Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday morning musings

Yesterday was a milestone in our relationship ... we, for the first time, made a joint purchase of something major for our home. (We've been sharing bills and groceries and that kind of thing since we moved in together, of course, but this was the first time we went out and invested a fair amount of money in something permanent for the apartment.) We bought a little bistro set for our back deck, so that we can have morning coffee and evening meals and all sorts of things out there. So cute!
This is another musical weekend for me. Last night we saw a friend and colleague of Serdic's in a performance of La Boheme. This afternoon one of my choirs is giving our spring concert, which I am very much looking forward to, as it is a selection of Canadian folk music, which is exactly the kind of music I like to sing. I have to say that I'm rapidly reaching the point I do every spring, where I am very burnt out and exhausted from the two choirs and all their demands, but the end is in sight -- this weekend and next are the two final major concerts for the season, and then I have some time off. I love my choirs, but I reach a point every spring where I've had enough and need a few months off. This year has been particularly busy, as one choir alone has had ten engagements, or averaging more than a concert a month (our season is October to June)!

In other news, Serdic and I have just started to plan our first (of many!) trip to visit PetDoc and Noise once they're settled in London. I think we'll be going for ten days in September. We're actually looking for suggestions of things to do in Edinburgh, if any of my faithful readers have been there. We're going to try to do a side trip to there from London, and we know what the guidebooks say to see, but I'm always interested in "off the beaten track" suggestions from people who have been there ... "Don't miss this!" or "We had the best meal of our lives in that restaurant" kind of things. Anyone?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spring is in the air

Ah, yes. Spring. That lovely time of year. And you know how you can tell spring has arrived in fair Ottawa? Half the streets in the bloody city are already torn up with construction. That didn't take long.

However, I'm not complaining, as we've been enjoying absolutely gorgeous weather this week. This is exactly the time of year I love, when you can sleep with the windows open, but still snuggle under the covers. When you still need a jacket, but you don't necessarily have to do it up. The snow is finally (almost) gone, the green things are starting to bloom again, and everywhere you look you see signs of the world coming back to life. It's been a long winter this year and I'm really enjoying this glimpse of spring.

I have a busy weekend coming up -- a performance at a local retirement home with one of my choirs Saturday afternoon, then a girls' night at my friend H's house (always a great time, we get together, eat too much food, have a few drinks, play board games and gossip). Sunday I have a sectional rehearsal for my other choir, then Serdic and I are accompanying my friend Pixie (as Serdic dubbed her several months ago) to the NAC to hear Gordon Lightfoot perform. It's not every day you get a chance to hear a living Canadian legend sing. I'm very excited about it.

Tonight Serdic and I are meeting downtown after work to fulfill our Flat Stanley duties. I agreed to do a Flat Stanley adventure for a little girl in my mom's class. I'm an old hand at the Flat Stanley thing, as I had a visit from one made by my friend Cupcake's son a couple of years ago, so I know all the places to scope out. We have already had an abortive attempt at showing Stanley around Ottawa, as we went downtown on Sunday to take some pictures of him at the parliament buildings. Only to discover when we arrived there that there was this little pro-China rally going on, featuring tens of thousands of protestors. Perhaps you read about it? So although political action on the Hill is part of life in Ottawa and would have made an interesting backdrop for the pictures, we decided all in all it was better to try again when things were a little quieter. Fortunately today's weather is even nicer than Sunday's, and now that it is light until nearly 8:00 in the evenings (woot!) we'll get some nice pictures in after work.

And, finally, this is a special time of April for me, because it's bookended by the birthdays of two people who mean the world to me. My sister, PetDoc, had her birthday last Friday, and SingerDad's birthday is tomorrow. I know I talk a lot on this blog about my family and how much they mean to me, and it does start to sound like a broken record after awhile, so let me just say that my sister is my best friend, and my dad is my hero. I'm blessed to have them both. Happy birthday, youse.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Keeping up with the Joneses

It is a well established fact that Serdic is The Cook in our household. He does 90% of the cooking and every meal he has ever prepared for me has been delicious. But every once in awhile, I feel the need to prove that I can cook, too, and so I take over the kitchen for a night. The major difference in our styles, I think, is that Serdic is constantly trying new recipes or adjusting the ones he has based on what we happen to have in the fridge, whereas I have my few specialties that I do very well, and I don't tend to stray too far from them. One of these specialties is a vegetarian manicotti (although I've been known to make it with Serdic's famous spaghetti sauce as well, so it doesn't have to be vegetarian). It is the first meal I ever cooked for Serdic, back when we were first dating, and it's a dish he still requests on a regular basis. It's a bit time consuming and fussy, but the end result is definitely worth it. It also helps us with our resolution this year to take our lunches more often, as we get seven generous servings out of it, so two for dinner and then five lunches for the week ahead. I often try to make it on a weekend and then we have the leftovers in the fridge ready to go for Monday morning. You see tonight's meal pictured, along with garlic bread and a green salad.

I received the recipe as part of a fat loss program I was doing once upon a time, so it's also quite healthy. You can adjust as you like -- obviously full fat cheeses and/or sauce and such make a difference to taste and texture. I also play with the amounts of sauce and mozza, as I like my pasta very saucy and cheesy (just like me!). Of course, this has an impact on the calorie count. *sheepish grin*

The recipe is as follows:
1 box manicotti shells
1 15 oz container low-fat ricotta cheese
Whites of two large eggs
1 cup drained thawed frozen spinach or 2 cups fresh, chopped
1 cup grated peeled carrot
1 small onion
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil, or 1 tsp dried
1 tbsp minced fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried
3 cups marinara sauce (I tend to cheat and use store bought, my favourite is Healthy Choice 'Garlic Lovers', or if there is a container of Serdic's spaghetti sauce in the freezer we'll use that)
1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and cook the shells for 3 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and put them in a bowl of room temperature water. Set aside.
2. In a bowl, combine the ricotta with the egg whites, spinach, carrot, onion, basil and thyme.
3. In a 9x14 baking dish, place about 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce, enough to cover the bottom. Drain the manicotti shells. Stuff each shell with the filling and place in the baking dish. Spoon over the remaining sauce. Cover with foil and bake 35-40 minutes, until the shells are fully cooked and the sauce is bubbling.
4. Remove the pan from the oven and uncover. Sprinkle evenly with the mozzarella and return to the oven for 10 minutes more, until the cheese is melted and slightly golden. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.
Makes 14 shells. A serving is 2 shells. 320 calories; 10 g. fat; 41 g. carbohydrates; 18 g. protein; 4 g. fibre.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Picture this

So we had our trip to Quebec City (see some photos here) last weekend. It was a great weekend in several respects -- we had a lot of R&R and great meals (we definitely highly recommend the hotel and will be staying there again), spent a lot of time just wandering the city and enjoying some quality time together, the train is a great and relaxing way to travel, and the highlight, of course, was seeing my photo in the exhibition at the museum. I had prepared myself to be disappointed, as they had told me the photo would be in the "interactive area," which I suspected meant that it would be manipulated beyond recognition or part of a collage or mosaic or cut up and put back together in a weird way, or something. But as soon as we walked into the exhibition I could see it across the room, in all its glory.

It was on a flat screen set into a display case, and part of a series of scrolling photos of different cityscapes. So while Serdic acted as my accomplice and stood between me and the guard and blocked her view, I quickly snapped off a couple of photos of my photo (how meta!). The only disappointment was that instead of using my name as the photo credit, as I had been told they would, they gave the source instead, the URL for my Flickr account. Still cool, but not *as* cool as seeing my name there would have been. But it was still a pretty awesome moment, to stand there in the museum and see my photo scroll by. Several times, of course. And then we went back to see it again before we left. *sheepish grin*

So then we came home, thinking it was a once in a lifetime event and weren't we glad we had made the effort, and so on and so forth. And two days later I got an email, via Flickr, from an editor at, which is an online travel guide run by Yahoo! (who, not so coincidentally, also run Flickr), asking if I would grant permission for one of the photos I took in Italy last spring to be used in their latest publication. I did, of course, and it appeared online on Friday. (Here's a screencap.) This time they used my name in the credit line. ;-)

So, interesting times. As I said before, I've always thought I took nice photos, but I never thought other people (besides friends and family) would be interested in them! It's not like I'm ready to quit my day job (hell, no one's offered to pay me for anything yet!) and take up photography as a career, but it's still been a nice little ego boost in the last few months. In both cases, interestingly, the photos selected have not been the ones I would have chosen, or ones that I would rank among the best pictures I've ever taken. But I guess in both cases they were an unusual angle and not the stereotypical "tourist" shot (I mean, I took some gorgeous photos of, for example, the Rialto Bridge in Venice, but everyone who has ever visited Venice has the same shots in her photo album!). Either way, it's been kind of fun.