that perfect hand…

In Ocean's 11, Danny said that "the house always wins. If you play long enough, never change the stakes, then the house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet big… and then, you take the house." Here's the hand I've been dealt, sometimes it's risky and sometimes it's safe, but all the time… it's perfect. It's mine.


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group effort – lemon meringue pie

 

I have a post formulating that is going to blow your minds (probably not) but I am taking a hiatus from hashing out that essay for a little baker’s pride moment, which don’t happen very often. It’ll even include a recipe.

Check this out:

Yay for birthdays.

I know, right? It was Luke’s birthday yesterday and I wanted to make him his favourite – lemon meringue pie. Last year the pie I made him was unmentionable, not even worth being the punchline in the lamest of lame stories I tell my classes. Even though he ate it last year, smiling and nodding that he liked it, my goal this year was to make sure that the crust didn’t cook down, the filling wasn’t sweating or watery, and the meringue actually resembled one that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to give him. The result? The perfect recipe for lemon meringue pie (and the largest grin on my best friend’s face). Anyway…the recipe came from three different sources and with some tweakings done by me, risky but effective,  I suggest you put this little delight in your recipe books.

____

The Crust (courtesy of my cousin in law and favourite person to waste time with, Chrissy)

1/2 lb shortening
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 a beaten egg (use your gut)
2 tsp salt
1/2 T vinegar

Add beaten egg to vinegar and add enough cold water to make 1/2 a cup.

Mix dry ingredients and cut in the shortening with a pastry tool. Mix in liquid with a fork.

Separate into two balls and refrigerate for 20 minutes or so. Roll the pastry between two pieces of wax paper so that the dough is 1 inch bigger than the inverted pie plate. Drape dough loosely into pie plate and pinch down. Prick holes with a fork and weigh it down with pastry weights. Or in our case, interior decorative rocks. Amazing. Bake until golden brown, 18 minutes I think @ 425. I can’t remember that part, I was playing with Eli.

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The Filling (courtesy of my sister and favourite person I’d like to get more chances to waste time with, Jes)

In a microwave bowl combine:
1/2 cup corn starch
1 cup and 3 T sugar (the extra 3 just makes it a little more delicious)
1/4 tsp  salt
Gradually add 3 cups boiling water and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Stirring once halfway.
Stir a small amount, I used two spoonfuls, of hot mixture into 3 beaten egg yolks (reserve whites) and blend into remaining hot mixture. Cook for another minute or two.
Blend in:
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp grated lemon rind (took me 2 lemons, average size)
1/2 cup lemon juice (2.5 lemons)
Cool to lukewarm, whisking every now and then, and pour into  cooled baked pie shell. I think Jes and Mom are onto something here – shouldn’t be hot!
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The Meringue (courtesy of my friend and owner of my favourite cookbook I’d like to own so I can waste time with it (and her), Jaime – and The Joy of Cooking)
All ingredients MUST be at room temperature. No wavering. NONE.
Thoroughly mix:
1 T cornstarch
1 T sugar
1/3 cup water
Bring to a boil over medium heat, constantly stirring. Let it boil for 15 seconds and cover the pot with lid, remove from heat and set aside.
In a glass or metal bowl (essential) beat until foamy:
FOUR egg whites (I know, three eggs for filling, four for meringue…just trying to be especially complicated! :))
Once the whites are delightfully foaming, add and beat:
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (Don’t have any? Buy it at Walmart…it’s ridiculously cheap for a lot of it)
After beating for a bit, gradually add 1/2 cup sugar. Beat on high speed until very stiff and glossy, not dry.
Reduce speed to very low and beat in the reserved cornstarch paste, 1 T at a time. When done, increase speed for another minute or so. Spread over pie filling and crust
Very IMPORTANT: Make sure the meringue is ‘anchored’ to the crust or pie plate – this keeps the meringue from ‘going anywhere’ or shrinking away from the pie when cooling.
Bake in a preheated, 350* oven for 20 mins. Watch carefully but 20 minutes was all my pie needed.
The result?
This:
and then this, which made it alllll worthwhile:
That win didn’t hurt, either! Go Canucks!
Enjoy your pie.
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perfect pairing [and instagram]

So yesterday was a big day, some pretty interesting things happened — more on that in a post to come. While I had my own things happening, it was a big day for my great friend Luke too. There probably won’t be more on that later, but yesterday was the day where individual circumstances regarding our careers officially made us adults. Anyway. Talk about being cryptic,  but a little elusiveness never hurt anyone so let me enjoy this for a few moments.

We decided to celebrate a little bit.  One of my favourite places in the city is Ferris’ Oyster Bar. I’ve never had fresh oysters before moving to the Island and it’s a treat that I will miss if and when I leave.  There is nothing like a freshly ‘shucked’ oyster with fresh horseradish, tobasco, and seafood sauce…and a glass of wine. I thought so, anyway.

When I [briefly] worked for Starbucks last summer, I learned about perfect pairings. The whole point was that there were specific coffees that complimented certain baked goods that they sold. Part of the training was to develop a sense of what item to recommend to a customer, depending on what drink they ordered. For example, ordering an Americano with a shot of caramel in it? Why don’t you try a chocolate covered pretzel? (I am not sure if that’s considered a complimentary relationship, I just thought of two things available there). The point is, I never really understood this. Every time they quizzed me on this, or I tried a coffee with it’s baked buddy, I didn’t really get why they were meant to be. Sure, they tasted good together but I definitely didn’t have the palate that got it. I definitely did not generate much revenue due to this type of “upselling” but I think I was more frustrated that I honestly could not tell what difference a macchiatto and a fudge bar relationship or a macchiatto and a vanilla scone pair made.

Until yesterday, there have been three perfect pairings (in cuisine) that I’ve come across. Well, four if you count sushi and chicken wings. They are:

1. Red wine and chocolate. It’s true, ‘they’ are right. Although I don’t know what it is that makes them meld, I do know that a glass of Wolf Blass 2007 Shiraz with a dark chocolate truffle is just delightful.

2. An Espresso shot poured over vanilla ice cream. Heaven surely has this ready made for us, it’s unreal.

3. Pear and parmesan. I was introduced to this a few months back, it’s a classic and brilliant dessert in Scott’s house, served with red wine after dinner. I don’t know if it’s the actual eating of pear and slices of parmesan cheese, which is delicious, but the process, to me,  that is perfect — where the cutting board with pears and cheese is passed around so that every time one pear is finished, another person gets to cut one to share. It’s relaxing, it’s social, begging great conversation… and it’s interesting to see how people cut the fruit differently (I don’t know if  the  others or Scott enjoy this aspect, but I do).

Aside from tasting good together, when I met perfect pairing number 4 (or 5, again – sushi and chicken wings) last night, for the very, very first time I have actually been able to taste when two things go together in a seeming love affair in your mouth: oysters and martinis (the real kind). I’ve had dirty martinis before but have never grown accustomed to the taste. They are straight alcohol and while I appreciate the absence of the sweetness from other variations of the cocktail, the strong taste of the alcohols is difficult for me to enjoy. Like my experience with cilantro, I figure I will develop a taste for martinis and the  hint of olive juice upon drinking them more often. I don’t drink much so this is inconsequential or probably never going to happen anyway, I just think it looks cool to go for a drink and order a martini. Except they’re gross.

Until last night. Back to our celebration. After we ate dinner, we went across the street to Ferris’ to have a martini – Luke wanting me to attempt to love it again. I had a few sips and like every other time, my throat burned and chilly shudders went through my body. However,  since we were at the oyster bar, we needed to order some. After eating my first oyster,  I took a drink of my martini and my palate- life changed. It was incredible how much I enjoyed that. It still tasted like the 100% alcohol it is but with the lingering taste of horseradish and seafood sauce, the drink went from shudder worthy to smooth and oh-so delicious. It was amazing, I’ve never experienced that before — a noticeable  sentiment between two flavours (yes, I know that they don’t have feelings, it was just so fascinating). In the other sense, the oysters tasted much better with the hint of vodka and olives. While I definitely do not plan to get in the habit of this delicacy,  last night I experienced, for real, a perfect pairing. It was really neat.

Stop laughing at me.

Another perfect pairing? My iPhone 4 and the Instagram App. Enjoy these photos:


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lent status update

So I am three weeks in. If you’ve forgotten – I gave up foundation (really, any type of powder, concealer, whatever) makeup and desserts.

Anyway. The make up has been awesome, rather – the lack of. I feel so good, I have not put ANYTHING on my face, save for mascara, in over three weeks. The first week was really rough, my skin went through a kind of detox so I had a lot of red splotches and breaking out a bit around my jaw. I figured that was minor pay back for covering it up for so many years (12 years, give or take). But now,  my skin is really evening out and it feels better than it ever has.  It’s funny, I never actually had bad skin to begin with so I am now wondering why I ever started wearing any makeup whatsoever. OH well. And at the recommendation of a friend, I’ve picked up a new moisturizer, the best one I’ve ever used (Dormer 211 — buy it) and that is making this whole fast thing awesome — at this rate, I have no plans to wear make up after this. Thanks Jes for the challenge. I think everyone should do this. I thought I’d see a direct correlation between clean and clear foundation-less skin and not eating desserts but I’d proven science and pore cleansing commercials, speaking about eating right for healthy skin, wrong becccccauuuseee….

I cheated on my dessert sacrifice about 5 days in. Let me explain. I don’t actually know why I gave up dessert to begin with. It’s not a crutch for me and it’s not something I have often enough to even notice if I don’t have it. As I thought about it more, I theorize that I only gave it up because Chrissy didn’t believe she has what it takes to give up something she’s passionate about (ice cream, graham crackers, chocolate, and bananas — yes, altogether. Amazing). So I guess when she suggested I give up dessert, it was actually so she could live vicariously through me and feel as though she is doing the fasting in her own small way. Maybe?

Not really, but I still don’t know why I gave it up. My dessert count it up to this:

1. sex in a pan (Sunday – 5 days in to lent)
2. sex in a pan leftovers (Monday – 6 days in to lent)
3. three bowls of ice cream at various times post-first cheat
4. Frozen yogurt with my almost-due preggo friend Rebecca (5 days ago)… we had to, she was craving! (I was craving? :))
5, Joy the Baker’s Butterscotch Pudding with Carmelized Bananas and Cream (2 nights ago)

PS Joy the Baker has changed my life. Anyway.

6. A piece of Connor’s birthday cake (yesterday)

Don’t ever say I am not accountable to my actions. And now that I’ve completed that list, it’s safe to say that three weeks in, I am officially giving up dessert for an extended-lent, possibly into my 26th year. I really don’t have  it often, I blame it on being influenced of those around me. So either the people or the dessert has to go. Bye bye deliciousness, here goes.

EXCEPT if I want frozen yogurt. Or Joy the [rockstar] Baker‘s grapefruit scones. Unreal. Lifechanging. Breakfast transforming. Amazing. Period.
Cheers!


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sacrifice

So I missed lent.

Actually, I didn’t. I was all set to write about how I missed the season this year and subsequently, missed giving something up. However, upon some .25 second research, I learned that it actually starts tomorrow.

Crap.

What should I give up this year? Last year I attempted to give up bread. That didn’t work, I kept forgetting about it. The year before I took a year off. My most successful lenten sacrifice was in ’08 when I gave up coffee for 40 days — no cheating whatsoever. And the year before that when I gave up milk/cream/sugar in my coffee and haven’t enjoyed it in my coffee since.

What should I give up this year?

Here are my current things:

1. facial foundation make up
2. desserts (every form…after dinner, after lunch, and after breakfast — sometimes, it happens)

My breast feeding cousin-in-law Chrissy, who wishes to remain anonymous yet isn’t, said she will not be joining me in giving up desserts because she says Kalli, her baby girl, needs them.

She also is not hypocritical, stating that I cannot have exemptions. There is a new frozen yogurt joint in town that is AH-mazing so I want to visit it once or twice in the next 40 days — my only exception to my fast. Not only will Chrissy not partake in the fast, but she is ensuring that I only commit if I plan to commit 100%. I have visions of her sitting on the couch, eating espresso and ice cream and watching over her bowl as I suffer. No exemptions, no cheating. To quote:  “Kate, this is God we’re talking about. You can’t mess with him, God has no exemptions.” Wow. Okay.

Here’s the idea: I don’t really think anything I can give up for lent will in ANY way signify the greatest sacrifice of all, but relatively speaking – this will be a good challenge for me. Really good challenge and way to be reminded of why I am giving some things up to begin with.

Plus it’ll keep my breast feeding cousin-in-law entertained.

 

Any other suggestions?

 

Cheers!


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super why?

While I am staying with one of my littlest buddies, Eli, one of my favourite things to do with him is watch ‘Super Why!’ in the mornings. Sometimes, Chrissy will even shoot me an instant message reminder that it is on at 9 am. (Or 8 am on weekends which I didn’t know until I missed it).

Ripped right off of the website, ‘Super Why!’ is the animated television series and interactive website that helps children ages 3-6 learn key reading skills, including alphabet, rhyming, spelling, etc. (which makes Eli a rockstar already since he’s not even two and Kalli is only a few months). It also makes me feel like a total dork but I digress.

The premise is actually really cool and brings out the teacher-nerd in me:

The title character introduces himself as “Whyatt”, and welcomes the viewers to “Storybook Village”, a place where all fairy-tale characters reside. Then Whyatt hears a ringtone from his “Super Duper Computer”, which resembles a small red PDA. He answers the call and discovers that one of the other characters has a “Super Big Problem”. After investigating the nature of the problem, Whyatt summons the “Super Readers”, sending out the call: “Calling all Super Readers! To the Book Club!” The four characters, Whyatt, Pig, Red Riding Hood, and Princess Pea, then appear in front of the aforementioned Book Club, which is a building made of books. Whyatt then tells the viewer to “say YOUR name”, including them among the Super Readers.

The goal of the Super Readers is to follow the storyline to solve the problem. As they progress through the events of the story, they encounter obstacles, which can be solved by applying their literacy skills to change the story (for instance, changing the prince in “The Frog Prince” back into a frog because the princess liked him better that way). As they overcome these obstacles, they are rewarded with red glittery “Super Letters”. These Super Letters are then uploaded into the Super Duper Computer, eventually forming the word(s) that make up the solution to the Super Big Problem. The audience members are encouraged to look for Super Letters throughout the story, and to identify them when they appear.

Anyway, the show also fascinates me because I am a slight fan of ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and ‘Jeopardy!’ so I like to try to solve the puzzles before they find all of the ‘Super Letters’. I think I like it more than Eli does.

There's Pig ('The Littlest Pig' of the 3), Red ('Little Red Riding Hood'), Whyatt Beanstalk (Jack's brother), and Princess Pea ('The Princess and the Pea')

If I consider this similar to the FBI Behavioural Analysis Unit from ‘Criminal Minds’, somehow it gets more interesting — although, rather than solving murders and weird crimes involving clowns, the Super Readers hang out in STORYBOOK VILLAGE and solve SUPER BIG PROBLEMS using their literacy skills and a SUPER DUPER COMPUTER and saying things like ‘PRESTO!’. Really.

No, I don’t water down my coffee with Bailey’s for this ritual…I actually think it’s sweet. Some of their BIG problems have been:

1. How do we get a cat unstuck from a tree?
2. How do we get Whyatt’s baby sister to stop crying?
3. What should Red have done instead of just taking Peter’s pickled peppers?

Etc.

Relation and relevancy to my own life? I am crafting an e-mail to PBS to see if they can sequester the Super Readers solve this SUPER BIG PROBLEM with their varying skills:

How can Kate get a teaching job? Or any job?

Yes. If you find the glittery red Super Letters to solve that puzzle, please… help me out.

Otherwise, I am destined to mornings watching Super Why! with Eli. Forever.

Help?


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immensity

Immensity –> vastness, enormous extent; immeasurable, boundless.

I don’t know how I could come out of this unchanged — don’t ever believe someone who says that you can’t make a difference in two months. I’ve seen evidence of this, I carry it as truth. It also scares the hell out of me.

Ever feel like you’re playing witness to a situation or life from the outside? That’s the only way I can describe this confusing, can’t-quite-place-it, where am I, feeling of today: like I just spent two months as an outsider looking in on my own experience that I am now trying to comment on.

Really? Did that all just happen? The extreme is a bit audacious — one minute there are 93 students depending on me, the next morning there are none. It’s a fragile, life altering thing — teaching.

From day one, I felt set up for failure. There were stumbling blocks in my path coming every which way. Some I shared, and some I tucked into the crevasses of my heart — embarrassed and humbled and terrified that I just may not be able to do this. My first practicum was easy in comparison. I knew for months in advance what I was teaching, where I was going, how to work the photocopier, how to log onto the computers. This time? I knew for two weeks what I was teaching and did not have a computer log on until the second month. I felt like a yard sale on the first day, I simply had to trust that things would work out how they were supposed to — it’s the only thing I could semi-control.

But, like anything new, I learned more than I anticipated and was challenged the whole way through. I learned that what I cannot tolerate, I REALLY cannot tolerate… and thus, once in awhile heard a booming, stern voice coming from me even though I couldn’t recognize where the passion came from… this shocked me, and found me in the bathroom on a couple of occasions with tears! I didn’t know what I couldn’t handle until there I was, trying to handle it! Bullying each other and talking while others were speaking were the biggest ones — I felt my shoulders and neck muscles seizing every time one of my students was belittled, degraded, or ignored by his own peer. That is totally lost on me — how could they dare treat one another like that? The coolest part of my practicum was seeing this dissipate as my lack of tolerance for this behaviour and their trust in me made it okay to stop being cruel; to stop talking out of turn. There were good days and bad days but it was pretty powerful to witness progress…both academically and socially. Those kids were getting it and suddenly, the responsibility for themselves and eachother was quietly becoming their own.

Ask anyone and they’ll say they were blessed with the coolest kids. I would argue mine were better. 🙂 The demographic where I was opened my eyes to a truth that I’ve long since ignored — not everyone has parents like mine or families or homes or simple love. Slowly, but deliberately, my cozy haven of a world unraveled as I guided my classes into a collaborative, safe environment where they could share their truths — and some of those were really difficult to hear. I thrive on human connection and the weeks passed by with me not being able to leave the classroom at lunch because kids were forever stopping in to share. I wouldn’t say I am the most gifted teacher, I would argue anyone that would say I am any good… but I think my gifting and heart made the connections easy to form, yet how in the world do I walk away from them? Or do it, authentically, over and over again?

English was easy, social studies was hard. My teacher mentor for social studies fell ill and was unable to mentor me so I was teaching social studies 11 on my own, no guidance or insights into whether I was doing it “right” or not. It was an awkward, unfulfilled challenge — I felt like I was failing all over the place with no one to step in an catch me when I needed it. But someone trusted me and somehow, that was justified as ability. I couldn’t do it, could I? Immense.

Something else that mattered more that I thought it would was that I was not alone. My first practicum, as the only student teacher out there, my world felt so huge and full but some days were difficult to be motivated and confident in my ideas or concerns because I had no one to share them with. When I found out that Scott and I were placed at the same school, I think a few high fives were exchanged. Yet as the weeks progressed this fall, the privilege of teaching out there went beyond the kids and my practice but going through it with a good friend. I felt unworthy of the support, the drives along that windy road were shorter and shorter as having someone to share the experience with became a lifeline. It was hard and challenging…but I was inspired by Scott’s honesty and perseverance, especially when I felt like emotion and exhaustion were getting the better of me. I’m just glad it was him. Period. It was simply a privilege, having someone else to talk to, to listen to, to look forward to, who knew when things weren’t right, to care and share lunch with and remind me of my own truths when it all seemed to be too much; when it felt like I really was this outsider playing witness to something immense.

And then, having the rest of those I care about so close — it was really nice to teach “alongside” some of my favourite pre-service teachers…not in the same school, but being in the same city this time made hugs and conversations and Saturday morning visits and Friday nights to connect become a real dependency to know that everything would be okay. ‘Cause sometimes? It really felt like it wasn’t.

I am not quite sure what else I feel. I want that perfect song or right poem or rich cup of coffee that I can use to be a stand-in, something tangible, for an experience I have yet to grasp or really understand. All that I am sure of is that I am playing a role in something much, much bigger than myself and that in itself adds an element of grace to my life.

Feeling? Blessed. Tired. Exhausted. Sick. Thrilled. Inspired. Inferior. Old. Worthy. Unworthy. Stretched. Unsure. Able. Overwhelmed.

Grateful. I am feeling grateful. I learned so much. 2 months made a difference; all the difference in the world.

 

 

I am a teacher now. The immensity of that statement does little to understate my experience. It’s kinda cool though.

 

What now? “Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” ~Gilda Radner

 

Cheers.