traffic, tomatoes and time…

A sure sign of summer in Alberta is the masses of people loading into the cars, trucks and suv’s hauling trailers of every size and shape.  They take to the highways looking for rest and relaxation in the nesting areas of National and Provincial Parks as well as every nook and cranny of available, rent-able, tent pitch-able space!

I however am just fine with pouring myself a coffee from the convenience of my kitchen, topping it off with Baileys and walking through my patio doors to the oasis I continue to create with my hubby.  Every weekend is a stay-cation for me.  Hubby on the other hand itches until Sunday every week to careen himself down a mountain on his bike! (mountain bikers…all addicted to adrenaline)

Ok, so it seems a little weird to be doing it every weekend.  Hanging out in my garden that is! lol  But I enjoy puttering, watering deadheading and entertaining in the garden.

This past weekend was no different!  My sister came into town with goodies under her arm from her trip driving across the prairies from Winterpeg!  With a couple of purposeful stops – one being the greenhouses in Redcliffe just outside of Medicine Hat to purchase cukes and tomatoes picked right from the vine.  Now most people wouldn’t get excited about produce, but then, you already know I’m a little “off” when it comes to food! ha ha.

The lovely thing is that its just something that my family has done since I was a little girl.  You see my great grandparents used to live in Medicine Hat.  We used to stop for a visit on our way to spend time on my grandparent’s farm in Saskatchewan.  On these frequent visits we would go to the greenhouses and stop for tomatoes and cukes.  The english ones are amazing when they are this fresh – the skins are so thin and the flesh is so juicy…mmm I can almost smell the vines growing.

Sometimes, in the fall, we would stop to buy hungarian hot peppers that my mum would make into the most delicious dish that only the brave could eat ….so hot!  You’d have to have a slice of bread and a glass of milk…just in case she threw in a few extra hot ones when no-one was looking.  There was a little old Russian woman in Medicine Hat that was hunched over and was always wearing a baboushka, an apron and funny little leggings under her skirts that we would visit at her home garden in her backyard.  I couldn’t tell you her name but the experience was always amazing. This gal always had a huge smile spread across her face, her eyes were beady but soft and inviting, but her wrinkles are what stands out the most.  You could tell that she had already worked so hard in her life…  Medicine Hat is known for its heat and rattlesnakes but this gal had her whole lot planted in hot peppers.  She had an old scale and paper bags to pack your purchases in (most of them were recycled and reused!) and we used to argue who was going to carry them to the car.  I’m sure my mum could hardly wait to head back to Calgary with three kids cranky in the back seat asking if we’re there yet!  So when my sister came to the door carrying her paper bag with goodies, you now know how special the contents of a simple cucumber and 3 little tomatoes could mean to me.  Sometimes life just surprises you with the most pleasant things.

So for dinner we sliced the fresh cucumber as thin as paper, salted it slightly and set it aside to sweat while we made the rest of our dinner.  I kinda threw it together … consisted of a pork tenderloin that was “opened” to about an 1/4 of an inch thick, pounded flat and stuffed with a tabouli salad (made with the tomatoes that Kiera brought and fresh parsley & mint from the garden) and tied shut with cotton string.  Sprinkled liberally with a Montreal steak spice rub and grilled for about 10 minutes on medium high.  Once the pork was resting I put a big doll-up of sour cream on the cukes, stirred them (and stole a bunch before they went to the table).  Roasted potatoes, ceasar salad, pan fried white pudding, and 3 kinds of homemade pickles rounded out the table for a quick and dirty bbq on the fly.

It was great to spend time with my little sister – the visits never seems to be long enough…sometimes I wish I could go back in time so we could enjoy the time we had together – better.   Damn, I guess its true what they say about being in your 40′s then… that enlightenment only happens when you mature… huh.

Speaking of maturity….I finally planted my tomatoes this week!  Hope the maturity dates on 6 varieties of heirlooms hit their mark….the crazy tomato lady (aka me) will prevail.  Note to my good friend Neena – I only put in 6 tomatoes!  And I promise never to plant 60 tomato plants ever again – lesson learned! lol

So here is to a fabulous week of planting in Calgary – hope you all enjoy what the weather has to offer. I challenge everyone to come up with a childhood memory that makes you giggle and share it with me however short, long or funny – I’d love if you would share them!

Sami

Mothers day is on its way…gift ideas for those husbands that are stumped!

This is the time to be spring cleaning the yard.  Giving all the plants that are springing up room, cultivating the soil, and moving any babies that have germinated over the winter are some of my favorite things to do.  I am delighted every year and it never gets old.  I don’t know why I am always so surprised when things come back or when newly planted seeds actually germinate in the garden but I always am.  Its just a lovely time to feel invigorated by all the extra oxygen in my oasis!

On the note of fresh starts in the yard…I was asked by a subscriber to give some suggestions to all the hubbies out there that don’t know what to get their outdoorsy, yummy mummies for their special day.  I thought I’d give you a good giggle of some of the things on my list and hopefully there is something that may inspire! (a good place to start is at least coffee and the newspaper in bed….maybe breakfast or brunch…just sayin’)

  1. A lovely compost pail, composter and turning tool for all those out there that don’t already use one…cause you already know how much i love makin’ dirt!
  2. A good life time quality metal dust pan from Lee Valley
  3. Plant stakes and supports from Amazon Iron
  4. A garden bench (even more points if hubby makes it!)
  5. Outdoor rug for under the patio table
  6. New cushions for the table and chairs
  7. Plastic table wear to match the new cushions
  8. Hurricane lanterns of every size and shape
  9. An ice bucket, martini shaker, olives and onions
  10. and….. yummy gin to go with all the above!

Of course the best thing to go with all of this would be a fresh grilled fruit salsa (my fav is pineapple!)  2 cups grilled fruit (seasoned with sea salt and cracked pepper – grilled until carmelized, cooled and chopped), 1/2 red onion chopped fine, 1 jalepeno pepper chopped fine, 1/2 bunch chopped cilantro, juice of 1 lime, salt and sugar to taste.  Mix, serve and enjoy with corn chips or as a side for grilled pork!  Or try other combinations like mango and salmon, watermelon/pear combination with chicken…..don’t be intimidated, play!  Its fun!

 

Have a spectacular Mother’s Day to all my yummy mummy followers, friends and families!

 

 

Balance, lost socks and the power of song

During our last snowstorm, I found myself thinking of balance.  This is a large topic in my household as well as many of my followers; one certainly worthy of discussion.  It requires a constant source of energy and enthusiasm  (to quote a good friend Cindy Nillson when talking about the success of reaching a good balance… ok, she was describing me….but that is what it takes!)

I deal with visual balance daily working in the studio – there has to be balance in the composition, colour, appeal to a wide audience, as well as the message intended.  Each has to have equal weight and consideration. To pay more attention to one would end in disaster, or at the least, an unsuccessful piece…it would never leave the studio!  However, forcing balance is another issue!

When I try to find balance it tends to be illusive….much like the sock that went into the dryer and mysteriously disappeared.  When routines are found, whether they be internal or external – balance usually shows up!  But seriously, it requires commitment and perseverance to be able to find that sock….you have to recognize it and make space for it. Sometimes its really hard to slow down enough to see it.  But with skill, that fruitful harvest sometimes shows itself in the most unlikely places.

I have been singing four part a cappella for about 13 years in three different chorus’ in BC and Alberta.  I have been with Rhythm of the Rockies for the past 10 years and this group has given me the freedom to be who I am.  These women have allowed me to grow through their ongoing guidance as well as providing proven friendships that will last a lifetime. This past month we had the opportunity to be coached by an amazing choreographer/director/singer by the name of Lisa Greenough. She worked us hard for an 8 hour session, breaking barriers with the theatrical aspects of performing, making us go farther in play than many of us were comfortable.  The end result was a performance that included expression of face and body integrated with our vocal expressions. This experience once again spoke about balancing without stating it at all. The elusive balance!  With a little bit of song, a lot of dancing and a whole lot of laughter I found another match – this sock I admit had a few sparkles on it! (Rhythm of the Rockies is a Sweet Adelines Chorus after all)  I truly love the time I spend with these women – they symbolize a huge piece in the puzzle of my life.

I also sing with 3 other amazing women in a quartet called Viva!   We had the opportunity to be coached by the Vancouver based Singer/Director/Vocal Coach/Writer/Speech Pathologist, Kari Metzger.  A wonderful friend and fellow singer, Eileen DeFreitas, offered us the use of her gorgeous cabin tucked away on the shores of Sylvan Lake to use for our coaching sessions.  Not only was the cabin warm, inviting and restful but our hostess prepared meals and provided the most delicious working environment we could imagine. Eileen prepared the most delicious appetizer late Saturday afternoon as we sipped on Martini’s.   A blue cheese and pear crostini that was perfection!

Allowing for the changes required to shake off our busy weeks, we dove into our songs with the intent to gain a plan for competing in our regional competition for the first time this May.   The elusive balance was found Saturday – 4 pretty socks all with their own patterns, sizes, colour and expression becoming folded together to create a rich developed unit.  Kari’s abilities are astounding. Her cross training provided us with a balance we could never have achieved without her coaching.  Our new mantra: Own it! Love it! Viva!

Here’s a few of the recipes we enjoyed on our weekend!

Eileen’s Blue Cheese and Pear Crostini150g of soft blue cheese crumbled, 2 T. butter, 1 ripe pear thinly sliced , 2 T. bristol cream sherry, 1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts 16 x 1/2″ slices baguette.  Bring cheese and butter to room temperature (30 minute).  Mash with fork until smooth.  Stir in brandy and walnuts into cheese mixture.  Place baguette slices on cookie sheet.  Toast one side under broiler.  Turn and place slice of pear on un-toasted side.  Top pear with teaspoonful of cheese mixture.  Broil 4-5 inches from heat for about 2 minutes or until cheese melts and is bubbly.  Serves 8 (or 6 hungry singers!)

Sami’s Tibetan Barley and Bean Soup…..(adapted from the Green Door Restaurant’s in Ottawa, ON) served Friday Night at our Viva! retreat with fresh rolls, goat cheese and a lovely malbec!  Start with 1 t. each tumeric, cumin, garam marsala, and ground cardamom browned in 2 T. Coconut oil for approximately 5 minutes in a large soup pot.  Then add: 1 diced onion, 4 cloves minced garlic, 4 T of grated ginger, 2 ribs diced celery, 1 finely chopped  leek, 1 large grated potato, 1 seeded diced tomato, 1 can rinsed organic black beans, 1 can rinsed organic white kidney beans, 1 cup rinsed and cooked barley, 7 L homemade chicken stock, 4 bay leaves and 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice.  Allow to simmer for at least 3 hours to allow for flavors to blend.  Serve with freshly chopped cilantro and a wedge of lime. oh and lots of wine!

Both Rhythm of the Rockies and Viva! (and the chorus’s 4 other quartets) will be performing for our friends and family on April 24 at 8 pm at the Performing Arts Youth Centre at 1371 Hastings Crescent SE.  Come and see what we’ve been preparing for the past 4 months – one of the only opportunities to see us live for free!  …………there will be goodies!!!

marshmallow frosting..yum

Our Regional Competition is here in Calgary at the Telus Convention Centre May 3 – 6, 2012.  The Quartet Competition is Friday Night (6pm) doors open at 530 pm and tickets are available at the door for $25. Come and cheer on both Viva! and Zen quartets!  The Chorus Competition is Saturday (12pm) and tickets are again available at the door for $25.  Hope you can all join us for the performances.

 

If you’d like further information, please drop me a line!

Also a little plug for all the photos….thanks to Martine Ladner-Zech

Have great week everyone

I wannta…I needta…I gotta…

So spring in Calgary is a little slow to show…but what else is new in our lovely city!  The birds are a chirpin, changing their song to say, is winter finally over?  Bring on the nesting!  I have been feeling kinda nesty myself.  I love spending days cooking or planning my garden with a cat on my lap like the next girl but now I have to admit I am getting anxious to get out there.  Its like exfoliating, you gotta scrub the winter off the patios, steps, lawns and gardens.  There is nothing I like more than checking out my tools for the year, seeing what I can put on my birthday list or better yet… a mother’s day suggestion!  Who needs jewellery or trips? Not me, I’d rather something I can use and enjoy non stop.  Like a good shovel to dig with!

Last year my loving husband and daughter were very thoughtful and purchased the most delightful gift for my birthday!  A compost pail…ok, I admit, that not every wife or mom has this on the top of their list but they are not me.  I love my new pail. I think it looks sexy on my counter. I would love it more if they had decided to give with it the task of always emptying it throughout the winter though!  Ha…oh well, I think I lasted longer composting into the winter than I ever had in 20 years.   After being tossed to the back step sometime in February as it was too full to add one more apple peel, the pail eventually made it back into the house only after it thawed out….here’s to better luck next winter on that one.

I have many Primroses (lavender and yellow) popping up throughout the gardens as well as my Bergenia is now starting to stand up for attention.  My tulips are now about 4 inches high in my south facing beds.  I guess I no longer have any excuse for still having pots of winter greens still beautifying the front entrance huh?  That is going to be number one on my list to do out in the yard this weekend.  That and picking up all the winter blow in on my lawn.  It always amazes me how much garbage ends up on my lot every year.  I live in Canada – so I expect a timmy’s cup or two, but this year I picked up timmy’s wrappers, cups and even a few lids all on their own.  Who knew the neighborhood drinks that much coffee!

I have needed more coffee than ever to get me started in the mornings.  I believe that its due to the daylight savings depriving me of 1 hour this spring.  Between work, family, rehearsing twice a week, my studio practice, and the odd load of laundry that I am not so chipper these past weeks in the mornings.  Its a good thing there is always good coffee in the house.  My husbands mantra for at least 15 years has been:

  1. To be in love (check)
  2. To ride his bike (check)
  3. To drink good coffee (must be great to only 3 require things in life!)

 

……I’m still trying to figure my mantra out…..sing more, sleep more, garden more and snore less! (just doesn’t have the same ring to it as Doug’s)….have to keep working on that one.

Anyway, I’m glad that spring is about to ‘sprung’ and that the days are getting longer (gives me more daylight to get things done in the garden at the end of a day.  With seedlings lined up on the sill, seeds purchased and the hopes for gorgeous planters, I can hardly wait for our 2 weeks of spring!

This past week I worked on many new recipes for my extended families.  I went through 4 Hutterite chickens (I swear that they are actually small turkeys by the sheer size of them), 1lb of ground beef, 1 lb of Italian Sausage, 2 lbs of bacon, 1lb of Ham, 5 lbs of onions, 5 lbs of carrots, enough canned goods to fill a banana box with recycles, 2 boxes of pasta and 2 crispers full of greens.  The results?  17 new recipes!  The menu consisted of:

  • Beet and Sausage Soup
  • Bonnie’s Best Hamburger Soup
  • Grama Rose’s Beef Stew
  • Italian Chicken, Sausage and Bacon Pasta Bake
  • Spicy Glazed Asian Chicken Legs
  • Chicken Rueben Dinner
  • Chicken Enchiladas
  • Stuffed Mexican Chicken Breasts
  • Artichoke Chicken Breasts
  • Japanese Chicken Wings
  • Chicken Parmesan
  • Cream of 7 (Mushroom) Soup
  • Omelettes to go (lined muffin tins for my on the go family woot!)
  • Broccoli and Tortellini Soup
  • Apple and Lentil Muffins
  • 2 hour buns
  • Sweet Potato Hummous
  • plus copious amounts of chicken stock made for another date!

My favorite has to be the Sweet Potato

Hummous…In a food processor add the following except the olive oil…drizzle through the opening until desired texture has been achieved!

 

  • 1 large roasted sweet potato
  • 1/4 c. tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 2 T. olive oil (or more if needed)
  • 2 garlic gloves
  • 1/2 t. cumin
  • 1/4 t. paprika
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 t. orange zest
  • 1 T. maple syrup
  • salt and pepper to taste

    before.....

    during....

    after....pure gold

I’d like to take a moment to thank my lovely daughter for always taking such gorgeous shots for my website….couldn’t do it without her!  She has been known to get up at the crack of dawn to chase the light with her camera….

Here’s to a wonderful day!  Hope yours turns out just the way it should!

Sami

Crabapple jam, clean ups and cocktails….

You know that spring has begun in Calgary when the dirt warms by mid day to offer its earthy smell, when the air is charged with warm air and the birds start to get their busy on before the sun rises.  People are out in their yards, cleaning out garbage that has blown in, raking the leaves they left too long in the fall that have now become uncovered and seeds are being planted and set in sunny windows all over the city. I’m looking forward to implementing my many projects this year for my own evolving outdoor space.

Recently we took on replacing a very rundown chain link fence with a very private wood fence that I lovingly painted a yellowy green color which I think some of my neighbors didn’t particularily like as it isn’t like anything else on the block…and the fact that I’ve paired it with a vibrant blue.  There is also a luscious chocolate mixed in there, but I think they believe I’m a little wacky.  Regardless, I know have a fabulous back drop for my garden as well as a fully private yard.  We have in the middle of this new fence line a magnificent crabapple tree that has a tree house built on a daddy/daughter weekend that is the crowning focus of the yard.

For the past 15 years, in all the places we’ve lived, we have had crabapple trees in the yards.  Which translates to gorgeous blooms, birds, and apples.  I have always made jellies, syrups, ice cream toppings and jam, and more jam and more jam.  In the fall, there are always more apples than we’ve known what to do with but rake them and compost them.  Many of you are familiar with my Crabtini’s and have sipped on them in my gardens in the fall – enjoying the last little bit of time in the gardens.  I’ve shared many a recipe (and buckets of apples) to any takers to this bountiful harvest.  This past season provided us with an interesting outcome to our crab story and the end result is a jam situation worth sharing!

My 2011 jam recipe called for a bumper crop of apples – many of which were left on the tree for the birds this winter. Next remove all unwanted fruit from the ground and compost.  Mix 3 days of -30° weather followed by 120 mile an hour wind storm and your end result is haphazardly smeared crabapple jam bombs over 75% of my new fence.  Seriously, as I write this I am fully aware that my neighbors now look at my fence, shake their heads and equate it to a zombie war battle.  As I look at the mess, I am beginning to think that repainting the fence may be required.  I’m thinking that a good colour swatch to take to my local paint store just might be a dried crabapple bomb.  I wonder how it will go with the blue and chocolate?  hmmm…

With clean ups being scheduled by many a homeowner, I again look to my lovely tree.  In order to keep the treehouse as a destination I prune the inner branches every year as well as anything that is growing straight up or too far out.  But I don’t bundle these sticks up for pick up for the landfill.  Nope.  I go through them all, careful to choose only straight green wood.  Using a set of clippers I mash the woody ends, bring them into the house and place them in a weighted vase filled with lightly sugared water and wait patiently for Easter to arrive!  These branches provide a welcome surprize when they bloom in the house!  We all know living in Calgary during March, April, May that as far as spring goes…always expect 5-7 more major dumps of snow…which doesn’t seem to matter when you have branches blooming on the dining room table.

 

The anticipation of the outdoor living continually inspires the paintings on the wall in the studio…many commissions are being completed currently and I am pleased to say that sales are continuing to go well and the comments and feedback you have all been providing have been inspirational and welcomed.  My studio sale continues with new pieces being added weekly.  Upcoming installations include Kayak and Silverheart Jewellery Works.  Both of which are amazing companies if anyone wants to check them out.

Here are my recipes for the week…hope you enjoy and that you enjoy all that the week has to offer!

Crabapple Jelly

Cook and juice 10lb of crabapples

never stir or press as you want clean clear juice.

3 cups fresh crabapple juice

4 cups ganulated sugar

1 pouch liquid pectin

Combine juice and sugar in a large saucepan.  Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.  Immediately stir in liquid pectin, return to a full boli..  Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add a pinch of butter and skim off any foam.  Pour quickly into warm, sterilized jars filling up to 1/4 inch from rim.  Seal while hot with sterilized 2 piece lids with new centers.  Let stand at room temperature until set.  Makes 4 cups.

Granted, after doing all that you will have juice left!  Make this syrup recipe with any left over fruit juice for a fabulous cocktail syrup.  It can be jarred to store but easily frozen for all of us with big freezers and no time to can.

Sami’s Crab Cocktail Syrup

1 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

Boil over high heat until reduced to 1 cup.  Add 1 cup fresh crabapple juice, bring to a boil, jar using sterilized new jars and lids or freeze for use in the ultimate reward for all your mess in the kitchen!

Sami’s Crabtini’s

Build in a  martinin shaker but dont shake!  Stir!

Ice – 5 cubes

1 oz Gin

1 oz Triple Sec

1 oz Crab Syrup

splash of soda

Strain into martini glass, top with wedge of lime and enjoy!

 

ps…another reason I know spring is here is Dog poop scooping company ads seem to be on every radio station in the mornings!

Collections: studio and kitchen

studio collection

studio collection

I have been a collector of things since I was a child.  They weren’t things most kids start collecting.  My friends all had their things they accumulated from figurines to stamps, stickers or spoons.  My sister collected Enyd Blyton books from the time she read her first.  My brother coveted his hockey cards.  I always stuck my little things away.  Little notes on paper, drawings, tickets, stones, shells or things I would find on a trip, always found their places tucked away.  I do this so that when I am searching for something I usually end up coming across a little collection in the process. I find them in cookbooks, boxes, drawers and basically anywhere I can “hide” it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about huge amounts of stuff nor is anything bigger than what could fit in my fingers.

I love the concept of searching and finding.  I grew up here in Calgary on a working class street where there were dozens of kids that had the run of their community.  We were good kids.  We made due with what we had.  And I’m not that old!!!  There was a game at the playground that we would play called dropped it got it. We played it on the merry-go-round, someone would find a stick or a stone, lay on their bellies, someone would spin the bars and we would all try to catch the prize before we whizzed by.  If you picked it up you’d yell got it.  When you were ready you would yell “dropped it” and everyone would squeal trying to be the one who got to yell “got it” next.  We played for hours, days and what felt like years.  I suppose I have never stopped playing that game.

Inspiration

The images I create in the studio are products of these collections of seeds, pods, leaves, twigs.  All finding their way into my pieces to interact with the light in the gardens.  These collections find themselves lining the walls and shelves in my studio.  I pull them out, draw them, work them into pieces and put them away again.  All in their own little spaces.

Commission for Maggie Tattrie

Commission for Maggie Tattrie (2011, oil on canvas, 24" x 48")

 

my current fish heads!

I have to laugh at the connection to the kitchen and the collections I have there.  Most people would think immediately that I mean my gadgets or appliances.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my Kitchen Aid Mixer but I’m talking about my collection in the freezer compartment of my kitchen fridge.  My husband delights in singing the song performed by Barnes & Barnes (circa 1978) called “Fish Heads” to describe my collections!

“Fish heads fish heads, Roly poly fish heads, Fish heads fish heads, Eat them up yum”

Ok, so it sounds really weird, and no, I didn’t make him eat the fish heads… so here’s the story.  When we were first married (almost 20 years ago) my husband was rooting around in the freezer looking for something to cook for dinner.  He grabbed a bag and asked “what’s this?” Of course I answered fish heads as the bag held the bones of the salmon we had eaten earlier in the week.  He sang his rendition of “fish heads” and asked why we had fish heads in the freezer.  I simply replied, that that was why my clam chowder is so good!  I was always taught that waste not want not.  So, with our budget being so lean, I learned to make due with what we could afford, hense the fish heads.   Since that day, my hubby has always described my collection of containers of leftover wine, bags of stock makings, nuts, pastes, stocks, gravies and other gems ‘fish heads’. I have shared this concept of never throw out anything that could bring flavor to something basic with many of my friends and colleagues.  They too have embraced the ‘fish head’ concept, collecting the funny bags and containers in their freezers and providing nourishment with flavor!

I spent the last two days working on 14 new recipes.  Some still need tweaking (some won’t make the grade) but two that ended up being worthy to add to my cookbook file: a very flavourful Jambalaya and thick and rich Manhattan Style Clam Chowder.  I tried all 14 out on my willing family tonight for dinner and as diverse as the recipes were, a mixed grill if you will, everyone was satisified and enjoyed the food.  All of the recipes are meant to be frozen and easily heated – easy for my ‘on the go’ family as well as my aging in-laws. The recipes all had one thing in common.  They all required stock of some sort.  Chicken, beef, vegetable and fish.  I thought I’d share my basic stock recipe with you.  Feel free to give it life, change its flavor or reduce it down.  Either way, stock is the foundation of my kitchen, the way my collections of bits and bobs in the studio provide me with direction.

I would like to thank everyone who has commented, become a subscriber and to all of you who have emailed me your kind words and support.  I would love to hear your comments or suggestions about upcoming blog topics!  Drop me a line, make it public through a comment or just subscribe if you want to keep up with new posts.

Here’s to foundations – and a great day!

Sami

Sami’s Basic Stock Recipe

3 stalks celery

2 carrots

2 onions

2 cloves garlic

10 stems parsley

2 sprigs thyme

handful of whole pepercorns

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup dry white wine

12 cups of water

 

 

 

 

Studio Sale, Simmering Pots and Sundays with Family

I have had a lot of inquiries regarding what I have been doing these past few weeks!  To be honest I’ve been looking for work and reflecting in the studio; painting, writing and cooking for my extended family.

I find myself at the point of winter turning to spring in so many ways regarding my life and am looking forward to the blooms – I know they are coming!  Robins have been very busy in my crab apple tree in the back yard and the sun is getting higher in the sky.

I have a very large extended family that frequents my humble kitchen usually on Sundays.  I have the pleasure of sharing that prep time with my mother in law.  Once said, it sounds like afternoons filled with memories, warmth and comfort food.  However, my mother-in-law suffers from dementia.  These Sunday afternoons are filled with laughter and sharing in the living room as my husband and his father get the much needed relax time after a hectic and exhausting work week.  For me, I usually leave all the preparation of the meal until they arrive at mid afternoon but have a pretty good idea of what my mother-in-law and I will be up to.  Everything we cook we usually eat that evening however, I have been trying to make everything in large portions so they get to take home leftovers.

We decided to try a roasted sweet potato and carrot soup (see below for recipe) that had even a “not bad” label from my pickiest of eaters!  Throughout the day, while chopping or chatting, I waited for the moments that remind me of the woman she has always been to me.  A teacher, a gardener, an excellent homemaker and a true friend – all she has been to me.  This kind of Sunday is the best.

I want to thank everyone for all the wonderful comments over the past few weeks – they have brought sunshine where there was only grey snow filled skies.  I encourage the comments and wish I could respond to them all.

I have a large inventory of paintings from the past year that are now currently 15% off my regular studio price.  The work is all based on time spent in gardens in and around Calgary… including my own…and I hope you enjoy them.  If you are interested in any of the pieces, or just can’t live without purchasing one….please feel free to contact me via email any time!

 

10" x 10"

Shift.XXII; 10" x 10"; oil on canvas; $350

 

Shift.XXVII; 12" x 12"; oil on canvas; $425

Shift.XXVI; 20" x 24"; oil on canvas; $775

Shift.XXIV; 36" x 24"; oil on canvas; $1060

Shift.XXXVI; 2011; 23" x 37"; oil on canvas $1065Shift XXI; 12" x 12", 2011, oil on canvas, $425

Roasted Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup

1 medium sweet potato and 2 peeled carrots chopped into 1″ pieces; tossed in 1 T oil with salt and pepper.  Roast in an open pan for 25 minutes on 350*. Meanwhile in stockpot in 2 T. oil, cook slowly until transluscent 1 chopped onion, 3 chopped garlic cloves and 1 T. grated ginger.  Add the roasted veggies.  Add 6 cups chicken stock and 1 t. red curry paste.  Simmer 30 minutes.  Blend with immersion blender or in small batches in food processor/blender.  Add 1/2 cup cream, stir and serve!

 

Warmth on a bitterly cold day….

From the beginning of the day, the warmth caught me off guard.

I had the opportunity to participate in something wonderful  yesterday – I cooked at a ‘community kitchen’. I have done this now off and on over the past 15 years or so as my family required it. It’s a program run through the Calgary Community Kitchen (which has sooo many programs I can’t count) which gives attendees a hand up not a hand out. My mum has been a coordinator of one of these kitchens for years and enjoys sharing her expertise, support and passion regarding good food for all.

This particular kitchen is blocks from my home. It also represents home to me in other ways. I was brought up in a family that was matriarchal in nature and she who was in charge ruled the kitchen.  My grandmother taught me at a very early age that everything and anything could happen when you had good food on the table.  Now don’t get me wrong, she didn’t have a large budget but she made even the cheapest food seem decadent.  I had the chance to learn how to converse in a kitchen.  History was laid out for me as I learned how to roll egg noodles from scratch.  Stories woven came to be the chicken soup I craved.  Traditions and confidence live on in me through my kitchen experiences.  And I long to share them at every opportunity.

The women yesterday gave me a dose of elder love I seemed to have been craving.  Not only that but my freezer is now full of fully cooked meals ready for my family to reheat!  What a great opportunity.  Wholesome, yummy and made within a tight-knit group of women.  Loved it.

As my day progressed….after eating copious amounts of my mothers mac and cheese, and all the leftovers of roasted chicken bits, squeezing in  a meeting delivering a finished painting to a client, I found myself with a cup of tea in the studio.

I have been working on a commission since late fall for a couple to whom I have had the pleasure of knowing for the past 7 years or so.  To be honest, I worked in their gardens doing maintenance, designing and planting and playing like it were my own garden.  I was delighted when they commissioned a painting representing that garden out in the hills beyond Cochrane to hang in their Calgary Condo.  It is a large painting consisting of two panels; one depicting a hot summers day on the tiered gardens with their prize Delphiniums, the other is of their shade garden during an aurora borealis display…something that is quite common on their property.

Here is a small detail of the piece…

detail of a recent commission

I have found with this piece that once again, I have broken barriers  and a new body of work is emerging.  I am gaining momentum on other commissions and have committed to a number of new pieces.  SO MUCH FUN.

Then last night!  What a day, I raced to a Viva! a cappella quartet rehearsal and sang all evening preparing for a performance on Saturday for the Japanese New Year Celebrations here in Calgary.  We will be unveiling a new song for this performance that was arranged by our very own Yuko Yoneyama!  After sharing a bottle of wine, homemade walnut and blue cheese crackers, and a cold car ride home I found myself curled up in my warm bed ready to let go of the day….

Thanks to my extended community…you make my days fly!

Cheers to 2012!

I am so tickled to be able to launch my new site complete with Blog!  I am finally doing what most have been doing for years.  So bear with me as I get familiar with the tools!  First of all I’d like to thank my good friend Forrest for his continued support of my website and my career…we all know that it takes a community to succeed.

Watch for new posts regarding all things Sami: whats new in the studio, gardens, on my table and when and where Viva! is singing next!

Cheers! Sami