Wednesday, November 18, 2020

this week

 What I Saw:

Dolly Parton: Here I Am. Gosh, I love Dolly Parton and not just because she's going to save us all. Truly though, I have been a fan of Dolly's for as long as I can remember. If you ever get the chance to meet my Mom in person, she would just love to tell you the story of teeny tiny me belting out Jolene at the top of my lungs. So yes, my affection has been well documented. This documentary gave me a real appreciation for her business sense as well as her incredible song writing skills. I was surprised to learn what a trail blazer she was, she really is the whole package. It was a warm and inspirational watch. Found it on Netflix.

The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling. We were big fans of the Larry Sanders Show back in the day and I am game for just about anything Judd Apatow puts out, so this was a long overdue no-brainer. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this. I knew Apatow had a great fondness for Garry Shandling, but even still I was surprised at how moved I was by this. I'm a bit at a loss as how to explain it. It was profoundly sad, yet also hopeful. A complex story and  person, for sure. I hope somewhere along the way he was able to find some peace. Found it on Crave.

Schitt's Creek. This is the latest in the "have a laugh before bed" series with my daughter. We have almost wrapped the series and I am so sad see it go. This show is something so wonderful, it was just hysterically funny and sweet, right from the first episode. 

What I Heard:

ArmChair Expert - Expert on Experts. Jonathan Haidt, moral psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University Stern School of Business. Well this was another one that lit my brain on fire. There was so much to unpack here, from the origins of safe spaces and trigger warnings, to how to connect with someone with opposing political views to allowing our children to practice risk assessment. This episode was from the end of 2018, but still remarkably relevant today. Loved it, would listen to it again.

What I Read;

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. I wanted to live in this book! Yep, right in a playhouse in New York City in the 1940's. The protagonist is asked at the beginning of the book, What were you to my father? What follows is an answer that spans over decades. I was sucked in right from the first page. It was a fun read. A little light pick me for these early dark days.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Review - Easy Sourdough Artisan Bread

 If I am looking for a recipe the last thing I want to do is scroll for a kilometre through a million pictures (and more importantly, a million ads) before I get to the actual recipe. So I'm just not going to do that. Here's a review of a recipe I use on the regular.

Easy Sourdough Artisan Bread from An Oregon Cottage




3 cups flour
1 1/4 cups warm water
3/4 cups active starter
1 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tsp salt (I sometimes swap this for garlic salt)
You can check out the original instructions at this link, my notes and tweaks are below.
Note 1 - This recipe was given to me with my very own sourdough starter as a gift from a friend at the beginning of quarantine. I made it as directed with no complaints, but since spending some time learning and reading about sourdough I find this loaf better if you fold the dough in half... the dough is going to be very stretchy, sticky and soft, so grab the edge furthest from you and with a gentle hand stretch it up and fold it in half towards yourself. Give the bowl a quarter turn and do it again and then again and again, until you've folded and quarter turned a total of four times. I do this about every 30 minutes or so during that 3 hour window and truth be told, I'm not above letting that dough hang out on the counter for a bit longer than three hours to get another round or two of folds in.

Note 2 - I don't bother taking it out of the bowl for that final fold, I don't know if it makes a difference or not, I'm just trying to be gentle with the dough. And while you can make and eat this loaf on the same day, I feel it is better to do the first rise and fold activities the day before you want to have it. After that first three hours, I set the bowl in the fridge and let it chill out there overnight. What I have learned by reading and trial and error is that the dough is better if left to develop that sourdough tang over night. That being said, it is still delicious if you power through this process all in one day.

Note 3 - Personally, I watched some youtube videos on how to shape a "traditional" loaf using a bench scraper, a technique I am still working on. This dough should have developed lots of bubbles, especially if you let it hang out overnight in the fridge, so you want to be as careful and gentle with the dough as you can. 

Note 4 - After slashing the x in the top, we like to add a few good shakes of everything bagel seasoning to the dough. It's not necessary, but it is a nice addition if you have it.

This has very quickly become a go to recipe for me. I love it's simplicity, but also that it allows for hands on attention if you would like to employ it here. It is a great beginner's recipe that gave me confidence as a new sourdough starter owner!

Friday, October 02, 2020

this week

 What I saw:

Netflix vs The World - This documentary is about how Netflix came to be the power house it is today. It was really interesting to see how they went from a mail order dvd rental business to winning Oscars and along the way putting Blockbusters, shockingly, out of business. My takeaway from this, I am always interested in people who go all in, in this case, for their business. I mean it is very much an against all odds story and yet here we all are, watching Netflix like it is our job. I watched this on Amazon Prime Video.

Guys, I was on holidays this week and my husband has jumped on board my one documentary a week plan. So we were over achievers.

The Social Dilemma - There has been a lot of buzz about this documentary that really explains the potential evils of social media. I wasn't too surprised with what was presented in the documentary in terms of the detriments to your mental well being, but it didn't make me desire to dump social media all together. My takeaway - I think I have a decent relationship with social media, but it reminded me to be diligent about how I use it and the amount of time I give to it. I watched this on Netflix.

RBG - This seemed timely to watch with Ruth Bader Ginsburg's recent passing. It was something I had planned to watch for some time, but never actually got around to it. My takeaway - I was blown away by the very important work she did, right out of the gate. I was impressed by her quiet, yet steely style and more than a little bit inspired by it. I can see why she has become such a hero to this generation, it is rightly deserved. I watched this on Crave

What I heard:

I spent a good chunk of this week painting the trim in our hallway, so that meant lots of podcasting this week as well.

Armchair Expert - 7 Days. I have been listening to Dax Shepard's podcast in chronological order, but when I got the notification of this new episode I knew I would be listening to it as soon as I could. Just by the title I knew it had to do with his sobriety. My takeaway - I appreciated and was in awe of his candor in telling this story. He seemed to be brutally honest with his own shortcomings. 

Armchair Expert - Debby Ryan, the star of Jessie and Suite Life on Deck. It was interesting to hear a bit about the behind the scenes of the Disney Channel tv show machine. My takeaway - To be honest I wasn't expecting too much from this interview, but there was some interesting discussions regarding the quality of life in Germany compared to the US and also the transformation from child star to adult.

Armchair Expert - Sam Harris, a philosopher, neuroscientist and host of the Making Sense podcast. Guys, this episode set my brain on fire. I want to go back and listen to it again to fully absorb the entire conversation. Dax issued a warning at the beginning that folks may find this episode very divisive, but I have to admit that I, personally, did not find that to be true. Much of the conversation centered on the idea that we seem to have a very difficult time listening to opposing opinions in a way that allows for meaningful conversation. My takeaway - I found myself nodding a lot during this listen. I do think one of my stronger attributes is my ability to listen to differing opinions without feeling as if they are an attack and at the very least understanding that people aren't all one thing. I would recommend this to anyone who's every gotten sucked into a facebook comment war. I could literally talk about this episode for ages!

What I Follow:

GoCleanCo on instagram. This has completely changed the way I clean my house. Her before and afters are inspiring. I get ridiculously excited when she posts a story... welcome to your 40's am I right? I do recommend purchasing her downloadable cleaning guide, but thanks to her I can never find cleaning rags at Costco or Barkeepers Friend at Canadian Tire. Hat tip to my girls mlh and kif for the reco!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

this week

What I Saw:

Hot Coffee. At first glance this is a documentary about the lady who sued McDonald's after spilling coffee on herself, but really it is about tort reform. Prior to watching this I couldn't have told you what tort reform meant, but now I know it is proposed changes to the civil justice system that aims to reduce a victim's ability to sue or to reduce the amount of damages they can receive. Takeaway for me; Lots of people know this Hot Coffee story or at least they know the story that was in the media which played this off as a frivolous lawsuit, when in reality the victim had been significantly injured and McDonald's had a very "oh well" attitude about the whole thing.

What I Heard:

The Office Ladies Podcast - The Benihana Christmas episode. We are hardcore Office fans in this house! We have watched this series many times over, both British and American. My daughter and I are listening to this podcast together and then watching the episode discussed afterwards. There is no real major takeaway from this episode, but I do enjoying hearing about the behind the scenes stuff for each episode. 

Gordon Keith on the ArmChair Expert Podcast. I had never heard of Gordon Keith before this episode. He is a radio host on an AM radio station in Dallas, Texas. First off I have to say I am a big fan of the long form interview, which is why I enjoy this podcast so much. I will say this particular episode is a little spicy, but if you've listened to this podcast before you know there isn't much they won't talk about. This one is a bit of a wild ride. It starts as a couple of guys just telling stories and shit talking each other, but surprisingly it has a very deep reflective center to it. Takeaway for me: The complicated relationships between parents and children and how you often don't need forgiveness from others, you just need to forgive yourself. There was also a great conversation about the balance between justice and mercy and shades of grey. 

What I Read: 

Part of the Hot Coffee documentary dealt with binding arbitration and in particular the story of Jamie Leigh Jones and her allegations of rape and sexual harassment while working in Iraq for a contractor. Part of Jones' employment contract included a mandatory arbitration clause that was preventing her from suing the company. This was also a big news story at the time and the end of the documentary let the viewer know that Jones would finally get her day in court. Stephanie Mencimer (she was also featured in Hot Coffee) wrote a lengthy article about the trial for Mother Jones. Takeaway for me: I love documentaries, but I can appreciate that they often only tell one side of the story. This was an excellent follow up to the story begun in the doc and also an interesting commentary/lesson on the kinds of stories that find their way into the news.

What I Follow:

Humans of New York on Instagram or Facebook. My gosh, they have a series going on there at the moment telling the life story of Stephanie who has led the most interesting life and we aren't even half way through the tale. Takeaway for me: Hearing other people's stories reminds me that people are never only one thing and that helps me keep my compassion engaged.

Monday, September 21, 2020

new horizons

 Early on in the pandemic my daughters pooled their money and bought themselves a Nintendo Switch. I was mostly uninterested in the purchase and then they introduced me to Animal Crossing New Horizons and I fell in love. I mean it is mostly a pointless, but totally adorable game where you build yourself a life on this island that you share with other villagers who happen to be animals. Us three ladies share our island with an alligator, koala bear, kangaroo, goat, tiger, bear and a cub.My personal favourite is Walt the grumpy kangaroo, but Sherb the goat is universally loved by all.

I'm not going to lie, I barely know what I am doing or even if I am playing effectively, but I think that speaks to the game's popularity. You can play it in whatever manner you'd like. A lot of people enjoy the stress relief or feeling of zen that comes along with playing and I can certainly see that.  You can fish or catch bugs or design gardens or houses and create whatever kind of world you would like. Bored? Tear it all down and build it again, but different. Personally I leave the building/designing to the kids and spend my time on the island as the completely indulgent Mom I am not in real life. I buy the kids outrageous outfits or gifts from the island shops and leave them as surprises on the front steps of their island homes. Some of them are totally dialed in, like the Royalty inspired flouncy top for my Hamilton obsessed daughter or completely ridiculous like a full drum set I shook out of a tree. Which will make sense if you've ever played. It was a decent score!

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

this week

 What I Saw:

California Typewriter - A completely charming documentary about a typewriter repair shop in California.... I know, right? How is a typewriter repair shop still even open? It also includes interviews with fans of the typewriter (Tom Hanks and John Mayer, to name two) and a serious typewriter collector. The highlight for me was John Mayer's interview on how he came to start using a typewriter and his thoughts on the process of writing lyrics on one. It was all very interesting and light of heart, kind of a nice palate cleanser these days. Watched it on Crave.

Parks and Rec - This is a re-watch. Personally, my third time around. My daughter and I have a standing date for an episode or two of something before bed to end the day with a laugh. Parks and Rec is a much quoted family favourite around here. It's still as delightful and funny as I found it the first time. Watching this on Amazon Prime Video.

What I Heard:

Ira Glass on the ArmChair Expert podcast. Highlight for me was Dax's theory on the types of movies that do and don't get made these days and why that may be. 

What I Read:

The Rule of Many by Ashley and Leslie Saunders. This is a young adult dystopian fiction series that my daughter enjoys. This is the second book in the trilogy. As any true reading fan knows, if you read a great book, you want to share it with people who also love good books. So she read the first one, begged me to read it as well and now here we are. Basically it's a story set in the future, twins are outlawed, but one family is hiding a set of them until their secret is discovered, setting the twins on the run and igniting a rebellion. I am about half way through and enjoying it.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

dill pickle pasta salad

Summer is here and that means salads of all sorts. Mike is a big fan of a traditional macaroni salad and he has his favourite suppliers, so I tend to steer clear of the traditional route. This recipe had been popping up on facebook and pinterest so much I decided it had to be tried and why not, it has all the things I love.... pickles and cheese. I settled on this recipe over at Spend With Pennies. The first time I made it I followed the recipe to a "T" and this time I fussed around to our own tastes.

3 cups of dry macaroni pasta
3/4 cup sliced dill pickles
2/3 cup shredded cheese
3 tbsp finely diced onion
2 tbsp fresh dill
1/2 cup pickle juice

2/3 cup mayo
1/3 cup sour cream
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tbsp pickle juice
salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil pasta according to the directions on the package and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process.
2. When the pasta is cool toss with 1/2 cup of pickle juice and allow to sit while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.
3. Mix the dressing ingredients together and set aside.
4. Slice the pickles, dice onion, shred the cheese. Drain the pickle juice from the bowl of pasta. Add the remaining ingredients and toss with the dressing. Chill for at least an hour before serving, but the longer it chills the better.

Personal Notes: I used macaroni, but you could easily use shell pasta or anything else that strikes your fancy. The first time around I diced the cheese, which Mike thought was too much, so this time I grated cheese. I used no garlic baby dills (because that is what I had on hand) and sliced them on the thinner side. I didn't have fresh dill, so I used dried and I skipped the cayenne pepper for a few shakes of original Frank's. I also subbed out the salt for Lawry's garlic salt.

This is already a summer time hit with two of the four of us. One of the remaining two doesn't like mayo, pickles or cold pasta and the other is on the fence, but maybe seems willing to try it? We'll see, I guess. Enjoy, friends!