Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: Year in Review by Dana L.

If 2006 was a year of endings, then 2007 will be remembered as a year of rebuilding. Marty and I slowly but surely transported our possessions from the "prairies" (ha- because Calgary is so prairie like!) to the beautiful island, and we also spent time building up our livelihoods in a brand new place. Marty went from a few alarmingly dry months of art sales here to having his best year ever, and I progressed from spending time at agonizingly horrible jobs to rekindling my interest and experience in the non-profit world.

One of the many trips back and forth in our Nomad to bring all of our stuff here to Victoria.

2007 feels like a cusp or a turning point, though-- not something complete or finite in and of itself. I have a clear sense that 2008 will be a whooshing journey into something completely different but completely incredible. As audible as a clock's ticking, I hear the countdown inside of me. This ticking, I'm relieved to tell you, is not coming from my biological clock (if I even have such a thing), but rather from my certainty that this, too, shall pass. I'm sure Marty's sales will increasingly come from people all over the world, and I'm hoping that 2008 will be the year when I finally begin to understand the direction my own career/life is heading.

My resolutions for 2008 are not resolutions in the traditional sense; rather, they are plans that I'm putting down on a makeshift 'To Do' List:

1. I'd like to read more books. I am only now just coming out of my academia-induced reading coma, wherein reading was no longer fun but required. In 2008, I'd like to read books that are not published by a university publishing house or other recognized scholarly printing press. Among the books that I'd like to (finally!) start are the Harry Potter series. (I wanted to wait until ALL the books were finished before I started the first one. Now I can go ahead and delve into a 4900-page odyssey!) Perhaps I shall even read some trash! Hooray for trash!

2. I would like to visit some of the Southern Gulf Islands. It's been over a year on this main island already, and yet I've never ventured onto one of the smaller islands. In 2008, Salt Spring-- here I come!

This little guy was spotted on our hike yesterday... along with over 30 of its kind! I had never seen so many jellyfish before, and they were all just relaxin' in the inlet.

3. I will take a vacation. God knows I need one. I don't even care where or how long-- I'm a little burnt out now and would love a few weeks to rejuvenate. (Of course, my mind's eye has already planned out elaborate trips to Peru, Scandinavia, Mongolia, and Mother Ukraine, but I'd be happy even spending a week on a lawnchair up island.)

And on that note, Marty and I will be spending New Year's Eve at the lovely (if not stormy) French Beach. We have welcomed a new addition into our family, and it's high time we start spending a little more time together.

Our SUPER FANTASTIC new Mitsubishi Delica van!! Straight from Japan! 4 wheel drive! Right hand drive! FOG LAMPS!!!!

See you all in the New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Spaghetti (Squash) with Vegetable Marinara Sauce

Marty is such a wonderful chef. He is spontaneous and discerning in the kitchen, and there has only ever been one dish of his that turned out horribly (and that was because everything burnt to the bottom of the pot and we still tried to eat it). The only problem with Marty's cooking is that he does everything on the fly. I have never once seen him use a recipe. It's great that everything of his turns out to be a masterpiece, but it's not so good when I need to replicate the meal for some reason... I'm getting better at shooting from the hip when it comes to the kitchen, but I still feel more comfortable with a recipe of sorts.

Marty is the mastermind behind our Boho Spaghetti Squash meal. In the post that follows, however, I will try to distill everything into a somewhat common sense recipe format. Luckily, it's not so technical of a meal that everything has to be precisely measured or cooked for x amount of seconds at y degree of heat. It's vegetarian cooking at its finest: seasonal, local, and SUPER EASY!

Spaghetti Squash Bowls


- 1 spaghetti squash, cut in half, cored (i.e. spoon out the guts!), and sliced on each end so that it is able to stand up as a bowl after cooking
- seeds of the spaghetti squash, separated from the guts, washed, and set aside
- 1-2 tbsp oil or coconut oil for cooking
- 8-9 brown mushrooms, washed and sliced
- 1 eggplant, cubed
- 1 zucchini, sliced
- 2 or 3 carrots, sliced coarsely
- 2 or 3 stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 onion, sliced
- garlic and ginger to taste, minced
- 1 or 2 large cans of crushed tomatoes (depends on how saucy you want your sauce, on how many people will be eating, or on how many meals of leftovers you wish to have)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- random spices to taste. We threw in a bit of cumin powder, oregano, and paprika.
- sprigs of parsley for garnish (optional)
- 1 tsp nutritional yeast for garnish (optional)

1. Gently heat oil in large saucepan at a low temperature.
2. Add onions and saute with the lid on until just tender (2-3 minutes).
3. Add mushrooms, eggplant, ginger, garlic, carrots, and celery, and saute with lid on until vegetables are tender (5-8 minutes).
4. Add crushed tomatoes and spices and continue to simmer the sauce.
5. Add zucchini and gently simmer sauce until zucchini is slightly tender, but not soggy!

1. Place clean squash seeds on a baking pan, salt lightly, and place in oven or toaster oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake until seeds are slightly brown and popping. Remove from oven and set aside for garnish.

2. Bring 1-2 inches of water to a boil in a pot. Use 1 pot or pan for each half of squash.
3. Making sure that the squash has been scraped, de-seeded, and sliced cleanly on each end, place face down (like an upside down bowl) in the boiling water. Cover if possible and let cook for approximately 8-10 minutes, or until the inside of the squash is tender and easily scraped with a fork.

To serve:
1. Remove squash halves from boiling water and place face up (like a bowl) on a large plate. Because the tips of the squash have been cut before cooking, the bowl will stand upright but some slight leakage may still occur. Hence, the plate.
2. Fill the squash bowl with sauce until sauce is level with the rim of the squash.
3. Garnish with parsley, toasted squash seeds, and nutritional yeast if desired.

To eat:
1. Use a fork to scrape the inside of the squash. Delicate, spaghetti-like strands will peel off and can be eaten with the sauce-- YUM!!
2. Refill sauce if needed.

Note: The squash bowls provide a GIANT serving of food for an average human, even those with large appetites. When you have stuffed yourself full of spaghetti squash goodness, finish scraping off the inside of the squash and add to remaining sauce for leftovers. Voila! Delicious and nutritious.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Return of the Domestic Diva

Just when I thought I had steered my life away from the life of a housewife, I heard it: the siren call of a food processor. Not just any food processor, either-- no. I heard the blissed out whir of an Onyx Black KitchenAid Food Processor, and I succumbed to it. Needless to say, the experience thus far has been orgasmic.

The baked falafel balls I like to make? The ones that busted the motor out of our first Braun Hand Mixer because they are a bit chewy and tough to blend? Oh yeah-- they whipped up like silk in our new KitchenAid. Silk, I tell you! And the green Thai curry paste ingredients that would have made my poor hands bleed had I attempted to chop them finely enough by hand? Oh yes, they emerged deliciously and impeccably smooth as well from our wonderful KitchenAid. I am in love- I am positive of it.

(An aside: since Terra seems to be living my very own life in a parallel universe, I don't need to tell you that Marty and I will be using our Kitchen Aid to start the Thrive Diet. She already scooped that post on her own blog, though she will be using the Magic Bullet Blender rather than the grand and irreplacable KitchenAid Food Processor. Just kidding, Terra. I'm sure it doesn't matter which food processor you use!)

And even though these pictures have nothing to do with our new food processor, I had to include them anyway, because we have become so gourmet in every way in the past few weeks. It must be the new dishes... And did you know that you can make a wonderful 'spaghetti' with sauce using a spaghetti squash as both a bowl and the actual spaghetti?? This thrills me to no end! I guess I really am a closet domestic diva. Incurably so, I'm afraid...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sweet Solstice

Here's to hoping your winter solstice was as blissful as ours:

We had been invited to, ahem, play pool by one of our friends to mark the occasion. Given our history of having incredibly special solstice celebrations, we were a tad crestfallen by the mere notion of going to an effin' pool hall for solstice. Thank goodness our eyes happened to glance over an advertisement for a traditional Celtic solstice gathering at a yurt (a yurt!) not too far out of the city a mere minute after we had reluctantly penciled 'play pool' into our daytimers.

The celebration was amazing, and I must say the property where it was held was pretty much my dream land. There was a gazebo, the yurt, a medicine wheel, and a regular home, too. I wish I had more photos of the ceremony to show, but it didn't seem appropriate to be snapping pictures while everyone else was blessing the yule log fire...

As is our tradition on solstice, Marty and I read our cards and we also drew runes.

(Our runes (just like us!) are extra special. They were gifted to us as a wedding present by one of Marty's friends. He retrieved the stones from the top of the sacred mountain Yamnuska in Kananaskis, die cast them with the rune symbols, and then painted them white. Funnily enough, both Marty and I drew the exact same runes we did when we first moved to Victoria ('Journey' and 'Opening').

This is the first year where it really doesn't feel like Christmas is right around the corner, and I kind of like it that way. In the spirit of leaving the nest for good, I'm all for establishing new holiday traditions, though we did purchase a new tree ornament this year again. Hence, this year for Christmas, Marty and I will be cozying up to watch a marathon of Desperate Housewives on DVD. How festive!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Open Letter from a Kitteh to a Bird

Dear Bird,

Why have you not blogged in so long? You seem so close to me, yet so far away. I am forlorn. (Witness distant, forlorn expression in photo below. And above.)

Seriously, though-- how am I to be entertained all day if you are not keeping up with your blog? Even Ex-Nomad managed to claw her way back after an extended hiatus-- you can too! I may be a cat, but paper towel rolls can only provide so many hours (upon hours, upon hours) of entertainment...

Please come back to the blogosphere soon.

Your Cat

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ode to Czechs

Having married into a Czech family, I've been afforded yet another impossible to pronounce last name, and I've also been given the golden opportunity to witness Czech cultural traditions as both an insider and an outsider. Let me tell you (as somebody who's in the know now), those Czechs are just plain WACKY!!!

Take, for instance, Krtek. Did you ever think that the Smurfs were outrageous and zany? Well, my friend, you have yet to witness the sheer brilliance that is the Krtek cartoon. Case in point:

(You really have to watch the whole clip for effect. As an added bonus, you get to find out how babies are made and born in just over 5 minutes! Try explaining THAT one to the kids before you put them to sleep!)

Another 'personal favourite' tradition comes on Easter Mondays, when all the Czech boys and men go whipping the women on their legs with twigs-- get this: to 'keep them young'. They also douse them with water, and are then rewarded by the girls with decorated eggs, ribbons, money, or shots of plum liquor, slivovice. (As Mr. T. would say, I pity the fool who tries to whip me and then expects to be rewarded for it!!)

There's a devil on St. Nicholas Day (December 6th) with a long tongue that walks around with a chain at night and scares you into confessing if you've been naughty or nice for Christmas;

(photo comes from here)

There's a troll, Hodnik, that lives in rivers and ponds and drowns you to steal your soul-- man, the Czechs are nothing if not imaginative!

One of the more tame traditions is that of name days. Everyone in Czech is named after a Czech saint, and each name is celebrated on particular day every year. When your name day comes around, it is celebrated much like a birthday, only it's you and everybody else in the country who has your name doing the celebrating. And if you happen to wake up in the morning and forget who's name day it is that day, no need to worry: they announce it on the morning news. So three things to note:

1. There are a finite amount of Czech names to go around. It's not like here in Canada where pretty much any name goes-- you either name your child one of the 365 Czech names or get permission from the government to deviate from the norm. (And if that's not hassle enough, imagine a lifetime of your children feeling left out because they are the only ones in the ENTIRE COUNTRY who don't get to celebrate a name day! Not fair= no good.)

2. In my (limited) experience, nobody in Czech has a middle name. That would mean more than one name day, and once again, that would not be fair.

3. I'm sure some people are named after the saint's name that falls on their actual birthday, but most people are named after a different saint so that they can celebrate BOTH a birthday and a name day. (E.g. Marty was born on January 27th, but the day to celebrate everybody named Martin is on November 11th). Those Czechs always have excuses to celebrate!

Anyway... (long preamble for a relatively short story): I am fortunate enough to have inadvertently been named after a Czech saint! (Put up your hands if you've ever heard of St. Dana... didn't think so.) Today (December 11th) just happens to be my (and every other Dana's) name day! Huzzah!

You can see if you've been blessed with a name day, too: check here. You can also see if there's a loose Czech translation for your decidedly non-Czech name here. Happy name day to me!

Monday, December 10, 2007


The Christmas season is always busy for us, but not in the traditional 'Christmas shopping, Christmas parties, and holiday get-togethers' sense. No. (Thank god!!) Rather, as the holidays descend upon the frenzied masses of eager shoppers, we (and by 'we', I mean "Marty") traditionally gets inundated with commissions for custom pieces of artwork. 'Tis the season for all-nighters spent creating the perfect gift for your loved ones!

Work in progress: Log cabin in Field, BC. © Martin Machacek 2006-07

This year, in addition to his usual special orders, Marty was also invited to display his artwork at a Christmas Home Exhibition in Sooke. What a great idea! Over twenty-five artists participated in this particular exhibition, and even though I'm biased and somehow always seem to like Marty's artwork the best (I know, I know...), I got into the festive spirit and came home with a pretty snazzy new necklace!

Mini canvas necklace by Lisa Riehl, who by the way might just be my second favourite artist here on the island, after you know who!

The necklace is for myself. No gift-giving or Christmas knitting here... I'm great with spontaneous gift-giving, but tell me that it's expected to give somebody a gift because of such-and-such an occasion, and it just won't happen. Apologies to all of the babies who have gone without toques and booties because of this quirk of mine. Not to mention all of the friends who have wondered where various birthday/Christmas/housewarming/bridal shower/wedding gifts are... Just you wait until you get spontaneously gifted!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Excuses, Excuses

During my extended absence, I accomplished a number of things:

1. I survived a pathetic writer's block crisis, in which I attended a well meaning creative writing workshop but emerged wondering if anything written 'authentically' had to be
with random spacing
and no punctuation
teenage poetry
straight from the soul.

Oh, God... That one little blip-of-a-workshop kept me from blogging for quite some time (months!!), as I wondered 'can sarcasm be authentic?', (fret!) 'is my dry sense of humour actually in line with my inner being?' (deep!) Blah, blah, yawn, yawn-- fortunately for me (and you), I have emerged from this catastrophe relatively unscathed. I might have reverted back to my pre-teen angst state for a time, but at least I didn't do it publicly. I like to maintain some standards of decency, after all.

2. I developed an acute case of bilateral tendonitis! This has been a huge factor in my not blogging as of late, because quite honestly, when I get home after a FULL DAY (or week, or month) of entering in pledges for our fundraising campaign at work, the LAST thing I want to do is get back on a computer and type away. My poor forearms! As much as I'm enjoying watching the money roll in, I'm a bit miffed that this same money has gotten in the way of some of my favourite things, namely blogging and knitting. (Yes, it's true, even though all I feel like doing is knitting mittens, scarves, toques, and AFGHANS, I haven't been able to muster enough wrist support to do anything of the sort. Hence, you'll have to make due with some outdated photos of FOs from the recent past):

Marty's 'autumn socks', complete with fitting 'fallen leaves' setting:

Lil Star's 'Bumblebee Toque', complete with non-matching outfit because Auntie Dana just HAD TO SEE her model it THE SECOND she arrived to visit:

I've been (slowly) trying to complete another pair of socks for Marty, but alas- those tiny needles and that sockweight yarn are not doing any favours for the forearms. Le sigh.

3. I've begun taking in the festivities that make up Christmas time in Victoria. So far, we have been to the Oak Bay Light Up (basically where all the shops in the Village plug in their Christmas lights at more or less the same time--- amazingly, this event attracted over 7000 PEOPLE!!)

Creepy Santa's elf 'making toys' to 'delight' the 'young ones':

$1 apple cider and a tantalizing preview of festivities still to come:

We also hauled our asses (and some coffee with Bailey's) to the totally awesome Lighted Truck Parade. This just happens to be my ALL TIME FAVOURITE Christmas event in the whole wide world, even though it's like GOOD LUCK trying to get a decent photo of the goings on:

(See what I mean? The last one was taken when the parade stopped unexpectedly for a few precious moments. You get the idea, though-- the truck parade RULES!!!!)

All in all, I have still been alive and well, if not a little sore from all of my data entry as of late. Thanks for still checking in... Hopefully when I say that I'll try to publish more frequently now, it'll actually be a promise and not an opportunity to make more excuses!