had song requests to be played and handing out prizes when kids won tickets from the carnival games.  It was then that we started to figure out what was going on. The family owns the bowling alley!  I had wondered what it would take to get regular league bowlers to give up an entire alley on a Saturday night.

While this party was no where in the leagues of the Party Mamas, it was certainly the most lavish birthday party we've ever been too.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

My OA Interview

(I'm completely stealing this idea for SocialWrkr24/7)

In case you didn't get a chance to read my interview questions over at Eye Opened Wider, here they are!  She asked me some fantastic questions! Make sure to check out her excellent blog too. And don't forget to check out this list of all the other interview pairs.

1) What have you found to be the most beneficial aspect of blogging?
I have found that there are 2 benefits to blogging. The first is that it offers me a creative outlet to express myself. Even if no one were to ever read what I wrote, it still is a great place for me to explore my feelings in words. The second aspect is the connections to others that it opens up. When someone leaves a comment and I can then go back and read their blog I am able to see that I am often not alone in my thoughts or problems. It allows for conversations to take place that I may never have in real life, since by blogging I can connect to so many more people so quickly all on the same conversation.

2) What is your most funny/embarrassing parenting story?My partner Hilary was sitting in front of Liam, so eye level with him, and he was trying to tell her something about his day, but was so excited that he was stammering "...and then, and then... and then..." so she looked him in the eye and said "come on, just spit it out". He looked confused for a second and then spit in her face!

3) If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Hot Genoa salami, sliced very thin, havarti cheese and fresh bread. Through in a bit of wine and I would be set!

4) As both an adoptee and adoptive parent, do you think you favor one point of view within the "adoption triad"?
I think I tend to lean more towards the adoptee side of things since I’ve been an adoptee a whole lot longer then I’ve been an adoptive parent. I actually wrote about this not that long ago. You can check it out here.

5) What is one thing you think your adoptive parents did right? Anything your making sure to do differently?I’ve always said that the one thing that my parents did right was to tell me from the get go that I was adopted. I have no memory of them sitting me down for a big “talk” or it ever being a secret or an issue. It was just a fact, no different then I had brown eyes or that I loved horses. It was a part of what made me “me”, and they respected that.

The one thing that I am trying to do differently is to make sure that any information that I have about Liam’s family that he knows that I have it and that he knows he can access anytime. When I was 12 I asked my mom to get my non-identifying info (since that was all that was available to me). She wrote for it and got it back within 6 months, but didn’t give it to me till I was 30. Her reason, I never asked her for it again. And the reason I never asked for it again was that I trusted her to give it to me when it arrived.

6) If you could meet one celebrity - who would it be and why?
Honestly? No one. I’ve never been a big celebrity watcher/follower. If I were to meet someone famous, I would see them just as another person and would like them based on how they treated me and others, not based on the fact that they were a celebrity.

7) What do you wish the general public knew about open adoption?
I wish people would understand that a child can never have too many people who love him in his life. That first-families are not waiting for the first moment that they can strike and will not kidnap the baby if you invite them to your home. That a child will not be confused by having 2 mothers (heck, Liam has 3! ;) ) I wish that people would just understand that it’s a good thing.

8) What is your idea of an "ideal day" in your life?Sleeping in, and then waking up slowly with a family cuddle in bed with a cup of coffee nearby. Lounging around reading, watching a movie, playing games or hanging out in the back yard for the rest of the day. Dinner on the deck and then watching the stars come out at night while curled up under a blanket. All done with Hilary and Liam of course!

9) What do you think is the biggest misconception about adoption in general?I think the biggest misconception is what people think of mothers who place their babies. The “hallmark” movies of the week have left people thinking that every first mother is a crack-whore who lives on the streets and doesn’t deserve to have her baby anyway. The reality is so far from that. Any woman, at any time in her reproductive life can be faced with an unplanned pregnancy and chose adoption.

10) If you were an adoption social worker, what information is most important to convey to all adoptive parents?

Be honest. With yourself, your child and your child’s family. Secrets beget lies, and lies do not build trust.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Daughter in Law

When I first came out as a Lesbian to my parents, I was pretty sure they would never get over it, much less accept it.

So you can imagine how wonderful it is for Hilary to get a birthday card in the mail from my parents that says "Happy Birthday Daughter-in-law"

Happy Birthday my Love!

Monday, March 22, 2010

OA Interview Project

Open Adoption Bloggers Interview ProjectI had the awesome opportunity to participate in an Interview Project.  I was  paired with Socialwrkr24/7 from Eyes Opened Wider at Over the past couple of weeks, I've read through her blog, finding out more about her before I had the chance to send her my list of questions for our interview.  So come join me in getting to know Socialwrkr24/7 a little bit more. Be sure to check out her great blog too so that you can read some of her great stories and gain some insight into the world of a social worker.

1)      How did you get started as an adoption/foster care blog reader/writer?  What compels you to continue with it?

I actually started my blog purely as one more attempt to remember my experiences in life. I've always loved the idea of keeping a journal, but never could stick with it! Perhaps if I'd let people comment on my pink and purple diary from the second grade I'd have kept up with it for more than four days!

But soon after I started writing, I had a number of foster/adoptive parents comment about some of the stories I told. I followed their comments back to more blogs and was hooked! These are my people! People who understand the need for supporting families, for loving children who were not born of their bodies, people who willing work in an imperfect system because they hope the end result is worth the frustration. I have also enjoyed learning more about different types of adoption (ie international/infant domestic) that I have only had a passing experience with professionally.

I continue to blog because I've found a wondeful community that supports each other - each in our own unique ways. I hope this community will one day help to improve the system. I think its already happening!

2)      What would I find in your refrigerator right now?
Ugh - not much! I've slacked on grocery shopping this week b/c it was my birthday and I knew I'd be eating out a lot. I live alone - and I'm working on wasting less food! But usually you'd find just the staples - milk, bread, veggies and ridiculous amounts and varieties of cheese - plus various leftovers and takeout. I just remembered I actually did a post about this during NaBloPoMo!

3)      Have you ever found your faith at complete odds with you job as a social worker?  If so, how did you overcome this?

This is by far the hardest/best question I've ever been asked about my job! It is one that I have thought about A LOT over the past 7+ years of being a social worker. I used to feel like my job was at odds with my faith ALL THE TIME. I almost quit grad school 2 months into my first internship! Now I can honestly say - I find my job to be at odds with my religion at times, but never with my faith. But I worked through a lot of issues and came to see a lot of things differently. Many religions in the world today are so focused on the "rules" - they have forgotten that reason for their existence is supposed to be to bring people closer to God. That doesn't mean that I don't still practice my religion - but I have had to seperate some of the practices of my denomination with my faith in God's will.

My faith is the reason I went into this career - and I'd never be able to continue without it. I went into social work because my faith taught me to be of service to those who had less than I do. I believe that how I treat "the least of these brothers" would be taken into account by God (Matthew 25: 34-40). I am able to do my job everyday because I believe that each and every person is a child of God - needing to be shown love, grace and mercy (John 13:34-35). I can only continue to see the awful situations and make the incredibly difficult decisions I make, because I believe that God has a hope and a future for each and every person. He will use my work to further his plan, and when I screw up - he will still bring goodness out of it (Jer 29:11).

My religion is a product of humans, my faith is a product of God, - when in doubt, I go with what I believe God would want me to do.

4)      What was the last movie you went to see?

Remember Me - it was a good, very character driven, film. But if your overly sensitive to recent terrorist events, I wouldn't recommend it! I was a little traumatized.

5)      Being a social worker must be very stressful at times.   What's your favorite thing to do to relax and unwind?

Being with friends and family! I wrote a whole post about how I cope here: But I'd say my favorite thing is to be with happy, healthy, loving people - and to spoil my goddaughters madly!

6)      If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?

Oh dear, I never know how to answer this one! I'm going with the ability to read minds - that would make my job much easier! But I would also want to be able to turn it off!!

7)      Would you ever chose to grow your family through adoption?  If so which would you chose and why - foster care, domestic newborn or international?

I hope to one day! Most likely through foster care. I would really like to do reunification foster care, but chances are not all children would be able to return home. I would like to be a "last stop" for children who have bounced around the system. I also have a soft spot for Ethiopian Adoption - as anyone who has read Zari's Story will understand. I could see that possibility in my future.

8)      What was the most interesting trip you have ever taken? Why?

Hmmm... I am usually going to visit family or friends when I travel, so I'm not sure I've been on any really "interesting" trips! I do like to visit my sister in California - she lives near LA and I like doing all the touristy Hollywood things there!  But I am taking myself on a solo vacation this spring - I'm hoping it will be interesting!

9)      As a social worker, what is the one most important piece of advice you would give to any potential parent?

There can be no effective discipline without a solid relationship as the foundation. If you're at your wits end trying to find a punishment to make your child behave - your working on the wrong end of the problem. Start from scratch on building up positive feelings and a solid parent/child relationship (not a friendship!). It won't solve everything - but it will help a lot! Plus, having a foundation of positivity makes doling out and receiving negative consequence much easier to bear! Everyone recovers quicker!

10)     What one thing that has happened in your life has made the biggest impact on who you are today?

I think "who I am" is made up of thousands of life changing moments. Does one big thing make more of an impact than a hundred little things? I don't think they neccesarily do. Some things in my life have been big - places I lived in my childhood, being a middle child, struggling with depression, certain people who have been part of my life, etc. Others have been smaller - meeting someone new, the millions of books I've read, interactions with my clients...  But, I believe that the things that happen today, both big and small, will affect the person I am tomorrow.

Short answer: I'm still figuring out who I am!

Make sure you check out all the other interviews too.  You can find them all listed here.  Thanks to Heather at Production, Not Reproduction for setting this all up and getting us all talking!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Parenting rules

When you are a parent you find yourself setting and following all sorts of rules to help keep your child safe.

  • Some of these rules comes from doctors and experts; don't put baby to sleep on their stomach, don't let them have honey before they are 1 year old.
  • Some of these rules may be laws where you live; kids have to stay in a booster seat until they are 9 years old, children must be registered for school by age 5.
  • Some of these rules are just plain common sense;  look both ways and hold hands when you cross the street, don't eat yellow snow.
  • Some of these rules you set as a family; no toy guns - ever, no skateboards until you are 10.
And some rules are meant to be broken:

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    I'm sorry, what....

    exactly is that?

    You don't see it?

    It's a dolphin of course.  Here's a real one for comparison:

    Alright, so maybe it is a bit hard to see.  If you close your left eye, squint your right and stand about 30 feet from the screen it starts to come into focus.

    No?  Oh well.

    When I got home from work yesterday I was met by a dining room table covered in strips of newspaper and a bouncy boy who wanted to make papier-mâché sea creatures.  It sounded fun, messy but fun.  The only problem is that I don't have a lick of artistic ability!  And since my delicate boy won't touch anything that gets him goopy, the bulk of last nights art project was left up to me.

    With rather sad results.

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    But at what cost?

    I'm a firm believer that if an adoption is going to take place that it needs to be done as ethically as possible and with truly informed consent on the side of the first family.  While first mothers have struggled through the baby scoop era, unwed mother homes, horrors as seen in the Butter Box Babies, and are even today still faced with shady agencies, scam artists or coercion from many sides, first fathers have had an even shorter end of the stick.  They are often left unnamed, not notified or given incredible hoops to jump through. 

    But Australia seems to be taking things to a whole new level.  In what I can only hope was intended to help protect fathers from losing their children to adoption, they have created a legal loophole that can only hurt the child in question:
    If the department cannot find the biological father, or the biological father refuses permission, the adoption cannot proceed.
    That doesn't sound so bad does it?  Don't let an adoption proceed without the father being informed and giving his consent.  It's all fine and well until you get a case like this one:

    A husband will adopt his wife's daughter, conceived when the woman was raped.

    They don't know who the rapist was and I doubt he's going to come forward now to claim the offspring of his crime.  Luckily in this specific case, the family was able to get to court before the law took place, and this man, who has raised the little girl since she was a baby, was allowed to adopt her as her step-parent. 

    But what about the next case?  That child won't get the legal protection, the name and the family connection to a step-parent just because a rapist can't be found to give his consent.  How does that law speak to the best interest of the child? 

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Oscar recap and a recipe

    We had a fabulous night for our Oscar party.  So fabulous that it's taken me till Wednesday to get my act together enough to blog about it.  Apparently I'm much too old to stay up till 2:00 and bounce right back up again at 7:00 the next morning.  I've been in bed by 9:00 every night since.

    We had a full house this year, which was a big improvement over last years attendance.  However, Hilary still managed to cook enough food to feed several military infantry's, but that's okay by me.  Left over Indian food is a good thing to have in the house.  I'm sure she is already planning on what next year's food theme will be!

    My last What's Cooking picture was the chicken marinating in yogurt before being turned into scrumptious Butter Chicken.  It's one of my favorite curry recipes.  Hilary made 2 batches this year, one spicy and one less spicy.

    Here's the recipe for you to enjoy!

    Whispering Windows Butter Chicken

    Serves 6
    12 chicken thights
    1 cup yogurt
    salt to taste
    1/2 lb. butter
    1 big onion, finely mnced
    1-1/2 tsps ground cumin seeds
    1-1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
    1-1/2 tsps ground cayenne pepper
    1 cup strained tomatoes
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    1/2 cup cashew nuts, ground
    1 tsp cardamon seeds, crushed well

    Remove skin from chicken.  Make 2 parallel slits in each piece. Mariniate overnight in yogurt and salt.

    When ready to cook, heat the butter in a 6-quart saucepan on medium high heat.

    Add the onion and stif fry till golden, but not brown.  Add the cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, tomatoes; stir well.  Add the marinated chicken, with the marinade.  Reduce heat to medium.  Stir.  Cook covered for 15 minutes.

    Add the cream, cashews and cardamon; stir well. Cover and cook fro 45 minutes, stirring occasionally

    Serve hot.

    From Curries Without Worries by Sudha Koul

    Saturday, March 6, 2010

    Oscar Swag Bags!

    They may not be as glitzy or as expensive as the ones folks in Hollywood will be getting tomorrow, but they work for us!  They contain your ballot, a new pencil, a noise maker, some Toy Story swag and candy.  We are full of the Oscar fever here, how about you?  Are you hosting a party, attending a fancy party or curling up at home with a bowl of popcorn?

    Does the bed define the woman?

    When I was 5 years old my parents built a new house. And I got to pick out the colours and furniture for my new bedroom. So what does a 5 year old girl in 1975 choose? White high-low shag carpet (the whole house had shag carpet, it was the ‘70s) mauve walls and a princess canopy bed.


    By the time I was 14 the sight of my room was enough to make me puke. I tried to cover all the walls with posters from Teen Beat, but it didn’t change the fact that I was still sleeping on a princess canopy bed. My parents, who are not only decorating-challenged, live by the creed of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Thus they still live in the same house, with same shag carpet and the same ‘70s Golden Rod coloured appliances. So when I asked to redecorate my room and get new furniture, they looked at me like I had 3 heads. We lived in a 4 bedroom house and I was an only child, so we had 2 spare rooms. One was a ghastly bright yellow with orange shag carpet and the other was dark green. So I started to concoct a plan. I was already working at 14, so I had lots of spending money. I decided that I would buy a water bed (hey, it was the ‘80s by then, water beds were cool) and move to the green bedroom. Since the princess bed had matching furniture you couldn’t just replace the bed according to my parents! So my plan worked. I was the proud owner of a water bed, complete with satin sheets.

    4 years later when I moved out of my parent’s home I started a very nomadic time in my life. Over the next 4 years I lived in 15 different places. From flopping with friends, to renting a room, to living with a girlfriend, to spending time at a convent or having my own apartment. When you move that often, you really pare down on the number of things you take with you from place to place. If it didn’t fit inside my 2 door Volkswagen rabbit, it got left behind. So that meant I didn’t have my own bed at all during that time.

    Then I met Hilary and moved in with her. She had a bachelor apartment and neither of us had much money. She did however have a futon mattress. In an effort to maximize space we decided to “build” a platform for the bed so that we could store things under it. And how do 2 20-something year olds, close to destitution, living in an apartment in down town Toronto build something?  With milk crates of course!

    We eventually moved on from the milk crates to an actual platform bed when we inherited one after Hilary's Grandmother died.  That bed kept us going for a while, but it eventually broke and got replaced by a cheap press board bed frame.  That one also broke one day after a particularly rowdy wrestling match that I had with Liam.  I was able to cobble it back together and we used it for another year or so.  Finally this week we made the plunge into a proper bed frame.  We actually bought 2.  One for us and one for the spare room.  They are even made out of real wood.

    My bed has finally grown up.

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    What's cooking # 3

    With the Oscar only 3 days away, our cooking is coming to an end!  I'm heading out this afternoon to pick up the chaffing dishes and then all that is left to do is clean!

    So here is the last picture for What's Cooking in my house this week:

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    500th Post and how we became parents

    For all the adoption talk I do on here, I don’t think I’ve ever shared the story Liam’s adoption. So here it is, my 500TH blog post and the story of how we became parents.

    Sometime around 2001, after having been together 8 years, Hilary and I started to talk more seriously about having children. Obviously since we are a same-sex couple, this was going to take a bit more planning then just deciding to stop taking a little pink pill every day. We were both young (30 and 31), reasonably healthy and had no reason to think either of us had any fertility issues. We figured our best option was to use donor sperm and have one of us get pregnant. So we found a doctor, did all the prelim work and picked out a donor. We also decided that Hilary would be the one to carry our first child and that I would later carry our second child. Through a variety of circumstances we only ended up trying one month. We planned to try again in the spring of 2002 when we got back from a trip to the Dominican Republic.

    We went on our trip and had a fabulous time. Baby making was pretty far from our consciousness as we drank rum laced drinks while lounging on the beach. We got back to cold and dreary Nova Scotia and headed back to work on Monday morning, April 29th. Both Hilary and I worked at the same office and had not kept our baby plans a complete secret. We weren’t shouting it from the rooftops, but when couples work together, there seems to be very little that they can keep private. Especially when you keep going to doctor’s appointments together. People were starting to wonder if one of us had some serious medical problem that were weren’t telling anyone about!

    That afternoon a co-worker, “S”, approached Hilary with an odd question – “Have you and Andy ever considered adopting a baby?” As it turned out “S’s” sister was pregnant and had recently moved to Halifax with the intention of making an adoption plan for her baby. “S” and Hilary chatted some more and Hilary promised that she and I would talk about it that night. We had briefly considered adoption as a means to form our family, but the wait times to adopt a newborn domestically was around 5-6 years back then (it can be as high as 10 now). I don’t think either of us even considered international adoption, which probably would not have worked out anyway as very few countries will allow same-sex couples to adopt. And we didn’t feel that we wanted to adopt an older child from foster care.

    That night we talked it over. We decided to meet with “K”, and see where things went from there. So that Saturday we met up with “K” and “S” at a local restaurant for lunch. We found out that “K” was already 6 months pregnant and due in July! She did not want to go through an agency and have to pick parents for her child from a book of “Dear Birthmother” letters. She wanted the chance to meet the people, get to know them and ask any questions that she may have. We spent a few hours that afternoon getting to know each other. And then Hilary and I went home. “S” let us know that she would call when and if “K” made a decision. We were cautiously excited about the idea of becoming parents. We didn’t know how long we should expect to wait to hear, so when the phone rang later that afternoon, we never dreamed it would be “S”. But it was! “K” wanted to move forward with us and make an adoption plan together.

    The next two and a half months were a whirlwind of paperwork and a homestudy. Most people who are planning to adopt here in Nova Scotia take about 1 year to get all their paper work completed and a homestudy done. We had about 10 weeks.

    We were very lucky in that “K” asked us to be present at the birth. We got the call at 11:00 on a Thursday night. It was time. We spent the night in the hospital keeping “K” company and holding her hand while she got an epidural. However, as the night turned to day and there was still not much progress, the plan quickly turned to a c-section. “K” was TERRIFIED of needles, so the idea of major surgery – while awake- was overwhelming. She could have one person in the OR with her, and we all knew that she needed her sister there for support. We wished her well and watched her being wheeled away. Hilary and I then spent a lot of time pacing hallways and calling our parents. We kept trying to find someone who could tell us what was going on, but no one seemed to know. Finally a nurse carrying a pile of blankets came to get us. Only it wasn’t a pile of blankets that she was carrying, it was a baby! Baby Liam! (side note – that is Liam’s favorite part of the story, when we thought it was just a pile of blankets) She took us up to a room and handed us the baby. We got to unswaddle him from the pounds of blankets and we just stared and stared.

    As per Nova Scotia law, all newborns who are being placed for adoption have to go into foster care for a 17 day waiting period. Since Liam was born on a Thursday, the adoption agency told the hospital that they wouldn’t have a foster spot for him till Monday so that Hilary and I could spend the weekend with him at the hospital. They were full up, but found us an empty reading room and brought us a cot and rolled in a bassinette for Liam. “K” had chosen to not see him after he was born and was in a private room on the same floor. We would leave Liam in the nursery and go down to visit with her and help her out any way we could. We had some good talks and some tearful moments, especially when she was discharged. “K” had arranged with the agency that they would give us permission to visit Liam while he was in foster care so that we could get to know him during those 17 days.

    Those 17 days seemed like an eternity. After spending a pretty sleepless weekend at the hospital, both Hilary and I had to return to work on Monday. The only foster family the agency could find for him was over an hour outside the city. We would work all day till 5:00, grab some fast food, eat in the car and drive out to spend an hour or so with him, just to drive home and do it all over again the next day. It was an emotional roller coaster as well. Here was this beautiful little boy that we were falling in love with by the second, who wasn’t ours, and we wouldn’t know for more then 2 weeks if we would ever get to bring him home. We knew that “K” still had to make the hardest decision of her life on day 17 when she made the final choice to sign the termination papers.

    She did decide to sign the papers that day, and on July 29th, 3 months to the day since “S” first approached Hilary, we too signed papers and become Liam’s parents-forever.

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    What's Cooking # 2 Reveal

    Lynne Marie from Mind Body Mama has a good eye!  This is indeed Paneer:

    and this one is the cardamon pods that I had opened to get the seeds out for Garam Masala.

    Here the recipes for both from Curries Without Worries - an introduction to Indian cuisine by Sudha Koul

    Paneer - Homemade cottage cheese cubes,

    1/2 gallon whole milk
    2 lbs whole milk yogurt
    1 cup lemon juice

    Bring the milk to a good boil on high heat in a heavy 8-quart saucepan.

    Mix the yoghurt and lemon juice well.  Pour into the boiling milk.

    Stir at once, only once, gently and slowly.

    Shut off heat after a minute.

    The milk should curdle.  The water should separate from the milk solids and should be a light yellow color

    Cover and leave for half an hour.

    Then place a think muslin-type material, such as a fine quality man's large handkerchief, over a large colander.
    Place the colander in a sink.  Pour the curdled mixture into the cloth so that all the liquid drains off through the colander, leaving the cheese in the cloth.

    This should take a couple of minutes.

    Next run cold water over the cheese for a minute.  allow all the liquid to drain off.
    Then tie up the cheese in the cloth, very tightly, so that more liquid is drained off

    Hang the cheese in the cloth for half an hour to drain off any remaining moisture.

    Next, place the cheese on it's side, on a  board, so that the knot is on the side.  Place another board on it and then a heave weight on the board, to press and squeeze out any moisture that might still be left in the cheese.

    After 30 minutes, gently open up the cloth and place the cheese on a cutting board.  If it is sill warm, leave it until it cools completely.  Then you can cut it into cubes and use it in recipes.

    Garam Masala

    1 large cinnamon stick, coarsely crushed
    1 tbsp whole cumin seeds
    1 tbsp coriander seeds
    1 tbsp peppercorns
    1 tbsp cardamon seeds
    1 tbsp cloves
    1 tbsp fennel seeds
    1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

    preheat oven to 350 degrees for 10 minutes

    Spread out all the spices in a single layer on a cookie sheet.

    Place the cookie sheet in the oven for 20 minutes until the aroma of toasted spices begins to emanate.

    Remove from oven and cool completely to room temperature.

    Then grind spices together in a a blender until all the  spices are reduced to a powder.

    The cinnamon may be a little coarse, but you sift the spices and grind the coarse pieces again.

    This yields about 1/2 cup.  You can store the Masala in a tightly capped bottle for future use.  It should keep for several months.

    You'll have to let me know if you try any of these recipes! They are some of our favorites.  There is still lots more cooking to be done, so watch out for a new post!

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    The grape scissors

    Hilary and I had been dating about 1 year when I first got to really meet her parents. I had met them once or twice before, but just as Hilary's friend, not her GIRLfriend. So when's the best time to meet the in-laws? Christmas of course! At their house. Across the country (which meant no backup/escape plans were possible).

    Hilary and I grew up in two very different worlds. I grew up on a farm with people who bashed small animals on the head and ate them for dinner. Hilary grew up in downtown Toronto with people who subscribed to Gourmet Magazine - for the recipes - not just because it looked nice on the coffee table. So to help make me feel more comfortable, Hilary decided to give me some tips and pointers on what to expect during the visit.

    1. Silver Silverware - Growing up we had 1 set of silverware and we used it every day. My mother did have a box of gold-plated silverware that she got as a wedding present, but we never used it. Hilary's family uses their fancy silverware for fancy meals. Like the one that I was going to share with them on Christmas. If that had been the only thing I probably wouldn't have been as nervous as I was. After a fork is just a fork right?

    2. Full place settings - Hilary's parents set the table with full place settings. Cloth napkins, desert forks and spoons, water glasses. The whole shebang. Have you ever seen Pretty Woman when Barney teaches Vivian about all the forks? Yeah, that was me too.

    3. Cocktails before dinner. This one I was pretty good with. I figured I would need a good belt to get through it. (Except people who have cocktails in fancy glasses seldom refer to them as a "good belt")

    4. Grape Scissors - Until that moment in time I had no idea such things existed. I honestly thought Hilary was pulling my leg, but no, it turns out her mother not only owns grape scissors, but uses them. The point of grape scissors is that you cut a small bunch of grapes from the bigger bunch and put them on your plate to eat. That way you aren't leaving an unsightly grape stem behind.
    So far so good.  It was a bit intimidating but I figured I could get through it.  I wasn't completely backwards.  I had after all conquered sitting up straight, no putting my elbows on the table and chewing with my mouth closed.   I planned to watch what everyone else was doing so that I could just follow suite.  Seemed like a good plan till I was met with this at my place setting:

    I had no freaking clue what it was for.  It looked vaguely like a lobster fork, but we weren't having lobster, we were having lamb.   Maybe it was some special desert thing. I thought I had seen pie, so I wasn't sure why we wouldn't just have forks. And besides I already had too many forks, one of them was bound to be for desert.  I decided to stick with my original plan to watch and follow. The lamb was served and we all had a very nice meal.  

    I should probably tell you now that I have a fair number of food issues (you would too if your parents tried to feed you groundhog!) I was a vegetarian for a number of years but had given up on that by the time Hilary and I started going out.  I still wasn't a huge fan of meat, but I did enjoy it every now and then.  And yes surprisingly, I like lamb.  I can't think about it, but I like the taste. 

    So the main course was winding down.  I finished and sat quietly waiting to see what happened next.  Then someone picked up this unknown piece of cutlery.  Hmmmm... their plate is empty, they just have the bone left from the lamb shank.  Maybe they are going to use it like a spoon to get the last bit of sauce off the plate?  Oh how I wish that had been it!  No, they proceeded to pick up the lamb bone and use their marrow spoon.

    Marrow spoons were aptly named for their macabre purpose. It doesn't take much imagination to divine what these utensils were used for. During the reign of Queen Anne, the consumption of bone marrow (of mainly beef bones) was a delicacy enjoyed by everyone who could afford to have it (though it was almost assuredly, an acquired taste).

    Some examples of these utensils date from the late 15th century. The long and narrow spoon section was used to dig out the marrow of larger bones, which was then mixed into soups or baked in ovens. This was a delicacy in early years when generally only the rich and influential could afford a steady source of actual meat. The utensil was generally made of silver to better fit in with the tableware sets of the day.

    Also, due to the hard digging and scraping that was involved in getting the soft marrow out of the bone centers, softer metal (like tin) or even wooden spoons didn't last very long. The utensil sometimes had two spoon sections; one per end, with one being half the length of the other and narrower (for getting into smaller bone centers apparently). The hallmarks are usually found on the underside of the connector stem between the two spoon ends.
    EWWWWWWW!   They were digging out bone marrow and eating it!  and enjoying it! As much as i wanted to be polite there was NO WAY I was going to eat that.  I had stopped eating Jell-o once I found out where it came from  (The gelatin you eat in Jell-O comes from the collagen in cow or pig bones, hooves, and connective tissues. To make gelatin, manufacturers grind up these various parts and pre-treat them with either a strong acid or a strong base to break down cellular structures and release proteins like collagen, from TLC in case you wanted to know too!)

    Hilary, bless her heart, came to my rescue and let me know that it was not required of me to eat the marrow.  Hilary's mom was made aware of my food issues shortly after that and has since been very accommodating in frying me up a nice ham steak when they are eating things like tongue sandwiches, oysters, head cheese or blood pudding! (most of which Hilary doesn't eat either)   I have a great relationship with my MIL and I'm no longer intimidated by any of their habits.  Good thing too, we are going to visit them in June!

      Monday, March 1, 2010

      What's Cooking? - Reveal and Recipe

      So our pot when from this:

      to this:

      Chana Masala is a chickpea curry that we will be serving at the Oscar Party next week.  Sorry Coco, it wasn't chocolate, but the chickpeas boiling.

      There is still lots more cooking to be done, so watch for another What's Cooking?


      1 Tbsp Oil
      2 medium onions - minced
      1 clove garlic - minced
      1 Tbsp ground coriander
      2 tsp ground cumin
      1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
      1 tsp turmeric
      1 small tomato - chopped
      1 cup water
      4 cups cooked chickpeas*
      2 tsp ground roasted cumin
      1 Tbsp Amchoor powder
      2 tsp paprika
      1 tsp garam masala
      1/2 tsp salt
      1/2 lemon - juiced
      1 chili
      2 tsps ginger

      • Heat oil
      • Brown onion and garlic
      • Reduce heat - add coriander, cumin, cayenne, tumerric
      • Stir fry
      • Add tomatoes and cook, stirring, until paste is formed
      • Add chickpeas and water
      • Stir
      • Add roasted cumin, amchoor powder, paprika, garam masala, salt and lemon juice
      • Cook covered for 10 minutes
      • Add minced garlic and ginger and stir well.  Sprinkle with chopped coriander for garnish (optional)
      • Serve over rice
      * we soaked the chickpeas overnight  in water infused with Chai tea to give them a darker colour and more flavour before we cooked them in the tea water until they were done, firm but cooked, not mushy.