< More Coffee Please >
A soup for winter

This is a soup similar to one I had once in a teashop in Wales, or possibly Ireland — my sister may remember. It was a cold day in February (well, not Canadian cold, but zero-ish). I was starving for no particularly good reason and half-frozen so I gave the soup a try even though I don’t have much time for parsnips, and it was excellent. It seemed like a good soup for a blizzardy evening like tonight.

Parsnip/Apple/Sage Soup

Takes about 40 minutes start to finish, what with all the stock-defrosting and peeling

4 c chicken or vegetable stock
4 parsnips, peeled and chopped finely (i.e., chuck them through the food processor, if you have one)
3 smallish apples, peeled, cored and chopped finely. (Maybe use only 2 if you really dislike sweetness)
about 2 tsp powdered sage
about 2/3 c grated sharp white Cheddar
about 1/3 c milk or (preferably) cream, if you have it

Bring the stock to a boil. Add parsnips and sage and cook for a few minutes until the parsnips are soft. Add the apples and cook for a few more minutes. When everything is soft, turn off the heat and puree (an immersion blender is just the thing). Add the cheese and stir until it’s melted and mixed in. Add the milk or cream. Taste and add a little salt if necessary. I might put a little more grated cheese on top as a garnish, if I had any, or a little swirl of cream. Serves 4.


It’s Freedom to Marry week in the US, so I offer the following conversation:

M: I’m going to marry Daddy when I grow up!
Me: You can’t, honey. Daddy’s already married.
M: Oh. I’ll marry you, then, mama. Because girls can marry girls too.
Me. That’s right. You can’t marry me, though, ’cause I’m already married to Daddy, and anyway you can’t marry your family.
M: I forgot. I’ll marry Sam, then. Or Paige.
Me: Good idea.

White, like the snow in my brain

M: I have to wear my plain nightie to school today so the light can shine all the way through. Mr B said so.
D and I: Hunh?? (Mentally slow since it’s morning, but pretty sure Mr B is not some strange pedophile)
M: Because my nightie is all white and we’re all supposed to wear white. For the lights!
Me: Oh! (the mental light goes on) Is your dance party today? White does look neat under blacklights!

  • Comments Closed

Dogs and Fireworks

Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

I’m enjoying all the editorial comments on M’s art these days. Lots of labels and arrows and fanciness in this one, which is a picture of some dogs and some fireworks — “Is nos, is tos, is bac, is taul” (his nose, toes, back, tail) plus “firwrcse” (fireworks), “hip hip hra” and a skill-testing question “wich wun has wings?”

The big dog has gold fur and is wearing a pink sweater and silver pants, apparently. The fireworks are “because the big dog had lots of money and paid for fireworks for everyone.” There’s a tiny dog (the one with wings) behind the big one and the rear end of another small one in front. Mysterious!

“If you don’t shape up I’ll sell you to the Gypsies!”

babies fetch about $10,000 these days, apparently. Bulgarian ones, anyway.

It’s always so distressing when people live out stereotypes.

  • Comments Closed
Book #31 – Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

By Mary Roach


Surgery practice.
The Body Farm.
Embalming practice.
Crash tests.

It’s not the most appetizing collection of eventual ends to which one’s body could be put, but then (as Roach points out) none of the alternatives are all that wonderful. This book deserves its good reviews — Roach is curious and funny but accurate and always respectful. And she footnotes, which I always enjoy, being geeky that way.

Still, probably not the best read if you’re easily grossed out.

(This seems like an appropriate book to end the whole book blogging month with, but hmm, the “Search Inside” on that one is a bit disconcerting…)

  • Comments Closed
I love dollar stores

Benign girl?

Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

For only $1.49, you too can own a Benign Girl toy cellphone!*

  • Comments Closed
Book #30 – Another Wilderness: New Outdoor Writing by Women

By Susan Fox Rogers, ed.

Another Wilderness

Once, on a canoe trip that turned out to be more vigorous than some of the trippers were prepared for, when we finally got to the end of a long portage I was asked something along the lines of “how can anyone keep going like this?” And without thinking I said, you put one foot in front of the other, and then do it again. I’m sure the only reason I didn’t get punched is that nobody had the energy to take a good swing.

But that is what I do on nasty portages, the ones that get so bad you can’t sing, not even Stan Rogers songs: focus on one foot. Then the other. Then again. And again. I divide the task at hand into its smallest possible components — steps — and then focus 100% on each step. It helps to have a canoe on your shoulders so you can’t actually see anything other than the ground. Letting your mind wander to the pain in your left shoulder and is it worse than the sunburn on your thighs, and have you gone 1200m now or maybe 1300 which leaves 1500 no 1400, and how much exactly would you pay for a cold beer right this second, and is that another @#$%$ mosquito or just my ears buzzing? That way lies intense misery. (My way is intensely miserable too, but the misery comes in shorter moments and then you’re on to the next bit.)

This is the sort of collection that makes you want to go out and do something like that. Even if you have good clear memories of serious portage pain. It’s not all sweetness and glory in this book; a bunch of the accounts talk about struggles. A few deal with injury and death. For the most part, though, these writers excel at making whatever they’re doing sound actually do-able by normal people.

I’m a lazy tripper these days and am happy to lie about sunning myself on chunks of Canadian Shield after a whole two hours in the boat, but I read this stuff and it reminds that the hard stuff is great fun too, in its own way.

  • Comments Closed
Book #29 – Virtual Clearcut : Or, The Way Things Are in My Hometown

By Brian Fawcett

Virtual Clearcut

Brian Fawcett co-taught some required course or other that I took in grad school. There was a lot of reading — maybe two books a week — and also weekly writing assignments. Not big stuff, just reflections on various aspects of a particular topic, two or three pages long. I wrote a number of nice polite prettily-constructed essay pieces that must have been insanely boring to read. Then one week I was in a foul mood and had run out of time to do the weekly bit of writing, so in twenty minutes I dashed off a rant full of sarcasm and bile and generally mouthy personal opinion. When I got it back, there was a big “YES! MORE LIKE THIS!” scrawled across it. Very freeing.

Fawcett is just like that, I think. He likes both the rant and the intensely personal — I don’t think he has much time for the politely superficial — and he connects both to big-picture issues. In this book he’s ruminating about logging and the decline of Prince George. He likes people and places but he doesn’t flinch at the plain portrayal of truth and flaws. It can feel a little voyeuristic at times but leads to a more even balance of the good and bad, I think. He sees the complications.

  • Comments Closed
Winter garden

Winter garden

Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

Tarragon and “oregano” (it’s probably some sort of extra-pungent thyme, but we’ve always treated it as oregano) from my grandfather’s garden in the foreground. The spiky red-barked bit at left is a dogwood originally purchased by P’s dad.

A slightly melancholy scene…

  • Comments Closed
Book #28: Mirror Mirror

By Gregory Maguire

Mirror Mirror

After some reflection, I’m not sold on Maguire’s stuff (Wicked is his biggest success). I don’t mind some darkness in my fairy tales, but do they have to be corrupt and sordid as well? The concept is great — turning fairy tales inside out — but Maguire excels at repellent characters and takes any sense of fun out of the stories. They’re leaden and rather creepy, although well told.

Quite possibly I’m missing something, but they don’t do much for me.

  • Comments Closed
D and M working on the bathroom

We told M she could colour the plywood right before the wainscotting went in, so here she is taking us up on that. With both hands!

In the background, D is installing wainscotting. Also note the lovely new window trim. Looks kinda like a real bathroom! (Well, if you ignore the lack of toilet… it did go back in, later the same day. And M’s head obscures the view of the not-yet-deployed sink plumbing.)

  • Comments Closed
Book #27: Biscuit Finds a Friend

By Alyssa Satin Capucilli (Author), Pat Schories (Illustrator)

Biscut Finds a Friend

D fell asleep on the couch this afternoon. M wanted to make everything all perfect for him, so she went down and very sweetly covered him up with her special quilt, put some books next to him for when he woke up, turned off the light, closed the door, then came upstairs and shushed me (loudly). When D woke up a bit later and came upstairs to continue his snooze, he was also treated to a teddy bear and this bedtime story — Biscuit Finds a Friend.

A stirring tale of interspecies friendship it is, too; unrealistic in that particular kids’ book way. Spoiler: Biscuit and a small duckling become friends. In reality the story would have been something like Biscuit Enjoys Ducklings for Lunch (“Woof! Woof! said Biscuit through a mouthful of feathers”) — much like Curious George and the Bunny, which is in our house often called Curious George the Opportunistic Carnivore.

I suppose we should quit that sort of nonsense soon.

You can definitely tell it’s not wartime in the kids’ books. In the forties, Biscuit would’ve neatly dispatched the duck and turned it over to the resourceful children to cook in for lunch using some clever mess-kit contraption made of tin cans and string after they started a small neat fire with a tinderbox or somesuch. “Good dog!” the children would have said, “Now we have feathers for the quilt and soup bones for Mother!”

  • Comments Closed
Book #26: MapArt Metropolitan Toronto Pocket Atlas

I’m crazy tired and not up to books with actual words and plots and characters and things, so today I think I’ll stick to pretty pictures.

This is a great little map book. Very handy when we have to venture places where there might be dragons — north of Eglinton and whatnot. It’s probably neither as detailed nor as reliable as a Perly’s, but I don’t usually need that level of detail. Plus it’s only $7 and fits in my purse… it definitely fills a niche.

  • Comments Closed
Book #25: Good Bones

By Margaret Atwood

Good BonesShort stories — very short, most are only a few pages. Many touch on themes of gender. Some of the best ones showcase Atwood’s needly humour, ranging from a perfect satire of PC fairy tales (There Was Once) to a sendup of gender roles (Making a Man) to a brilliant mashup of war and beauty pageants (Epaulettes):

The competition itself is divided into several categories. Each one of these is designed to appeal to the female temperament, though there has been some difficulty in determining exactly what this is. For instance, the “aroma” category — in which the condensed essences of the competitors’ sweat-socks, cigars, used tennis shirts, and so forth — had to be discontinued, as it made too many women sick. But the name-calling, muscle-flexing and cool-dressing bouts remain. So does joke-telling, since it is well known that women prefer men with a sense of humour, or so they keep telling us. In addition, a song must be sung, a dance must be danced — though a solo on the flute or cello will suffice — a skill-testing question must be answered; and each world leader must describe his favourite hobby, and declare, in a well-modulated exhibition speech, what he intends to do in future for the good of humanity. This is a popular feature, and occasions much giggling and applause.

Not all the stories are so light (An Angel, Third Handed, Death Scenes), but these needle in a different way:

(Snow angels, you’ve seen them: the cold blank shape of yourself, the outline you once filled. They too are messengers, they come from the future. This is what you will be, they say; perhaps what you are: no more than the way light falls across a given space.)

  • Comments Closed
Book #24 – Microorganisms: From Smallpox to Lyme Disease

By Thomas D. Brock, ed.

My poor sick green-faced sproglet is finally sleeping, and since she’s in my bed(*) I’m trapped at my desk doing quiet things, so I’m choosing from among the books on the shelf above my desk. This book seems apropos.

Microorganisms is a good basic introductory text. Well-organized, decently written (more narrative/anecdote than usual for a science book) and with effective illustrations, it covers the last several hundred years’ thinking on this topic very efficiently. They even touch on biological weapons. Recommended for biology geeks and anyone wanting a solid background against which to assess things like anthrax threats.

*: a moment of risk and parental sacrifice: she’s quite barfy, and not very good at making the necessary run to the bathroom. This is more an unwitting sacrifice for D, I suppose, since she’s on his side (which is closer to the bathroom), but I’m the one home doing the laundry today, so.

Book #23: Paris to the Moon

By Adam Gopnik

Paris to the Moon

Gopnik writes about his five years living in Paris.

Somehow he managed to write about it without making me hate him.



This is a US campaign, but I’ll leave out the Bush-directed stuff and join in anyway.

Blog for Choice Day - January 22, 2007

Choice of all kinds is critical to our free existence as adults.

I do not think I would have had an abortion if I had become pregnant accidentally. My biological clock went off when I was about 18, so while the timing might’ve sucked, I would’ve been happy enough to make it work out somehow.

But my own decision-making processes are completely irrelevant. It’s nobody else’s business; these personal decisions are exactly that — personal.

Abortion needs to be available. Really available, not just in the next province over, or 300km down the road — available and accessible, so women can get abortions early on, while it’s safest. On a related note, Plan B should be available without a prescription, as it is now in Canada (yay), and you shouldn’t need to be 18 to get it. It’s critical that women of all ages be able to control our own bodies or we are reduced to some infantilized state incompatible with democracy.

Oh yeah?  Well, YOU keep your body off of my laws!
(graphic courtesy toothpaste for dinner)

I gotta say, nothing made me more pro-choice than being (deliberately!) pregnant. Nobody should be forced to go through that against her will. Nobody.

Your body, your choice.

Book #22: Wonderful Life

By Stephen Gould

Wonderful Life

Fascinating stuff here. Stephen Gould is more often known for his natural history books aimed at casual readers (Bully for Brontosaurus and the like) — but this is not a book aimed at the general public. Wonderful Life is an exploration of the extraordinarily old, very different forms of life discovered in British Columbia’s Burgess Shale. It’s not light reading; he ventures quite deeply into evolutionary biology in both theory and practice.

Since it was written others have come forward with alternate theories for the Burgess Shale, but that hardly matters. It’s the sense of chance and fragility inherent in evolutionary processes and theory (real evolutionary theory, not the half-assed, half-understood stuff that so often appears in print) that’s this book’s lasting message.

  • Comments Closed
Ai yi

Whoah, someone really has her cranky pants on this weekend, and they must be chafing her, too.

Anyone want to borrow a really foul-tempered five-year-old? She likes sleepovers! And she doesn’t eat much!

…Actually I suspect she’s getting sick, poor mite. We had her in bed at ten to seven last night with no protesting and she still has bags under her eyes.