It’s Not All Mary Poppins


Somewhat belatedly, here’s the ratatouille recipe someone asked for!! Mine comes from one of The Green Door cookbooks, The Green Door being a local (and excellent) vegetarian restaurant.

1 large eggplant
4 – 5 zucchini
Cut the eggplant into cubes, slice the zucchini, toss with about a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of oil, and bake at 350F for about 30 minutes. (The eggplant may need an extra 15 minutes.) While these are roasting, prepare the rest of the vegetables:

3 cups sliced onions (I just cut mine in eighths)
1 clove garlic, minced (I usually put in about three cloves. I like garlic.)
1 large can (798 mL; about 3 cups) diced tomatoes
1 sweet red pepper, large dice
1 green pepper, large dice
1 cup chopped fresh parsley (I often skip this. It’s a pain to clean and it gets stuck between my teeth…)
1/4 cup fresh basil (or 1 tablespoon dried) — I never skip this. Nom, basil!
1 Tablespoon soya sauce

Heat about 2 Tablespoons oil in a large sautee pan or wok.

Add onions. Cook 5 – 7 minutes on medium-high
Add garlic and tomatoes, another 5 minutes
Add eggplant, zucchini, basil and parsley, 5 minutes.
Toss in the peppers and soy sauce to heat through.

Serve hot.

This keeps well, and reheats well. I’ll make a batch for myself on the weekend, and have it for lunches throughout the week. (Yes, I eat with the children, but sometimes what I really want is a big bowl of ratatouille, so I take a token amount of their lunch, and the bulk of it is this. Mmmmm. I will even share. It’s terrific served with shredded cheese over top, too.)

But really, ratatouille is one of those great empty-the-fridge dishes. I always put in the roasted eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and onions, because, to me, those are foundational to the taste I so enjoy. Even the garlic and basil, which I love, are optional to me, though I rarely skip them. But pretty much everything can be played with, depending on your taste. Skip the peppers if you don’t have any, and add leftover steamed cauliflower. Put in the parsley or don’t. Use oregano instead of basil if you prefer. Search out your wilty vegetables and toss them in. It’s very forgiving, and very flexible.


December 13, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

Introverted Me

Introversion is the Next Big Social Thing. Everyone’s talking about it these days. It rather bemuses me, all this sudden flurry attention. Hello? We’ve been here all along! Oh, I guess you extroverted types didn’t notice, huh, introverts being so quiet an all.

I am an introvert, but I’m a confident one who’s never felt inadequate or lacking, so the “it’s okay to be an introvert! there’s nothing wrong with you!!” emphasis of some of the writers is frankly annoying. This book? Totally mis-titled. “How to Thrive in an Extrovert World”? Nah. Merest survival. And advantages? Didn’t find a one. But this one? Is terrific. I really enjoyed it, and found myself nodding along … and learning lots.

Most recently I happened onto a Huffinton Post article, 23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert. Having no toddlers to write about this week, I decided to respond to its points, see how I, a not-so-secret introvert, tally according to this particular list.

1. You find small talk incredibly cumbersome.

Oh, I used to! Right into my late thirties. I’m not sure when the shift happened, but now I can actively enjoy it. Introverts, as the article notes, tend to see small talk as a barrier between people. Introverts like conversation to go deep. Chit-chat is anything but, and so for many years, I avoided it. It was tedious, it was annoying, and I just wasn’t any damned good at it.

Some people only small talk. For them conversation never develops beyond friendly chit-chat. That’s fine, if that’s what they enjoy … but I won’t be spending long hours of time in conversation with them. But! At some point in my thirties, I began to see that small talk is a terrific springboard to real conversation. Small talk is a way to get comfortable with someone, to determine their conversational style, their attitudes and interests, to evaluate whether they’re someone who’s capable of and interested in, conversation with more depth.

So now I enjoy small talk. Not as an end in itself, generally, but as a means to an end.

2. You go to parties -– but not to meet people.
True. I go to be with people I know, for conversation. I go for the food and drink, to dance if there’s dancing. I go to flirt. “Meeting new people” is not an enticement. It may be a fringe benefit, but it’s never the goal.

3. You often feel alone in a crowd.
Yup. This one surprised me. Doesn’t everyone? Guess not!

4. Networking makes you feel like a phony.
It used to. And goodness, networking certainly offers huge opportunities for phoniness which some people exploit shamelessly. But, as I’ve come to realize, it doesn’t have to be phony. Introverts just have to learn to network in a style that suits their nature. Also, I will not — not even sure I could — approach someone for some sort of job-related favour if I’ve never done anything for them. It doesn’t have to be huge: maybe I’ve sent them a few links to articles that I think they’d find interesting, with a personal note attached. (A perfect introvert technique!) It’s the relationship bank account idea: don’t be making withdrawals if you never make a deposit.

5. You’ve been called “too intense.”
Yup! Also been accused of ‘over-thinking’ when I thought we’d barely begun to explore the topic.

6. You’re easily distracted.
When I read this I disagreed. I have terrific focus, once I get my teeth into an idea. (See “too intense/over-thinking”, above.) The article isn’t talking about mental focus and distraction, though, it’s talking about physical. In that case, yes, absolutely. If I’m in a busy coffee shop, trying to have a significant conversation (as opposed to small talk!), I will place myself with my back to the room. It’s too stimulating; I can’t focus; I keep getting distracted. So it turns out this is a yes.

7. Downtime doesn’t feel unproductive to you.
ABSOLUTELY! I looooove my downtime. Not so that I can ‘do nothing’, but because it refreshes and restores me. Without the downtime, I am less productive, and I know it. When I have downtime, lots of healthy, nourishing, internal things are going on. I love it. I need it.

8. Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards.
Yes and no. I’ve done a reasonable amount of public speaking, though I think the largest audience I had was 100 or so. As long as I am well-prepared, I actively enjoy public speaking. The conversation afterward? Depends on how it’s structured. If we’re having a meet-and-greet with coffee or drinks, where people mill around and talk about whatever, that’s tiring and I’d rather not. I can, and I’m charming … but it’s tiring. If it’s simply a line of people asking a question about my presentation, and maybe moving into their own experience, that I’m absolutely comfortable with, and enjoy.

9. When you get on the subway, you sit at the end of the bench -– not in the middle.
Yes, though I see this as more good manners. When you take the middle seat, you’re hogging the whole bench, tacitly discouraging people from sitting there. (But maybe I only feel that way because I’m introverted, and would choose to sit alone if I had the chance?)

10. You start to shut down after you’ve been active for too long.
Absolutely. Yes.

11. You’re in a relationship with an extrovert.
Nope! My wonderful husband is far more introverted than me.

12. You’d rather be an expert at one thing than try to do everything.

13. You actively avoid any shows that might involve audience participation.
I would suspect it would depend on the show, but likely the answer for me is ‘true’. If the audience participation is stupid or potentially humiliating or conflictual, ugh. If participation means playing with fun ideas, then I could do that. I suspect the shows I’d feel comfortable being on are few and far between.

14. You screen all your calls — even from friends.
Yup. Loves me my call display!

15. You notice details that others don’t.
I don’t know. Do I? I’ve never thought about it.

16. You have a constantly running inner monologue
Oh, heck yeah.

17. You have low blood pressure
I do!

18. You’ve been called an “old soul” -– since your 20s.
I think my grandmother called me that for the first time when I was four.

19. You don’t feel “high” from your surroundings

False. In the right situation, I absolutely can. Now, I think my tolerance is lower than an extrovert’s. After a while the buzz wears off and I get tired/overwhelmed, but I can and do get high on busy, loud, positive surroundings, and I do enjoy it.

20. You look at the big picture.
Absolutely. I think it’s one of the things that makes me good at my job.

21. You’ve been told to “come out of your shell.”
Uh-huh. Lordy, I got tired of hearing that when I was in grade school. My response, had I been rude enough to say it out loud, was “Well, if the rest of you would SHUT UP for long enough, I might have a chance.”

22. You’re a writer.

Guess so! I also far prefer email to phone conversations.

23. You alternate between phases of work and solitude, and periods of social activity.
Yes! One of the things I’ve loved about my two weeks off is the opportunity to structure my time so that I can do exactly that. I have far more energy, get a lot more done, when I can pace myself, balance the demands. I’ve gotten SO MUCH DONE, visited a bunch of people, and don’t feel tired AT ALL. It’s been wonderful!

Too bad I can’t be on holiday all the time…

August 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 11 Comments

WordPress Glitch

I am having problems with WordPress, so I’ll make this very quick, because goodness knows when I’ll be able to post again…

For the past three weeks or so, I’m having intermittent connection problems. Every single link on my blog, whether to my compose page, my comments page, my About, or Recipes, or whatever … they all take me to my Home Page. WordPress help told me to clear my cache. After a reboot, that worked just fine.

But why should I keep having to do that, every other time I try to log in? I thought maybe it was a browser problem, but a switch from Firefox to Chrome has not solved it.


April 24, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

Menu Monday

First course: Roasted sweet potatoes with dip
Main course: Singapore noodles
Dessert: Lemon muffins

First course: spinach salad
Main course: cheesy black bean quesadillas
Dessert: apple slices with peanut butter

First course: Pickled veggie salad
Main course: Curried tofu wrap
Dessert: pineapple chunks

First course: Moroccan salad
Main course: Home made mac and cheese (the oven-baked type, not the quick stovetop type)
Dessert: chocolate mousse

Friday is, of course, Good Friday, and the daycare will be closed! My family, however, will be eating Ginger poached salmon on rice, ratatouille, and salad. No dessert, because we’ll have had the chocolate mousse already, and we rarely eat dessert.

March 25, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Spring Tradition

One of the nice things about working with small children is that you get to rediscover all the fun little rites of childhood. The “sticks-on-a-fence” game, for example.

Here’s another, which we’ve only been able to play this week, some of us for the VERY FIRST TIME!

Here we have a puddle. Yes, I know. Those of you from warmer climates will look at that and see only ice and snow. But those of us Who Know Winter see the underlying truth: that is a puddle! A puddle with a skin of ice on top.
A puddle with a skin of ice on top, extending down the length of the street!!

Now, attend to that picture for a moment. See the grey-white blobs in the ice, just at the edge of the snow? Those are air bubbles. they tell you that what you’re seeing is not a solid slab of ice, but — this is the best! — it’s an ice layer which only sits on the water beneath.

Puddles like that are custom-designed for small children. Because when you stomp on them? The ice shatters! Cracks! Crumples beneath you!

Oh, the noise! Oh, the destruction! Oh, the power!
Oh, how I wish there’d been enough ice for me…

March 15, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

A Rite of Passage

A few years ago, I don’t know if I blogged about it here, Emma (my youngest, then 15 or so) came home with a new boyfriend. He looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t think why … until I met his mother.

We looked at each other in stunned recognition. “Pat?!” “Mary?!” Then we looked at our children, a second time, astonishment on our faces.

“You mean, that’s Kevin??”
“And that’s little Emma?!”

Yes, indeed. Emma was dating a former daycare client. It’s a rite of passage of a sort, in my business. I had cleaned that young man’s little butt, once upon a time. (Strangely, neither Emma nor Kevin found that little tidbit nearly as entertaining as we two mothers. Mwah-ha.)

I have an interview tonight. Nothing exceptional about that, except …

The young mother? She used to help out in the daycare. When she was seventeen.


Now she is thirty-two, with a career, a husband … and with a four-month-old baby. Who will need care starting November. Thirty-two. Not even a barely-adult twenty-something. She’s over thirty. An established adult.


“You probably don’t remember me,” she says, “but I’ve remembered you often through the years. I learned so much from you, stuff that I’ve applied in my career. How you motivated the children, how you got them working together. People are people, no matter how old they are.”

Wow. I guess she won’t be asking for referrals.

I’m really excited! I hope it works out. Wouldn’t that just be too cool for words?

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 3 Comments

Menu Monday

First Course: Orange-ginger broccoli*
Main Course: Fettucine carbonara*
Dessert: Muffins

First Course: Parmesan tomatoes*
Main Course: Farmer’s Omelette
Dessert: Bananas and walnuts

First Course: Almond beets**
Main Course: Macaroni and Cheese
Dessert: Apple slices with peanut butter

First Course: Coleslaw (red cabbage, rutabaga, carrot)*
Main Course: Polenta with cabbage-peanut stew
Dessert: banana bread

First Course: salad*
Main Course: Singapore noodles
Dessert: fruit fool*

*Starred recipes again from my new cookbook, Michael Smith’s Fast Flavours.

**This one is from Cook’s Illustrated magazine, an excellent magazine to which I have a subscription because I love not just the recipes, but the educational aspect of their articles. I’ve learned a lot from their articles: how flavours meld, how to bring out the best, varying techniques. I’ve been able to follow a recipe since I was ten; now I’m learning how recipies — and food — works. It’s terrific!

However, I strongly, really, truly object to their restrictive practices re: their website information. I could give you all a link to the recipe, but there’d be a whacking great pop-up in the middle of the page requesting you to sign up for a 14-day free trial of their site before you could see the recipe hiding behind said obnoxious pop-up. (And may I say how I object that, even as a subscriber — with a three-year subscription, yet — to the print magazine, I am not entitled to view the recipes on their site without paying still more? Obnoxious, I tell you.)

Chef Michael
is way classier. (Also less grasping.) Neener, neener. AND his recipes are usually simpler. So there. 😛

As ever, if you see something in this week’s menu that interests you, just ask and I’ll post it.

February 25, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment


It is not good to start a day tired.

January 24, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment


A game that gets them jumping!

1. Have the children crouch down in a tight squat, feet on the floor. They are being popcorn kernels.

2. Begin the rhyme:

You put the oil in the pot
And you let it get HOT!
You put the popcorn in
And you start to grin!

Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle [at this the children start to wriggle around on their feet, while still scrunched down tight]
Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle
Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle, sizzle …

POP!!! [here the children LEAP upward]

The game officially ends here, but I usually keep them going for a while, shouting out “Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!” for five or six or ten more jumps, but before it gets wildly out of control, I call out, “AAAaaaaand [this gets their attention] STOP!!”

And with ‘stop!’ they plop back down into the kernel position, ready for the next round.

With slightly older children, you can do “sticky popcorn”, which has them, when they bump into each other, stick together to form a popcorn ball, and then they have to jump around in a clump. I don’t do this with toddlers: the odds of everyone falling into a piece of furniture and ending up in a crying heap on the floor is too great!

It’s a great game for a stuck-inside day.

January 9, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

October 31

No post today. Too many EXCITED TODDLERS surround me. Excuse me: a kittycat, a ghost, a mermaid, a cow, and a farmer. And they’re all VERY VERY EXCITED!!! All this without one speck of sugar. Lord only knows what they’ll be like tomorrow…


October 31, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments