I hope I never lose my sense of wonder. If that makes me naive, then so be it.

Monday, 24 October 2011


Rehearsals, rehearsals. The band has another concert date on the horizon (November 5th!) and so we are hard at work bringing the music together. This time is an even bigger musical variety than last time, and Uberguitarist has once again pulled seemingly disparate elements like Grieg and the Beatles together into what will be a fun music lineup.

 'Blank Page' will debut there, too. My new song born out of a friend telling me to be creative by starting with a blank page. I think I took it more figuratively than she meant, but hey, I'll take the inspiration I can get.

The process of taking a song from the bare words and chords and getting it performance-ready is like going from a blueprint to an actual building. The page gives the outline, the craft and execution makes it real and multi-dimensional. We worked through it last week to get the band familiar, but I still have ideas and fine-tuning that will make it be what I want. Ideas that make sense in my head don't always sound quite right when I actually hear them, and hearing something gives new ideas. It's a very organic process as it grows, changes, and adapts to itself.

It's been good to discipline myself to finish the songs that have been floating around, half-done. As I've encouraged our girls to bring their short stories to completion, I'm reminded that while I don't write stories, these song fragments are my equivalent. Giving them shape and structure lets them finally get out of my head. And really, there's enough clutter in there already...

Friday, 14 October 2011

daring cooks, october

This month I got to try a food I'd never tasted, only heard referred to in silly songs. And it was fabulous.

The October Daring Cooks' Challenge was hosted by Shelley of C Mom Cook and her sister Ruth of The Crafts of Mommyhood. They challenged us to bring a taste of the East into our home kitchens by making our own Moo Shu, including thin pancakes, stir fry and sauce.

A dish from northern China, Moo Shu is most commonly made with pork, and almost always contains cabbage and egg. It's basically a stir fry of thinly sliced vegetables and meat served on thin steamed pancakes with a complimentary sauce.

Pancake cooking- one of many.
The part of the recipe I thought would be the most tedious was the preparation of the little pancakes for wrapping the stir fry. I envisioned a long, drawn out process, but was pleasantly surprised at how easily handled the dough was, and how quickly I was able to cook the pancakes while working on the stir fry itself. 

To flour was added boiling water and a little oil. That's it. It was left to sit after mixing for 30 minutes to relax the gluten (thus making rolling them thin much easier), and the resulting dough after kneading was great to work with. Sections of the dough were cut and rolled out into thin pancakes which then cooked oh-so-briefly in the skillet before being set aside. They quickly stacked up on my plate, ready to be filled. 

Action shot! Stir fry in the works.
For the stir fry I did remember to cut everything beforehand, which made for a streamlined cooking process. Lean pork, napa cabbage, bamboo shoots, scallions, and shiitake mushrooms (the ingredient 'fungus' in the recipe was cause for some strange looks and giggles amongst my girls)  were all thinly sliced and tossed into the pan in turn to cook. Scrambled egg was added just at the end and stirred through the dish to complete it.

As for the hoisin, it seemed to go together easily - I don't have first-hand experience with it, because 11yo sous-chef M was very excited to have a part of the recipe to do on her own and so took over the preparation (as if I was going to argue with an eager young cook?). She dutifully mixed the ingredients, whisking and chatting and generally making things fun, and we both agreed that the homemade hoisin was much better than the store-bought. In fact, when we made it again the next week (a sure sign it was a hit), she immediately claimed hoisin-making as her thing to do.
Hoisin sauce - yummy.

As we sat around the table, spooning the moo shu into our pancakes, drizzling hoisin, rolling them up and enjoying them, it was great family time to share the events of the day and commenting on our new meal (all thumbs up!). We got to try something new and spend some focused time together, laughing and talking. 

And really, isn't that one of the best things about good food? 

(side note: I can't figure out why (a) I have to have the font this large, and (b) there are extra spaces between my paragraphs. There are only single spaces between until I post it, and the 'small' font will only print as teensy. Minor annoyance, and I do hope to figure it out. Visually, it bothers me.)