Lunch with Gen

Lunch with GenOne of my best friends and I have lunch together every week. We used to go out for “girls night out” together… That then became “girls after work” together… Then it became “girls lunch at Pizza Delight”… Now it has become “let’s go for a walk, cook food for each other and drink tea.” It’s a pretty wild life that I lead! We take turns cooking and it has been a lot of fun trying out different recipes!

So, what to cook… I have been (and I hate to admit this) spending a lot of time on Pinterest looking for ideas.

I picked out three recipes, two of which are pretty similar… black beans, red pepper and avocado feature in both. After going grocery shopping, I decided on two recipes, the black bean avocado salad and spaghetti squash with asparagus.

I had purchased a spaghetti squash a couple of weeks ago and had not cooked it because I was not quite sure what to do… I was really surprised to see that the flesh of the squash looked completely “normal”. Having found this recipe (on Pinterest) I decided to give it a whirl. It turned out pretty well. I had expected it to look like spaghetti when I opened it up. I had no clue that you had to tease the flesh out with a form to get the “noodles”.
As far as the recipe goes, on the site I got it from there is also a recipe for homemade pesto. I decided to buy some premade pesto from the store instead of making my own, so I have omitted that part of the recipe.

Spaghetti Squash with Veggies and Pesto
Ingredients:

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
  • 3/4 pound asparagus, cut into thirds
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Dashes of salt and pepper
  • 1-2 Tbs of pesto

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375F. Place the squash flesh side down in a jelly roll pan. Fill the pan with 1/2 inch water. Bake squash for at least 35 – 40 minutes, or until you can easily pull the “noodles” out with a fork. Let cool for 5 minutes.

While squash bakes, prepare veggies. Heat olive oil in a medium pan over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until just translucent, about 3 minutes. Add in mushrooms and asparagus and cook until asparagus is soft, about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat.

Once squash has cooled, carefully pull the flesh from the squash using a fork [this will give you the noodles]. Place in a bowl. Add in veggies and mix up with a tong. Add 1 – 2 tablespoons of pesto, stir and enjoy!

A while ago Gen had posted a photo on Facebook of an avocado dish she had made. That sent me immediately to Google to find a recipe for avocado salad. This was the big hit of the meal! So tasty! How can you really go wrong with avocado, red pepper, red onion, corn and black beans. The dressing is perhaps the key. The only changes to the recipe that I made were that I used canned corn and as far as the mustard for the dressing I used honey mustard. That is the only mustard that we have available at our house.

Black Bean Avocado Salad
Lunch preparationIngredients:

  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) grainy mustard
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
  • 1 can (19 oz/540 mL) black beans
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped red onions
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 1 avocado, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh coriander

Directions:
In large serving bowl, whisk extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper.

Add black beans, red onion, corn, red pepper, avocado, garlic and coriander. Toss to combine.

Tips & Tricks: Why the metronome should be your best friend.

MetronomeIt is human nature to speed up and slow down while you are playing music. Often you will play faster when you feel confident and are playing parts you find easier, and will slow down when you get to harder parts. Sometimes, just to make your life that much harder, you will actually try to play faster when you get to hard parts… It is not always consistent. The goal in the end is to play everything at the same speed.

Enter the metronome…

For those of you who don’t know, a metronome is a little machine that clicks or ticks at a consistent speed. It will take you time to get used to working with a metronome and they can be very frustrating at first! Many, many a time I could have sworn that the metronome was speeding up or slowing down, but sadly, it was all me!

The first problem practicing with a metronome is to be able to start with it. It is a little bit like doing double-dutch when you’re skipping rope. I find the best way to start is to actually count “one-two-three-four” with my metronome before starting to play.

My metronome is my best friend for learning music that I find hard. Remember the bracketing that I mentioned in “Quality vs Quantity”? Well, once I find a part that is hard, I take out my trusty metronome and play it very slowly. I then slowly speed up my metronome until I reach a point where I start making mistakes. For example, I might start with my metronome set to 60. That means that it will click 60 times per minute. Let’s say that I get up to 90 before I start making mistakes. I then slow my metronome down again and go through the process of speeding up gradually, but this time start at 70. These numbers are just meant to be an example. You will need to find how slowly you have to go to be able to play the part correctly. By doing this over and over (whether on the same day, or on sequential days), you will be able to play the passage faster in the end.

Happy practicing!

Six Month Check-in

Life IsHere we are half way through 2012. It is now July, so the first six months are complete. Back in January I blogged about my goals for 2012 and I thought this would be a really good time to revisit those goals and see how I am doing!

Goal #1: Improving my health. I would say that in general I have succeeded in this goal. This is, of course, an ongoing goal that I will need to maintain for the rest of my life. I have managed to continue with my eating goals (more veggies, less junk) and exercise goals (walking 30-60 minutes a day) and have managed to lose another 18 pounds since January of 2012. This brings me to a total loss of 58 pounds. I had hoped to drop another two so I could be at an even 60 for this blog, but 58 is a great accomplishment!

Goal #2: Perform the cello in public. I actually only did this on July 3rd. When I was in high school I used to perform with the Fredericton Chamber Orchestra, and I continued playing with them every time I would come home from university for Christmas or in the spring. I heard that they were doing a summer concert this year and sent the president of the orchestra an e-mail to see if I could play cello in the orchestra. It was a great experience and I am delighted that I did it! Playing in a group is completely different from practicing at home on your own. I think that more public performances need to happen, but this one was a good start with a pretty low-pressure concert.

Goal #3: Give back to my community more. I still need to work on this one.

Goal #4: Be more proactive in my business. I would say that I have achieved this goal, although, like goal #1, this is an ongoing project. I have gotten my e-mail in-box under control and only allow a total of 50 e-mails to reside there. I am only allowed to file an e-mail after I have dealt with it, so that means that I can’t ignore e-mails, or at least not more than 50! 😉 The problem I was having is that my in-box is set to display the first 50 e-mails, so once I had more than 50, the oldest e-mails would slip down off the screen, and out of site is out of mind. The other big change I have made is setting aside one day a month to go through my records and make sure that everything is up to date. This will make tax time next year much easier!

Goal #5: Record and release a CD of Christmas music. This project has been tabled for right now as I don’t think it should be my focus at this time. Perhaps you will see this goal pop up again next year!

Goal #6: Start a series on intimate concerts in the style of house concerts. Success! I held four concerts last year in my “Folk & Barqoue” concert series. They were a success and I am now in the planning process for next year. I will be hosting 3 concerts in the fall and then 4 more in the spring, so a total of 7 concerts this time.

All in all, it seems to me that things are going well. So many of these are on-going projects, so I hope at the end of the year, next year, 10 years from now, I can report that things are going well. We shall see how it all works out!