Pierogi’s, we’ll see…

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My Mom and Dad getting hitched at city hall in Zagreb, December 25, 1965.

Do you know the stories from your parents’ lives? I was inspired by three sisters who interviewed their dad, as he lost the fight for his life in hospital. I realized there is so much I don’t know about what my parents’ lives were like before my brother and I came along.

The little I do know came from my grandparents. I was lucky enough to get to spend a few amazing summers visiting them in Yugoslavia while they were still with us. How I loved listening to their stories!

 

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These are my paternal grandparents, Baka Ana and Dida Franjo Mihaljevic, around 1986 or so.

My paternal grandparents’ home was in the center of Zagreb, next to the main train station. I’d hang out outside watching trainloads of people pass by. The house was so close to the tracks I felt like I could high-five passengers as their limbs dangled out of the train windows.

Inside their home, I’d sit at the kitchen table while my grandma started the wood burning stove. It’s a dream of mine to have one of those and the time it takes to use one. My grandpa would pull up a chair and he’d poke fun at my grandma, non-stop. They were so full of joy and love, and the house filled with laughter. Although they no longer walk among us, my love for them has no end.

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You can’t see my Grandmother’s face in this shot but I love this picture for the moment I remember. This is me and my maternal Grandmother, Baka Dragica Petravic, around 1988.

My maternal Grandparents house was on the Adriatic Coast. I had a sea view from my bedroom’s balcony and it truly was paradise. Baka Dragica was laid back and loved to laugh. She gave me the freedom to explore her town as I wished, which made for great growth for me. She loved to listen to music, and sing along as she busied herself in the house. I’d bring my awesome mixed (cassette) tapes, and she would ensure I had a player in my room so I could listen to them. Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills will forever remind me of that summer when I was 18.

When my grandma would visit Canada, I’d sleep in her bed and we’d stay up until the wee hours talking in the dark. She was a great storyteller and teacher, and I am so grateful for the many things I learned from her. I miss her terribly.

In order to learn about how my parents became the people they are today I decided to interview each of them. It’s going to take time to get it all down and I’m not exactly sure what I will do with it when I am done. But it feels good to have started and to initiate new potential from some interesting old stories.

My mom has always been a phenomenal culinary talent and she is passionate about it. We almost never ate in restaurants growing up, being spoiled by her incredible home-cooked meals.  I’ll be sure to include some of her recipes on this blog.

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Pierogi’s with sausage and kale chips.

First up is my Mom’s Pierogi recipe. It`s not Croatian, but we made it recently and it is too good not to share.

Mom’s Pierogi’s

Makes about 40 (I double it so I can freeze a bunch)

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Ricing the potatoes.

Filling

2 Large Russet Potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 Tsp Olive Oil
1 Small Spanish Onion, finely diced
1 Clove of Garlic, crushed
1.5 oz. Cream Cheese
1.5 oz Cottage Cheese
1/2 tsp. Salt
Black Pepper to taste

  • Add potatoes to a pot of cold, salted water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender.
  • In a frying pan brown onions in oil on med-low, adding garlic just before they are done.
  • Using a ricer (or mash if you have no ricer) put the potatoes and all other ingredients into a large bowl and mix to combine. Set aside to cool.
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Dough

1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour (Optional: replace about a 1/3 with whole wheat flour)
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 Cup Sour Cream
1 Egg
2/3 Cup Water
  • Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl, then make a well in the center.
  • Add egg, sour cream and water to the well and combine with a spoon.
  • Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead for about 50 turns or until you get a smooth dough. Cover and let rest for about 10 minutes.
  • Take a third of the dough, keeping the rest covered, roll out to about 3 mm thick. Use a glass or other circle shape about 7-8 cm in diameter to cut out circles. We used a clean, empty can. Save the scraps to re-roll.

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  • Place about a Tablespoon of filling onto each circle, then fold in half and pinch tightly to close. We made some filled with peach jam. They are delicious with caramelized onions on top!
  • Place pierogi`s in boiling, salted water about 6-8 at a time for about 3 minutes (if freezing) and 4 minutes (if eating now).
  • If freezing, allow the boiled pierogi`s to cool on an oiled cookie sheet then into an oiled zip bag to freeze.
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I serve these with full-fat Greek yogurt, bacon bits, and caramelized onions, seasoned with salt and pepper. The Pierogi`s can also be fried slightly after boiling to crisp up the dough a little.

I’d love to hear how you serve Pierogi’s and how you remember your grandparents and parents old stories. Photo Albums? Letters? Writing a book? Though music? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
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Having It All

happyPeople want to be happy and it`s easy to make the mistake of thinking that getting everything you want = more happiness. It’s not quite so simple. It seems that when stuff is too easy to come by, something is missing.

 

Continue reading “Having It All”

Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs

There’s this leaf which looks like a tiny lily pad. It’s edible and claims to have health benefits like improved skin texture,  increased cognitive function, and detoxifying qualities to name just a few. Because it has so many benefits it is marketed as a supplement. People are ingesting the pills or drops daily but are warned that there may be side effects. The plant is Gotu Kola, a.k.a. Asiatic Pennywort or Centella.

 

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Gotu Kola in its’ food form. It can be purchased at Hong Kong Supermarket in Calgary. Photo by Kerry Kaufman

 

Continue reading “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs”

But I don’t want it to be over!

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My favorite beach in Thailand.

 

The image is so vivid in my mind that I was certain we had a photo of it. The photo, however, doesn’t exist. It looked like this… We were standing in Suvarnabhumi Airport departure gate, on an early February morning, sheltered from the scorching 40-degree heat under air-conditioned glass archways. My head in my hands, elbows on the railing, I stare out through the thick air. I’m just crushed to be leaving. Reflecting on the long hours spent playing in the water, the massages before hitting the sack, and digging into meals of the freshest seafood alongside flavorful, exotic vegetables… I am filled with emotion. My family mimics my tearful “If only we had just a few more days!”.  I say it every time.

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Shameful!

 

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Jack just kinda’ floatin’.

 

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One happy kid.

 

Almost as soon as we came home from the 17 day trip to Thailand, I started planning our next big trip. It’s my way of avoiding getting bummed-out over the drastic change from a connected life of leisure to one of an arduous, repetitive routine. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy with my regular life but I really am “in demand” for most of my waking hours. This leaves just a little time for the things I am deeply compelled to do. It’s all worthwhile for many reasons but longish holidays, are a key motivator for me. They check off some really important boxes:

boxSimplify daily life allowing more time to do as I please.
boxPresents new perspectives, ideas to incorporate into my life.
boxShifts focus from acquisition to what is really important to me.

The minimalist ideal of freedom from “stuff” is very appealing. Owning a lot of things ties a person to those things and those things call for time. More stuff = More to take care of, making for a busy life. Travelling, liberates by forcing all that “stuff” to be left behind. Being without a home and only my bag of essentials in tow smells like freedom.

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Who am I kidding? I have never traveled like this. But it is my plan to travel with a capsule wardrobe on our next big trip.

The gift of time to think, to process and absorb makes me more aware. It’s cliché, but not many of us live our lives in-the-moment (including me!). When on a longish holiday being present comes easily and naturally. Unless the days are filled with tours (which is really not my travel-style) my mind is allowed to catch up to itself.

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Reliving the same day over and over makes it easy to coast through life on auto-pilot. It’s what a lot of us do in our regular lives. But witnessing people in another part of the world and imagining what it is like for them can be tremendously eye-opening. I love to do this when people watching! It’s both exciting and inspiring to see how a day unfolds for people living in another culture.

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This always leads me to dream about the many possibilities of what it would be like to live somewhere else and have a completely different way of living. What fun to fantasize this way!

It’s too easy in everyday life to get hung up on acquiring things or trying to outdo the people around us. Getting away for an extended period of time can really shift one’s perspective from the soul-squashing expectations of a materialistic and every-individual-for-themselves society that we’ve built.

I have never been on a trip where I felt ready to come home.  I say I could travel forever, but, should it be feasible … could I, really? If all my time is leisure time then how is it special/fulfilling? It’s only logical that having work as well as free time results in good life balance. If all my time was spent sun-tanning and shopping I would most certainly not be contented. Having to work for these big trips gives another purpose to the work and makes the time-off feel so indulgent.

One trick that works for me is that I like to plan these trips far in advance. Not everything, but rather,  accommodations and options for mode of transport. It builds excitement leading up to the trip extends the experience. I learn a lot about a place when doing this research, and the route evolves as I learn.

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Once I am actually in the other country the real experience is always surprising. While planning I have this mini-vision of what it might be like but it is never the exact way I pictured. How could I have known the smells, the view, and what is just down the street? How could I have known the people who keep the place running? So the adventure started when I began planning and continues until we get back home.

Life can sometimes get monotonous but going on a +- 4 week trip, I come back inspired, clear-headed and motivated to work hard each day. I apply what I’ve learned in my daily life and I start saving and planning that next big trip! Up next for us? My motherland …… Croatia in 2019!

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Where will your next long trip take you? What length of a holiday is best for you?

 

Reno’s and Waste

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Our kitchen has always been an eyesore, built long ago, with the cheapest of everything.  Since we are heavy users of our kitchen we decided that we’d take the plunge, at last, in an effort to make our kitchen time more enjoyable and efficient. We had a limited budget of $5,000, which meant careful consideration of all available options. This also meant choosing between new appliances and everything else.

Here are some embarrassing images of our very messy, old kitchen. You can see how the dark counters were not flattering for the space. Click on a caption to see all three:

 

 

We had two main concerns holding us back from renovating all these years. The first was money. Moving to Canada from Thailand 10 years ago with zero dollars and a bunch of debt made it scary to spend on things other than necessities, and the odd treat. After a few years we were incredibly grateful to be able to buy a house at all! Although we still have debt, we have grown and learned that we want to build a fulfilling life for our family that we can be excited about while we chip away at becoming debt free. There has to be balance.

The other thing that held us back from renovating is our dis-ease with the amount of unnecessary waste a renovation creates. This was going to increase our footprint majorly, especially since all the old stuff was still in working order. We decided we’d do our best to minimize the amount of waste while staying on budget.

From resurfacing to custom made bits, we considered many options for how to improve the quality and look of our kitchen. In the end, we replaced the cupboards, sink, tiles and countertop. Since the appliances were still working, we would keep them.

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These are the new cupboards we chose. Our pantry now goes right up to the ceiling.

We found Ikea to be the best for cupboards in terms of price and quality. These cupboards were so simple to put together that 12 year-old Ana built most for us! They have a soft-close function so no slamming doors. We opted to replace cupboards with drawers to make stuff easy to reach. We absolutely LOVE them! Even though we removed all uppers on one wall we still managed to gain storage space.

The installation was over our heads but lucky for us my Dad saved the day. He was even able to do some custom solutions for which Ikea had no solutions, or our materials met in an awkward way. We are beyond grateful for my Dad’s artistry!

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Look at how he cut the tiles to where they met with the molding – Just beautiful!

WASTE: We were able to give all the old cupboards away on Kijiji. One guy came by and took them all for his garage. We are thrilled that they are being reused!

My dad offered to resurface our existing counter with Arborite, to get our budget back on track (We went over on the cupboards). I love a concrete countertop so we looked at a concrete-looking Arborite as a more affordable option. After reconsidering, we decided not to pretend the counter was concrete. Instead, we embraced the Arborite and went with white. It has brightened up our entire kitchen immensely and, again, we are super happy with our choice.

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See how white brightens things up?

WASTE: As it turns out there was a leek near the sink which was slowly and secretly rotting the old counter. We ended up cutting that old counter into small pieces and throwing it out, which was bothersome but at the same time I was glad we got rid of any potential mold issues. We had to have my dad rebuild the new counter.

One of the things I despised most in our old kitchen was the tile which looked suspiciously like the one’s in our bathroom. We chose to splurge on some beautiful tiles from Spain and cover right up to the ceiling. They are a beautiful “duck-egg” blue, 50cm long subway tile with a hand-made, imperfect surface. They add a subtle bit of warmth and color, but remain calm. Thankfully, my Mom talked us out of a patchwork patterned tile we had our eye on. Its lovely but our space is too small, it would have been overwhelmingly busy.

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The tile my mom talked us out of – Thanks Mom!

WASTE: the tile was broken when removed and so went into the garbage.

We use a lot of big pots and woks so the double-bowl sink was awkward and problematic for washing. It drove us nuts! We ended up buying a giant rectangle sink from RONA which is a complete game changer! Washing dishes was never a favorite but this makes it so much simpler.

WASTE: Our old sink, faucet and old plumbing? All picked up and taken away by one gent from Kijiji.

I was sticking to my guns on keeping the old appliances until they no longer functioned, but truthfully, our kitchen really didn’t look finished with the old white appliances still there. Well, just over a week ago I broke the drawer on our stove (YAY!). It was always a struggle to close but I really had to force it when it busted. Big ol’ whitey’s time had come. So, we bought a beautiful glass-top stove (gas would have been our first choice), which looks sleek and shows off more of that beloved tile!

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I love this little red detail.

WASTE: The old stove was hauled off and broken down into scrap metal.

Except for the new range (which we are paying off, interest-free – thanks Home Depot!), we were pretty much able to keep things on budget. Again, thanks to my Dad for all his hours of work and expertise. Thanks, for putting up with and finding solutions for all my requests for something out of the ordinary!

We still have our old white fridge. I am not replacing it before it breaks and we pay off that stove!

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Our new kitchen is fun to use, shows our style and, although there was some waste, we feel good that we were careful to minimize it.

Cabin Trips

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Sid, Ana & Lila as seen from the cabin patio.

Ahhh summer. I wish it could always be. The warm air, all that time outside in nature, and 17 hours of daylight to play with really fills me with energy.

Canada has beautiful summers and our family loves to take road trips. When traveling we like to have access to a kitchen (the exception is in Thailand where the street food is scrumptious, healthy and aplenty at all times of day/night). Eating in restaurants can be good but three meals a day gets expensive and doesn’t feel that healthy. We prefer to have the option to make our own healthy and flavorful meals in an environment where we can relax. Continue reading “Cabin Trips”

The one and only, Pad Thai

 

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Close-iup of Pad Thai. Photo by Kerry and Tate Kaufman

Oh wow. It’s been three months since I posted. I knew it would be a challenge to post regularly but that’s a really long stretch of darkness. A lot has happened in those three months, though! To start with May and June had me in high demand with Ana’s end-of-the year stuff for school, dance, and music (I refuse to miss any of it!). We renovated our lil’ kitchen so we were without for a while there. I have been busy making art and working to get it out into the world (finally with some success!). We have been on a few glorious road trips (to Nelson, BC and the Okanagan), and had family visiting from Croatia (Miss you already Tatijana!) and the West Coast. With all that I just let thaifoodstory slide. Continue reading “The one and only, Pad Thai”

Local Eggs

The accumulation of minerals on a hot springs pool in which eggs are cooked.

The first time I visited Jack’s home town he took me on a road trip to visit the Rakswarin Hot Springs in Ranong, near the Thai/Burmese border. There locals sell quail and chicken eggs in a hand made net. Had I not been with Jack I’d have no idea what they were for. These are meant to be dipped into the hot springs to cook. Upon returning to your eggs some time later, you find they are hard boiled and ready to eat.

Continue reading “Local Eggs”

Chili Pepper Eye

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Birds Eye Chili’s with Thai Basil – Photo by Kerry Kaufman

I was carefully slicing chilis for our favorite Tofu with Spicy Lime Dip as our friends were about to pop by.  I finished preparing a few snacks, then went to get myself cleaned up. I was putting my contact lenses in when suddenly I felt a blast of heat as the lens touched my eye.  I screeched as my eye ejected the lens and tears furiously poured out of my burning eye. Frantically, I tried flushing my eye with cold water which did nothing to ease my pain. All I could do is writhe in agony until my (now very red) eye worked to naturally expel the spicy oils. The pain seemed to linger much too long but finally, my eye cleared and felt normal again.

Continue reading “Chili Pepper Eye”