Wednesday, March 30, 2011

PBG Book Club: Water for Elephants

I have been without a television for over a month now.  At first I thought I was going to miss it a lot and was planning a strategy to save up and buy a new one right away.  But, there were a few things holding me back.  The cost – a 42” television is about $650 and I can think of so many other things I could spend that money on…like the mortgage, or more TOMs.  Also, I have been boycotting two of the primary cable companies in my area – Rogers and Bell Canada – for several years now and I wasn’t sure I wanted to lift that boycott just because I wanted to watch mostly bad television.  So, needless to say I have been putting it off despite good sales and suggestions from friends and family.
But, I have discovered something wonderful about not having a television.  I am far more productive and seem to have way more free time.  And, to be honest, I do have a few television shows I enjoy and have been able to watch them online when I want to on my laptop which isn’t so bad.
So, thanks to my newfound free time I was able to plough through 3 books this month - one book for my official book club and 2 books for pleasure.  The Book Club selection this month was Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.
 
Water for Elephants is the story of Jacob Jankowski and the dark side of his career in a travelling circus and how he came to be with the love of his life, Marlena.  The story moves between the traveling circus in 1930 and the story of the older Jacob’s fight to maintain sanity in a nursing home. The villain of the story is the animal trainer, August, who is a brutal man who abuses the animals in his care (such as the new elephant Rosie) as well as the people around him.  While learning to work with the animals as the circus veterinarian Jacob falls in love with Marlena, the horse trainer and August’s abused wife.
While most of Water for Elephants is about the circus, the chapters about the older Jacob provide a depth to the novel and poignancy to the story that makes the whole book richer and more real.  The book was easy to read and was very entertaining.  The movie adaptation of the book is scheduled to come out next month and I can see how this story could make for an interesting movie. 
I really enjoyed this book and quickly fell in love with the cast our outcast characters.  Walter, the dwarf and his Jack Russell, Queenie, Camel, the alcoholic and Rosie the stubborn elephant.  The story itself is interesting but so is the topic.  The travelling circus is not discussed much in modern literature and while the story is fiction it is drawn from research into real travelling circus’s in the 1930s.
I would certainly recommend this book to anyone that is looking for a fun and interesting book that will keep you up past your bedtime waiting to see what happens next.
I also read two other books this month: Little Bee by Chris Cleave and Room by Emma Donoghue.  I will be sure to post my review of these two books soon as well.
I am responsible for choosing the book at our next Book Club meeting so if you have any suggestions please leave them in the comments below.


Friday, March 18, 2011

My New TOMs

Yay for Toms.  Being Canadian means we have been a little bit slow picking up on new trends and sadly Toms Shoes fall int this category.  If you are not familiar with the unique concept behind this company let me explain.  It pretty simple really - for every pair of shoes you buy Toms will send a pair of shoes to a child in need.  How awesome is that?!?  Think about it, there is a child walking around with brand new shoes because you bought yourself a pair of super cute kicks.  A child that may not have had a pair of shoes.  Yay for Toms. 

I finally took the plunge and bought myself my very first pair.  I am not always keen on ordering clothing or shoes online in case they don't fit and I don't want to deal with the hassle of having to return them.  But, I took a chance and order some very cute red cord Toms and....well... am in love.  They are super cute and beyond comfortable.  I wore them to work this week and felt like I was wearing slippers.  for someone who typically wears 3 inch heels or the Toms were a welcome vacation for my feet.

(please try to ignore the very white thick ankles above...try to focus on the shoes)

I am very tempted to buy these in other colours and fabrics.  There are so many colours and fabrics to choose from.  There are even glittery ones!  I love me some shiny shoes!  I am sure I will be wearing these all the time now. 

Can you think of another organization that has a similar charitable focus?  If so give them some love and leave their link in the comments. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

PBG Recipe: Spinach and Mushroom Calzone

Pizza is one of my most favourite foods.  All that cheese and fresh veggies....yum!  A while ago I went to my brothers house for dinner and scarfed down the yummiest home made pizza ever.  Well I stole my brothers pizza dough recipe and made my own pizza a few weeks ago and it was yummy.  But since then I have had some dough left over and just could not decide what to do with it until this week...Calzone.  It's like a big old home made pizza pocket.  And it was awesome.  I made mine with spinach and mushrooms but you could certainly use whatever fillings you want.


Ingredients

softball sized ball of pizza dough
2 cups spinach
1 cup mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp of oil
salt & pepper
2 tbsp basil pesto
1/4 cup of Monetary Jack cheese, shredded
1/4 cup of Feta cheese cubed

Directions
  • Pour oil into pan over medium heat and add garlic.
  • Add mushroom and onion and saute until golden.
  • Add spinach and stir until wilted.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Take mushroom mixture off the heat and add 2 tbsp of basil pesto and mix thoroughly until all filling is coated.
  • Roll pizza dough to approx. 1/4 inch thickness.  Try to roll the dough into a circle.  Mile was more of a triangle but I made it work.
  • Scoop filling onto one have of the pizza dough and top with cheeses.
  • Fold over the top of the pizza dough and press edges together to make a pocket.  Make sure the edges of the dough are fully sealed or your yummy filling will ooze out. 
  • Back in the oven at 375 degrees for approx. 15 minutes or until the crust browns and the filling is heated through.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

PBG SoulPancake: The Brain and the Soul

I mentioned the other day that a good friend gave me a new book recently - SoulPancake.  I have been flipping through this book and completing the various exercises and challenges as I go along.  The book is meant as a way to inspire you to dig deeper into life's big questions and to help you find your own answers or at least get you a lot closer to understanding your own life philosophies. 



One of the first challenges I found difficult was in The Brain and Soul section of the book.  Here is the challenge and my answers. 

Tell Me Now! List 5 questions you hate not knowing the answers to.

1.  Where/who is my soul mate?
2.  Will I be a good mother?  Should I even have children?
3.  What does my future hold?
4.  Has anyone ever really loved me?  My parents don't count...they have to love me.
5.  Is it me?

I found this challenge to be exceptionally difficult.  There are so many questions I don't have the answers to.  I tried to look dig deep into myself to really understand where I feel the most lost.  Clearly, there is a pattern to my answers - insecurity about love being the obvious theme.  Armed with this information I am hoping I will be able to identity within myself exactly why I have these insecurities about love.  We all have relationships that don't last but I think for me there is something deeper going on in my head.  Something I need to address so that my future relationships don't suffer the same fate.

I am finding this book to be a great outlet for my feelings.  As someone who has never been comfortable with sharing my feeling - good and bad - this book (and this blog) are giving me a creative outlet to help me work through some of my stuff. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Girl's Night

I love Girl's Night.  There is something so fun about hanging out with your girlfriends and just chatting and sharing stories.  That's what we do.  No TV.  No movie.  Just the girls and some wine of course.

It's hard to find good girlfriends.  Dare I say it is harder to get girlfriends than it is to get boyfriends.  I moved back to London in 2008 and I am just now really solidifying relationships with people I hope to know for the rest of my life.  Caroline, Lulu and Amanda have become some great girls to have in my life.  They are smart, creative, funny and just plain awesome.  I am better for having them around. 

Tonight's Girls Night was especially exciting as it was the very first time I had hosted in my "new" house.  I made veggie fajitas and the girls brought cookies and a mixed bean salad.  Plus we had some wine and mixed drinks as well.  It was a fun time.


Lulu was busy snapping the pics so she isn't in any of them unfortunately.  I will get her next time for sure.  We do our best to make Girl's Night a regular event.  Schedules are hard to co-ordinate sometimes but we have been doing a pretty good job at making it a regular event.

Love you ladies!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Soul Pancake

A new friend bought me this book a couple of days ago.  Since then I have been carrying it around with me and reading passages here and there when I have some spare moments in my day.  I'm hooked!

This book is such a beautiful concept - I was truly touched that my friend thought to buy it for me.  The full title of the book is Soul Pancake: Chew on Life's Big Questions and it is written by Rainn Wilson and a few other authors.  If you don't know who Rainn Wilson is he is the actor who plays Dwight Schrute on The Office.  (note:  The Office is one of my favourite TV programs and I think Pam and Jim have the best TV romance ever!)



The book is based on the original website - www.soulpancake.com. It is a fully participative journey that explores philosophy, creativity, spirituality, love, truth, science, faith and so much more.  The book is composed of various chapters that ask some of life's big questions and challenges you to write your own answers.  The pages are filled with beautiful art and quotes relating to the various topics up for discussion to help fuel your creativity. 

The website is an interactive community where questions and challenges are posed and readers submit their thoughts, photos, ideas and personal creative projects as they explore life's big questions. 

So far I have just been reading through the book but I intend to take some time over the next few weeks and complete the exercises and challenges listed in the book.  I will be posting my results for some of the more thought provoking and interesting challenge as I explore this book. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

PBG Recipe: Not So Thin Mints

Remember those great Thin Mint cookies you used to buy from your local Girl Guides?  So chocolaty and minty.  I am sure you can still by them from the Girl Guides but why not make them yourself.  That way you will know what is in them - who knows what goes into those mass produced cookies.  These cookies were easy to make the only downfall being the fact that there is a lot of waiting before you can dig in.  But, I guarantee it is worth the wait.  I have been keeping mine in the freezer to snack on when a chocolate-mint craving hits (which is often!)



Not So Thin Mints
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup milk (any kind, I used Almond Milk)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp peppermint extract


Directions

Cookies
In a small bowl, sift together flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder and salt.
In a mixer, cream together butter and sugar.

With the mixer on low speed, add in the milk and the extracts.
Gradually, add in the flour mixture until fully incorporated.
Shape dough into two logs, about 1 1/2 inches (or about 4 cm) in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 1-2 hours, until dough is very firm.  I left mine overnight and baked the next day.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Slice dough into rounds not more than 1/4 inch thick – if they are too thick, they will not be as crisp – and place on a lined or non-stick baking sheet.

Bake for 13-15 minutes, until cookies are firm at the edges. Cool cookies completely on a wire rack.

Chocolate Coating
10-oz dark or semisweet chocolate
1/3 cup butter, room temperature


In a microwave safe bowl, combine chocolate and butter. Melt on high power in the microwave, stirring every 45-60 seconds, until chocolate is smooth.
Dip each cookie in melted chocolate, turn with a fork to coat, then transfer to a piece of parchment paper or wax paper to set up for at least 30 minutes, or until chocolate is cool and firm.


Enjoy fresh or frozen!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Big Changes

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, but thanks for asking.  I haven't been around in the past few weeks.  Sorry about that.  My life has been a hectic whirlwind of change lately - some good, some bad.  If you have been reading my blog for a while then you know that I ended a pretty serious long term relationship back in October.  Unfortunately, it was until this past weekend that my ex was able to finally move out into a place of this own.  For obvious reasons this was not an ideal living situation, and I am sure it did more harm than good for our friendship. 

It was with mixed emotion that I approached this past weekend.  I was so very relieved to finally be able to move on with my life.  But, it was also sad.  He was a very significant part of my life for the past four and a half years.  So, even though it was the right decision for him to leave it actually hit me a lot harder than I expected.

And then to make matters worse I came down with a nasty flu that knocked me on my ass for 3 whole days.  This put a major delay in my house cleaning and reorganization.  I so wanted to get things moved around and make the house mine again.  It was beyond frustrating to be trapped on the couch for 3 days. 

But, I survived the flu and managed to get my house in order.  I am planning some aesthetic changes in the next few months but I thought would give you a small glimpse into my space now that it is truly mine.

New tufted ottomans in my bedroom.


My bedside table.

My front entryway.


My living room side table. 
As I start to transform the space I will be sure to keep you guys posted.  I promise not to drop off the face of the earth again anytime soon.  I hope I am back to stay.