Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Three and done: Spaghetti bolognese

Crystal mentioned to me that she had a student who lived with his dad who was always away working.  Dad left money for food but the student had no idea how to cook so lived on junk food and gummy bears, for breakfast.  The student is a nice kid, smart enough, no reason he can't learn to cook but I guess no one ever showed him.

The demise of home ec. has been well lamented elsewhere and gone are the days when it went without saying that you that learnt life skills where you lived life, at home.  This got me thinking.  I have been through my own arc of gastronomic ambition, from the 8 slices of toast and a pint of tea diet at boarding school to phoning my mum from uni to ask if I should still cook the chicken if it had gone green.  I ate a lot of frozen sausages during that period of my life.  In the last few years I've been a bit more ambitious as time and money have allowed.  But since our second kidlet was born I've reigned it in.  No more soaking beans and boiling them for a half a day; gone are the sauce reductions, the three hour dinner recipes and the 15 ingredient marinade.  Gone too is the spag bol that started with gently sauted onions and ended 45 mins later with an hour long simmer.  That has been replaced by a jar of Classico.

Out with hours, in with the minutes and with the hours have gone the cook books.  Not literally; they look nice on the shelf and I still love them and I will use them again while my teenagers are sleeping til midday on Sunday mornings.  But one has endured:  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Three Good Things.  The premise is three ingredients.  Well, three main ingredients and then all the so-called "store cupboard" standards.  So he still has you chopping onions by the pound and mincing garlic by the bulb.  Nevertheless, I hearby acknowledge Hugh's refined and sophisticated "Three" as the inspiration for my own down and dirty "Three".  The idea is, no chopping, no fiddling, no trying to figure out if this is nutritionally balanced or not.  One criteria: is it better than gummy bears.

So here it is, recipe #1 in the series "Three and done".  Spaghetti bolognese:

1lb of ground beef, turkey, chicken, pork or lamb
1 jar of Classico sauce or supermarket own brand, any flavour
300g of pasta, any type

1. Take a saucepan or a frying pan, put it on the stove and turn the knob to medium.
2.  Put the meat in.  Stir it around, break it up, wait until it all turns brown.  Should take about 8 minutes.
3.  Pour the sauce in, wait until it bubbles, then turn the heat down to low.
4.  Half fill another big saucepan with water.  Put it on the stove, turn the knob to high. When it's boiling, add the pasta, stir and turn the heat to medium.  Cook for 10 minutes or whatever it says on the packet.  Drain in a colander or carefully holding the lid with a little gap to let the water out and not the pasta.
5.  Put the pasta in a big bowl or plate, pour the meat sauce on top.  Put some cheese on if you like.  Eat it!

This is what you need:  (1) Any pasta; (2) Ground beef, pork, chicken or turkey (3) A jar of sauce:

That's the raw meat, pink:

It's cooking but still some pink.  Wait until it's all brown:

That's the browned meat with the sauce mixed in.

There's the pasta, covered in boiling water.

And there's some grated cheese to make it extra tasty

Up next, Fried egg sandwich.  Breakfast of champions.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Monday, April 6, 2015

Downhill champ

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

Simon and Derek take Felicity and Tristan to Camp Fortune. The sun is shining and it's plus 5C.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Breathing space

The last time I wrote a non-skiing post was after we'd been to the farm on March 7th.  I had warned the readership (me) that the blog would be taking a break due to coursework commitments.  We have been feeling stretched of late so it is very pleasant to find myself on this, the first day of April, sitting alone at the kitchen table at 11am enjoying bright sunshine and silence.  Toby is napping and Auntie Ronnie, who is at home waiting for Jackson #5 to arrive, has whisked Felicity off to the grocery store.  I am confident that my Spec Ed course instructor does not read my blog and if she does I will beg forgiveness for not doing extra work but I think I am finally up to date.

A quick recap of the last three weeks.  A week preparing to go on holiday, a week on holiday in the Dominican and a week catching up from being on holiday.  The Dominican Republic and the resort of Viva Wyndham Dominicus Palace (no less than a palace for the Fergusons, although I'm not sure it was palatial, thankfully) was beautiful.  Here is a selection of pictures.

This was our second foray into the hitherto unknown world of all inclusive resorts.  I think I was scared of them before and I distinctly remember before going to the Bahamas 2 1/2 yrs ago planning all sorts of activities to do around the island, the thought of staying in one compound for a week being unbearable.  Needless to say I did not even approach the resort entrance for the entire week and was very happy.  Three years of disrupted sleep, a house move, numerous trips and travels with the little ones and I have now wholeheartedly surrendered, morally, ethically and perhaps even intellectually to the ideal of not cooking, shopping, cleaning or driving for seven glorious days in a row.  Add to that not putting on snow suits, hats, mitts, gloves, boots, scarves or even socks, trousers and sweaters.  And add to that walking for 30 seconds before seeing, feeling and smelling the ocean, everyday, whenever you want.  This is not the end of adventures in the Alps or of rain-soaked bike trips or hours sitting at dusty train stations but as they say here, it is what it is and what it is is a wonderful break.

When we got back to Ottawa, three hours late at 11pm on Sunday night, it was -10C and there seemed to actually be more snow than when we left.  This is mixed time of year - long days have already arrived, 12 hours of sunshine if the clouds abate, but also a time of freeze-thaw, grey and brown snow giving way to grey and brown grass or lakes of floodwater.  The garbage of winter, held for so many months in those snow banks, is given up to lie, salt crusted, on the sidewalks and verges.  The city's big spring clean is still to come, the volunteers who tidy up the parks and the contractors who sweep away the road grit lie in wait.  But until then on dry days the streets are dusty and grim and when it rains there is a soup of grime hiding the broken roads and treacherous pot holes.

But there is much to look forward to.  Easter weekend is upon us already and later in the month Crystal and I are going on a weekend Wilderness First Aid course together.  That's how we roll!  Partly in preparation for our separate summer adventures, Crystal to Gros Morne, me to the Yukon and partly just because we like to spend a lot of time a little ways from help and increasingly with the kids.  There's a 10k at the end of the month with a group of Crystal's students.  At the beginning of May is a band trip to Washington DC for Crystal, the Spring Chicken enduro for Simon, then the Rideau Lakes bike tour and hopefully a whitewater canoe course, both for Simon (#understandingwife - that's a hashtag; it's 2015 after all).  And there's meant to be a girls cottage weekend in there somewhere just to recharge Crystal's batteries for all of Simon's excursions.  What about the kids?!  Their world is small!  Really, it is.  They are happy when they don't spend too long in the car, when they get to go to the park and play with water in the back yard and see their friends and scooter and get muffins from Grandma and Nono.  We are however planning to do a summer overnight canoe camping trip with them.

Back to now.  This morning we went to the park.

Felicity wore her helmet because under the play structure is a sheet of ice.  It is nice to be out without getting cold or wet.  It's -5C so ideal.  Otherwise it's a lake out there.  Felicity has been going to the pre-school program at Dovercourt twice a week and she starts swimming lessons after Easter.  Need to get Toby a tricycle with a push handle to save my back!  'Tis the season to get excited.  It's been a long, very cold winter.    

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ski #17: Toby and me

Felicity took Crystal downhill. We skied P10-Champlain-#1-P10. Stunning weather.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ski #16: a LOT like Spring

Felicity skied part way UP the hill today. Age 3yrs 1 week. Good job!

Monday, February 16, 2015


Before we went to the museum on Family Day Monday the kids needed to be entertained while I did the Loppet on Sunday.  And if I was skiing, they wanted to ski.  And because there was a wind chill of -35 outside, they got to ski inside.  Felicity is so competent she is carrying a picnic basket, plate and doll.  

Toby looks like a natural.  I always remember seeing toddlers running around the chalet in salopettes and ski boots when we went skiing in Switzerland on a school trip age 11.  I don't know why that memory has stuck but I'm pleased we've been able to at least give them a feel for being on the snow fro the outset.  The forecast is for a high of -1C this coming Sunday so we shall dig out the shorts and sun cream and hit the slopes.

On Monday it was cold again, blah, blah, blah.  So we wet to the wonderful Children's Museum which is housed inside the spectacular Museum of History, formerly Civilisation.  They had some extra activities going on:

Bilingual bien-sur:

Bob the Builder was supervising:

On a camel in snow boots.  I like the juxtaposition.

Ski #13: Loppet (including cold weather skiing infographic)

See if you can figure out this pictorial representation of skiing in the Arctic north that is Ottawa (we're really nowhere near the Arctic):

Technically the Loppet is in Gatineau but it's all part of the National Capital Region.  I know that skiing is inherently a cold weather sport and that it is not much fun otherwise but there are different degrees of cold.  For a start, and what better place to start, there is our friend Kelvin, way down there where there ain't no Kelvins: 0 degrees Kelvin (-273C).  That's really cold.  That's where there is no energy at all.  Anything warmer than that and we have energy but if it's colder than we are, 37-ish degrees C (310K!) we're losing heat to our environment.  So when on Sunday, day of the Loppet ski race it says that it will be -23C on the start line with a very brisk wind gusting 50kmh, we're losing a lot of heat.  This can be mitigated by some well chosen items of clothing but the face gets little protection.  Disconcertingly almost everyone I saw in the indoor are had some sort of tape covering their cheeks and nose.  I suddenly felt not very well prepared.  Oh well, we would get to the trees soon.

It was a good race.  Well it wasn't really but I did enjoy myself.  The snow was so slow, there was fresh loose snow on the climb up the back of Pink, I feel over trying to smile at a cameraman and the wind was at times really painful.  But the sun shone, the course was shortened from 27 to 22.5k and I got the frostbite all-clear from the medic at the aid station.  It took me 2 minutes longer than last year despite the shortening which is an reflection of (a) the conditions and (b) my having skied half as much as I had this time last year.

Photos have not been posted yet.  Here are some bits of trivia:

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Where does the time go?

This is the question I asked, idly, aloud, somewhat rhetorically.  "In here!" was the answer I got, emphatically, from Felicity who was simultaneously banging her hand on the super lazy susan corner cabinet.  A super lazy susan is, I believe, differentiated from a simple, straight forward, bog standard lazy susan by the sole fact of its separately rotating two shelves.  Make sense?  Good.  So what better place to keep that elusive, bendy, unruly and enigmatic of concepts: the time. 

I am affording myself this indulgence of semantics today to compensate the cross I have to bear in the form of a continuous stream of green/yellow/dark green/dark yellow phlegm emanating from my daughter's nose today.  All of that on about 3 hours of sleep last night thanks to my course, some late night grocery shopping and a Toby who refused to sleep from 3am until 5.30am when we finally gave up and got up.

Pictures come to you today from yesterday.  Reading lesson:

Outdoor activity time:

Indoor activity:

And from today, the alphabet dinosaur puzzle that Toby did all on his own.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Ski #12: Mission accomplished, 37 for 37

We did it. Chris Roy and I. Yesterday, Saturday.  37km skate skiing around the park. It was fun, really fun. I took some photos. 

Here are the details:

P8-P9 - 3.5
P10-junction - 4
Junction-Champlain - 2.5
Champlain-McKinstry - 9.2
McKinstry-Champlain - 9.2
Champlain-Penguin via #1 - 7.3
Penguin-P8 - 1

Approx. 36.7km

We left a bag at Huron on the way up which was a magical treat on the way back. Stopped at Huron, McKinstry and Huron again. Strava said 36.5 when we got back to P8 so we skied 250m towards P9 and back!