Friday, September 28, 2012

The NEST eats: Ottawa Farmers' Market, part I

The Ottawa Farmers' Market ROCKS.
Ottawa is a lucky city: we are surrounded and saturated with fantastic farms, apiaries, sugar bushes, and countless culinary artisans. It's the kind of city where you could conceivably eat year-round without ever heading to a traditional grocery store, and that's pretty impressive. Brian and I try to support local as much as possible, but it's a learning process: you've gotta get out there and discover what's available right in your own back yard! So when the Ottawa Farmers' Market showed up with a basket of goodies for us to try out, we were thrilled to participate. This is part I of a two-part post about the goodies we tried from the Ottawa Famers' Market.
What is the Ottawa Farmers' Market?

The Ottawa Farmers’ Market has grown to over 100 vendors of the best locally-grown and locally-made food, farm products, arts and crafts within 100 kilometres of Ottawa. Now in Westboro, Brewer Park and OrlĂ©ans, the markets boast some of the City’s favourite artisans – Pascale’s Ice Cream, Art-Is-In Bakery, Flatbread Pizza and the Hot Potato Company, not to mention more Savour Ottawa certified growers than any market. 
Ottawa Farmers’ Markets promote healthy eating and the local farmers who feed us.  The markets support the local economy – farmers, chefs, crafts people and entertainers – while providing the public with an opportunity to get outside, learn about local food and culture, and to buy the freshest, local products the season has to offer direct from the people who produce it. 
Head to their website to find out locations and times, including their Brewer Park and Westboro spots!


When we opened up the package, our noses were assailed by a rather intense burst of stinky feet smell. We were delighted to discover this was emanating from two varieties of gorgeous cheese, made by Glengarry Fine Cheeses. The first one we grabbed was the beautiful blue cheese; it turned out to be a wonderful treat, very flavourful but not overpowering. I threw it into a whole-wheat penne dish with olive oil, seared kale, and roasted sunflower seeds--now posted, and titled Penne From Heaven. The cheese was the star of the show; I didn't even have to add any spices for this dish to have major flavour impact. Mmmmmm!

At the last minute, I also ran out and grabbed the Bearbrook Farms Kolbassa that the Farmers' Market had sent us. This stuff is amazing, people. Its flavour was a cross between salami and ham, and the piquant spicy flavours made me think of a late summer harvest. We tossed some cubes of this into the pasta as well, and found ourselves rolling our eyes in delightful pleasure as we chewed.


For dessert, we basically ate jam off of spoons. I kid you not. How could we resist, with four Michaelsdolce jams sent to us? We hadn't actually had Michaelsdolce before, though we'd heard a lot about it, so as a jam fanatic I was excited. Every flavour lived up to Michaelsdolce's reputation for being clever, complex, and delightful. Here's a quick rundown:

This beautiful apple-green jam is sweet with a serious citrus kick. The tart bite at the end reminded me of genuine key lime pie that I've had in Key West. The jam was dessert-y, but also palette-cleansing. It reminded us of a mojito, and if you ask nicely, we can provide you a recipe for one using this jam. 

Blueberry & lavender:
One of my favourite things is lavender in food, and this jam wowed me. Made with real Nova Scotian blueberries, this jam was so sweet, you can literally taste the blue. The lavender flavour was subtle but created an almost smokey taste, a bit like eukalyptus or rosemary. This jam is light on the palette and calls for fresh scones. 

Strawberry & Balsamic:
What a jam! The balsamic is primarily evident in the aroma--and if you're not take a good sniff before eating each of these jams, you're missing half the show. The vinegar pairs with the strawberries to create an almost rhubarb-like flavour. Brian suggested it would go well with pork, so on a lark we tossed some on a slice of the Bearbrook Kolbassa, and sure enough it was fantastic. I also think, though, that it'd spruce up a bowl of vanilla bean ice cream in a very special way.

Citrus Ginger Marmalade:
I LOVE marmalade, and this one is definitely my new favourite. The simple citrus aroma does nothing to prepare you for the bitter, kicky flavours of orange pith, and the warm heat of the ginger. Brian said it called for a bagel with cream cheese, but personally I'd eat it on a thin, crispy slice of light rye bread.

Glengarry's blue cheese.


We finished up our evening of fine home dining by devouring the Glengarry Fine Cheeses goat cheese and the honeycomb provided by Halsall's Honey at the Ottawa Farmers' Market. Much to my surprise, the goat cheese was actually the stinkier cheese of the two we tried, but the flavour was quite lovely. It is a hard, more crumbly cheese with a mild but bitter flavour, short on the palette but lots of flavour. At the suggestion of Tara from the Market, we popped pieces of cheese into our mouths while gnoshing on chunks of the incredible honeycomb, and the pairing was superb.

Let me talk about that Halsall's honeycomb for a minute: I am still carefully, lovingly, rationing it out. If you've never eaten honey straight from the comb, I heartily recommend you try it, because it's always an amazing taste sensation; but this particular honeycomb was really very excellent. I shared some at work, and the response (from honeycomb virgins, no less) was always the same: this is the freshest-tasting honey they've ever tasted. 

Brian suggested that a lovely picnic snack could be made of a fresh french bread, a hunk of that goat cheese, and this fine honeycomb, paired very nicely with an Indian Pale Ale or a Belgian Wit beer. 

Maybe the most stunning item in the basket of goodies we are reviewing is the cutting board, by Joseph Henri. This beautiful piece of workmanship is what I used to create my Penne From Heaven meal, and we're leaving it on display in our kitchen. I love the idea of picking up one of these for a wedding gift or Christmas present for someone who takes pride in their cooking. 
Part II is soon to follow, and includes some lovely personal care products, as well as dulce de leche, pickles, and grapes. Sounds like a perfect night in by myself, watching Pride & Prejudice and painting my toes. Stay tuned for more local awesomeness. Because nothing rocks more than our local artisans and farmers.

Penne From Heaven: Dead-Easy Ottawa Farmer's Market Recipe

We've been doing some exploring with the Ottawa Farmers' Market, and I invented a new recipe with one of the lovely cheeses from Glengarry Fine Cheese they gave to us. I wasn't strictly requested to make up a recipe, but I had an idea and ran with it; the end result is something incredibly easy but pretty impressive. Since I only started learning to cook about a year ago, I have to say I'm pretty proud of this one. Give it a try.


Blue cheese--we had this lovely hunk from Glengarry Fine Cheese at the Farmers' Market.
Kale--a bunch. I have no idea how to measure kale. I suggest it be totally dry. Ours was fresh from our garden!
Sunflower seeds--a big handful, maybe two. Hulled, unroasted, unsalted.
Penne--we went with whole wheat because, well, that's what I had.
Olive oil

Look at that blue cheese!
1. Boil water and throw in your penne when it's ready to go.

2. While the penne is boiling away, heat a non-stick pan to medium heat. Toss in your sunflower seeds and swoosh 'em around with a spatula for a very brief time. When they start to go toasty-coloured, decide if you like the look of them, then immediately get them out of the pan before they burn. I had to do this step twice because I waited too long and burned the poor darlings.

3. The pan now has a little oil from the sunflower seeds in it, so that's perfect for the kale: I tore the kale up with my hands into bite-size pieces, and just threw it in a big mess into the pan, still on medium heat. Regular flipping and stirring is important. The kale will wilt and crisp a little. When you think it looks tasty, pour it out onto the plate beside the sunflower seeds.

4. Crumble up your blue cheese. I only used about a half-cup, but I bet more would be even tastier. 

5. When the penne is done, drain it and quickly throw it back into the pot. Then quick as a flash, throw the seeds, the kale, and the cheese into the pot, too. The cheese melts and sticks to everything, and the kale and sunflowers get all mixed in. Add a tablespoon (or more, if you want) to the mix to help things be tasty.

OPTIONAL: You can add spices. Since we were exploring the flavour of the blue cheese, we decided not to. But I'm sure some rosemary and maybe some lemon zest would have been fantastic.

OPTION 2: You can toss in some meat if you like, though it's not required. We did add a bit of a Bearbrook Farms kolbassa just to try it out, and it was delicious. (The kolbassa is not to be missed and can also be grabbed at the Ottawa Farmers' Market.)

Serve and enjoy! Because the recipe is so simple, it's easy to make just enough: measure your pasta as you always do, then just put in a serving's worth, per person, of each other ingredient. Simple!

This was so good that I took some to work and fed my vegetarian friend. We both smelled like blue cheese all day and I couldn't have been happier.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Selfish Childless: A Rebuttal


My friend Karen Wilson over at Karen'sChronicles forwarded me an article by Joe O'Connor published in the National Post, and we both were so gobsmacked by Joe's ridiculous remarks that we're both writing responses. I suggest strongly that you read Joe's article first, then read on from here.

Joe starts off his tirade by titling it, 'Trend of Couples Not Having Children Just Plain Selfish.' Well, naturally that's meant to elicit a reaction from the crowd, and I won't deny it had me reading on pretty quickly. Joe is a parent who seems to be attempting to describe the lives of DINKs (Double Income, No Kids) without actually having talked to many of us. He repeatedly attempts to paint a picture of childless couples as yoga-pants-wearing, lattee-sipping, Martha's-vineyarding, yacht-club-faring bourgeoisie. It's a funny misconception compared to the reality of my own life, where Friday nights aren't spent with a bottle of wine, but with a rushed TV dinner after an hour-long bus commute while my husband tries to glue back together the sofa leg that keeps coming off. 


I'm not sure where Joe got this idea that being childless means you've got scads of extra income. I figure having kids is a bit like smoking: you find the money when you've got the need, but if the need isn't there, the money isn't just lying around in coffers waiting for you to buy your next Mazerati. Ridiculous, Joe, to paint an entire 40% of the population with one giant gilded paintbrush--flattering, but absurd. 

I also take great offence to his suggestion that childless couples get to lounge around in their peignoirs on a weeknight because they're not chasing toddlers around a hockey arena. I might...might...have more time in a day than the average parent for throwing myself down upon my fainting couch, but that's not how I choose to spend my time. I have a blog--a secondary source of income, as well as a cornerstone of my career growth--that requires my time. A family made up of aging parents, younger siblings, and close friends with struggles. And a first house, which has been a nightmare of time suckage from Day One. I know Joe would probably rebut that parents have all these same issues going on, but still choose the saintly path of procreation despite the odds against them; but I'd argue that knowing your limits isn't a sign of selfishness, Joe. It's a sign of maturity.


Joe goes on to say, and I quote: 

Having children used to be the point of being a pair. It was the great aspiration — along with finding love everlasting — a biological impulse to go forth and multiply and, later, once your babies reached a certain age, to cajole them about the merits and benefits of doing their bit to join the ranks of parenthood while giving Mom and Dad some grandkids.

Wow, Joe. You just reduced all couplings down to a biological imperative to procreate. I wonder how the same-sex couples out there feel about your statement, because the math would show that you're implying those couples don't even count--nevermind any hetero couples who hooked up while knowing that one of them was infertile. Yes, I gotta say I was pretty astounded with the Victorian-era mindset portrayed by this comment. Make babies, Joe says, and if you're lucky, maybe find some love. Oh, and while you're at it, bestow the same babymaking guilt upon the next generation--because, as he later states, those kids and grandkids care for their elderly. (That's a false Norman Rockwell scene you're painting, Joe.)
My desire for marrying did not stem from the need to find viable male seed. I married Brian because I wanted to have a partner in life, someone with whom to experience the triumphs and the trials; someone with whom to share reciprocal support and affection. Not someone who was eager to get started on 6am little league practices.


Joe does address some of the main concerns that many of us DINKs have about childrearing: the cost, the time, the modern careers that never allow for a work/life balance; these he dismisses with a 'suck it up, buttercup' wave of his hand. The reality is that we are indeed in tough financial times, in a new world of employment with wild employer expectations, and between time and money many of my friends are afraid to get a goldfish, let alone a child. But Joe also eschews the very real concern some of us DINKs have about overpopulation, stating, 

Flaky fears about overburdening our already overburdened planet, personal choice and a bunch of other hooey that serve to hide the fact that happy couples that choose not to have kids are, at root, well, let’s see: selfish.

From my ten years' experience working with underprivileged and street-involved youth, Joe, I can tell you that these 'flaky fears' about bringing more kids into the world are anything but. Should Brian and I ever decide to parent, it will be as a foster or adoptive home for one of these forgotten children. I don't see it as selfish not to create my own genetic offspring; I see it as humble. 

SELFISH? Riiiiiiight.

But let's talk about selfish for a moment. Perhaps, to someone who has been apparently embittered by watching, as he describes them, "childless hipsters dancing through life", I look selfish. I won't even begin my rant about the term 'hipster' and how it's bandied about to describe any person under the age of 35 these days. But the image he paints is clear: that being young, fertile, yet childless is irresponsible and "selfish".
I think selfish, Joe, could be defined as someone who would compel an entire swathe of the population to get breeding. Selfish is seeing your childrearing struggles as the epitome of human experience and martyrdom. Selfish is thinking that you have a right to scathingly wax poetic about a lifestyle of which you have no concept. Selfish is bringing a child into this world because you're told to attain that gold star (something I've mentioned before), when reflection might show that you're not ready, not interested, or not built for parenting. 

Joe goes on to quote one Monica Zeniuk, a childless woman, as saying, 

“The benefits of not having children are in the driveway, in our closet and stamped on our passports.  Kids are expensive. And the marriage mortality rate is huge, without the added pressure of financing a child through its life.”

I don't disagree with Ms Zeniuk's highlighted benefits of remaining childless; it's entirely possible that we will travel more, drive a sports car, and have a longer marriage than some of our childrearing friends. 

But I personally have never considered the financial benefits and leisure time as my priorities for choosing to remain childless. I have, however, considered my life situation, my abilities and wellness, and my lack of maternal interest...and these careful deliberations have led me to understand myself in a way that cannot be judged. It is the simple truth: I am childless because I will not birth a child just to meet a standard. If that's selfish, then I proudly wear the label.

Just as I do not pass judgement on the myriad complex reasons why people choose to have offspring, Joe, I encourage you to also check your own biases and put down your gavel. In a time of mass overpopulation and world hunger, the word 'selfish' here could be a stone you're throwing within your own glass house. Your article reads like a piece of mid-century war-era propaganda, and it's embarrassing more than it is infuriating. We're no longer in an era where we need to produce a male heir, stock our farm with kindred farmhands, nor replace the fallen soldiers in our populace. There are plenty of people, and plenty of kids. You've found your happiness and your bliss; leave us to find ours.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Frugal NESTing: MJ's Bedroom Makeover

My beautiful BFF. And talented, too!
We have a special guest post today. My bestie, MJ, recently decided to paint her room, and I was blown away by her creativity on a very tight budget. When I saw the pictures and was blown away by the transformation, I begged her to write a post because we're so into frugal DIY projects here on the NEST. Without further ado, here's...


BEFORE: ugly, ugly weird colour.

I live in beautiful part of Toronto, filled with huge trees and a big park right beside the townhouse where I rent a room.  There are so many trees that on the sunniest of days I can always find plenty of shade to cool off in.  This is a wonderous and amazing thing.  However, my room was painted a dark, dusty rose kind of colour which a) could maybe be a nice accent colour but not nice for four full walls and b) between the colour and the glorious tree canopy meant that I needed a lamp on by 3pm and if it’s a rainy day then all lights must be on.  With the days getting shorter the time to paint was now!

BEFORE: such a dark space.
The only thing slowing me down was finances.  I took my Darth Vader piggy bank and shook out all the quarters and loonies that I’d been saving for the past two months and combined that with the last $20 in the bank.  Armed with a $50 budget I headed off to Home Depot.  I went straight to the mis-tints hoping to score a usable colour that no one else had liked and found a gallon of a decent leafy green for $9!  A nice green but again, not four full wall nice.  I knew covering the dark rose colour would be challenging and I would need a lot of paint to cover it up.  Hooray!! An 8L pail of white primer on sale for $25!  I grabbed a combo pack of rollers, a tray and edging brush on my way to the cash and the total cost was $50.79.  Score one for the savvy shopper!

AFTER! Bright, cheery, and matchy with the bedding!
I got home, put half my furniture onto my balcony and cramming everything else into my closets and began the transformation.  Remember how I was a super savvy shopper and was a mere 79 cents over budget?  Do you know what happens to the savvy shoppers who save by not buying a drop sheet?  They flip a tray of white paint off the top of their entertainment unit onto the dark blue rug.  I tried using harsh language to clean it up but weirdly that didn’t work.  I scooped up as much as I could and threw a towel over the rest and kept on going.  I couldn’t unflip the tray, it was what it was and momentum could not be lost!

Two coats of primer covered the white well enough to suit me until I find a colour I really like and can afford to buy it (and a drop sheet) and I used the green for the base-boards and trim on the closets. Well, I will do the trim on the closets. I saved  money by not buying tape either and after one experimental square it’s clear that without it the transformation will resemble a first grade art project.

My room is %100 brighter and homier now and I even managed to create more space when rearranging the furniture after.  I hung up my guitar and a bit of art and now it feels like my own happy, cozy space. Extra bonus in life is that my landlord is not even a bit mad about the carpet and is changing it soon anyway. Yessssss!

You can follow MJ on Twitter, though she doesn't say much, but when she does it's pretty profound. Kinda like Silent Bob. Find her at @tinypiesrtarts

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Guest Post on Wellman Wilson!

So the brains behind Wellman Wilson Consulting have decided that I, Jordan, have some ideas about social media worth sharing. Fools.

Anyway, they're having me guest-blog semi-regularly, and I'm up there today, with a post entitled: Why I'm Friends with George Takei: conscientious content sharing. For those of you who love social media or want to understand it more, the WWC blog is always a great place to go--I do a lot of my own learning there--but now you can get more of me, too, as I wax eloquent, or at least, wax witty.

See you there!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Montreal for a Day: the NEST gets away from the nest.


Beautiful churches in MTL!

The new house has been all-consuming. Any of you who read our blog regularly already know this, of course, from reading many posts about the escapades and adventures we've been on while trying to prepare our nest. But there've been a couple of misadventures recently that showed we were both reaching the end of our patience and coping skills.

First off: turns out that if I see even a drop of Brian's blood, I get faint and start to gag--making me the worst First Responder ever and sorta a bad wife, because all I can do is shout out the location of the bandaids as I hang my head over a trashbin--and this is surprising because I have never had trouble with blood, cuts, or grossness before. But maybe more intriguing is that when Bri bumps his shin, stubs his toe, or hits his head, I cannot help but snicker. I don't understand how my brain works; why a gash on his thumb from a knife would make me puke, but a bone-crunching whack with a hammer would make me giggle, is beyond me. But there it is, and if it makes me an evil person, that's too bad because the best I can do is stifle my laugh.

Painty dog.
Secondly: it's vitally important to step away from projects like house repairs and GET OUT AROUND HUMANS. Brian works part time outside the house, but his bookkeeping business is home-based, and so naturally he's been the lead on some of the finishing touches on the house, like painting the living and dining rooms. I came home on Wednesday to find him painting a second coat on the dining room, and as we were talking, our pug Mr Darcy sat down and leaned against the freshly-painted wall. Brian hollered at him to get off, and with something akin to an eye-roll, Darcy stood up and moved away from the wall. His back was now painted a light buttery yellow, and the wall had a fur-textured patch the size of a toddler. (Mr Darcy is large and fat, in case you're not familiar with our pug dog.) Brian was livid about the texturized wall, and MJ, who I was on the phone with, suggested he just pick Darcy up, and texture the whole wall. "We'll call it 'pugging'," she added helpfully. When I relayed the idea to Brian, he looked me, doubled over in mirth and just raised on eyebrow. He then continued on with painting the room, pausing only to kick Darcy out of the way a couple times.


So clearly we're all in need of a break, and I had the genius idea to spend the day in Montreal. It's only a couple hours away, and it had a few things I really wanted to see: the Biodome, a spot I love to visit; and Ben, my friend-and-former-summer-student who I miss keenly since he headed back to school. Add in the Montreal Comicon, plus my friend Hal, and you've got enough incentive to make us pile into the car and head down the road.

For anyone out there working on an all-consuming project like a house, I heartily recommend this type of adventure. The twelve hours we were away refreshed us both and gave us lots of good memories to get through the last of the house tasks. Now at least I can close my eyes and think of penguins while Brian is bleeding from any number of various house repair-related injuries. 

Here are photos for your enjoyment; I'll let them do their own talking. 

And Comicon...

Weapons check. Hilarious.

Everyone needs comics.

Tank Girl, because she's awesome.

The Flash waits for his date outside the ladies' room.


Yep, that's Brent Spiner--Data from Star Trek.

Malcom McDowell

Even Starfleet captains need to stop for nourishment. Not from a replicator, this time.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

From Points B to A: a bra misadventure

What happened to simple underthings???

I decided this past weekend that it was time to embark on one of my most hated purchasing ventures: bra shopping. Oh, I see the pretty magazines where Victoria’s Secret models prance around and tell me how incredible my bust will look when I put on one of their cheetah-printed numbers; but generally I’m into a less fussy set of underthings...and I am so freaking tired of everyone offering to push my girls up, spread them apart, or pull them together. All I’m really looking for is an easy-to-wear, padding-free bra that embraces my boobs gently, tucking them into place and otherwise leaving them be.

Unfortunately, the current trend in bra fashions means that I’ve been wearing foam-cupped contraptions for the past couple years, because the non-foamy choices generally are ugly things. The message is: if you don’t want your bust lifted and enhanced, then you must just want them swaddled tight against your chest in a sea of taupe polyester.

Consequently, I have held onto the few bras I do like, well beyond their recommended life span. It was around Wednesday last week that I realized this might need to be remedied. I was pulling on a rather hot little skirt for work, and Brian made a comment about how good I was looking...and then we both kinda looked at my unravelling, once-white, pilling cotton bra, and I said, “I’m going shopping.” Because it’s just way too early in this marriage for the bad underwear to start.

Mmm, sexy taupe, wide straps...rowr. (Sigh.)
So I headed out to the mall, and I went to a certain nationwide department store where they have a ton of bras and brands. I figured this was a good place to start: lots of options, lots of choices. Surely I would accomplish my goal of finding some non-foam, non-padded, moderately-cute bras. Surely this couldn’t be too hard.

I wrangled a saleslady into helping me, because as I wandered through the aisles I found my pulse racing and my palms getting sweaty; there were just too many options, and I couldn’t figure out what to try. Not to mention, I haven’t been sized in a really long time, and lately I wondered if maybe I’d lost a bit the chest department. After explaining what I was looking for, the saleswoman approved the choices I’d pulled out, then sent me into the changeroom. I stripped off my top layers, pulled on a cute plaid number, stood up, and realized that I have, indeed, lost some volume in the bust area. The B-cup sat on my boobs like a pair of deflated parachutes, loose and wobbly. I sighed and asked the woman for some help.

She peeked into the room, tugged at the straps, and said, “Well the problem is, you’ve got nothing there.

Yeah, thanks, lady. Saturday afternoon, in a busy changeroom, and you’ve just announced that there’s nothing there.

credit: Ambro
This shouldn’t bother me. I had a breast reduction five years ago—dropping from a DD to a small B, much to the relief of my nerve-damaged back and shoulders—but there was something about the way that she announced my breasts as the problem that just really made my stomach churn.

I stood there in that saggy bra and demanded she find me an A-cup, as this was clearly what needed to happen. If I’d discovered my reduced cup size on any other day, in any other situation, I honestly wouldn’t be bothered by it at all; but now I felt vulnerable, cold, and a little naked. Oh, wait...maybe because, you know, I wasn’t wearing a shirt.

The lady went and looked, and came back to inform me that there were no A-cups out there for my size, in the style of light little bras that I wanted. I thanked her, got dressed, and went to exit; but she seemed to develop a sudden sense of sympathy and instead of letting me leave, she made another suggestion.

“You know,” she said, ”Probably what you should be doing is shopping in the little girl’s section. Go downstairs, and see if they have your size there. It’s probably the best you can do.”

I stared at her open-mouthed, then walked away.

And at the last minute, I turned into the little girls’ section.

The dream, not the reality.
credit: Charisma
With burning cheeks, I checked, and yes: they had my size.

The punchline? All the little girl bras were padded, too. Don’t get me started on messed up I think that is.

I left the mall an hour later with some bust-enhancing foamy bras from a different shop in the mall. I wish I’d found what I was looking for, but in the end these bras are fine and maybe helpful, now that I’ve ‘got nothing there’. You can’t always get what you want...but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.

After this escapade, what I really needed was a stiff drink.