Friday, May 31, 2013

Thoughts on Bangladesh

Brick walkway at the Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed

As many of you know my friend Kim and I taught in Bangladesh during the summer of 2011.  It was an amazing experience and one that we hope to repeat again in the next few years (you can read more of my posts about Bangladesh here)

You remember how we are cooking our way around the world well the next one I should be posting about is Bangladesh, but the truth is I feel funny writing about the aloo chop I cooked when there are other much more pressing things to discuss about Bangladesh. 

Things like the building that collapsed in Bangladesh last month killing over 1000 people.  The building, Rana Plaza, was in Savar a town northwest of the capital Dhaka. The Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP) where we taught is less than two kilometres away from the collapsed building.  We went to the Rana Plaza on our first day in Bangladesh to withdraw money from the bank machine and then went to a building across the street and past the underpass to purchase material for our salwar kameezes and scarves. The people who worked in the garment factories and in the shops who were trapped, injured, and the families of those who have died are on my mind.

Did you know that two babies have been born to women trapped in the rubble.  Can you imagine how terrifying that would be?

Did you know that one woman was found after seventeen days of being trapped in the debris.  Can you imagine how terrifying that would be?

There has been a lot of talk about reform of the garment industry and to that I say hear! hear!   I have been relieved to know that not only has Joe Fresh, the Canadian clothing company associated with Loblaw, admitted they were subcontracting with one of the garment factories in the Rana Plaza while most other clothing manufacturers have not, but they also are working toward better monitoring of the factory working conditions.  

I worry about the backlash this type of accident will have on consumers. Will they want to boycott clothing made in third world countries? Possibly, but is that the answer when the jobs are very much needed.  Can you imagine what would happen to the economy of an already fragile country, if all the garment factories closed. I think about the people who make the clothing I purchase and hope that they were fairly treated, at the same time knowing they were likely underpaid and likely working in crowded unsafe conditions. Unfortunately we are left without many options. Several of the news reports I listened to claimed that adding only a few dollars to the price of the garments we buy would entirely change the working conditions and wages if that money went directly to solving the problems.  Who wouldn't happily pay a little bit more to know that the garments were made in fair working conditions (like fair trade coffee). The problem of how to help the people working in the garment factories is on my mind.

The Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed has been helping with the rehabilitation of many of those injured in the collapse of the building (you can read more about it in this article put out by the World Health Organization).  Helping people with spinal cord and limb injuries is one of the things that CRP specializes in.  The rehabilitation of those injured in the accident has been on my mind.
Savar City Centre

Photo taken by me on the overpass in Savar

Collapsed building in Savar just down the street from the above photo (source)

Bangladesh is one of those places that elicit a complete range of emotions - it did when we were there and a tragic accident like the recent one brings all that to the fore again.  It seems so frivolous to talk about the Bangladeshi food I cooked after such a sobering topic, but nevertheless I wanted to share with you one of the the things we really enjoyed when we were in Bangladesh.   

Our favourite food in Bangladesh was aloo chop, which you can see in the photos below.  You can admire how they are supposed to look because as you will soon see mine didn't look quite as good.

The lovely woman who cooked our meals and helped us whenever we needed anything (like giant spiders being removed from our washroom)

I thought I would give making aloo chop a try when we got to Bangladesh in our world cooking.  Unfortunately they didn't work out as well as the original ones did.  You can see how difficult they were to make in the photo below.  I basically made a thick mashed potato, formed it into a cup shape, and filled it with a seasoned egg mixture.  I then added a bit more mashed potato to close the top.  It was easier said than done though as it was difficult to seal the egg inside the mashed potato. I then rolled the balls in bread crumbs and fried them in a pan to brown the outsides.

I'm not going to include a recipe as they were not the best things I've made.  I think the originals were fried in more oil than I used, which might have given them that nice even brownness.

I guess we will just have to go back to Bangladesh and taste some of the real ones.  

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Strawberry-Lemon Shortcake

William turned 19 today. How on earth did that happen. Unfortunately it's proof positive that I'm no longer 29!

He's a bit of a foodie so I decided to try something a little different 
for his birthday cake (well different for our family anyway) - I made a strawberry shortcake with a lemon twist.  It was delicious and looked so pretty.  

I think lemons and strawberries were made for each other.  The sweetness of one balances the tartness of the other.  The red and yellow compliment each other in the nicest summer-picnic sort of way.

It was an easy dessert because I started with this lemon cake mix.  I mixed it according to the directions and baked it in my new bundt pan. By the way, I'm so excited to finally have a bundt pan that doesn't stick. This might lead to a complete and utter bundt cake addiction. Don't you think cakes look extra special when you bake them in a bundt pan?

I iced the cake with lemon icing glaze using the following ingredients:
  • 1 3/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon butter or margarine

I mixed the ingredients together and then microwaved it for 45 seconds. I gave the icing a good stir so everything was blended. When the icing was cool, I drizzled it over the cake - which was a lot of fun as it poured onto the cake in thick folds making a pretty pattern.

I also grated a little bit of lemon rind to sprinkle on top of the icing.  Just before serving I filled the centre with sliced strawberries that I had mixed with some sugar so they were nice and glossy and juicy.

And I served it with whipped cream.  Yum!

We are firmly in the chocolate cake with chocolate icing camp (you can see an example of a previous birthday cake I made decorated with a Beatles image here), but I have heard there are people who prefer other kinds of cake for their birthdays. What does your family like for birthday cakes?  

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Shutterfly's Impressive Customer Service

I just had to give a shout-out to Shutterfly, an online photo-publishing and printing company. Let me tell you about my experience with them so you can be impressed too.

I finally got around to making a photo book of our son's wedding which took place ... hanging head in shame ... two years ago (impressive how quickly I got the photo book done I know, but that isn't the impressive thing I'm writing about).  

I had the photo book finished back in February and was waiting for a sale to come along which it did in April.  I ordered a copy of the book so it would arrive in time for our daughter-in-law's birthday in May so we could give her a copy as a present. You might be impressed that I was organized enough to get the book made, find and use a sale, and order it in time for Christie's birthday - but truly that isn't the impressive thing I'm writing about.  

On the order page Shutterfly tells you the expected arrival date which was in plenty of time for Christie's birthday.  Well the arrival date came and went by a week so I contacted Shutterfly.  According to their records they had mailed the photo book to me, so it must have been held up by Canada Post.  Nevertheless they honoured their arrival date and told me they would print and send me a new book - for free!  

Naturally, only two days after I had contacted Shutterfly the original book arrived so I contacted them again to say that the book had arrived and could I buy the new book since I had wanted to order a second one anyway once I had verified that the first one had printed well.  Shuttefly declined my offer to pay and told me to enjoy the books.  Now that's impressive, right?  

Not only do I like Shutterfly's customer service, but I also like the books.  I love the linen cover with an inset photo,

and the many different arrangements of photos, backgrounds, and frames you can select from.

And, of course, I like the content too.  Take this page for example, I like it because it shows the bouquets I made for the wedding which turned out to be pretty impressive (there seems to be a lot of that going around).

And this page - I like it because it shows the pretty table settings and the tea cups that we gave Malcolm and Christie.

And I love this dreamy photo of the two of them walking off into the rest of their lives that I used for the final page in the book.  Awww - so sweet!  

Looking at the photos brings back fond memories. Photo books have that effect! You get all misty-eyed and sentimental and mushy just looking through them.  They are well worth the time it takes to make them. Have you ever taken the plunge and created a photo book?  

Oh, and one more impressive thing about this photo book - I crossed off one of the things on my New Year's resolutions list 

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Little Red Jug

On Sunday, I went back to the auction held at the house my husband grew up in - with the man himself this time.  He was intrigued to see what was being sold and, based on the photos I took the day before, thought he would be interested to see the house. What could have been a difficult day turned out to be such a great time for us re-living memories and having fun together.  
I wanted to share a few things with you.
I bought this red transferware jug and couldn't be happier (you can read about my love of transferware here).

Today I was reading my Canadian House and Home magazine (March 2013 issue) - and what do I spy on the top shelf of this gorgeous kitchen - the same transferware jug!  I love this kitchen.  The white cabinets, the subway tiles,  the pretty shelves styled with white dishes and little hits of red all spell perfection to me.

Canadian House and Home

Sooner than you can say "do it" I was changing things around on the shelves in our kitchen to match the inspiration photo.  I need the baskets for storage so had to work around them and, of course, I don't have all the same dishes so I had to be creative.  What do you think?  How did I do?  It's not identical, but I love the bright summery feel with the touches of red.

Before we leave the auction-related posts I wanted to share a few of my favourite details in the house.  

The house itself is a very interesting historic home. While some of the wallpaper is too dark for my taste, I love the wallpaper in a few of the bedrooms.

I also love the stained-glass windows on the landing of the staircase,

and the patterned frosted glass in the front door.

It is a funny feeling to say goodbye to a house.  I hope the next owners respect the house and restore it to its former splendour.

Before we left town we stopped by the school my husband attended and found the wonky star and his initials that he carved into the bricks when he was a schoolboy. 

And lest you think I married a graffiti artist - it was the thing to do at that school as the entire back wall is covered in names some of which dated back to the 1940s.

Goodbye younger husband and your shenanigans.
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Saturday, May 18, 2013

I Got a Knocker and a Bust ... and a Clock

I went to my first auction this weekend. Have you ever been to an auction?  I found it a little stressful as auctions are fast paced and there is no room for hesitation, but it was also a lot of fun to come home with some great finds.

If you have never been to an auction then here are a few tips:  
1.  Get to the auction early enough to register and have a look at all the goods. You don't want to be bidding on items sight unseen and then be disappointed later when you see the item up close. 
2.  Take water so you don't have to leave to get a drink, a tape measure so you can make sure the items will fit in the car, a pen and paper to note the number of the items you are interested in, a bag to carry all the small things you buy in, and nerves of steel.
3.  Be fast and decisive.  I missed out on an inexpensive vintage wooden tool box as I waited a split second too long to jump into the bidding.  It was actually good practice so I knew how fast and decisive I needed to be for the things I really wanted to buy.

Want to know what I bought? 

A clock -

A knocker - 

And a bust - 

There was also a few tables of things being sold like a yard sale so I bought this little gray transferware bowl and two brown transferware plates.

The best part was this was the house my husband had grown up in, so buying the front door knocker and the other momentos made it especially meaningful.
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