Broccoli Pasta Salad

Today’s recipe is short and sweet! Well, not really sweet…more tangy than sweet. The beauty of this salad is that you can add virtually anything to it, and it will still taste good. This is my own recipe that I cobbled together one summer day when it was too hot to cook.

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This Recipe feeds as many or as little as you want.

2 c. rotini pasta (or other pasta of your choice)
Enough water to cover pasta
Broccoli florets, chopped (I use 2-3 stalks)
Kraft Golden Italian dressing
Parmesan cheese (real grated or from shaker)
Salt & pepper to taste

Optional: Add diced carrots, red onion, red pepper, cherry tomatoes cut in half, or fried bacon pieces

Cook pasta according to package instructions (usually 9-10 minutes)

In the meantime, prepare and cut up vegetables.
Pour cooked pasta into a colander; run cold water over it to stop cooking and to make it easier to handle.
Place cut vegetables into a large bowl. Add cooled pasta. Mix well.

Pour a quantity of Golden Italian dressing (I never measure) over the mixture. Add desired amount of parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. Mix well. Note: you will be adjusting the seasoning as you go to your own taste.
Serve as a side dish, or main meal with a salad and  crusty bread. Enjoy!

Cat Love

Anyone who knows me can tell you how much I love my cats…with a passion. Here are photos of some of the cats I’ve loved (and lost).

First up, Sam (1982-1999). AKA My Sammy, Sama-rama-lama-ding-dong, Sammy Boy.

My big Sammy boy

My big Sammy boy

This guy had infinite patience, until provoked beyond endurance by the younger crew. Then, swipe, with his paw, and they soon learned their place! Known as “the Wise One”. MySammy2

Sasha (1993-2003). No nickname. Don’t models need just one name? Nuff said.

Walking the runway

Walking the runway

This petite, slim girl knew she was seriously pretty, and loved it.

Sasha playing cutesy

Sasha playing cutesy

She was often to be found cuddled up with Sam. Not surprisingly, known as “the Model Cat”.

Chelsea (1993-2006). AKA Peeney, Peony, Peeney Pie.

Peeney in pearls

Peeney in pearls

This sweet little girl was known for her funny antics. The first night we moved into a new house, my husband was up for a late night snack. She joined him on one of the chairs and dug right in..one of the family. Known as “the Funny Girl”.

Regal girl

Regal girl

Peeney wants her turn to be a model

Peeney wants her turn to be a model

Max (2006-Present). AKA Maximillian, Maxwell, Maxwell House.
When Peeney died, I was so sad that my husband said I should look for another kitty right away. Now, I know some of you cat lovers might not be able to “replace” a beloved cat so soon. The way I looked at it was this: I loved that cat so much, it was honouring her memory. And so Max came into our lives.

The office assistant

The office assistant

We swear he’s part Maine Coon because of his gorgeous long hair and fluffy tail. He’s one of the most affectionate cats I’ve ever had. Known as “the Cuddler”.

Max knows he's a pretty boy

Max knows he’s a pretty boy

Max with his favourite toy mouse

Max with his favourite toy mouse

Does the Maine Coon cat below not look like Max?

English: A Maine Coon cat.

English: A Maine Coon cat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Women’s Makeup Through the Years: Ancient Times

This article is part of a series of Women’s Makeup Through the Years that I’ve put together.

It should be noted that I’m no expert on this subject. My research is coupled with information from the Internet, and some reference books. I have cited sources wherever possible. This is my own personal take on the subject, and by no means comprehensive. Any errors are my own.
Decoration of bodies, for both men and women, has been going on since ancient times. Whether for religious reasons, to indicate tribal loyalty, or simply to make themselves appear more attractive, human beings have always wanted to beautify their appearance.

Ancient Egypt

It was ancient Egypt, however, that laid the foundations of cosmetics application as we know it today. This civilization used makeup, both to enhance their beauty and for health benefits, and scent to mask body odour.  The principal colours used were green and black: green malachite for eye shadow and lead sulphide (kohl) used for eyeliner.  Thick eyeliner was not only decorative or preventing glare from the sun, but it had chemical properties used in eye medications, and kept flies from the Nile’s marsh at bay. Cosmetics were so important that many Egyptians went to their tombs fully made up.  It was very important to have a good appearance in the afterlife. Archaeologists have also found makeup kits in their tombs.

Cleopatra in a papyrus painting

Cleopatra in a papyrus painting

Queen Nefertiti

Queen Nefertiti

Ancient Rome

The wealthy women of Rome highly valued pure white skin.  Since this did not come about naturally, they required whitening makeup, such as chalk or white lead. They were able to afford “cosmetae”, female slaves who applied their mistresses’ makeup in private rooms (does this remind anyone of modern day salons with estheticians?).

Cosmetae applying makeup

Cosmetae applying makeup

Cosmetics were very expensive, often coming from Germany and Gaul (France), only affordable by these women. Other commonly used ingredients were carmine for the cheeks and ash and powdered saffron for the eyes.

Working-class women had to make do with “designer brand” knockoffs.
Scent was also very important. Because of stench of some of the ingredients in their makeup, women would almost bathe themselves in perfume.

The advent of Christianity gave the taint of immorality to women’s cosmetics. Makeup was condemned as “ungodly” or “unchaste” for women.  St. Cyprian, referring to application of cosmetics, wrote “everything that comes into existence is the work of God; what is changed is the work of the devil”. Roman women were strongly advised to shun cosmetics.

Ancient Greece

As we have seen in Rome, a white complexion was highly prized, and this trend spread to the Mediterranean world. Greek women had darker skin that required whitening.  A paste made of white lead was applied to the face, neck and shoulders to achieve this appearance, and to lessen the look of wrinkles. Although lead sulphide was known to be highly toxic, women continued to use it.

Ancient Greek makeup application

Ancient Greek makeup application

Cosmetics were often imported from Egypt. Others products were used to enhance lip and cheek colour (flowers or crushed mulberries), and soot was used in eye shadow and eye liner.

Greek women also loved to use perfumes, which were imported from Egypt.

Resources
Books: Cosmetics and collectibles: beauty from  Victorian times to the present day, by Madeleine Marsh, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2009.
Internet: www.cosmeticsinfo.org, www.fashionencyclopedia.com, www.ehow.com/info (ancient egyptian makeup styles)

Beef Goulash Soup

Today is very cool with thunder showers…very strange weather for the end of May. So I thought it was the perfect time for another comfort food recipe. Here’s my version of Goulash Soup. It’s very hearty  and almost like a stew (my favourite kind of soup). Be sure to be hungry…you’ll be lining up for seconds.

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This Recipe feeds a lot of hungry people!

1 1/2 lbs. stew beef, cubed
3 T. butter
1 garlic clove, minced
2 large onions, chopped
1 T. paprika
1 t. vinegar
1/2 t. caraway seed
1/2 t. marjoram
Salt and pepper to taste
2 T. flour
Ketchup
6 c. beef broth or water
1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced

Wash beef and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into bite-size cubes.

Melt butter in Dutch oven. Saute garlic and onions. Fry until translucent and golden.
Stir in paprika and vinegar. Add meat, broth, spices and a couple of dollops of Ketchup to taste. Mix well.
Cover and cook gently 1 – 1/2 hours.

Dilute flour with a little gravy; stir into soup. In the meantime, prepare and add the vegetables. Cover with lid and let ingredients cook for about 1 hour, or until vegetables are done. If needed, add more broth or water to dilute liquid.
Serve with a salad and  crusty bread. Enjoy!

Genealogy: An Adoptee’s Journey, Part I – The Search Begins

Linwood , Ontario, is a small village deep in the heart of Mennonite country. It was a place settled  mainly by people of German extraction, and some of their descendants still live there today. So what does all this have to do with me, you ask?

This is the story of my journey to discover my roots – not so unusual in itself. What makes this story truly unique, however, is that as an adoptee, I sought not only my parents’ roots, but also those of my birth relatives.

Linwood CPR Railway Station

My grandfather Collins was Station Master & Telegrapher here before WWI.

My grandfather Collins was Station Master & Telegrapher here before WWI.

So imagine my surprise, then, when at the end of my search, all roads led back to Linwood, where both my parents, Ken Williams and Maureen Collins were born, as well as some of my birth relatives!

Here is how it all began.  When I began this search, it was in order to find my birth mother.  For that, I needed a vital piece of information: my original birth registration.  This took a lot of ingenuity on my part, as my parents would not let me see this document. This was back in the day when adoption was such a difficult process: first, you had to prove you were worthy to adopt a child, and once approved, wait for a baby to come along. So my parents were very insecure, sure that they’d lose me to a bunch of strangers.

As anyone who is adopted knows, this is totally ridiculous! You love the people who brought you up and provided you with unconditional love.

At a meeting of Adoptees, I got the tip I needed: tell the powers that be that I needed the original document for a Visa to the United States. This ruse worked like a charm. And bingo, just like that I was looking at my original birth name!

Next: How I Found my Birth Mother

Gypsy Goulash

I love to play with recipes and almost never use the original one I see. Today’s Goulash recipe is a prime example of one I’ve adapted. The beauty is that you can play with it too, changing it up with different vegetables or meat , or serving it with rice or noodles.

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This Recipe feeds a lot of people! Halve it for three – four servings

2 lbs. stew veal, cubed (or stew beef if you prefer)
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, chopped
Green or red pepper, seeded & chopped (if desired)
1 c. bacon, diced
Flour
Olive oil
1 – 2 T. paprika
1/2 t. caraway seed
1/2 t. marjoram
Sat and pepper to taste
1 1/2 T. vinegar
1 T. tomato paste
1 c. beef broth
2-3 potatoes, cubed (I leave the skins on)
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
Sour cream

Wash veal and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into bite-size cubes and dredge in flour.

Pour some olive oil into frying pan and heat (I use an electric skillet). Saute bacon; add garlic and onions. Fry until translucent and golden. Remove from pan.

Add veal to pan and brown at high heat until a golden crust forms on the meat. Add spices, vinegar, tomato paste and 1/2 c. of the broth.
Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the vegetables. Put onions and garlic back in pan; add vegetables. Add more liquid (remaining beef broth) if required. Cover with lid and let ingredients cook for about 1 hour, or until vegetables are done.

Remove the lid to reduce liquid and cook until desired thickness. Add a dollop or two of sour cream about 10 minutes before serving and stir well.
Serve over rice or noodles with a salad and  crusty bread to soak up the gravy. Enjoy!

The Great Gatsby: Book or Movie? Why not Both?

The cover of the first edition of The Great Ga...

The cover of the first edition of The Great Gatsby (1925) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, today I went to see The Great Gatsby 3D movie. I must admit I was skeptical, as I’d heard mixed reviews, and anything billed “as interpreted by [Baz Luhrman]” makes me suspicious.

Right now I’m reading the book and loving it…the beautiful, lyrical descriptions of nature, and the unexpectedness of certain scenes, e.g. when Tom Buchanan suddenly breaks Mrs. Wilson’s nose. If you haven’t read the book (I’m almost ashamed to admit I hadn’t), you’re in for a real treat.

Now, back to the movie…
Please note that this is my own opinion. I promised myself not to be biased because of the reviews I’d read. My husband and I went to see it this afternoon, and surprise, surprise, he really enjoyed it. As did I, which just goes to show you, I was right when I decided to make up my own mind.

As you’d expect, it was a spectacular extravaganza, particularly the party scenes. What I didn’t expect was that it stayed true to the book. Tobey Maguire, as Nick Carraway, proved to be the perfect bystander narrator.

I really liked Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, the mysterious but ultimately vulnerable man. Tom Buchanan is played particularly well by Joel Edgerton (he has the most burning blue eyes), as an arrogant, mean bully boy. And, Daisy…well, Daisy is very much a shallow, pretty face, although charmingly played by Carey Mulligan.

If you haven’t read the book or seen the film, I won’t spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that Gatsby comes off as the good guy in the end, maybe even great, as the title says. I would certainly recommend this movie to anyone who loves a good love story and the 1920’s era.

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Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio in the yellow roadster

Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio in the yellow roadster

Leonardo Di Caprio as Gatsby and Carey Mulligan as Daisy.

Leonardo Di Caprio as Gatsby and Carey Mulligan as Daisy.