Saturday, September 2, 2017

We're Finished!

After years of appointments, tests, and procedures at both the Stollery and Children's Hospitals, we made what will hopefully be our last trip EVER to the Children's Hospital this week where after a brief appointment, my 9 year old was discharged from the care of her Pediatric Gastroenterologist. She is following her curves on the growth charts. Just over the 50th percentile for height and finally moved up just a hair above the 10th percentile for weight. It would appear from her last two blood tests that she has outgrown her IgA deficiency (a genetic immunodeficiency which she has had since birth) but unfortunately he identified another benign genetic condition, Gilbert's Syndrome, also known as constitutional hepatic dysfunction and familial nonhemolytic jaundice, which explains how yellow she is sometimes. It could also be the cause of some of her stomach pain.

I can't stress two things enough: how thankful I am for all the specialized, free care she has received over the years. Yes, I know, I pay taxes. But honestly I think what we've paid just covers what we've used. And we never had to produce big chunks of it at once or pay co-pays or give a second thought to whether we could afford to take her to the doctor or not. It has not bankrupt us as a family. What a wonderful country we live in that values the right of everyone to receive healthcare, regardless of their ability to pay. We cannot take that for granted and must be ever vigilant in protecting the erosion of our Universal Healthcare system.

Secondly I'm so thankful for all those healthcare professionals that made it possible for my sweet little child to be sitting happily at the computer and singing while she plays Minecraft this morning. The doctors, from general practitioners, to pediatritions, to her two excellent pediatric gastroenterologists. The nurses and anesthesiologists from her gastroscopies. Clinic nurses, pediatric dieticians, occupational therapists, lab technicians, radiologists. This doesn't even include those essential but overlooked people such as porters, cleaners and medical equipment cleaners. The list could go on and on.

All this for the price of parking.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Best Banana Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting Recipe

This is the most frequently requested cake at our house. If you are making it as muffins, keep the oven at the same temperature and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes. Remember that the darker the pan, the faster it bakes.

¾ cup soft butter
1.5 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cups sour cream

Cream together butter and sugar then add eggs. Add vanilla and banana, then dry ingredients and sour cream. Blend. Pour into buttered 9x13 glass pan.  Bake at 325° for 35-40 minutes. Cool completely before icing.

½ cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup milk
2 cups icing sugar

Melt butter in pan and add brown sugar. Bring to a boil and lower heat to medium low and continue to boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add milk and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and beat in icing sugar until smooth. Pour over banana cake and let cool before cutting.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Best Salsa Recipe Ever

Seriously, it is. It's the perfect amount of sweet and heat.

I'm not going to bore you with the details, since you came here for the recipe, not a story or a million pictures.  I will give credit where it's due however.  I got this recipe from my husband's aunt, Becky.

Best Salsa Ever

It's a major time-saver to use a food processor for this part if you have one:

12 cups chopped roma tomatoes - packed (homegrown is best if possible)
3 cups finely chopped celery
3 lbs. finely chopped onions
750ml jar of hot banana peppers - drained & chopped finely
8-10 large cloves of garlic, minced or chopped finely
2 large green peppers - chopped finely
1 large red pepper - chopped finely
1 large yellow pepper - chopped finely

Put all the chopped vegetables in a very large bowl or bucket and sprinkle with 1/4 cup coarse pickling salt, stir to distribute evenly.  Let sit out on your counter, covered, for 5-6 hours.  Drain well. Put vegetables into a large stock pot and add:

1 cup natural vinegar (Superstore)
3/4 cup white sugar

Bring to a boil over low heat. Let simmer 45 minutes - 1.5 hours or until onions are translucent. Add 1 large can of Hunt's tomato paste (13 fl. oz or 369 ml) 1/2 hour before it's finished. Seal in hot sterile jars and process as usual. Makes approximately 9 - 500 ml jars.

Here's the bonus.  When you drain the liquid from your vegetables, just strain it into a large pot, bring to a rolling boil, and then freeze in freezer bags once it has cooled.  The vegetable juice is already perfectly seasoned, spicy and flavourful, and makes the best seasoned rice you will ever eat.  Put about 1 cup of vegetable stock per cup of rice and top up with water to the full amount of liquid needed to cook the rice.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Golden Age of Television

It's a quiet holiday morning, the kind of morning that gives you room to think about things that you don't normally have time to think about, like television shows.

I love television. Like really, unabashedly, love television.  I'm not one of those people who thinks they're too "good" for tv.  I read a lot, so I don't feel guilty about the television that I watch or how much I love it.  And I only watch it once my kids are in bed, so I'm not taking time away from them.

Every season change I sift through the networks' offerings of new shows, noting the ones that interest me and scheduling them into my PVR.  My choices vary, usually based on premise, actors or creators, with the genres leaning towards Sci-Fi and comedy, but not always.  I'll watch British dramas, but rarely American, unless they star a British actor that I like. I give promising shows three episodes to prove themselves, and if I'm not excited to watch them by the third, they get dropped from the schedule.

Some shows I watch out of loyalty, because I've watched them from the first episode and want to see them through to their conclusion (Grey's Anatomy).  But if I feel like a show is dragging on too long, has lost it's spark, has lost it's entire original cast of characters, or has jumped the shark, I have no problem dropping it from the roster. I don't watch reality tv, game shows, daytime tv such as soaps, talkshows, etc., or surprisingly, the news. I read all my news online because I can read faster than I can watch. I do watch documentaries though, and will watch anything Anthony Bourdain.

I have a theory about the difference in the quality of television based on country of origin and networks.  Firstly you should know that the US and Britain are the two biggest exporters of pop culture and entertainment in the world.  India has an enormous entertainment industry, but doesn't seem that interested in exporting their cultural offerings.  So I will focus on only the US, Britain & Canada.

British shows typically have anywhere from 6-8 episodes in a season, which they call a "series".  Additionally, very popular shows typically include a Christmas episode, which can be a stand-alone episode or continue the storyline from the previous series as a connector to an upcoming series/season, for example, there is a great tradition of Doctor Who Christmas Episodes. But British series can be as short as 3 episodes (Sherlock).  Canadian seasons typically last for 13 episodes, and American for 22 episodes, except for specialty cable networks such as HBO, AMC, FX, Bravo, Showcase, etc. which have shorter seasons, much like Britain, with anywhere from 8-14 episodes.  I think that season length has a huge impact on quality. And Netflix has been a game changer.

Since British, Canadian, and cable shows don't require that a story line drag on for 22 episodes, they have the freedom to write tighter and more action-packed episodes.  There can be significant character development and plotline advancement in a shorter timespan, with fewer filler storylines.  I also love that many British writers & producers aren't afraid to end a show when they feel that they've told the story they wanted to tell, regardless of the popularity.  Gavin & Stacey is a good example of this. They don't keep flogging a dead horse to make more money.

I also appreciate the diversity of appearance of British television characters.  A show isn't filled with bland interchangeably pretty women and classically handsome men, but by real people, warts and all. And strangely enough, not being a supermodel doesn't seem to effect their ability to find and keep love, or live a fulfilling life within their world of make-believe.

Marionettes and Ronnie Burkett

I am figuratively the worst blogger these days. Not only do I not post very often, but I have started several posts and then not finished them. This post was started back at the end of October when Mike & I went to see Ronnie Burkett perform his Daisy Theatre marionette production at the Esplanade.

I have a strange love for marionettes which I believe stems back to a time in elementary school when a travelling theatre troupe performed a play with marionettes styled as Japanese geishas (racist? sexist? Probably, this was the early eighties.) You might remember those assemblies. A chance to get out of regular class and watch some performers, probably funded by some sort of arts grant, trying to engage restless elementary kids with their performances. That it made a life-long impression astonishes me and would probably astonish the performers as well!

It is possibly also a result of the famous Lonely Goatherd song done with marionettes on "The Sound of Music", as well as the performances in the movie "Being John Malkovich".

Whatever the original influence, I love them.

I had gone to Calgary over a decade ago to see Ronnie Burkett perform his play "Provenance" and although I found the content shocking and a little bit disturbing (it wasn't a comedy), I was enthralled by both his skill and stamina. And I was more than a little bewitched by his marionettes.

Over the years I had asked at the Esplanade about when they would be getting Ronnie to come and perform in Medicine Hat. A Medicine Hat performance would not be just another stop on a long countrywide tour, but a return home for Ronnie as Medicine Hat is his hometown. How amazing that this little redneck city on the Prairies could produce a world famous puppeteer!

Finally it happened.  And it was glorious.

The night that I was there Ronnie emotionally introduced his grade 1 teacher in the audience.  It was a touching and wonderful start to a lively and hilarious performance.

Afterwards, Ronnie graciously let me have a picture with him.

If you read this Ronnie, thank you for coming home to Medicine Hat - we were delighted to see you and hope you return sooner than another 30 years from now.