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Grateful that I Lost My Job

May9

This post is inspired by something that has recently occurred and another that is about to occur. This past weekend I attended “Eat Write Retreat 2012” where I met so many amazing women.  Yesterday I read the post of a fellow blogger that really stirred me  One Simple Step That is Changing my Life.  In the writing exercise that she is referring to, I was given the single word focus of JOY Her post reminded me about a lesson that I learned long ago, but have not focused upon lately, and that is “an attitude of gratitude”.  I am about to adopt a new routine where I awake each morning to perform an inventory of what brings me joy in my life and be grateful for these blessings.

Tonight I am attending my first meeting of the Women Business Owners of Manitoba, where I happen to be the dinner speaker.  I do not think that the timing of this is by accident.  Often I bemoan the conclusion of the career that I loved so much and that prompted me (kicking and screaming) into becoming an entrepreneur.  But this morning, I am so grateful and not because I am making wads of cash (because that is certainly not the case) but for these reasons:

The first relates to the above, when you are self employed you never really know where your next assignment will come from and during this roller coaster ride, it is hard not to feel defeated and sorry for yourself.  In these “desert” times of money coming in, I focus my energies on reducing the money going out-by cooking from scratch, creating hand-made gifts, decorating with refurbished materials, shopping second hand with a little revamping on my sewing machine and cleaning and re-organizing.  It is amazing how new and fresh my house feels when the dust bunnies are chased away.

Reason number two is that I am still considered an expert in my former field so that I get just enough projects to keep me connected to my many friends in the media industry.

Another reason is sharing my love of the things that I know how to do well in teaching, training and instructing.  This is new to me and I am loving it!  I had always wanted to be a Home Ec. teacher and now, many years later,  I am (in a mixed up way) fulfilling that dream.  This too is becoming a revenue source that proves to come in handy.

This next reason, is a surprize to me –I get to write every day.  My imagination wakes up even before my body does, with ideas of how I will approach my next assignment or blog post.  Before I fall asleep I say to myself, “in the morning, I am immediately going to get out for my walk”, and then I find myself inexplicably drawn to the computer to record my thoughts before they slip away (one of the challenges of being a menopausal writer).

AND I get to write about what I love.  Food and the preparation of it for my extended family and friends brings me- JOY.  Sure I produce flops, think my kitchen is too small and hate that I often seem to get stuck emptying the dishwasher, but I love the intimate bond that food creates.

Another reason is that I have become a traveller.  My instructing and my own learning have taken me to places that I have never been before, in addition to having the time and resources to regularly visit our precious Isla Mujeres in Mexico and cities in the US and Europe on our bucket list.

I have so much freedom.  I can work from my backyard gazebo or our little cottage at the lake, I can take my morning walk along the river(accompanied by my cell phone), I can volunteer each week as a baby hugger,  I can visit my aging Mom, I can babysit the kids of friends, I can teach my daughter-in-law how to plant her first perennial garden, I can drive my youngest to university for a crucial exam, I can dog-sit our grand-dog when my eldest becomes extra busy, I can meet my sister for lunch and friends for coffee, I can garden on my lunch break, I can tidy the house while I am awaiting for an email, I can be available for family emergencies and best of all, I can pamper and take care of my husband (who fills in the financial gaps by working very, very hard).

A huge reason is that I am my own boss.  I concentrate on the projects that I enjoy.  I can work in one of my many turquoise house coats and woolly socks if I choose and have a luxurious bath (instead of a quick morning shower) in the middle of a rainy day.

I could go on and on (and I will do so privately, every morning) but I think that you get my drift.

I have not truly thanked my friend and former employer for presenting me with this freedom when we had that tearful “pink slip” conversation a couple of years ago or another friend who suggest that I start blogging.  In spite of my initial resistance, I can truly say I am happy to be a Woman Business Owner in Manitoba!

Kath’s quote: “The primary requisite for writing well about food is a good appetite.”-A. J. Liebling

 

Top 20 Things I Loved About Eat Write Retreat 2012

May7

Eat Write Retreat 2012 was my very first (but not my last) Food Bloggers Conference.  I have only been home for 12 hours, but want to share my thoughts while they are fresh.

The Top 20 Things that I Loved about Eat Write Retreat 2012:

#20.  Washington, DC.  D visited there many years ago and so the destination has not been on our mutual bucket list.  I am so glad that I got to experience it.  I absolutely loved the trees, flowers, galleries, architecture and dining.

#19.  The Madison Hotel.  A lovely, central location, within walking of all of our events AND the White House.  Affordable elegance and cheerful, helpful staff.

#18.  The people of Washington, DC.  I met with kindness over and over again but most significantly when I misplaced my netbook and the Delta agent look all over the airport to reunite us.

#17.  Washington’s Restaurants.  From Elizabeth’s Gone Raw, AGAINN and Old Ebbitt Grill, there was good eating around every corner.

#16.  Dogfish Head Beer.  I got to taste my first strawberry beer-a cross between an ale and a cider.  J1 would be proud of his momma.

#15.  Goo Goo Clusters.  D doesn’t mind when I travel, IF I bring him home yummy treats-and these were yummy!

#14. Jarlsberg Cheese.  Meeting Ronnie of the Burrell Group was like finding a long lost friend.  We only chatted for 15 minutes but she feels like a soul sista.

#13. The Blog Critiques.  The organizers had gentle and kind experts provide specific and helpful tips to improve our blogs.

#12.  Our Closer Look at Food Styling and Photography.  I will never afford the camera and equipment that Renee had at her disposal but Lisa, the stylist’s tools are every day things that I can slowly collect and will have an immediate impact on my photos.  Wow, was she a hard worker.

#11. Inspired Speakers.  I am newly refreshed with an “if they can do it, I can do it” attitude.  Thanks especially to Monica who spoke with passion and authenticity.

#10.  Pitching to the Pros.  I intend to take full advantage of the face to face relationships that were created with this opportunity.

#9.  Being in the presence of Blogger Royalty.  CopyKat, WickedNoodle, 52 Kitchen Adventures, the long list was so impressive!

#8. The OXO Kitchen Challenge.  I learned how to use all kinds of new gadgets.  Our team didn’t come first, but I think I won because I got to work side by side with new friends.

#7.  Who knew watermelon was so versatile?  We made an amazing watermelon/kiwi salsa and I also got to taste watermelon jam-oh my!

#6.  Earthy Mushrooms.  We stuffed lightly sauteed mushrooms into our quesadillas for the OXO challenge.  They offset the fresh, crisp tastes of the salsa with their meaty flavour.

5. The Volunteers.  They were all insightful bloggers in their own right and so hospitable.  Our every whim, was their desire.

4.  The Schwag!  I split the sides of my suitcase with OXO gadgets, three gorgeous new cookbooks AND a multi-attachment Calphalon hand-held blender.

#3.  My roommie Lynn, the creator of whatsheshaving.com.  I was old enough to be her Mom, but we got along famously.

#2.  The other scholarship winners from Canada Beef.  I had the pleasure of visiting with Jenn from marvelsmommiemeals.com when we shared a cab to the airport.  Lovely ladies-both of them.

And the #1 reason. Casey & Robyn.  The founders of Eat Write Retreat are total class in every single way.

Kath’s quote: “One can never know too much; the more one learns, the more one sees the need to learn more and that study as well as broadening the mind of the craftsman provides an easy way of perfecting yourself in the practice of your art.”  –Auguste Escoffier

 

Grapes-Thompson

March22

Breakfast at Grapes Restaurant was included in my hotel stay at the Burntwood Hotel and so I got to know the cheerful morning staff well in addition to many of the regulars.  The Breakfast choices included in the room cost were:

French Toast

The Breakfast Wrap: scrambled eggs, with bacon, green onion and cheese and a lovely touch when the wrap was put back on the grill after the fixins were added.

The Breakfast Croissant: Ham, Egg and Cheese on a croissant

and the Classic: 2 eggs, hash browns, toast and your choice of ham, sausages or bacon. The latter produced many variations depending upon the style of eggs you ordered and the accompanying meat that was chosen.  My traveling partner like their poached eggs on dry toast.

I enjoyed a variety of other Grapes’ surprizes too.  I say suprizes because when the Grapes’ Winnipeg location sliped into oblivion, there were very few food lovers, sad to see it go.  But this Grapes location is one of Thompson’s hot spots and the food is very good.

One night I got a unexpected visit from my cousin who was on business too.  Her acquaintances had potato skins and chimichangas and both were declared (and looked to be) delicious.

I often enjoyed the buffet lunch: 4 kinds of soup, a little salad bar and a changing hot dish with a variety of sweets for dessert.  In addition, one night, I treated myself to Chicken Fingers and on another to Poutine where hand cut, never frozen fries are smothered in a beefy gravy with real cheese curds.  On my Chicken Finger night, my traveling partner ordered a steak and was quite impressed with the tenderness and flavour.

She was also hooked on the freshly made cilantro salsa that came with nachos chips and one evening we had their apple crisp with ice cream.  It was a veritable loaf of apple crisp with a oatmeal layer on both the bottom and the top.  I had half for breakfast the next morning and it was equally yummy.

I can’t say that I would rather dine at Grapes than be at home, but knowing that there were always people to visit with and good food to consume, certainly made my extended stay in Thompson, more enjoyable.

Grapes on Urbanspoon 

Kath’s quote: “A man who was fond of wine was offered some grapes at dessert after dinner. ‘Much obliged’, said he, pushing the plate aside; ‘I am not accustomed to take my wine in pills.'” –Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

 

Asparagus Soup

March5

As you may know Daughter #3 is not really my daughter-she is married to our son and I love her as if she was my daughter.  Last night she was over for mandatory Sunday dinner and we were discussing what might be a good moniker when she is mentioned here-suggestions?

She is an inventive cook and this is no surprize as she comes from a family of artists.  Her Mom and Dad (who we are happy to say are our best friends) are amazing singers and her Mom V is also a dancer.  If you count tennis as art (which we do in our family) her Dad DJ is also gifted on the court.  Their eldest son is a talented song-writer and musician.  The younger son is a former dancer with the RWB and is now study to be a Physician.  The youngest daughter (our God-daughter) is also an exquisite dancer (think Evelyn Hart’s arms), artist, crafter and singer.  Suffice it to say, Daughter #3 comes by her many talents by birthright.

One recent Saturday, we had a “house” meeting as we are partners in the communal house where they live.  She whipped this lunch together.

Lunch started with her her exquisite Asparagus soup.  The rainbow of colours that appear in the bowl are from the prismed windows in their dining room.  The soup itself tastes like “summer” to quote the Frenchman of the family.  She has sent me the recipe which I can’t put my hands on at the moment.  I can post it in the future, if you drop me a line.

She served the soup with a baquette stuffed with smoked turkey, cheese, tomato and sundried tomato.  Yumo.

Kath’s quote:  “Pray how does your asparagus perform?”-John Adams, in a letter to his wife Abigail

Beef in Stout

February28

In preparation for our “Anticipating Ireland” evening, I spent a wonderful, snowy afternoon in the kitchen.  When we entertain, I really appreciate recipes that can be prepared and held.  Beef in Stout fits that bill perfectly. The beef cubes are tossed in flour and sauteed in small quantities so as not to be crowded in the pan.  Once the veggies are added and the stout is poured in, you put on a lid, put it into the oven and simply remove it from the oven to serve.  Brother #1 said  that he could have just sat and lapped up the savoury gravy with the potato buns that I was lucky enough to find at Harvest Bakery the moment they came out of the oven.

Parsnips were peeled and quartered lengthwise and simply required a toss with some oil and honey and they too only required to be baked off.

Apples needed to be peeled and sliced for the traditional apple cake.  This too was baked in the afternoon and at serving time, I just had to add vanilla ice cream to a slice.

Even though the soup course could not be cooked ahead of time, the recipe is such a breeze.  Shallots, leeks and garlic are sauteed with olive oil and thyme.  Beer and clam nectar are brought to a boil and the mussels are tossed in and securely covered.  Once the mussels are all open, the cream is added and then fresh parsley and the soup is ready to serve.

I boiled the potatoes and shredded cabbage separately in the afternoon.  At serving time I brought both back up to temperature in the microwave while I heated cream in a saucepan.  Once everything was piping hot, I mashed everything together with sliced green onions.

The star of the evening-Beef in Stout.

In our conversations we strategized about all of the things we wanted to see and experience when we travel to Ireland together.  Of course, much of our chatter was about where and what we hoped to taste and eat while we are there including the Galway Food Festival which we are very much looking forward to.

Kath’s quote: “Talk of joy: there may be things better than beef stew and baked potatoes and home-made bread — there may be.”-David Grayson, ‘Adventures in Contentment’

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