Friday, December 25, 2009

Why I love Christmas

Santa, Santa and one more Santa: I love the magic of Santa. To re live a time through our small children who still believe that magical Santa is real and reindeer do fly is one of the best parts of Christmas. Reminds me not to take everything so seriously all the time!

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Breakfast with Santa at Newlands Golf and Country Club

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Christmas Eve Santa at Aunties’ house

We visited two more Santas. One at the mall and Santa even made it to pre-school. Noah questioned the many Santas and he decided the Santa at the mall was the REAL Santa and would be the one delivering presents.

The Christmas tree:

I love Christmas trees. There is no right way to decorate a Christmas tree. Construction paper garlands made my little hands, popcorn cranberry strung up from top to bottom or crystal Tiffany's ornaments. Every tree is perfect in it’s dressed up glory for the season.


The Christmas tree at Cousin Leas’ home in Vernon

There was a time when there were no presents under my tree or hidden in the closet but when I sat by my Christmas tree, while my little son was sleeping, my worries seemed to disappear. The soft lights hid the stains on the worn carpet. The fresh pine smell mingled with fresh baked cookies reminded me to be thankful for my safe, warm home. My pretty angel sat on the prized spot at the top of the tree looking over us and singing:   

Dec 01 2009 014Dressed up in Christmas tree lights and garland while decorating the Christmas tree

“And on Earth Peace among men . . .” (Luke 2:14) and I was at peace because Christmas was never, in the end, about the shopping and ‘stuff’ it was and is a time to be thankful and feel blessed for everything I had, however little, so I went to bed to the tunes of angels singing and the magic and the blessings that is Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Most Dreaded Question

There’s  a question people ask in polite, small talk conversation. It’s just an innocuous conversation starter. There really is only so much one can say about the weather when cornered at a party, drink in hand, with nowhere to go. The inevitable question always comes up. When I am confronted with THE question, as a stay at home mom, I am left sputtering, deer in headlights, with nothing to say, when someone asks me THE dreaded question: “what do you DO for a living”?


Sure, I’m being spazzy and giving this question more weight than it deserves. I could easily say: “I’m a stay at home mom” then segue into a charming and funny story of the escapades of my small child or shock them with a good one of my teenage son ( the one about my darling son being on his third car in six months because he has written off his first two ) . But, oh no, I stammer and cough, frantically searching for something interesting to say because now I’m stuck on what do I DO for a living.

Can’t you ask me if I’ve read anything good lately? Food, Politics, religion, Micheal Jackson, Brangelina . . . . Bring it on let’s talk but please, please, PLEASE don’t ask me what I DO for a living.

I can tell you what I’ve done in the past but the list is too long and how do I begin and where do I end? Textile factory worker, waitress, short order cook, receptionist, personal assistant, retail, if it has a pink collar I’ve done it. I’ve been fired, (3 times) laid off (once) quit (once or twice). That’s another blog post . . . but here’s my point: Don’t ask me what I DO because I’m a stay at home mom and I don’t have a paid career of any kind. I’m not on Maternity leave from anything but my sanity (at times) and I can’t tell you what I did (paid work) in my former (work) life because I’ve been somebody's full time mom – with some paid jobs in between -  since I was 19.


stay at home dad 

I know you don’t know I’m imploding when you ask me. It’s just an innocent question to start a conversation but understand that when you ask you bring up all my insecurities of my life spent less time doing paid work than not. The question of DOING something for a paycheque is a polite conversation starter, a nice appy dipped in lemon aioli, I know. You don’t mean to hammer me over the head with that question. It’s not like you will say something like: “You better have a job to tell me about or I will walk away and not like you anymore”

. . . or you might one can never tell.

I was at a party the other night. A nice, civilised cocktail party. There was delicious food, drink and lot’s of grown ups talking about interesting things, which I have to say, got a lot more interesting when the Tequila came out. Anyway, Here’s what I did when I was asked ‘The question’ by this lovely woman: I sputtered ( as usual), fumbling for words. I started quoting the above list of my pink collar jobs while gulping down my martini, stuffing the shrimp cocktail in my mouth so she (the interrogator) couldn’t understand what I was saying. Then I started a fake coughing and choking fit; I made a motion for “water” frantically pointing away to the kitchen while spitting shrimp onto her pretty dress like some sort of raving lunatic as I walked/ran away – bullet avoided.

For future reference, if you see me at a social gathering please keep to the weather, celebrity gossip and baby poop because that’s all my fragile mama ego can handle right now. Thank you.

mom brain

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The case against having children

I picked up the latest (January) issue of ‘O’ magazine so I had something to read while I was at Mcdonalds. My little one plays in the play place and I get a moments peace while reading my magazine and sipping my hot coffee.

There was an interview in this issue of ‘O’ with Elizabeth Gilbert author of ‘Eat Love, Pray’. I enjoyed her book and was looking forward to reading what she had to say about her life since ‘Eat Love Pray’ and also about her new book, ‘Commitment’.

Elizabeth talks ‘frankly’ about not wanting children and how she reached that decision. She says she wasn’t made out for ‘momming’. She would’ve made a great dad – a good provider . . . funny . . . go on trips with them . .  etc. . . “I have a really good mom; I know what she put into it. I didn’t think I had the support to both have that and continue on this path that was really important to me . .”

EAt love pray

I can relate to the sentiment. A family takes a lot of work and to be a good parent one needs a lot of support. A realistic take on why she doesn’t want children. I’m all over it. No whining, no looking back. No “what ifs”. Choose an option and do not waiver, wonder and whine. She’s my kind of woman. But. I should’ve stopped reading. She should’ve stopped talking.

Gilbert also talks about a story that was pivotal for her. The story is about her grandmothers’ “Huge” sacrifice for her seven children ‘ . . a life of constant  struggle and deprivation . . . and that beautiful mind, that beautiful intellect, that exquisite sense of curiosity and exploration was gone . . “

Nothing left but a shell of a woman because one has given birth.

As Gilbert was travelling for ‘Eat, Pray Love’ Gilbert says she could feel the weight of her Swedish farmwife ancestors from beyond the grave that were like: . . “Go! Go to Naples! Eat more pizza! . . .Do it! Swim in the Indian Ocean . . . Go beat the drum.”

Reading that raised my mama hackles. Really? Beat the drum? The intellect that just goes? How lovely. She compares modern motherhood with the Swedish farmwives of yesteryear where birth control didn’t exist and slaving from dawn to dusk was not just the norm for women but for men also.


I should’ve put that magazine down right then and there but I soldiered on. I am a mother after all and I’m used to sacrifice, hard work and mind numbing, childish gibberish . . . so I continued to read and here is the best part: Liz has a charming anecdote of her trip to Mexico when she was 20. While she was in Mexico, she met an American couple in their 60’s who said to her: “Oh, it’s so great that you’re travelling now,before you have kids,because you won’t be able to then.” . . . Gilbert continues to say: . . .  “I know this is a thing that people do; they go traveling for a year and then they hitch their leash to the wall and put their face into a feed bag and that’s the end of it . . .”

Motherhood: A leash to the wall, head in the feed bag . . . never to read another book again . . . never to see another foreign sunset . . .

Thank you Elizabeth Gilbert. Nice to know the stereotype of the sacrificing, drab housedress wearing mother is alive and well. It amazes me that feminism has brought women so far, but according to Elizabeth Gilbert, the mother is left somewhere in the back room washing laundry in an old wooden bucket with a baby hanging off her boob and her husband lounging in the kitchen, demanding: “what’s for dinner?”


(still) Such a long way,(to go) baby . . . .

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Another day in the life . . .


The other day I slaved over a delicious vegetarian dish. Lentils, cheese, veggies . .  this stuff was good. mmmmm . . . . . Here’s the thing with granola muncher cooking: it’s a lot of prep and work. First, cook the lentils. Chop up veggies, fry them up, grate the cheese . . . toast and grind cumin seeds and put all ingredients into a separate cooking dish  .  cover with foil . . . add boiling water into crock pot so the dish is in a bath . . . lid does not fit onto slow cooker because said dish is too big . . . find lid to fit the crock pot allow to simmer for a few hours . . .  THEN feed to finicky child(ren).

Finicky child: ewwww this is too chewy what’s all the crunchy stuff?

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Me: It’s toasted almonds in this delicious lentil casserole that I spent most of the morning to make . . .

Finicky child: Gross. Can I have a grilled cheese sandwich on white?

Me: Make your own sandwich I cooked dinner if you don’t like it too bad . . .

Finicky child ( after rolling eyes, stomping feet and moaning, groaning and more whining) pleeeease can you make me a grilled cheese?

Me: No. 

The lentil casserole was delicious by the way.

Next evening I get home late, throw some breakfast sausages, onions, carrots and potatoes in a pan, dump olive oil, salt and pepper all over it, bake @ 400 degrees for about 40 minutes or so.

Finicky Child: mmmmm this is the best . . .  not crunchy and mmmm the potatos taste like french fries mmmmm this is sooo good . . . as said child collapes into food bliss . . .

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. . . . I have no words . . . . Ungrateful buggers . . . .

And, yes, isn’t my new nephew adorable?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

Getting dressed for game day. Iron man is wearing dads’ barbeque apron.

I took pictures all day of my little sous chef cutting mushrooms for the stuffing, mashing sweet potatos . . . however it’s getting late and my patience is wearing thin so here’s the pie.

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Dumping in the pumpkin puree.

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Where’s the pumpkin?

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Adding the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

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. . . Sugar

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. . . Eggs

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. . . more sugar but must taste it first . . .

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add some heavy cream and . . . mix it up . . .

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Voila ! Two delicious pumpkin pies ready for the oven.

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Thanks for cleaning up sweetie . . .

We baked some no knead bread. The bread was wonderful ! Crispy crust, moist and chewy on the inside. Make this bread. It is the easiest recipe I’ve ever made.

Just before going into the hot oven

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Fresh out of the oven and cooling down.

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We roasted chestnuts, peeled them up and put them into the brussell sprouts with a bit of bacon and sherry. (Nigella Lawsons’ “Feast”)

Garlic mashed potatoes. My husbands’ specialty.

Sweet potatoes with marshmallows. ( my homage to the American feast)

Couldn’t do without some stuffing. The only thing I made from a box. (oh, the horrors!)

Brined and roasted the turkey. It was so moist on the inside and wonderfully crispy on the outside thanks to the basting with maple syrup and butter. mmmmmm.

and of course, just a little wine.

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Everybody getting ready for the feast.

We talked about what we were all thankful for. My list was long and varied. But for today what I am thankful for is a family to celebrate this thanksgiving holiday with. There was a time when I was so lonely. The holidays always intensified that feeling. I am so thankful to be surrounded by family and to be able to cook a wonderful meal. Put love and thought into what I am making and then serve to people I love. That’s joy.

The only thing missing was a fellow foodie. If anyone said mmmm that is really good . . I would go on and on about my cooking methods and recipes. My enthusiastic explanations would fall on deaf ears and my poor listeners’ eyes would glaze over.

Don’t you want to know how I made that no knead bread? What about the chestnuts. Let me tell you about roasting those chestnuts. What about the turkey? Do you think next time I should add more star anise into the brine? Can you taste the orangey flavour? The gravy . . . add the liver next time? This is so much fun let’s talk about it. Please?

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thanksgiving Countdown

I have to be confess: I’m not the most playful mama. I don’t like going to the park and playing ‘tag’ with my wee one. Noah watches too much t.v. so I can do something other than coloring, painting or going back to the park for what seems like, the 100th time, on any given day.

Here’s what I do like to do. I turn Noah into a Sous chef in my kitchen and we start to cook. Since Thanksgiving is in one more day and the family is coming over we get to party in the kitchen.

The prep started Friday. We baked pumpkins for a pie. First step. Cut the pumpkins in half and dig out the seeds:

Thanksgiving 2009 047 Why stand on the chair when the counter is so much fun?

Place pumpkins onto baking dish with about 1/2 inch of water and bake in 425 F degree oven until fork tender.

Thanksgiving 2009 022 Just before going in

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pumpkin puree

Nothing this lovely ever comes out of a can. I can’t wait to turn this puree into a pie!

Next on prep day: Cranberry sauce.

First: pour cranberries onto a pot.

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Add zest of one orange

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Also juice of one orange . . .

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Sugar, a touch of Grand Marnier to taste . . . with a dash of water . . .

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Cook on medium low heat until most of the liquid has reduced, the cranberries have popped (isn’t that such a festive noise?) and the cranberry mixtures has turned into . . .

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Thick, gorgeous sauce that is finger lickin’ good!

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Yum – O!

Last, but not least. The Turkey. The Brine. The Love.

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Assembled ingredients for the brine. This Brine recipe is from Nigella Lawsons’ “Feast”

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Dissolve salt and sugar in the water.

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After adding the rest of the ingredients really get your hands in there and mix, mix, mix.

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Ignore the camera strap in the picture . . . Noah had to put some orange, onion and herb pieces on the turkey for a ‘blanket’.

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He kept squidging, touching and adding pieces on top while saying “ooooooo love, love mummy, love . .” The extra ice was to displace some of the water so the turkey would be submerged and also as an extra precaution to keep the turkey icy cold while bathing in the brine.

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Blankets on, Job well done. Until Tomorrow.

Noah insisted on dragging the heavy cooler outside. “I’m strong mummy let me do it!” When daddy was done work he dragged the cooler out from it’s hiding place under the barbeque cover and had to show daddy “the love”. He was pretty proud of all the work we did and it entertained the both of us for most of the afternoon. We had such a good time. We were productive and had such a good time making a huge mess in the kitchen.

Here’s the link to Nigellas’ turkey brine recipe. It’s on the Food Network website.

More cooking tomorrow!

Friday, October 2, 2009

How to Say “Thank you”

I stayed for a few days with a dear friend of mine a while back and when I got home I sat on my bed and started sobbing. I didn’t realise how stressed I had been and her home was a haven for four days. I was moved by her love and generosity during my visit. Her love and quiet home was just the thing I needed. A simple ‘thank you’ didn’t seem right. I wanted to thank her again and again. On the flight home I was reading Elizabeth Gilberts’ book, ‘Eat Pray Love’, and when I came upon this quote, I e-mailed it to my friend when I got home:

“. . . in the end, though, maybe we must give up trying to pay back the people in the world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”  Elizabeth Gilbert “Eat, Pray, Love: . . .”

So. Thank you again. Here’s to all of you that sustain my life and make my world a less lonely place to be: 

Say thank you . . . . “forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”

Likely 2009 014 Whisky Jack (Likely, B.C.  Summer 2009)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

How to make Homemade Ravioli with a really good butternut squash filling and smothered in a creamy sauce.

In my shopping frenzy at the farmers market the other day I bought the nicest squash. I decided to make homemade ravioli. I had never made ravioli before and I thought: how hard can it be? The question I should’ve asked is: How long will this take?

First, I quartered my squash, covered it in olive oil, salt,pepper and put it in the oven for baby and me . . wait, that’s not right . . . It’s hormonal my brain takes all sorts of turns in odd directions when I’m not looking. So. I put it in the oven at about 375F for 45 minutes or so. I wasn’t paying much attention to the time as I was trying to whip up the ravioli dough.

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Butternut squash before going into oven.

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Some flour, a few eggs salt and pepper into my mixer. Recipe said to mix until dough forms a ball. (I googled home made ravioli and have since lost the paper I printed it out on so – go google, get the recipe and leave me alone)

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Here is the ball of dough after adding a bit more egg and olive oil. I kneaded the dough for about 10 minutes and let the dough rest for about an hour or so. (recipe said 30 minutes) Then started rolling. The rolling took forever.

Ravioli Sept3109 001Pasta dough is not the most forgiving sort. I wished for a pasta maker attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer or at least a heavy marble rolling pin. So I rolled and rolled and rolled. Until my arms hurt my head hurt and my feet hurt.

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Here’s the recipe for the filling: 1 Squash, 1 Cup full fat ricotta, 1/4 tsp or so nutmeg,cinnamon, salt and pepper to taste. Whiz it up in your food processer, done. I put the filling into a piping bag. It was easier to get onto the dough and looked much prettier. Yes?

(I got the filling recipe from The Food Networks’ Giada De Laurentiis of “Everyday Italian”)

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Look at my lovely row of pretty filling. The recipe called for an egg wash between the filling to act as the glue for the top layer. I tried it once but it turned the dough into a goopy mess and I couldn’t re use the dough when making more. I didn’t use the egg wash for the next batch and the ravioli still turned out great and stayed together without the egg wash.

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All done (all that work for a few ravioli?)

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It was getting late and I was too lazy to make a sauce and I didn’t want to wait for water to boil so I fried some ravioli up in butter and olive oil . . .

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. . . . Sprinkled with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and some olive oil . . oh so delicious and worth the hours of rolling out dough . .

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The Next Night:

Here’s the sauce I made. I had cooked up some bacon earlier so rather than cleaning the pan I put it aside to use the leftover pork fat and crispy drippings for my creamy sauce. Mmmmmm.

I deglazed the pan with about 1/2 cup of white wine. Let the wine reduce for a bit, added some heavy cream, let it reduce and bubble away then I added the parmesan cheese a little bit of grated nutmeg, salt and pepper mix, mix and voila! The creamiest most amazing sauce in the world.

I fried up some greens in a bit of Olive oil and garlic, boiled up the ravioli . . . added ravioli to the sauce . . Here it is all plated up and ready to go. It was sooooo good. The greens were perfect with the richness of the ravioli and cream sauce. Mmmmmm delicious delicious.

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Dig in. Doesn’t that look good?