Sunday, August 23, 2020

More Stuff than Space?

 Pandemic re-org project.

This is what some of my spices looked like when I started the process

This is what it looks like afterward.  There is a container for oils, vinegars, sauces and a spice riser.

I have been working from home since the Covid 19 shutdown in March.  I have never worked from home in my life other than when I wasn't working and working on my blog and other projects.

This time felt weird and an opportunity at the same time.  When it started we thought we would be home for a couple of weeks and things would slowly get back to normal.  I thought it would be a nice break to save 10 hours a week travelling to and from work and I could spend more time cooking meals at home and doing other things.

Well things didn't exactly turn out as I thought it would.  A couple of weeks has turned into 6 months already and I can't even believe how much time I have spent at home alone.  My bubble has been very small and I didn't see my friends for at least the past 6 months except for my tiny bubble of my best friend's family.

When it started I thought I could finally get to the home organizing that has been on my mind for a long time but because my day job was taking all my energy I didn't have the time or energy to do the things I had on my to do list.

It started with a broken dresser.  I took most of the stuff out of my broken dresser and had it piled in bins in the corner of my room.  I had to start my purge and organizing.  I finally got a new dresser when I was able to go to Ikea with my friend and it's sitting in boxes in my room waiting for my friend to assemble it.  I also purchased a bookshelf cabinet that has been assembled and is semi organized.  That's also another project to finish but it holds a lot.

Before with a half shelf

after shelf removal and using a divider for trays

Then I moved on to my living room and took everything off the shelves on either side of my TV because it was looking very cluttered.  I organized my cookbooks on one side covering 3 shelves and moved photo boxes and other things to the other shelves while removing things that stuck out or didn't have a function or as Marie Condo says "spark joy".  I started a pile of donations in the other corner of my living room and that pile has been growing.  I don't know how I crammed so much stuff into this space because now that I am re organizing it isn't all fitting back in.

My living room was close to being less cluttered and then I had to deal with the kitchen because of maintenance that needed to be done.  I had to remove everything from the cupboards in the kitchen and I put them in bins that I then stacked in my living room.  It is like a renovation or a move.  It kinda feels the same way.  I didn't have the dust but I had the boxes and stuff everywhere and it's still not done.  The kitchen project has been going on for a couple of weeks.

When you see the Youtube videos of people organizing their kitchens and it's wrapped up in a 10 minute video....well that's not reality for sure.  Maybe if you clean one cabinet.. but not a whole kitchen.

Before - baking and mugs 

After- baking and bowls and easy access for tea and coffee

The reason it's taken me a long time is because it's been hot so I can only do so much before literally dripping in sweat.  Also I have been working so I can only do it around my work.

And I have been cleaning the shelves and handwashing everything before it goes back in.  I have been decanting things and switching containers to just fit the contents saving some space and using mason jars and Oxo containers.  I have tried to put most things into clear containers to see how much there is so I know when I have to replace.

In the organizing process when I removed everything I have tried to sort like with like so that's when you really see the amount of stuff you have.   I have 5 ice cream scoops, 5 vegetable peelers, and a bunch of other duplicate things.  Here's the thing.  I haven't actually purchased all of the duplicate things.  A lot of it came from events that I have attended or maybe I couldn't find something or something didn't work well and I purchased another one and never got rid of the not great one.  Some things have come from when I did Food Revolution events and had to purchase things for demos or when I had things at work.  For example I used to make food waste soups at work so I had a little spice kit at the office and some tools I used to make the soup.  When we moved offices I couldn't do it anymore so I took the spices and things home.

My friend Adam is a great friend but he loves to bring me random foods from his shopping trips.  He does all the grocery shopping and has a habit of always buying too much and he likes to share.  So I had a pile of food that I picked up on sale that I couldn't even put into the cupboards.  Time for a re-org.

In the re-organization I decided to move things around and put things in the spot where I could access what I use most.  Being short an out of shape means that I have the bottom shelf of the top cabinets that are the only ones I can get to without having to stand on a step stool.  That means the plates and spices and other things I need quick access to had to go there.

I also had piles of stuff and to much stuff on my counter.  Huge appliances that took up all the space.  I decided that I will sell my food processor because it's huge and has a bunch of attachments that take up too much space and because it has so many pieces it's really a pain to clean after I use it which isn't that often.  I will just get a smaller simple one.  I used to have yearly parties and I cooked a lot but I haven't done that in a few years so it doesn't make sense to have huge things anymore.  I am getting rid of a huge casserole dish and roasting pan because I have a size smaller for each that can be used and if needed I can get those disposable aluminum trays if I have to cart anything anywhere so why take up the space in a small apartment.  

When I moved in I was used to living in a house with a basement that had a second freezer and shelves for the appliances and extra stuff that wasn't used often.  I don't have that option anymore so I have to adapt better for my current situation.

This is a long post because it's been a long process and I have learned a lot over the past few years after having to downsize from a house full of stuff to a one bedroom apartment and accumulating more stuff along the way.

I like nice things and I am always looking for things that make things work better.  I also like to bake when I have a craving or with my friend's 5 year old when she used to be able to come over. She likes sprinkles and we used to do cookie and cupcake decorating so I have a whole box of sprinkles and loads of instant baking mixes for surprise visits.

She hasn't been over since February but I think she will be allowed to visit soon so I hope I am ready to bake again in a more efficient space.

The big thing I learned after spending a whole lot of money on organizing things is that I probably should have just had less stuff because it's been costing a lot of money to get organized and a lot of sweat equity.  But at this point I can cook almost every ethnicity food and bake a whole host of things when I am inspired.

What I have also learned is to take a hard look at what you have and get it all organized in a smart way and purge the stuff you don't use or need.

After- lid rack, purged and moved from other spaces, in the back a pan rack

After- I purchased the sliding shelves and a new recycle bin. 
The metal container holds plastic bags and the bin holds gloves, and swiffer cleaners.

In the re-organization I have purchased things like risers, lazy susans, I kind of hate that name but that's what they call it.  I have purchased new spice containers,  racks, cannisters, bins and things that hang on cupboard doors and all kinds of other organizer tricks. 
These things sometimes save space, sometimes just make things easier to get to and sometimes don't actually save space but make it easier to see and find things.

I still have 2 bins of stuff and have the equivalent of a shelf and a half to put it into.  I also have an equivalent of a bin full of food containers that I have not figured out where they will go.

So I think I am going to have to cook a lot of the food that has been waiting on those shelves and a lot more baking to make some more space.  Things look less cluttered but it's going to be a work in progress for a long time until I adapt to the new way of doing things.

During the pandemic while all the usual things I did like go to events, movies and out for dinner with friends all disappeared.  All I could do was go grocery shopping and retreat to my kitchen to feed myself the foods I missed and deal with my boredom.  I tried to make new things like Korean pancakes,  so I shopped for foods I didn't use before and because you can't always buy the quantities you actually need this stuff just takes up space after you use what you needed.  I need to try and use up some of those things more now.

This was a lot of work and it's not finished yet but it was necessary and unfortunately I would have preferred to do this in the winter but because I was  not sure how long I would be working from home I also wanted to get this completed before we return to a more normal life and possibly go back to commuting life and life with friends and fun things to do.

The only accomplishment I will have to show for 2020 is that I hope to have a more organized life and be ahead of the game instead of always trying to catch up and keep up.

I know I have inspired a couple of people to organize their stuff and like I mentioned before I have a lot of blogger friends and we have gotten a lot of promotional things at trade shows and events that accumulate pretty fast.  I plan on doing a big donation to either Value Village or the Diabetes organization but if you need anything let me know.

I hope this inspires you to either get organized or shop wisely.  And what I learned also is to leave room to grow which happens fast.

Happy Organizing and get your kitchen and home space more zen like to release the clutter in your space and your mind and use the time to be creative or spend time with your bubble.

I found a knife holder at the dollar store and various dividers.
See my multiple ice cream scoop collection.  A work in progress.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

What is a Foodie?

What do you think of when you hear the term Foodie?  Do you cringe or drool?

I started my Blog in 2011 after my work contract ended and my mother passed away.  I had already had blogs but I was home cooking more so I created a Blog to put my thoughts and photos about food onto a blog for myself and my friends.

In 2011 it wasn't a pretentious lucrative thing as it turned out to be for some people and I didn't do it as a career but as a passion.  I had always loved to cook and to eat out at different kinds of restaurants to try new things that I did not grow up eating.  My next door neighbours were mostly Italian and I loved to see what they were eating at their house and that grew my love of Italian food that continues to this day.  My mom wasn't the best at making Italian food but she did know how to cook other Mediterranean food.  I had a very diverse palette compared to most of my friends because my parents had food influences from Greece, Poland, France, Belgium, Jerusalem and Spanish food too.

I am getting ahead of myself now.  Back to the Foodie thing.  When I started my blog I wanted to call it something like Starving Artist or something cool but when I tried to come up with a name I kept going back to Starving Foodie.  The term Foodie was just starting to be used a lot and since I am not a trained chef and I don't work in the Food Industry and I am not a professional writer but I do know my way around a Kitchen and I do know a lot about different ethnic cuisines and what's happening in the food world.   I learned a lot from influences from friends, travelling, going out to events since I was a kid and growing up watching cooking shows on TV.  While I am not formally trained I have been told many times over the years that I should have a restaurant.  I don't because I know it takes a lot of money and a lot of stamina and I don't have enough of either of those things.

So the reason for this blog post and What is a Foodie?  I started watching a New York based documentary on Amazon Prime and right at the beginning they had people from places like Eater and bloggers, and other food writers answer the question about what is a foodie.   Most of them said things like a self proclaimed food geek, someone who just goes to restaurants and a lot more judgemental comments that kind of put my back up.   I often think I should change my blog to my name because I like to write about restaurants less than other things.  I like to write about events,  because I do have an education and experience in that and I also like to write about food films and also have another blog for that.  But I also like to write about sustainability, farmers, trends, great things and not so great things going on in the food world.  My instagram is more of a lifestyle page because I post lots of not so perfectly curated photos.  I have 2 accounts but I just go back to my main account and I like to post things I see, people I hang out with and places I go and things I eat.

My Instagram is more like a visual diary for myself and my friends to see what I am up to.  They like to see what I am eating because it inspires them and gives them ideas of what they can make because I keep things fairly simple most of the time.

During Covid-19 self isolating I have gone back to the kitchen and almost back to where I started even though I have put my time into Instagram instead of my blog because I am still working from home.

I have done all the Covid food things,  make sourdough Starter,  make Dalgona coffee,  I am still obsessed with that one but gave up on the sourdough because it just takes too much of a time investment.  I baked the banana bread,  I made chocolate chip cookies,  I made gnocchi from scratch and all kinds of doughs.  I am trying to push myself to not eat the same even though the food options are a lot more limited now.  I try and make things I have never made before like Okonomyaki.  Japanese seafood pancake if you don't know.  That turned out great.  It's my creative outlet, it feeds my belly and my soul and my creative photography lover side.

The reason I take un-curated photos on my feed is because I have been taking photos since I was 12 years old.  I just take photos of things I find interesting, beautiful or newsworthy for me.  My blog and social media were created for me so I don't expect to become rich and famous from it.   Some have but that has never been my goal.
These are some of my "foodie" friends while we are on an Asparagus Farm Tour.

I am not that person who is more of an "influencer" that's the term I am not crazy about because to me from what I have seen from some of the popular ones is that it is all about them getting the perfect shot of themselves.  If I take a selfie it's either because I just want to say something, be goofie or show where I am or who I am with or like this photo below it's to show the sign of the Sea-Hi restaurant that was about to close after 50 years in business.

I went to a lavendar farm with a couple of friends and what really turned me off where the people who were obviously Instagram obsessed with doing a photoshoot in the middle of a row of lavendar and they wore pretty dresses and big sun hats and then sprawled in the rows of lavendar even though they were told to be careful of the lavendar because that's how they earn their money.  I wanted to take a photo of the fields and my friends and I celebrating my friends birthdays.

I am getting off track again.  Anyway..  I have been to many events where there are a whole bunch of foodies, Instagrammers, bloggers, influencers, writers, fashionistas or whatever you want to call them.  Sometimes when food is presented some will spend 20 minutes taking photos of it and some will take 20 min taking photos of themselves eating it.   Some will take one photo and then dive in as if they have never eaten a meal before in their life.   I like to try and take a couple of photos to try and get the best light and angle and then get out of the way and wait to eat the food once everyone is done.

It's very competitive although I am not competing because it's not my source of income.  I have a day job that pays my bills now but when I started my job just ended and I just gravitated to food to fill the void.  The first couple of years I spend a lot of time on my blog but lately I have not been keeping up because of Covid,  and the fact that there is less to inspire me to write because I am not out and about like I normally would be.   The judgmental comments in that documentary inspired me to speak about what it's like in Toronto and what it's like for me as a blogger.   I am not an "influencer",  although I do get media passes and do write about events mostly or other things I am invited to,  I do not work for a publication so my opinions are my own.  If I don't like something you will only hear the things I am ok with.  If I don't think things are right I will tell you.  Because it's my voice I can speak what I think uncensored by a brand compensation.

Now back to the food thing.  I have been cooking for over 50 years so I think that has given me somewhat of half decent experience and I get bored eating the same kind of food so I am always looking for inspiration.  Currently now that travel is not an option I was able to watch a series about Thailand and the food there.  It was like getting a travel cooking lesson and I find that very inspiring so when I feel like having Thai food I try and take bits of what I have learned from those types of shows.

I have many friends that are different kinds of bloggers, instagrammers, and food writers, tv personalities and such.  Some specialize in specific cuisine, some only go to restaurants,  one of my friends has dumped her blog but continues to search for the perfect beers an puts that on Instagram.  Some are into health,  some farming,  some travel and some Michelin star restaurants. 

We all have our own individual passion for food which is what has brought us together.  Food is the common denominator in the world.  Right now we can't agree on anything but if you post a Pizza Pull I bet a lot of people will like it.   Food itself isn't political,  there may be religious reasons for eating certain foods but you don't eat because of politics.   When I post anything that has my political opinion I get skewered on social media but right now I am going to post Ice cream for National Ice Cream day and I don't think anyone will post a negative comment.

There is room enough in the world for Foodie, or whatever you want to call people who love food and everything about it and influencers,  food marketers,  brands, food writers, content creators, cookbook authors, food bloggers and dieticians.

Let people do what they do and the world will be a happier place.

Now I am going to go back to that documentary called For the Love of Food.  If you check it out leave me a comment about it.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

The best heatwave food - Gazpacho!

GAZPACHO- Is it a soup or a salsa or a salad?

I don't write a lot of recipes for a couple of reasons.  One because I hardly ever measure anything unless I am baking and the other is that I generally make classic time tested dishes.  But I decided to write this recipe because it's close to traditional but the way I have been making it for a few years and it's been a go to every summer.  Gazpacho is a classic Spanish dish that is made with just a lot of knife skills and some refrigeration.

  • 1 Green Onions
  • 2 tbsp Red Onions
  • 2 tbsp Yellow Onions
  • 2 cloves of Garlic
  • 1 tsp Jalapeno
  • 2 tbsp Sherry Vinegar or Red wine vinegar
  • 3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp Cilantro
  • 2 Tomatoes- on the stem or heirloom
  • 2 Cucumbers
  • 1/2 a Green Pepper
  • 1 rib of Celery
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1 tsp pepper or to taste
  • 1 cup of Clamato Juice or tomato juice
  • 3 Dashes of Cholula hot sauce - optional


Squeeze the lime into a large bowl and you can use the zest if you like.  If you don't have a lime you can use a lemon and put it into the bowl.

Grate 2 garlic cloves with a microplane or finely chop and add to the lime juice.

Finely chop about a quarter of a jalapeno.  I used 4 slices of one and used the end where there were less seeds.  Add to the bowl.

Add the Sherry Vinegar or Red wine vinegar, a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and mix the ingredients.

Chop the green onions into a fine dice, chop the red and yellow onions into a small dice as well and add all of the onions to the dressing in the bowl.

I didn't peel my tomatoes and this is a great time to use soft tomatoes because they break down anyway.  I used tomatoes on the stem and diced them.  I left the seeds as well but you could peel and seed them if you like it smoother.

Finely dice the green pepper, cucumber and celery and add to the bowl.

Finely chop the Cilantro and add to the bowl.  

Mix all of the ingredients.

Pour the Clamato Juice over the vegetable mixture until it covers all of the vegetables.  If you like it less thick add more juice.  I like it chunky and the vegetables break down as it sits in the fridge.

Taste for flavour and then add the salt and pepper to taste.

Let sit in the fridge for at least a couple of hours for the onions and tomatoes to break down and mix the juices.

Serve in a glass or bowl and add a sprig of cilantro for garnish and you can drizzle with olive oil.  If you don't add bread which is in a traditional Spanish Gazpacho I would suggest you garnish with Croutons.  I prefer the Gazpacho like a chunky soupy salsa.

This is great for really Hot summer days because you don't have to cook anything and it can stay in the fridge for days and still be great.  This is one of my friends favourite things that he asks for in the summer.  It's a winner.