Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday Favourites

Linking up with Andrea and Erika for Friday Favourites:

Maybe you are shopping for Black Friday deals today, maybe you just want to be at home curled up with a holiday movie.  Here are some suggestions for you, my favourites!!

1. One Magic Christmas was filmed in 1985 in Ontario (Collingwood and Owen Sound to be exact).  It is a really cute movie and sometimes it can be hard to find, but if you do see it, give it a try.  A young Mary Steenburgen is the mom. 
 2.  The Bells of St. Mary's.  This isn't really a Christmas movie since it spans a whole school year, but there is a Christmas scene that will steal your heart, plus Bing sings O Come All Ye Faithful in German, my favourite Christmas hymn.

3. White Christmas of course! This reminds me of my grandparents so much.  E actually picked it out on Netflix the other day and sat and watched the whole thing.  He likes the dancing and singing.  I got to laughing when Danny Kaye starts rubbing his arm, and reminded myself of my Nana, she would always start laughing at something and couldn't stop.
4.  Love Actually. This movie came out the year Dave and I first started dating, so it is a special movie to me. 

5. The Family Stone.  I never name my son on this blog, but I will say we got the idea for his name from this movie.  So many wonderful things about this movie, not least of which is Rachel McAdams, love her!
6.  The Holiday.  I love Kate Winslet, not a huge fan of Cameron Diaz, but she is alright in this movie.  Not only does it have the best lines and scenes, I just want to live in both LA and England. Also, Dave actually did Mr. Napkinhead while we were out at a restaurant the other day.

Nothing ground breaking for the last few movies, I know they are everyone's favourites, but maybe you'll check out One Magic Christmas or Bells of St. Mary's.

Happy Friday All!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Christmas Traditions

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!  Enjoy your turkey and pumpkin pie! 

I wanted to share some family food traditions today.  I've never actually taken too many photos of the food during the holidays, but I will rectify that this year.  Here are some foods that I grew up with and Dave grew up with and some new things we've tried in recent years.  Since this is the first year we are hosting Christmas, we will be figuring out what we will be carrying on as traditions in our own family.

Atlantic Lobsters.  (Caveat, Dave is allergic to lobster, but I love it, so I'm sorry, but it will have to remain part of our traditions.)  I don't get lobster often, but it does mean Christmas to me.  Lobster season where I'm from starts around December so the fishermen are starting to sell them right around the holidays.  We eat them hot, dipped in lemon butter, and any leftovers are added to scrambled eggs on Christmas morning.

Fondue.  This is something that Dave's family did every year.  There are so many stories about their fondues of years past, usually involving fire, spilled wine, etc.  We just do simple chicken, beef, meatballs, and vegetables, but it is fun.  E didn't know what to think last year.

Christmas Jello. I do not know why this was named Christmas Jello other than we always had it at Christmastime.  It is a favourite of mine and of my Uncle Robert's.  Here is the recipe:

1 pkg yellow jello (usually only lemon is available, but get pineapple if you can)
1 pkg pink/red jello (cherry or raspberry)
Make each jello in separate bowls as per directions on the package.  Put in fridge until partially set.  Take out of fridge and whip each bowl well.
To the yellow jello add:
1 banana, sliced
A couple of handfuls of red maraschino cherries
To the pink/red jello add:
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
Whip 1 cup of real whipping cream.  Add half of the whipped cream to each bowl of jello.  In a large bowl, swirl both jello mixtures together.  Refrigerate until fully set. 
Fun Cocktails.  I remember once long ago we made Crème de Menthe parfaits at my neighbour's on Christmas Eve.  That is obviously something you don't drink all the time, but it was a treat.  I have found a few drinks that I've made the past couple of years.

Snackies.  My mom found this recipe in a Company's Coming for the Holidays book one year and made some to send to me at university. I shared it with everyone while we studied for exams and it was extremely addictive.  Here is the recipe.
2 cups bite-size shredded wheat cereal
2 cups bite-size shredded corn cereal
2 cups oat squares cereal
2 cups corn bran cereal
1 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup butter
1/4 corn syrup
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
Combine cereal and pecans in a large greased bowl.  Coating: Stir all ingredients in saucepan until mixture comes to a boil.  Boil slowly for 3 minutes.  Pour over cereal mixture.  Spread on 2 greased baking sheets.  Cool until firm.  Break into pieces.  Store in airtight container.
Oysters.  Dave and I order oysters pretty much anytime they are on a menu.  Last New Year's Eve we got some oysters (and enjoyed them despite Dave stabbing his hand).  We want to get some for Christmas this year.  Freshly shucked, lemon, fresh horseradish, and maybe a mignonette.
Turkey with all the fixings.  Refer to my post about Thanksgiving.  This will be practically the same meal I'll make for Christmas. 
Eggs Benedict Casserole. This is something I made for the first time last year but it will be something we are definitely adding to our holiday rotation.  I love eggs benny, and this is a simple variation that is easy to make ahead and serve to a group. 
6 English muffins, toasted, cut into bite sized pieces
3/4 pound Canadian bacon, uncooked
8 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tsp onion powder
1 pkg of Hollandaise Sauce mix plus ingredients for that
Beat together eggs, milk and onion powder, In a large casserole dish, sprinkle the English muffins and Canadian bacon, alternating to make sort of layers.  Pour egg mixture overtop.  Let sit overnight in the fridge for best results.  Remove from fridge 30 minutes before baking to allow to come to room temperature.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes or until firm.
Make Hollandaise Sauce according to directions. Spoon over each individual serving.
Cookies.  I make the same sugar cookie recipe every year.  The ingredient that makes them special is cardamom.  I usually decorate them with icing and sprinkles. Dave usually requests gingerbread men, so I've added those to the rotation as well.
Last year's Christmas Morning

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Want it Wednesday

This year we aren't attending too many fancy holiday parties.  Dave's work has a dinner during the week, so no dance, and my work is having an afternoon lunch and cocktail party at the office.  But we have been invited to a New Year's Eve house party, but I thought I would still peruse the holiday dresses and jewellery.

This dress is adorable, the cut makes it a little fancier than a work type dress.

I love the length of this one.  By the way the colour is "cerulean", for fans of The Devil Wears Prada, you will get the reference.

And for the LBD option. I think this would be flattering on a lot of people.
And if you don't have a fancy dress, you can always dress it up with a statement necklace. I like these ones from Stella & Dot:
Oslo Necklace.  I love the look of piles of pearls and other stones, as I realized from all of my pins on Pinterest.
And of course I this green one caught my eye.
I think this crystal one would look good with a dress or a t-shirt.

I've posted about House of Moda before.  It is based in Halifax and Ozlem makes beautiful pieces, likes these earrings. I have a few of her bracelets and earrings and always get compliments. I can't seem to insert the photos here, so excuse the blurry one, but you get the idea.
Talk about making a statement!
Do you have any exciting parties to attend this holiday season?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Weekend Recap

On Saturday evening, we tried a new restaurant - The Ace on Roncesvalles Avenue.  We took the subway and street car and met some friends.  They had been there before, but this was our first time.  We arrived fairly early and were the first ones seated.  That was fine with us because it meant we had no trouble getting a table.  I've been the first person seated at a restaurant before and sometimes it can be a little awkward, but we did not feel that way here. 

The oldies tunes were a great introduction to this diner, turned Chinese restaurant, turned family friendly but still trendy restaurant.  E was bopping away in his high chair, and perusing the "tiny" menu that he had hoped for (quick note, it was a normal sized menu, but when we told him we were going to a restaurant, he asked if they would have a "tiny menu").
He wasn't interested in smiling for this picture 

While we waited for our friends, we ordered the deep fried brussel sprouts and some cocktails.

I had mussels, and Dave had the oysters for our appetizers.  Then he had the bison burger and I had the fried chicken.  Our friends each had the Xmas burger (turkey, cranberry, dressing, etc.).  E had the mac and cheese with cauliflower (one of the many items on the extensive kids' menu). 

Great food, and very welcoming atmosphere.  We will be back, and likely for brunch next time.

If I never see another bag of leaves, it will be too soon.  This weekend, since the snow was cleared away, we decided to tackle the backyard and rake the leaves. On Sunday morning, Dave and E brought all of the leaves together in a huge pile, and when I got home from church (and home from three different stores looking for leaf bags), I helped bag the heavy, dirty, wet, but surprisingly not stinky, leaves. We did 25 bags, and the back yard is completely clean good enough.  I didn't take a picture because I was exhausted.

We also got our outside Christmas lights up on Saturday (pictures to come), and we met some neighbours.  They brought us a Christmas arrangement for our porch (pine boughs, pinecones, etc.), which was so sweet of them. 

Hope you had a nice weekend too!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Being Charitable

I don't talk much about religion on this blog or in my everyday life (and I don't plan on making it a central feature of this blog, although you may hear from me again on this topic), but since Christmas is approaching, I think it is appropriate to talk about it for a moment.  I know many people who don't believe in Jesus as our Saviour, still celebrate Christmas, and to each their own, but for me "Jesus is the reason for the season" (I know this is a cliché, but go with it). 

In church this past weekend, the sermon was about being charitable, and feeding those who are hungry, giving water to those who are thirsty, clothing the naked, treating the sick, and visiting those in prison.  What the bible reading said was when you serve the vulnerable and down-trodden, you are really serving Jesus.  When you choose to turn away and ignore those people who need help, you are really ignoring Jesus.  It was those who served Jesus through those people that went to Heaven, and I don't need to spell out the fate of those who didn't.  It is really a simple message. Maybe you believe in this version, maybe your faith has something similar, or maybe you are just someone who believes in "treat others the way you want to be treated".  We are so fortunate, but what if that was to change?  What would we do without our warm homes, our full cupboards, our working cars with full tanks of gas, etc.?  Society is built around people helping each other, so I don't think we even need to go to the bible to figure out why we should help people, although it doesn't hurt if that's what you believe.

When you're able to take your money or your time, and apply it to helping others, you can make a difference in this world.  It really isn't an inconvenience, when you think about the true challenges that people face on a daily basis.

If you're making a donation of money, gifts or your time this month for Christmas, remember to carry it forward throughout the year. You don't need to give to everyone, maybe you just pick one or two sources.  For me, I like charities that work with local people - shelters, food banks, hospitals, my church.  I like to contribute to the hampers that my work puts together for families in the community.  I am guilty too of really only paying attention at Christmas, but I will strive to be one of the sheep, not one of the goats. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Favourites

Linking up with Andrea, Erika, and Narci for Friday Favourites! 

When you leave your Christmas CDs in the car all year, as in still loaded in the CD player, then you're all set for the next year.  I realized this week that I had just been super prepared, not lazy, and when our first snow accumulated on the ground, I was ready to listen to some Christmas tunes.  I decided to share my most favourite Christmas CDs with you this week.

1. Matt Andersen's Spirit of Christmas.  Matt is from small town New Brunswick (he is Dave's cousin's wife's best friend's cousin, so we are basically best friends, even though I've never met him). We did see him live one year and his rendition of O Holy Night will give you chills.  He is very well known on the blues scene, and has won numerous awards all over North America.
2. Bing Crosby is a holiday staple for me.  This CD includes all of the old standards.
3. This CD was produced by the CBC in 2007.  I was living in Saint John, NB, that year and I went down to the CBC morning show's annual live Christmas show at the market.  This CD was on sale, and I am so glad I bought it when I did.  It was a special release but it is full of some original Christmas tunes, and some classics.  The singers are Rose Cousins, Jill Barber, and Meaghan Smith, three wonderful Canadian singers.  It is a truly beautiful CD.
4. I don't think opera singing is everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoy Andrea Bocelli's voice, and on this album, he does a few duets. 
5. I don't actually have this on CD, but I know there is a vinyl copy of it floating around somewhere.  Nothing says Christmas like "I believe in Santa Claus" by Kenny and Dolly.
What are some of your favourites?
Update from yesterday's post - my mom wrote to say that the original recipe for the chili came, not from the Laura Secord Canadian Cookbook, but from this one:
She said she thinks she received in university (she is a dietician) and wrote 11/2/72 in the front cover with her name. It's obviously a good recipe if she has been making it for that long!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Recipe - Chili and Tea Biscuits

I made this meal on the weekend, it is a favourite of ours during the winter.  The recipe for chili is my mother's, but I think she originally found it in the Laura Secord Canadian Cookbook (correct me if I'm wrong, Mom).  The tea biscuits are from my Nana.  I'm sure she had many recipes for biscuits over the years but this was the one she made the most often in later years. 

Chili Con Carne (I doubled the recipe and made it in the slow cooker so I'd have plenty left over)

3 medium onions, chopped
1 lb lean ground beef
1 (28oz) can tomatoes, diced or whole
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
1-2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp salt
1 tsp white sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
2 bay leaves (if you have them, I didn't)
1/4 cup cold water
2 (14 oz) can kidney beans, undrained
1 cup corn

Saute onions in a bit of oil until softened then add the beef and brown it.  Add tomatoes and tomato paste.  If using whole canned tomatoes, break them up with your spoon. 

Mix all spices in the water in a small bowl or measuring cup to make a sort of paste. 

Add to meat mixture.  Cover tightly and simmer 1 hour stirring occasionally.  Add beans and corn, simmer for another 15 minutes.

If you're using the slow cooker, after the onions and meat are cooked, add all ingredients to the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Tea Biscuits (Some people are afraid of making their own biscuits and often just buy them or use Pillsbury.  Try it, it is easier than you think and so worth the little extra effort!)

3 cups all purpose flour
5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1 egg
2 cups plain yoghurt (the original recipe calls for sour cream, but the yoghurt makes them much healthier)

Mix together dry ingredients and cut in shortening.

This picture is from another recipe, but I wanted to show you this utensil again.  It is perfect for cutting butter or shortening into flour for dough and pastry

Beat together egg and yoghurt and stir into dry ingredients.  If you want to add cheese, like I did, now is the time.  I added about 1/2 cup shredded cheese.

The dough will be sticky, but use a scraper to turn it out onto a board to knead it with some extra flour and it will come together.   Knead 10-15 times.

Cut into pieces about 3"x3". Place on a cookie sheet lined with a silicone liner or parchment paper. 

Bake for 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees F. 

This meal is so cozy on a cold fall or winter day.  E loves chili.  I found this picture from two years ago, I think the first time he tried it.
An answer to the age old question of spoon or fork?  Hands!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Want it Wednesday - Fitness Update

Last month, I posted about how I wanted to start exercising more, and I decided on biking or running twice a week, and fitness routines twice a week.  I also promised to report back, as a way to keep myself accountable.  Although I have been active with moving, yard work, and other house related things, I have not been doing traditional exercise (but there is no exercise like hard work!).  I decided to switch it up, and this week I started getting up at 6:00 and riding the stationary bike, and then doing some other exercises.  This has happened twice, but I'm hoping to keep it going throughout the holiday season.

This was after my bike, and before I started about 15 minutes of exercises.
I am still able to get ready in plenty of time for work, and I'm really only getting up 20 minutes earlier than usual, so it's working out so far.
In the new year, I think I'll be in the market for some new sneakers.  I bought by current pair in 2012 when we went to Boston.  I haven't run any marathons, but they are well used.
I love the Nike Frees, like these ones:
Sport Chek has them here
I love this mint green colour
E would love me more if I had these orange ones, but they are for kids, not adults.
Wish me luck so I can keep up this routine!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Weekend Recap

My Friday and Saturday nights were spent in my element - putting together Ikea furniture.  We bought two dressers for our room.  The first one took me forever, but I flew through the second one.  I am ready for my Ikea apprentice badge now (do they give out badges for apprentices? I don't think so). 

On Saturday evening, we tried a new restaurant by our house - The One That Got Away. (This is a link to their downtown location, the one we went to we could walk to).  It is primarily a fish and chip take out place, but there are a few tables so we ate there.

No, I don't want to take off my jacket!
Oh, Dad is taking his jacket off, no problem.

E's Haddock Kids' Fish and Chips.  I had the Pickerel Fish and Chips.  

Dave's Fish Tacos

On Sunday, it was a big day in Toronto - the Santa Claus Parade.  We tried going to this two years ago when E was just 1 and it was a bit of a disaster - it was freezing, we had the stroller so it was impossible to walk anywhere, and everywhere on University Ave. had reserved seating, so we were crammed into the non-reserved seating about 3 people deep.  E couldn't even really see anything, or care, so we didn't go last year.  We decided to try again this year, and although it was still cold, it was worth it.  E was much more engaged with the floats and participants, he recognized the characters and animals, and danced when the bands marched by.  We actually didn't stay to see Santa (shh, don't tell E), but it was probably for the best since we actually got seats on the subway for the ride home.  Next year, we will be more prepared and hopefully it will be a new tradition.

Taking the subway downtown
Posing by the brick wall, very GQ

Waiting for the parade.
By the way, these shoes were not warm enough!

Since Dad got a hot dog, E had to get one too.  I got the bottom end of E's hot dog after he decided he didn't want any more #luckyme

There was a fun run that ran the parade route before the parade started.  I can barely run a race with the most optimal clothing, and then there is this person, running in a full snowman suit.

The light snow made it very festive. It was great being out on the streets of our city with so many other people enjoying the parade.  Let the holidays begin!