African Peanut Stew

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Last night, I tried one of Angela Liddon’s (oh she glows) delicious vegan recipes, a soup with sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and a fabulous satay base.

Start by sautéing 1 medium onion, 3 cloves garlic, 1 red pepper and 1 jalepeno (optional) in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add 1 diced red pepper, 1 sweet potato, and one 28 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice. Raise the heat to medium-high and simmer for another 5-10 min.

Whisk together 1/2 cup peanut butter (recipe calls for 1/3, but I prefer extra peanut butter!) and 1 cup vegetable broth. Add this sauce to the pot along with another 3 cups of vegetable broth, 2 tsp chili powder, and 1/4 tsp cayene (optional). Cover and simmer on medium-low for 30 minutes or until sweet potatoes are fork-tender.

Then, my favourite part:  add handfuls of baby spinach! There’s something about adding fresh spinach to things that just seems so healthy. Plus it adds color and texture. (I did eventually mix it in obviously.)

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Stir in 1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed) and simmer until the spinach is wilted.

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Top with fresh cilantro and serve!

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Oh, ‘she glowed’ alright.

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African Peanut Stew

My ‘Famously’ Small Apartment

From 2010-2012, I owned a tiny (492 sq.ft) apartment in the historic Anderson Estates building just 1 block off Calgary’s ‘red mile’ (17th Ave SW). The exterior of this building had me at hello:

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And the common areas were more like a grand hotel than an apartment building, featuring Calgary’s oldest working birdcage elevator (not so fun when your arms are full of groceries, but still…) and an elegant marble staircase worn by more than a 100 years of footfalls.

However, on first seeing one of the two individual apartments for sale — I all but ruled it out because of its small size. But realtors know what they’re doing. After showing me an apartment on the ‘dark side’, we walked to the other end of the hall and looked at a corner suite.(Right 4th floor corner above.) And while we walked, the agent just happened to mention that the building was used from time to time as a set for music videos and and indie films. With 10 ft ceilings, huge windows, light streaming in from three sides, and my heart set on bumping into a film crew, perhaps in the elevator — #309 became my tiny T-shaped home.

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So, if you’ve already had a look at my latest project (Shotgun Renovation) you know how I love to buy something and then change things up, sometimes drastically. This small space was the exception in that I made only a couple little changes. For starters, I removed a 4 in. picture rail that cut the livingroom walls in half and made actual picture hanging and furniture arranging almost impossible. (For some, this is a controversial move, removing an original character element, but if it makes you feel better — I salvaged a piece, which my brother used as the base for a row of coat hooks in the narrow front hall.)

These two shots were pulled from the Anderson Estates photo gallery and show you how all the apartments were finished with that wood trim. (The adorable little  built-in cabinet has a pass-through underneath to the kitchen!)

So, here’s my finished take on the livingroom:

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Using soft greys and teals, I maintained a monochromatic color scheme throughout with filmy linen curtains from Ikea and a Crate & Barrel sectional which just barely fit in the birdcage elevator! The teal shag rug I had cut from a roll of carpet.

IMG_0088My other little change to the living-room was the addition of a floor-to-ceiling wall of cabinets. With a depth of only 14 in., this shelving added tons of needed storage without taking up too much precious floor space. The lower cabinet doors mimicked existing built-ins and  I painted the unit the same as the walls to help it look like it belonged! (Unfortunately, the TV is on in this photo. What can I say? I wish it wasn’t.)

The bathroom remained exactly as is because who would want to mess with that original clawfoot and retro tile? (Blue bath mat from Restoration Hardware.) I liked to refer to the bathroom’s upper level as ‘upstairs’!

This bedroom was one of the coziest I’ve had. Something about being perched up there on the corner of the 4th floor with views from two sides — made is seem quite ‘nesty’. Plus, my old ‘Begbie Bed'(see ‘Shotgun Renovation’ for the back story) was right at home in this 100-year-old bedroom.

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But while I was super happy in my cozy little apartment, none of this made the building particularly famous. That happened after I left, which is the biggest major bummer. Perhaps, if you’re a fan of FX, you’ve already figured it out? Here are a couple of clues provided by a Gus Grimly (hint) fan and instagrammer. The top shots show the building in its uncelebrated state (wood trim and all, haha), and the bottom shots as seen in the series!

You got it — it’s the FX hit,  Fargo, something NPR just described in their yearly round-up as a ‘marvel of modern television’. That’s right, I left 2 years too soon and missed my chance to bump into Colin Hanks (meh)…but the Coen brothers? Are you kidding me? Only time I’ve had a touch of seller’s remorse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My ‘Famously’ Small Apartment

Meru Review (hey, that rhymes!)

by ‘The Armchair Alpinist’

The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011
The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011

Hey, so it’s no secret that I’m afraid of most things…really high heights (anything above the treeline)…bears (anywhere below the treeline)…extreme cold…extreme hunger…extreme lack of washroom facilities…but oh how I do love a documentary involving all of the above! Imagine then my delight as I snuggled in under my couch blanket with a cup of tea to enjoy this year’s extraordinary climbing documentary, Meru.

Winner of the 2015 Sundance Audience Award for documentaries, this film delivers delicious tension, triumph over tragedy, inspiring friendships, an unexpected avalanche (who doesn’t enjoy avalanche footage?), an unexpected romance (hint: not between the 3 climbers) and the sage narration of the seasoned (handsome) Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air).

The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011
The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011

Especially fascinating to me were the conversations with  Jimmy Chin, Conrad Anker, and Renan Ozturk about their fear — how they worked with it, controlled it, and used it to keep themselves alive. Also interesting were the ways they rationalized their risk-taking to their loved ones. (Having once been married to a ‘risk-taker’, I’m still not sure I buy it…)

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Exhausted, Renan Ozturk contemplates the long descent after making the summit. The top is only half way.

Suffice it to say, the photography is stunning as are the revelations about courage and commitment. I’d highly recommend your putting on the kettle, stacking up a plate with sugar cookies, and hunkering down for a delicious adventure story.

–The Armchair Alpinist

 

Meru Review (hey, that rhymes!)

Today’s ‘Modern Family’ Rescue

 

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Performing ‘rescues’ has become a thing in our family and is Zander’s favourite activity when he plays at my house. So much so that when our friendly children’s librarian asked Zander what he’d done over the summer — Zander replied, “Mostly rescues.” In case you’re wondering, playing ‘rescues’ means taking a toy figure and putting it in harm’s way (dangling from a high ledge, buried under a pile of blocks, trapped inside a vehicle which is about to burst into flames..the flames we just imagine…there are never real fires involved).

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And, to begin with — it was a fairly modest rescue team: one burly (and bendy) construction worker with semi-opposable thumbs, his wheelbarrow & shovel, and a small fleet of vehicles. But that was six months ago.

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Today’s ‘rescues’ are more complicated, involving multiple threats (avalanches, explosions, hypothermia, animal attacks, stomach-aches, unfriendly dinosaurs, etc.) and requiring specialized equipment,including a rescue plane that Zander and I made from toilet paper rolls and egg cartons (obviously). Attached to the bottom is a rescue line and hook for lifting toy figures out of their fixes. With our scenarios becoming more complex, it was time to add to our pool of would-be ‘victims’. Enter Hape‘s ‘Modern Family’:

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At about 4 inches tall with posable limbs and sturdy wooden noggins, they’re perfectly suited for the kinds of misadventures we like to stage around here. And, while I’m not thrilled with ‘Gramma’s’ frumpy bun and apron — Zander seems quite taken with the idea of involving grandparents in the ‘troubles’. First up is an ill-fated bus tour for the hapless family.

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Zander puts on a reassuring (fake) smile as though the ‘Hapes’ are not about to get lost in a cave and almost eaten by bears.

Here they are about to enter the ‘cave’:

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Luckily for the Hapes, a helicopter is quickly dispatched, along with a medic who scans ‘Granny’s’ body for broken bones (just a sprain). This is after a stegosaurus (friendly!) knocks away the cave walls to free this family with obvious issues around navigation (couldn’t find their way out of a cave with one entrance) and ‘disequilibrium’ (difficulties standing).

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The boys, ours named Toby and Peter, seem exceptionally well-suited for future mishaps, distracted as they are by their ear-buds. Toby here wandered off from the rest and fell into a crevasse.

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Any ideas for the Hapes’ next misadventure?

 

 

 

Today’s ‘Modern Family’ Rescue

Our High Level bridge

by Julie Deimert

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Zander watches a train cross from the vantage of Lethbridge’s Galt Museum

If you live in Lethbridge, you probably see this bridge almost every single day, whether you’re walking in the river bottom, driving downtown, commuting from the west side, or cycling along Scenic Drive. It’s a part of our landscape and hard to imagine the river valley without it. And while I’ve known that the High Level bridge is renowned as the largest of its kind in the world — I’ve rarely stopped to think about how it got here.

But thanks to Carolyn for posting Lethbridge Historical Society’s photos, I have a renewed appreciation for this bridge, the largest railway structure in Canada which was constructed between 1907 & 1909. What a feat of engineering!

First of all, kind of eerie almost to see the river valley without it:

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And check out these two machines: the ‘Travelling Erector’ and ‘Travelling Riveter’.

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Makes me wonder if the producers of the AMC production, Hell on Wheels, (shot in Alberta’s Bow Valley) — took some lessons from the experiences of this crew (below)? I’m sure they had some equally ‘riveting’ (haha) stories to tell!

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Much more recently, like just last week — our bridge was in the news again as CPR’s holiday train made the crossing.

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Our High Level bridge

Emily’s Borscht

So, you might not automatically think of a winter famine staple as ‘festive’ but I couldn’t help but think ‘Christmas’ the last time I made my daughter’s borscht:

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Right?

So, here’s the ingredient list and directions:

Onion, potato, beets, beef stock, cabbage, lemon juice, salt & pepper to taste, dill (fresh in season)

Sauté onions in oil. Add beef stock, beets and potatoes. Top with beef stock and simmer until beets are soft.

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Add cabbage.

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Simmer until soft.

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To serve, add lemon juice to bowls and a spoonful or two of sour cream. A nourishing soup, even more festive when paired with a rich green spinach salad. Enjoy.

 

Emily’s Borscht

Winter Coulées

by Julie Deimert

I love to walk the coulées on a bright winter day and can almost feel my vitamin D stores replenishing! For Henry, it’s all about the smells…and birds. All this — just 5 minutes from home.

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And without the heat of summer,  I swear Henry gets twice the exercise on our winter walks, often running to the next ridge and back multiple times as we do our loop. (I get perhaps 1.5 my summer workout considering the extra 20 pounds of winter wear! Although, if the hills are icy, I clip Henry back on the leash and let him pull me up!)

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Even at noon, the winter sun is low, the coulées cast in shadows.

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Winter Coulées