Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Fresh Start

Every year I start out with big plans for healthy eating, exercising, and organizing our lives.  For the most part we are pretty healthy and active throughout the year, but after the holidays, when I have indulged in rich foods, sweet treats, wine, etc., I feel like I need to start all over again.

Last year I started a Pinterest board for New Year's Resolutions.  Basically I want to:

- Drink more water

- Make smart food choices - I don't follow any sort of "diet" other than Canada's Food Guide. I try to pick foods that "mean" something.  If they aren't going to provide some benefit to me then I don't want them.  I like "power foods" like whole grains, colourful fruits and vegetables, and low-fat meats.  And if you want an alcoholic drink, at least wine has some antioxidants in it to make it somewhat useful.

- Exercise. I am going to continue the pattern of getting up three mornings a week before work and working out.  We have our stationary bike, some weights, a ball, and now a kettlebell (a Christmas gift) so I'll be finding some more home workouts.

- Organize our house. Since we moved in we have been busy.  First with E's birthday, then our electricians, and of course Christmas.  We still have a number of drawers, closets, etc. where things are just thrown in and in need of some help.

- Clean our house. I am not good at cleaning, and while our house is certainly not a pig sty (thanks mostly to Dave), I do want to step up my game.

- Spend more time with family and friends.  It is easy to just hide away in our house, especially during the winter months, but I want to get out more and make more plans. E loves being with other kids, going out to eat, and exploring our city (and we do too), so I hope we can make lots of plans.

- Do something out of my comfort zone.  This has been on my list for the past few years, and usually there is something I've done that accomplishes this.  I don't plan what it will be, but usually something comes up that I can take on as a challenge, so we shall see what this year brings.

What is on your list of resolutions for 2015?
Or maybe this is all I need to focus on (the phrase, not the phone!)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Recap

Phew! What a whirlwind of activity over the past few days!  Enjoying our new home, our visiting family, and creating memories.

We had lobster on the Monday before Christmas.  What a treat.  E tried some this year and enjoyed a couple of bites.

On Christmas Eve we walked down the street for some last minute gifts, some bread for Christmas morning, and some oysters.  After a light lunch I worked on our Rockefeller Center puzzle we got in New York last year, while the boys watched some TV and Mom wrapped gifts.

I made a couple of salads for an early supper before church.

Our church had a wonderful "orchestra" of some professional musicians along with some children, and it was so nice to hear them play.  There was a little girl with the smallest violin I've ever seen.

Then we went home to make some appetizers - Oriental Pack from M and M Meats, oysters, baked brie, and cookies.

As soon as we got home from church E set out a carrot for the reindeer, and a cookie (only one!) and a glass of milk for Santa.  He was ready to go to bed so he told us it was time to get in his pyjamas and after one story he was asleep.  We stayed up a bit longer, finished the puzzle, played crib, and watched part of a movie.
Making sure his stocking is ready!

We "slept in" until 7:30 on Christmas morning, and then had a full morning opening gifts.
E's stocking and Santa presents.  Empty plate and cup.  Note, Cuddly Pal is part of the festivities of course!

My stocking.

Dave's stocking

I got many nice gifts, including a new lap top that I am typing on right now.  The other one was getting a little sad.  I'm hoping I can do some new things with this blog in the coming months and maybe this computer will help.

E got 1600 pieces of Lego from Santa, and a bunch of other fun toys and books from family and friends.  We (being the parents) got him some clothes, shoes, and a new snowsuit.  He was excited about his new coat though since it is orange, his favourite colour.
Someone is excited about the Lego!

Our new whirligig from the Dory Shop Museum in my hometown.

We rounded out the day with a walk/bike ride to the park, and a turkey dinner.

On Boxing Day we started another new tradition of going to the movies.  I had taken E to the movies when he was a little baby for the Mommy and Baby showings, but this was his first real movie experience, and he loved it.  We took the subway downtown and saw Big Hero 6.  This is a great movie by the way; very enjoyable for parents as well.  After the movie we got some snacks and drinks at a restaurant and then headed home.

We were so happy to have family with us to help celebrate the holidays.  We were missing those that were not with us, both those living and those who have died, but we enjoy and appreciate what we have.
One of my favourite things was hanging out with this guy!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Back to it

I guess it is time to start getting back into a routine.  I enjoy the Christmas season so much and all of the special events that go along with it, I do feel a little let down when it is all over.   I saw a quote earlier this month that said something about making Christmas a magical time so that the magic can last all year.  With E getting older, I really enjoyed our magical moments with Santa, our advent calendar and corresponding bible readings, and doing simple things like baking together and wrapping gifts.

I am looking forward to cleaning up our decorations and organizing our gifts.  I have had my fill of cookies, egg nog, and Irish coffees (at least for now).  The magic that we created this month will sustain us throughout the long winter.

Tomorrow I'll do a recap with some photos of our Christmas celebrations.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas from Toronto SAM and family!

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a happy holiday. Whether you are surrounded by family, missing some loved ones, celebrating a fantastic year, or hoping for a better new year, I wish you some moments of peace over the next few days to celebrate in your own way and enjoying the parts of the holidays that are important to you. 

Come and behold Him,Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Nativity Play starring...

This past weekend we finished wrapping our gifts, cleaned the house, and welcomed our Christmas guests - Nana Anne and Papa John.  The big day is almost here and we are ready!

In the midst of that, E participated in his first nativity play at church. 

He was a pretty adorable sheep.

You could tell the costume had been well loved, but it was in great shape and so adorable.

He wasn't sure about going up to the front by himself so I kept him company.

We have some exciting plans for this week.  Lots of good food of course, going out for supper, looking at Christmas lights, the movies, brunch, walks in the park, shopping near our street.  We are so looking forward to spending Christmas at our own house for the first time!!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Get Ready...

As Christmas Day approaches I am reminded of a game that I used to play when I was little.  I walked to school with a friend of mine (and her brother) from Grade Primary to Grade Four. I was dropped off at her house in the morning and then my mom would pick me up on her way home from work.  On snow days we would spend the days together, and a snow day must was the game we made up called "Get Ready for Fred Penner".  (For those of you who didn't grow up in Canada in the '80s, everyday on the CBC, starting at 10:00, Fred Penner came on, followed by Mr. Dressup and then Sesame Street. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we also saw Under the Umbrella Tree between Fred Penner and Mr. Dressup.  It was a great line up.)

Anyway, our game involved "getting ready" for 10:00 when Fred Penner came on.  Since I usually got dropped off around 8:00, we had just under two hours.  We would "shop" for food, clothes, books, etc. in the playroom, and then set up a place to watch our shows, usually with a doll or stuffed animal (or Ninja Turtle!) to watch with us.  We ran around like crazy making sure we had everything ready for our show.  I recall an underlying sense of panic that we would never get it all done before the shows started, but of course we always did.

Why am I reminiscing about this game today?  Because the Christmas preparations sort of remind me of that.  We are shopping for food, drinks, presents, and then wrapping those gifts, preparing the food, cleaning the house, and still finding some fun Christmas things to do with E.  Sure I'm tired, sure there is a slight sense of panic, but I love it.  It's part of the fun of this holiday season, just like "Get Ready for Fred Penner" was part of our snow day traditions. 

Also when I think back to the first Christmas, think of the panic that Joseph and Mary probably felt.  Not only did they have to reach Bethlehem for the census, they were also expecting a baby!  And then they couldn't find a place to stay, panic central!  They may not have had everything turn out perfectly, as is the case for many of our own preparations, but it all worked out. 

Maybe we sometimes take on too much, but as long as you're still enjoying yourself and take a quiet moment for yourself every once in awhile, then I think it's okay to be busy, rushing around in a bit of a panic.  When the sun rises on Christmas Day, we will have made it, and our preparation, our anticipation, will all be worth it.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Favourites

Linking up with Andrea and Erika for Friday Favourites:

  Welcome!  I just recently celebrated my 100th Blog Post, so thanks for stopping by and supporting this little venture of mine.
1. Serial, the Podcast.  Someone mentioned this at our book club earlier this month, and then I've seen other people talking about it so I decided to check it out.  I am obsessed, it is my current favourite thing.  I listened to the whole series in less than a week, mostly when I was driving to work, and it's so good I could hardly force myself to leave the car.  I am fascinated by the legal aspect and the teenager aspect, but also the narrator and story telling is very compelling.  Basically there was a high school student killed in Baltimore in 1999 and her ex-boyfriend was convicted of her murder.  He has been in jail ever since, and this podcast examines whether he actually killed her or if he is innocent like he says.

2. I love receiving Christmas cards! I also like putting them up on my cupboards for everyone to see. My favourite easy way to decorate.  (Not sure why these pictures are so terrible, but you get the idea.)
3. I think this will become a favourite family tradition. We helped E write his letter to Santa this week.  He drew the pictures and then I wrote in what they were.  Lego, pyjamas, a yoyo, and a green frog with green buttons (WTH?! good luck to Santa to find that gift!).  I am curious, for my American readers, what do you use for Santa's address. The one I have traditionally used seems very Canadian (Santa Claus, The North Pole, H0H 0H0, Canada).  If this is the address you use, do you need to use extra postage?  (Also, why does my hair look so weird in this picture?! Weird cowlick on the side, and then strands coming across the top.  I guess no one thought to mention it when they were taking the picture!)
4. I love sitting by our tree and enjoying the lights in the early morning or in the evening.  I love coming home from work when it's dark and seeing our Christmas lights on the outside of our house. It is one of my most favourite parts about the holidays.
5. Dino Santa!  Because why not!?  Isn't this your favourite too?! 
Happy Friday y'all! (If you're not from the Southern US, are you even allowed to say that?)
Happy Friday, eh! (that's better)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Party Food

Oops!! 100 Posts was actually today.  I had two old draft posts that I hadn't published that were contributing to the total count.   Sorry about that, but milestone reached just the same! 

I wanted to share some recipes from our party last weekend.  Not that anyone was begging me for recipes at our party, but they were all very easy, so I thought I would share.

First of all, go to M and M Meats and buy the Oriental Pack; it is a crowd pleaser!  Sausage rolls are also a favourite, but the Oriental Pack was miles ahead.

Oat Cakes and Shrimp Butter

Shrimp Butter
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp butter, softened
4 tbsp mayonnaise
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp minced onion
dash of salt
1 small can of shrimp (or about 5-10 larger cooked shrimp, chopped into small pieces)
Blend together all ingredients except shrimp.  Stir in shrimp.
Oat Cakes
3 cups quick oats
3 cups white pastry flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups lard
ice water
Combine dry ingredients. Work lard into the dry ingredients with a fork or pastry cutter until crumbly.  Add ice water, a little at a time, until of a consistency that can be rolled out.  Divided dough into three pieces.
Roll out each piece on floured board so it is thin. Cut into rounds.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 8-10 minutes. 
(Oat cakes also go with cream cheese and red pepper jelly, or a piece of cheese, or by themselves).
Vegetable Dip
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise (not light, not Miracle Whip)
1 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp curry powder
Dash tobacco
Dash salt and pepper
Combine all and serve with vegetables.  It's so easy to make your own dip.
Sugar Cookies
3/4 cups butter, softened
3/4 cups white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl.  Add egg and vanilla.  Beat together.
Mix remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Stir into butter mixture. 
Roll out into 1/8 inch on lightly floured surface.  Cut into shapes.  Place on greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes.
I usually decorate them with icing and sprinkles but this time I left them plain.  They are still tasty on their own.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Want it Wednesday

I'm in a book club that meets every 6 weeks.  We are mostly mamas, so we like getting a night to have some adult conversation, although the talk inevitably turns to our kids. It can be frustrating at times when not everyone has read the book or when people cancel at the last minute, but overall it is a fun night "out"!  The club started as a way for us new moms to get out of the house, (ironically?...I'm never sure) it is usually mom stuff that keeps us from finishing the book and keeps us from attending, oh well!

At the beginning of December we met to pick our next books for 2015. We like to pick them ahead of time so we could get them as Christmas gifts, or start reading ahead during the holidays, if we can.  We also plan our meeting dates so they are in our calendars right away.  We take turns hosting, with the hostess providing snacks and drinks, and we also take turns leading the discussion.  Our selection is quite diverse, but they all seem to be books that will provide some thought provoking discussion.  We also had some parametres that they had to be less than 500 pages and in paperback.  Many people brought Canadian authors for suggestions, which is always nice.

In 2015 we will be reading these nine books:

Gone Girl- Gillian Flynn.  I know nothing about this story because when the movie came out, I avoided all previews so as not to ruin it.  I was debating watching the movie before reading the book because the book is always better, but I think I have been convinced to read the book first.  It is a "book" club after all, not a "see if you can find it in movie version" club.

The Kitchen House- Kathleen Grissom.  For Heaven's sake, "Book Club Favourite" is written right on the cover.  This was my pick because it is about the Civil War, and since Gone with the Wind is my favourite book, I thought this would be right up my alley.

Beat the Reaper- Josh Bazell.  This is not a book I would have likely picked up on my own, but that is the great thing about this club - I am introduced to lots of different authors, topics and writing styles.  This has some high ratings so I am looking forward to it.

A House in the Sky- Amanda Lindhout.  This is the story of the Canadian reporter who was kidnapped in Somalia and held for over a year.  A non-fiction book like this is not typical for a book club, and last year we gave Megan a hard time for suggesting the Amanda Knox book, but we all read it, and we had a good discussion about it, so we're giving non-fiction another go.

The Shock of the Fall- Nathan Filer. This one sounds very intriguing, something about the disappearance of a child, and then years later the remaining brother saying he can bring his brother back.  The reviews are very favourable.

We are Water- Wally Lamb. I think I've read pretty much all of Wally Lamb's fiction work.  His books are always super depressing, but real page turners.  I'm sure this one will be the same, and I can't wait!

Any Known Blood - Lawrence Hill. A great Canadian writer, and Ontario native.  We were joking we should get him to come to our meeting when we discuss this book. I'm sure Lawrence Hill does appearances at local book clubs for free, right?  I think he lives in Hamilton now, so that's not too far.

The Paying Guests- Sarah Waters. I'm pretty sure I already like this book, it's set in post World War I England, plus it kind of sounds like Downton Abbey.  I'm sure there is much more to it than that, but I'm already excited about it!

All my Puny Sorrows- Miriam Toews.  This was another one of my picks.  I don't know too much about it other than it was shortlisted for the Giller Prize, and I am not usually disappointed by Giller Prize contenders. 

Hope these give you some ideas for your 2015 reading list.