Monday 31 December 2012

Ringing in the New Year

Here we are.  Reflecting on another year gone by and looking forward to the promise of a new year just around the corner.  The past couple of weeks have been a happy wrap up of 2012.  Quality time spent with the kids in preparation for the holidays.  Celebrating Christmas.  Enjoying time with our families.  Slowing down, despite the rush, to enjoy the things that really matter.  New Years Eve always makes me feel wistful.  Reminding me of the relentless march of time... reminding me to treasure every moment.  It also inspires a feeling of anticipation.... of new memories waiting to be made... of a fresh new year just waiting to unfold.

We're spending New Year's Eve home this year.  It's just us, and it's wonderful.  As the kids have grown older, the times that we spend together, all of us together, has become a rare thing, and we've needed this time of re-connection with each other.  So we're watching a hockey game, playing video games, snacking on our favourite snacks, and placing bets on who won't make it to midnight.

And whoever's still up will be outside banging pots and pans at midnight.  

Happy New Year.

Saturday 22 December 2012

Late to the Party

I was tagged, Christmas style, by the lovely Kera at Nugget On A Budget, and immediately loved the idea of sharing our Christmas traditions!  I've had the post half-created in my mind ever since, but am only now able to finally find the time to post it.  Life is busy at the best of times, and more so this time of year - as it is, I'm still not entirely prepared for Christmas which is just days away!

Nugget On A Budget

Lanaya at Raising Reagan started this by tagging five different bloggers, whose Christmas or holiday traditions she wanted to learn more about.  SUCH a great idea!  Those tagged would then answer five questions, pick five more bloggers to tag, and so on....

Since I'm late to the party there won't be any tagging happening here.  It's time to focus on family and Christmas.  Instead, I invite you to create a post sharing your Christmas traditions and leave a comment with the link so we can all be sure to check it out.

Here we go with Kera's questions!

1.  What makes Christmas such a special holiday for you and your family?

It's all about time with family.  All year long we're hard pressed to make time to see grandparents, cousins, aunts & uncles.  During the Christmas holiday we make time to spend with our families.  Oh, and the food... can't forget about all the great food!

2.  Were you told the truth about Santa by your parents or did you find out another way?  And... do you plan on lying to your kids when the time comes?

I don't remember when I had my ah-ha moment.  I know it was a gradual thing, first being suspicious, then searching for hidden presents (and finding them) and finally knowing the truth.  And, yes, we have lied to our kids for years!  The older kids know what's up but our youngest is still a believer, and the second youngest is on the fence... he's suspicious but afraid to stop believing for fear that it may mean the end of the present train.

Source: Etsy

I'm grateful to our older kids for not spoiling the Santa illusion for their younger siblings as they each came to realize the truth, and helping us preserve the magic a little longer.  

3.  Real tree or fake?

Real, always real!  Getting the tree is one of our favourite traditions!  I recently wrote about  the magic that is Drysdale's Tree Farm here.  

It's such a festive place, so much to do and see... and they have a beautiful store where each of the kids chooses a new tree ornament every year.

We didn't get there this year but did find a smaller, local farm where we chose a beautiful tree. 

4.  Do you open presents on Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, or both?

When we spend Christmas at home, or with my in-laws, the presents are opened Christmas morning, after herding kids to bed on Christmas Eve so that Santa can come while they sleep.  The tradition on my side of the family has always been to open presents on Christmas Eve, and we still open gifts on Christmas Eve when we go to my parents.  After dinner, which is always a whole filet mignon, we head out to admire Christmas lights and return to find that Santa came while we were out!

Added bonus:  when we return home after spending Christmas with my parents, the kids get to open the presents that Santa left under our tree while we were away!

5.  What's your favourite Christmas movie to watch?  Or favourite Christmas song?

Christmas movies that I love.... The Polar Express and Elf.  I grew up watching traditional Christmas television specials and they all hold a special, nostalgic place in my heart, but these two movies are our current favourites!

Favourite Christmas songs right now are both by the Trans Siberian Orchestra, Christmas Eve/Sarajevo and Christmas Canon:

Thank you Kera for tagging me, Christmas style!

Saturday 8 December 2012

Memories of Drysdale's Tree Farm

We haven't put up our tree yet... I know, I know, it's sad.  We've been so busy with hockey and work and stuff.  Like having our kitchen ceiling drywall repaired (we had a wee water issue upstairs) and the entire main floor patched and prepped for painting... who does that just before Christmas??  We always get a real tree, and we try not to put it up too early because no one wants a dried-out-dropping-needles-all-over-the-floor-dead-stick by the time Christmas Day rolls around.  Now it's crunch time.  We really need to get our tree this weekend but there's the small matter of a hockey tournament going on, which means there won't be time for one of favourite family outings to Drysdale's Tree Farm.  I love, love, love this place and we've made an event of getting our tree there almost every year since we've lived here.  It's magical.  Horse drawn wagons, hot chocolate and bonfires, Mr. & Mrs. Santa Claus, sled dogs, a Town Crier, Christmas carols, and the most beautiful shop for decorations and ornaments.  Not to mention the best selection of Christmas trees I've every seen.  *Sigh*  We'll likely end up at a tree lot at a grocery store sometime this week, and the tree will be lovely, and it will officially be Christmas at our house, and all will be well... but I will miss this:

Thursday 29 November 2012

It's OK Thursday

It’s OK…

…that we slept in yesterday and missed early morning hockey practice

…that I haven’t started Christmas shopping yet

…that number-one-son’s puppy chewed one of my favourite shoes

…that I was so out of it one morning this week that I washed my hair with conditioner

…that I’m still wearing flip-flops despite the fact that we’ve had snow since the weekend

…that I ran the dryer for an extra 10 min three times last night to avoid folding laundry

…that I got home from work last night and couldn’t see my kitchen counter

…that I forgot today was garbage day

…that I was .12 cents short for my coffee at the drive-thru this morning but got my coffee anyway.  Thank you Tim Horton’s!

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Living at the Rink

We've had a lot of hockey the past few weeks.  I think about all the arenas we've been in over the years and I realize that travelling to all these rinks has given us the opportunity to see places we'd never otherwise visit.  Big cities, small farming communities and cookie-cutter suburbs.  Recreation complexes with state of the art facilities and old barn style rinks.  We know so many cities and towns just by the arenas we've been to.

One of our most recent games took us to the village of Nobleton.  You'd never know we were less than half an hour from Toronto.  Not long after we got off the highway we were surrounded by beautiful farmland and forests.... rolling hills as far as the eye could see, interesting barns and gorgeous estate homes... and more horse farms than I could count, not to mention the feed mill, century homes and harness shop!

There were so many photo opportunities that I couldn't take as I was driving.  Like these:

By DhkZ, via Flickr

By Ms. Abitibi, via Flickr

Is this a great sign or what?

By Lisa-S, via Flickr

Love our hockey road trips!

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Crock Pot Adventure

It was shaping up to be another one of those days. I'm working late, knowing everyone will be coming and going from school, work, and hockey at different hours - and there's no plan for dinner. Lately there's been a lot of pizza nights, last minute drive-thru nights, breakfast for dinner nights, fend for yourself leftover nights... I'm definitely not going to win Mom of the Year anytime soon. 

So. I raced home at lunch and looked at my Crock Pot. Then I loaded the dishwasher, moved laundry from the washer to the dryer, and looked at the Crock Pot again. I love my Crock Pot, but I was in a rush and had no idea what to do with it. Most of my recipes are simple but still require meat to browned, veggies chopped, spices and sauces to be prepared... none of that was going to happen today. Instead, I took a package of frozen chicken breasts out of the freezer and put them into the Crock Pot (seriously frozen, I couldn't even separate the pieces so I just plopped the whole frozen slab in there) along with some leftover raw carrot & celery pieces, 2/3 of a bottle of Italian Salad Dressing, some water, and some parmesan cheese. I literally grabbed whatever was handy and tossed it in. I have no idea how this will taste, whether the chicken will be done on time or what to serve it with... rice maybe? This has the potential to be an epic fail, but there's no way they're going to end up eating pizza again tonight.

Stay tuned...

Update.  Dinner was edible, maybe even good.  Hubby added some frozen corn when he got home and ended up serving it with rice.  Did I mention I love my Crock Pot?

And sorry for the crappy taken-in-a-hurry-with-my-phone photo.

And as we're on the subject, here's a peek at my Pinterest Crock Pot board:

Wednesday 31 October 2012


Hallowe'en is here.  And we're ready.  This may not seem newsworthy but it is.  There have been years where we've found ourselves panicking to get costumes ready at the last minute;  running to the store hours before trick-or-treating to buy whatever might be left of the Hallowe'en candy;  tossing around some last minute decorations… all in a stressful hurry-up-and-get-ready blur.   This time the costumes were ready by last weekend and that by itself is cause for celebration.

Granted, we’re getting off easy this year.  We didn't have pumpkins to carve due to an incredibly hot & dry summer that resulted in disappointing apple and pumpkin crops.  There was no apple-picking this fall, and pumpkins have been impossible to find.  Outdoor decorations were also struck off the Hallowe'en to-do list thanks to Hurricane Sandy.  They would have just ended up halfway across the neighbourhood.

One of my favourite Hallowe'en photos, from way back when they were all still young enough to go trick or treating:

And I have a confession to make.  Those boxes of Hallowe'en chocolates, the ones sitting in the pantry appearing to be whole and intact…. well, they're not.  I opened them.  And ate some, a lot actually.  And hid the wrappers.  And glued the boxes back together. 

And finally, a peek at my Hallowe'en Pinterest board.  Pinterest is the ultimate time waster... I love it!

Happy Hallowe'en! 

Halloween Link Up

Monday 15 October 2012

Autumn, Crusty Bread and a Wicked Spinach Dip

We're still crushing on fall despite the fading autumn colours.  There are less fiery reds & golds brightening the landscape as the leaves fall from the trees and reveal shades of brown.  Combined with grey windy skies, it's beginning to feel decidedly more wintry and a lot less like the end of summer.  The warm & sunny fall weather of the past few weeks is giving way to cold & rainy days that are getting shorter as the nights grow longer.  The furnace has been turned on and the fireplace saw some action this weekend.

Hubby made some amazing pulled-pork in the crock pot on Sunday and as we were piling it onto fresh crusty rolls we were reminded of the spinach dip I often make and how amazing it is with fresh bread.  This is a dip I've made for years that everyone loves and asks for again and again.... even after filling up on pulled-pork sandwiches.

Knorr® Spinach Dip
Adapted from Knorr's Classic Spinach Dip Recipe
 1 package (10 oz / 300g) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
        1 container (16 oz / 500ml) sour cream
        1 cup Hellmann's® mayonnaise
        1 package Knorr® vegetable soup mix
        1 can (5 oz / 140g) water chestnuts, drained and chopped
        ¼ cup finely diced red onion

A few things about how I prepare this:

Squeeze as much water as you can out of the thawed spinach.  I usually put it in a fine mesh strainer when it’s thawed and push it into the mesh to force out as much liquid as possible.  I do not cook the spinach.  Please make sure you use chopped spinach.  Frozen whole spinach will not work... trust me.

I use sour cream, but plain Greek yogurt can be substituted.  I have not tried this.  Someone might notice and I’d have a spinach dip mutiny on my hands.  My family really loves this stuff and it has to be just the way I’ve ALWAYS made it.

Mayonnaise.  Only MAYONNAISE.  Not Miracle Whip.  Miracle Whip is salad dressing.  It is NOT mayonnaise.  They cannot be used interchangeably.  Not ever.

Knorr brand vegetable soup mix is what works best in this.  I’ve tried other brands when the Knorr has been sold out (which happens a lot) and it just isn't the same.  This stuff is like crack and if it’s on the shelves, buy a few… one can never be too prepared for the next Knorr vegetable soup mix shortage.  I roll over the package a few times with a rolling pin before I open it to crush the soup mix into a powder… I think it helps to intensify the flavour.  I chop up the red onion and water chestnuts very fine for the same reason.  Some recipes call for green onion instead of red onion.   Again, I don’t dare mess with my version of this recipe and the red onion adds more flavour.

Once you’ve got it all mixed up well in a bowl, cover it and let it sit in the fridge for a while so the flavours can blend.  I usually give it a couple of hours and then let it sit at room temperature before serving as it tastes better when it isn’t ice cold.  If I’m worried about a nice presentation, I’ll hollow out a sourdough or pumpernickel loaf to serve it in, but usually they’re digging in as soon as the lid comes off the bowl.  I always make sure to have plenty of bread for dipping… a couple of sliced French baguettes are perfect.  Cut up veggies are yummy too!

Doubling this recipe is a very good idea… or it’ll be gone before you know it.

If you're feeling really ambitious, make a couple of baguettes from scratch.  It's easy and they're so much better than store-bought.... crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside.  I mix up this recipe in  my breadmaker and then divide it into two loaves, rise & bake.

Crusty French Bread Recipe from

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