Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Wifesaver

Without fail, my family prepares our Christmas morning breakfast before snuggling into our beds on Christmas Eve. It's one of the few traditions I've been able to continue while living in Australia. It's delicious, and because all you have left to do is melt butter and crush up some cornflakes, it makes for a less stressful Christmas morning. It's a wifesaver, ha ha ha.

Christmas Wifesaver

16 slices white bread with crusts removed
5 Eggs
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Pepper
11/2 tsp dry mustard (e.g. Keens)
¼ cup minced onion
¼ cup green peppers, finely chopped
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 cups whole milk
¼ lb butter
1-2 cups Corn Flakes or Special K cereal
2-3 cups grated cheese (Cheddar or Marble)
200 grams shaved Black forest ham

  1. In a 9x13 buttered baking dish, put the 8 pieces of bread. Add pieces to cover dish entirely. Cover bread with ham. Sprinkle cheese on top.
  2. In a bowl, beat eggs, salt, and pepper. To the egg mixture add dry mustard, green pepper, Worcestershire sauce and milk.
  3. Pour over the bread, ham and cheese, then cover with cling film and let stand overnight in fridge.
  4. In the morning melt ¼ lb butter, pour over top. Cover with crushed cereal.
  5. Bake uncovered @ 180*C for about one hour. Serve with fruit.

I make a smaller version when it's just me and Jody because our Pyrex dish is smaller than 9x13 and fits 6 slices of bread. (Don't be tempted to replace the white bread with healthy bread.) It's just out of the oven now. Yum!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Welcome Home

To many, she was Sister Debra, but she's always been my Auntie Deb. Today my family is saying farewell to their " 'dopted one," until we see her again in Heaven. Debbie became part of our family soon after she and my mother met as roomies in nursing school. She's belonged with us ever since, as my mother's kindred spirit and a beloved aunt to my sister and me. She was always praying for us, encouraging us, and giving of herself and her beautiful smile.

Barely a week has gone by since she passed away, and it's hard to write about her in the past tense. Knowing her time was near doesn't make it easier. Knowing she'd given everything to fight cancer three times in nine years, I wanted her to find peace. Through everything, she retained her considerable faith in God, and wanted to live each day she was given.  Seeing her decline over the past several months, we are grateful she has been released from pain, but that relief is mingled with loss.

And so we grieve. We use a word that is stronger than sadness and deeper than sorrow. We grieve for those left behind - for her mother, sister and brother in law, and nieces. For my Mom, who has lost the sister of her heart. For me and for my sister. For the other nuns. For those who were touched by Deb's kindness and spiritual conviction. Thank you to those of you who have prayed for Deb, and for your support in this difficult time.

When I visited Canada in May - praying for weeks beforehand that Auntie Deb would hold on just a little longer - it was hard not to hug her with my customary exuberance. She was so brittle on the outside. The drugs and accompanying nausea made it difficult for her to be herself. Yet inside, she was filled with God's love and strength. She was making plans and asking my mom to help her do things for others.

One day, she mentioned a bird's-nest pendant she had seen on someone, and wished she could find one like it. I happened to have seen a YouTube tutorial on a beading channel, so I agreed to make her one. The next thing I knew, Deb amended her request to one pendant per Sister - 50! - and I had to recruit and teach several others to create bird's-nests from three robin's-egg-blue beads and wire. With God all things are possible. She wanted each Sister of St. Ann to have one, but wasn't up to making them herself. 

Auntie Deb's occupations included nurse, nun, palliative chaplain, and artist. Her talent for watercolours was recognised by art critic Robert Amos in a recent Times Colonist article. A visit to the exhibit of the Sisters of St. Ann's artwork, which included a selection of her florals, was Debbie's last outing. She was able to speak with Amos, who happened to be there at the same time.

Deb was reading a book by Lorna Byrne called Angels in My Hair. Someone was always in the room as her time drew near, and I think there may have been an angel present, too. As a final blessing, my mom was with her when Debbie was welcomed home by her Heavenly Father. I love this song from Michael W. Smith, which comforts those who have lost a loved one. It speaks of angels, a place with no more pain, and the welcome that awaits those who love Him.

I can't believe that I'm here
Having to say goodbye.
And I can barely see you through
These tears I cry.
I close my eyes.

I can hear the sound

As angels gather 'round
Saying this is where you belong
Welcome Home!

There are the days when my heart aches
Wishing you were here.
But I know where you are
The hurt and the pain disappear.
There's no more tears.


Welcome Home!

What a lovely sound
Angels all around
Saying this is where you belong
Welcome Home!
Welcome Home!
Welcome Home!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

To market, to market

One of the things I love about big cities in Australia is the way in which they try to mimic that village feel. Sydney is so big it can feel isolating - and the shopping centres, big-box department stores (whether budget or high-end) and generic supermarkets are much the same in Sydney, Brisbane, or Melbourne. It all feels very metropolitan. On weekends, the local market is the place to be.

 What if you forgot to bring cash? No worries, mate - just use the mobile ATM!

Some markets sell mainly consumables: fresh produce, eggs, meat, fish, jams and sauces, coffee, cheese, ready-made pies, bread and pastries. Flowers, herbs, spices, organic and gluten-free food stalls are commonly found in markets, too. Other markets focus on used books, locally made and/or used clothing, bric-a-brac, dog toys, crafts, sunglasses, socks and hats. We've gotten tremendous deals on steak, sausages and in-season fruit and veggies.  From memory, the market Mr J and I used to frequent in Brisbane's West End is less expensive than the two within walking distance in Sydney. This may vary according to the neighbourhood.

The jazz musicians were playing My Funny Valentine - one of my favourites. I put some money in their donation box and got a smile. Mr J and I danced for a little while.

The sounds of the market are far from the clinical announcements and radio that pervade the grocery stores. You'll hear musicians busking and stall owners hawking their wares. The various pop-up eateries will tempt you as soon as you're within sniffing distance. Turkish gozleme, egg & bacon rolls, falafel, paella, coffee, tea, pastries, yogurt, dumplings, or something from the BBQ.

This morning Mr J and I opted for bacon & egg rolls! They're not a health food but once in a while - yum! There's quite an assembly line that gets these together. Then you add your choice of sauce (I picked barbecue.) The roll part is quite forgettable, the bacon crispy and still sizzling in its own fat, the fresh egg fried just right.

Chowing down on a nearby park bench

We bought veggies: zucchini, butternut squash, leek, a bag of mixed salad leaves. Little bundles of mint, rosemary, and coriander/cilantro. A loaf of sourdough. And a little something for later...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cover art love

I am in love with the dress pictured on this romance book. Thankfully there was a text-free version on the interwebs, so I could see it without a great big "Sabrina Jeffries" and a book title getting in the way. The colour is a bit different between the two images, particularly the sheen of the dress and the landscape behind the couple.

How to Woo a Reluctant Lady - Cover art by Jon Paul Studios

One of my favourite series also has some of my favourite cover art: The Parasol Protectorate. This steampunk/paranormal/alternate Victorian era comedy of manners extravaganza has covers built around gorgeous photos of a model who closely resembles the heroine. The images are then photoshopped them to include other design elements. Holy cow, is that a technical and tedious process. I bow to graphic designers. Check out the video of the making of the Blameless cover:

These covers are the reason I purchased the paperback editions, not the ebooks. The colour of Alexia's dresses, and the titles, really pop against the misty gray skies, the masonry, and the pyramids.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Music I'm loving now

Prepare for YouTube clip overload.

Just Give Me a Reason - P!nk feat. Nate Ruess
"It's in the stars; it's been written in the scars on our hearts... Our tear ducts can rust; I'll fix it for us | We're collecting dust but our love's enough..."

I love the lyrics, the story, and the ramp-up in the chorus. Just to be different, here's a live version. Who needs autotune? Not P!nk !

For a softer take, I can't go past Madilyn Bailey's cover with Chester See. I like how her phrasing is just different enough, and also how her voice sounds in the lower notes.


 I'm slightly obsessed with Madilyn Bailey at the moment. My other favourites:

I can't stop listening to this cover. And I love Madilyn's hair so much that every time I watch it, I think about making a salon appointment.

Is Anybody Out There? is a song that Madilyn sings in collaboration with Corey Gray. Gray's part makes me think of the opening to RHCP's Dani California but that's a good thing. I like it much more than the original, by K'NAAN (whoever that is) and Nelly Furtado.

And this is an original song, Crescent of the Moon. It's good! Factor into your judgment that she wrote it when she was fifteen and it's even more impressive. I believe she's 20 now.

I'm definitely planning to buy the soundtrack to The Great Gatsby. My two favourites are Lana Del Rey's Young and Beautiful...

and Emeli Sandé's cover of Beyoncé's Crazy in Love.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Creativity with heart

I finally finished a project I've had in my bead box for awhile. It's a gift for my mother - a charm bracelet with a Swarovski crystal heart, butterfly, and cancer ribbon. My mom's best friend, who is as dear to me as any blood-related aunt, is fighting cancer for the third time. Aunt Debbie is an amazingly talented watercolour artist, a daughter, a sister, a nun, a nurse, and among the best people I have ever known. Her love for God, positive outlook, and giving spirit are defining characteristics that I have always admired.

Now that she is facing that insidious disease again, these same characteristics are giving her strength. She is still positive, despite the pain and nausea that plague her. It is truly amazing how she has continued to defy science and even my mom's expectations. (Mom is also trained as a nurse.) We thought we'd lose her a year ago. I am so glad I got to see her again on my recent trip back to Canada.

A bracelet is a small thing, but I wanted Mom to have something tangible that connects her to Debbie. In early 2012 I made bracelets for Debbie, myself, my sister, and my mother.
This is actually the second bracelet I've made for Mom, because she gave hers away to Debbie's mother. That's just the kind of person my mom is. I had trouble sourcing the crystal hearts and a tiny cross to represent faith, so eventually I ordered Swarovski online and chose a ribbon in place of the cross.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

All title, no filler

The Girl in the Steel CorsetThe Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm nearly done reading, thank goodness. I've invested enough time that I will finish it but there's no way I'll be looking for the sequel. It had potential! The concept was interesting but the execution was a let-down. It would have been a 1-star but the writing was just decent enough (though there was a lot of show-don't-tell, awkward transitions and speech, and a thin plot). The steel corset of the title makes an appearance as armour, but is not a pivotal plot point. I think it's just there to sound cool.

I love the name Finley. I hate that she was so easily swayed by Griffin. When he came to collect her at Dandy's I wanted to slap her for being so cooperative.

Two other major plot points that have annoyed me (SPOILERS):

Duh, if someone steals a waxwork of Queen Victoria and later you find the figure's clothing and glass eyes missing, and calliper marks in the wax face, not to mention the Queen's hairbrush was stolen... Meanwhile there's a guy called The Machinist who makes automatons... did you not think earlier that he might be making a Queen automaton that looks exactly like her?
OK so I didn't guess that The Machinist would be able to create a sentient being, but I guessed the hair had to have something to do with it. Really, the sentient automaton that reacts to its surroundings and changes to suit its attackers is JUST TOO MUCH. (PS: Finley saw the wax figure before she met the Queen in person, but she was still surprised by Victoria's lack of height!?)

Griffin is supposedly rich and powerful and intelligent. Yet he hasn't previously investigated Leonardo Garibaldi? (Unless I missed something while I was slogging through this book.) Griff knew that Garibaldi had disagreed with the Queen's command to keep the Organites a secret. (side note: the overuse and frequent mention of Organites become more annoying than steles and runes in Clare's Mortal Instruments series.) Even if he hadn't put two and two together that Garibaldi was the Machinist, he could have investigated whether he was a suspect in the murder of Griffin's parents. Instead of using his influence to investigate, he uses the Aether. *facepalm*

I'm done.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Local Press

My flat white in its heavy blue teacup was just $3. It is creamy (I don’t do skinny coffee) and nutty and smooth. It could be a little hotter – I risk having a cold last mouthful or two. But they roast their own beans, and I can see them in the hopper, bouncing around like popcorn. The staff seems friendly, smiling even at the various small people who accompany their parents. They must had a recent shop makeover, as one of the regulars (who was called by name) says it’s become very bright and open. The man behind the counter said they’re getting a lot of good feedback and had a write-up in a magazine last week. Oh! And they make their own muffins. I will have to try one. I generally find café muffins bland and artificially over-fluffy.

 A small breakfast menu is chalked on one wall, including sourdough toast with ricotta, tahini and honey, or smoked trout with poached eggs, goats’ cheese and hollandaise. They also advertise an apple pie and cinnamon milkshake for $5.50. There’s a full menu but I haven’t taken a peek yet.

There’s a regular stream of customers – half a dozen ambulance workers, locals out for their morning walk, moms and dads in casual wear, and a few people in business clothes. There are four staff members behind the counter for the morning rush, one of whom pops out to tend to the beans. It’s amazing how fast they roast to a rich brown. Mmmm coffee!

I went back for a little pot of English Breakfast and a muffin. I picked strawberry and found mango hidden in its depths! The muffin is substantial and cakey, but in a good way - dense and perfectly baked. And the teapot has a silly bit of script on it: oh darling, darling, stand by TEA.