Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Favourites

Linking up with Andrea and Erika for Friday Favourites again!

Sometimes I can get drawn into the wormhole that is YouTube, and it can be a real time waster life enrichment exercise.  Today I am sharing some of my favourite videos (if for some reason these links don't work where you are, then just search the underlined words in YouTube and you should be able to find them):

1. Downton Abbey Text Santa spoofs.  I love spoofs of shows I enjoy, but this one is even better because the real actors are the ones doing the spoofing.  I saw this on someone's Friday Favourite post from last week and it made my day!

Part 1

Part 2

2. Obama singing Uptown Funk. I have to admit this song is growing on me, and I love when these little clips are put together to make these videos, pure brilliance.

3. Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) Call Me Maybe Group Dance.  This was one of the best seasons on DWTS, the All-Star season.  Don't hate me, but I love the song Call me Maybe (I've always enjoyed the current pop hits).  The video is a little hazy but this is one I actually still watch every few months, it makes me so happy!

The next three are E's favourite videos:

4. Somewhere Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz. E calls this the "one with the tractor" because Toto sits on a tractor for part of the song.  I try singing this to him at night but I can never remember the order of the verses.

5. My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music (this time it's the second search result).  I sing this song to E almost every night I put him to bed.  He likes this version too.  He calls this song "raindrops".

6. Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo╩╗ole.  This is not the one that is combined with What a Wonderful World. The video is actually clips of Israel before he died and then the ceremony where they put his ashes into the ocean.  E calls it the "one with the boats". I find this video kind of emotional because of the joy that people are showing at the ashes ceremony. 

Hope some of these brightened your day! Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Recipe - French Onion Soup

French onion soup is one of my favourite meals, but it is also the opposite of what we usually make - it's not quick, it's not healthy, and we have to cook E something different to eat (we only have two French onion soup bowls).

The original recipe is from Julia Child's cookbook.  My grandfather gave this to me shortly after the Julie and Julia movie.  I've modified the recipe slightly.

French Onion Soup

3 tbsp butter
5 cups onion, thinly sliced (I usually use spanish onions)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp white flour
4 cups consomme or beef broth
French baguette, toasted
Olive Oil
Gruyere, Emmental, or Swiss Cheese slices

Slice them as thinly as possible, without cutting yourself

Melt butter in the pan. Add onions, stir to coat with butter and then cover for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the lid, sprinkle with sugar and salt (which creates the caramelization), stir to coat, and saute slowly over medium heat, stirring often.  Do this for about 30 minutes. This is where you need to be patient, but it pays off.

Sprinkle with flour, and whisk in your broth or consomme. Simmer on medium-high heat for about 15 minutes.  

In the meantime, cut the French bread into rounds, drizzle with olive oil.  Place on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven at 350 degrees until they are slightly brown.  You'll need 3 to 4 per bowl.

Pour soup into your bowls, top with the toasted bread rounds, and two slices of cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes until cheese is bubbling. You may want to finish it off under the broiler for a couple of minutes. 

Serve and enjoy.

This recipe is probably enough for four servings, we had some leftovers. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Media Wednesdays

For my book club this month, we read Gone Girl. I read it quickly and then watched the movie.  If you haven't seen or read this, but want to, I'll try not to give anything away, but I probably will, so you may not want to read this.

I remember seeing the previews for this movie a few months ago and I could tell it would be a movie I'd be interested in.  The premise of a missing wife with the husband as a suspect is a familiar one (sadly), and (also sadly) it is often the case that the husband is responsible.  It is awful that our mind's immediately jump there, but it is a common occurrence.  Because the previews hinted that there was something more to this story, I then deliberately stopped watching previews or listening to anything to do with the movie, I prefer to be surprised, not really knowing the plot.  But I never got around to seeing it because I never get to the movies.

When we picked this book for our book club, I thought about seeing the movie first and then reading the book, but decided to read the book first instead.  Reading the first part of the book was very intriguing and I thought it was a really interesting way of telling the story.  And even though I could totally picture Ben Affleck as the lead character the whole time, I thought it actually worked.  The second part of the book was also really interesting and the story kept my attention for the whole thing.  In the end I'm not sure it was what I expected but I'm not sure it could have turned out any other way.

When I then turned to the movie, I wasn't as impressed.  Perhaps it was because I knew the whole story so all of the plot twists were expected.  I did really like the casting.  The sister, Margo, was really well cast.  Probably had I seen the movie first, I would have really liked it.  But I think if I'd read the book after seeing the movie, I wouldn't have appreciated the literary devices used by the author and could have been disappointed with that too.

So to sum up, if you like books, read the book, and if you like movies, watch the movie.  Not that you can't do both, but just know the second of the two may be a bit of a disappointment.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Weekend Recap

I stayed home on Friday morning with E because he had a bit of an ear infection so we thought if we sent him to school they would think we were neglectful parents decided to keep him home.   We watched TV for a bit, but then we played with the kinetic sand he got for Christmas and did some laundry and cleaning.  The kinetic sand is pretty cool and E loved it.  He only stopped playing so we could have a snack and then later to eat lunch.  After Dave came home around lunch, I went to work for the afternoon.  Just a note, the kinetic sand is not nearly as mess free as it claims.  Obviously way less messy than actual sand but I did sweep up numerous times and still found clumps it around the house that had fallen off E's clothes.

While I was home a cardinal was in our backyard. I went to take his picture with my phone and I had apparently run out of space, so I tried deleting a few pictures but it still wasn't working.  Then I went to get the real camera and the bird was still there when I came back and I snapped a few pictures.

Speaking of wildlife in our backyard, our motion light came on the other night and a raccoon came wandering through our backyard up the stairs and through the hole in the fence.  Then we saw a possum hanging out in the backyard, but he left before I could take his picture.  Those possums are pretty creepy looking, I would not want to come face to face with one of those.
(This is not my picture, I hope I am never this close.)

On Saturday morning Dave took E to swimming and I cleaned the house.  In the afternoon we headed out to search for a duvet cover for E's bed and some curtains.  We also managed to find a rug and mirror for our entryway. E had a quilt for his curtain since we moved in, so these were definitely a step up.  The ones for our room are nice too.  I feel like I have grown up window treatments now!

Yes, that is plastic on our windows.  Old house problems.

Cuddly Pal!

We also stopped by Starbucks for a mid afternoon treat.  E was excited about this cake pop.  (For the record he wasn't fully strapped in yet when I took the picture, and yes, he wears his big winter coat in the car.  I don't know any other way to get around in the winter time, he needs to wear his coat.)

We watched The Firm on Saturday night.  I had never seen it, but I do love and old Tom Cruise movie.  You'll be pleased to know that although it does not seem like an obvious part of the plot, Tom does engage in a couple of full out sprinting scenes, one while carrying a briefcase (it is a lawyer movie after all).  I also enjoyed a couple of martinis.  I make mine with 2.5 shots of gin and 1/2 shot of dry vermouth.  I made a lemon twist for the glass and added a couple of ice cubes from my shaker.  Mmm, nice treat on Saturday night.

On Sunday we went to our friends' place for brunch.  Bacon was served (among other things) so I was pretty happy about that.  E always enjoys going to other people's houses to play with their toys.

We went to the Paddington movie on Sunday afternoon at the theatre by our house.  I have to say I was a little skeptical of the movie because this Paddington seemed a bit livelier than the Paddington I had remembered, but it was a really cute movie.  Very well done, and Lord Grantham (or Hugh Bonneville) was the dad!

After the movie our neighbours came over for supper.  Nothing fancy, just beef barley soup made in the slow cooker and cheese tea biscuits.  I did make these squares and I think they were pretty amazing.  They are basically chopped oreo cookies, kept together with some cookie dough, and the topped with M and Ms, you can't go wrong with that.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Taking a Compliment

I find it difficult to take a compliment.  When someone compliments my clothes, hair or house, these are my responses:

Person: I love that shirt.
Me: Oh really? I hate it, I didn't have anything else to wear.
Me: Thanks. It was only $20 at the outlets.
Me: Oh really? Thanks, it's so old, I've had it forever.

Person: Your hair looks nice today.
Me: Thanks, I actually washed it today.
Me: Ugh, I need to get it cut (or get my highlights done again soon).
Me: Thanks, I just brushed it.

Person: Your house is awesome, you guys must be so happy!
Me: Thanks, we love it but there is so much to do.
Me: Yes, it's great, but there were so many things we had to fix when we moved in (and then I start listing them all).

I really just need to start saying thank you and then move on. No need to start making excuses for something.   I guess it's not really bragging if someone else makes the compliment.  Am I the only one that does this?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Favourites

Linking up with Andrea and Erika for Friday Favourites!

If you're joining from the link up, welcome!  Happy Friday to you!

1. E had his second ski lesson this week and he did pretty well.  The first week he was quite sick and hadn't slept well, so he didn't last long; this week, although still sick, he was feeling much better.  He actually didn't want to do any "pizzas", only go straight down the hill.  Dave made a deal that if he did a few pizzas he could go straight.  He agreed and enjoyed himself.  I'm hoping this will become his favourite activity (well, at least in the winter).

2. One of my favourite things in my office is this series of E's school photos, the latest one at the bottom.  When the first photo was taken (the argyle sweater one), he had only been at the school for a month, so maybe that's why he was still a little unsure.  But he is very comfortable there now and we have been very fortunate to have this great school to look after him during the day.

3.  One of my favourite things is letting E help in the kitchen.  He loves getting involved and since we are cooking all of the time, it is a good way to keep him entertained.  We made a salad this week and he picked the parmesan right up and started grating it.  He's a pro! (well, until he took a bite directly from the block of cheese #donttellanyone)

(and he even ate most of his salad!)

4. My husband made his favourite snack, trail mix, personalized for me from the items in our cupboard.  I took a baggie of it to work with me to snack on in the afternoon. 

5.  I talked about my favourite books earlier this week.

Have a great weekend!  Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Good for what ails you

In this season of cold (both sickness and temperature wise), there is something comforting about a hot drink.  Normally I prefer coffee as my hot drink of choice, but at night, when I'm not feeling well, I make this drink instead:

1 tsp ginger paste (or fresh ginger but this tube is so convenient)
1 tsp honey
2 tsp lemon juice (fresh is best)
Boiling water to fill your mug

(these are estimates, I never measure, just squeeze it all into the mug and stir, this is not science)

This is good for an upset stomach, a sore throat and stuffy nose, or if you just need some warming up.        It's also great if you need a little something after supper but you don't need a whole snack.

Keep warm out there!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Media Wednesdays

In this edition of Media Wednesdays, I am sharing my five favourite books of all time.  I am a reader and always have been. I have a Bachelor of Arts with an Advanced Major in English.  We read to E every night and my favourite gifts to give kids are books, you can never have too many.  I spent a lot of time at the library growing up, and now that I have a child, my love of the library has been renewed. I remember going with E when I was on mat leave and saying "I can take these home for free!" I know that is obvious but it was a new level of appreciation.

I have many favourite books but these are ones that have stuck with me and that I've read, or will read, multiple times.

Gone with the Wind - I have read this about 10 times or more.  I remember picking it up at our library when I saw it on a list that said "Read a banned book!".  Aside from the obvious racial issues and bias with which the book was written, it is still a wonderful read.  Margaret Mitchell was a very talented writer and made those characters come alive so it was almost like you were sitting on the front steps of Tara with Scarlett and the Tarleton twins.  It is so rich with detail, in both character development but also in the history.  The sequel, Scarlett, not written by Margaret Mitchell but by Alexandra Ripley, is pretty good.  It carries on the story after Rhett said "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn" and takes Scarlett to Ireland.  If you haven't read it, give it a shot. 
The two smaller ones were used before I even got them, and then I got a brand new copy a few years ago.

To Kill a Mockingbird - I watched this movie early on and when I read the book I was immediately appreciative of Harper Lee's talent.  Of course the book provides more detail, more characters, and more nuances than the movie (as it always does). Given that Gone with the Wind is my favourite book (see above), the race relations of the South fascinate me and this book provides some more recent context.  Also the legal aspect of the trial, and the mental health of Boo Radley are themes that I enjoy.  There is a lovely scene in the book that does not appear in the movie where there is a fire in the neighbourhood one night, and everyone is out on the street watching.  At some point Scout realizes she has a blanket over her shoulders, and she didn't know where it came from, but it was Boo that had come up behind her to make sure she kept warm.  I think the adults knew he was there but he wouldn't need Scout to see him of course, he was just watching out for her.  My copy of this book is at home at my mom's.

The Great Gatsby - As many high school students were, this book was required reading in English class.  I'm not sure what it was about this book that first drew me to it, particularly when literary critics say this is one of Fitzgerald's worst books, but I enjoyed it.  Then to have Leonardo DiCaprio (LEO!!) star in the movie version years later?  How could it get any better than that?  Also a heartbreaking tale (I'm sensing a pattern here) about things not working out.  I wrote an essay about this book in Grade 12.  I would be interested to read this essay again now and see what sort of groundbreaking observations I had at that time. One thing I can be sure of is that it probably contained the word "ergo" (meaning therefore in Latin) as I had a habit of using that word in essays whenever I could.  I think I wrote about the use the colour, but I can't really remember.  I thought I had a copy of this book but I couldn't find it, maybe it is at home too.

Pillars of the Earth and World Without End - These are two books but they go together.  Ken Follett has written many books but Pillars of the Earth was the first one I read.  It is set in 12th century England, a sweeping epic taking place over many years and covering numerous storylines that are all entwined.  I felt overwhelmed with the characters at first, but you get the hang of it and then it's a real page turner as it jumps between stories.  I'd say the central feature of all of the stories is the building of a cathedral.  (Apparently the cathedral in Salisbury was the model of the one in the novel, if I'd known that we would have stopped in when we were there in 2010, instead we only travelled through Salisbury to see Stonehenge.)  World Without End picks up the story a number of years later where the characters are children and grandchildren of those from Pillars of the Earth.  A mini-series was made a few years ago and it was quite good.  The nice thing about a mini-series is that they can do a bit more with the storyline than a two hour movie.  (Fun fact - Eddie Redmayne, recent Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee, was in this mini-series.  Very talented.)
Salisbury Cathedral in the distance (By the way, the Nazis did not bomb this church during the Blitz because they used it as a guide marker to get to London.)

The Poisonwood Bible - Hey, finally a book that hasn't been made into a movie (although I'm surprised this hasn't happened since this was an Oprah book club selection at one time).  I've read this book several times.  It is about a Christian missionary family that lives in the Congo in the 1960s.  It is told from everyone's point of view (except the father) - mom, older sister, twin sisters, and baby sister.  This was a significant period for the Congo politically, and it is a feature of the plot along with the extreme culture shock (calling it culture shock almost seems to diminish it), illness, injury, and natural disasters that the family deals with.  It is rather tragic but beautifully written. There is one passage near the end that I love so much - it is a beautiful description of what the first white people saw when they arrived in Africa for the first time, and how the Africans were doing pretty well.  There is a similar passage in The Kite Runner about Afghanistan.
I didn't flip this before I uploaded it, but you get the idea.

You always are, book, you always are.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Show and Tell

Linking up with Andrea for Show and Tell Tuesday.

Today's topic is Organizational Tips and Tricks.  There is no theme here, just some general tips for life!
I am nothing but super organized and put together that I can just swing at the playground because I have so much free time (can you sense the sarcasm?).

Cooking -  Plan your meals in advance.  I blogged here about how we do this.  Having planned in advance, I always have our coming meals in the back of my head so I know if there is anything that could be planned ahead.  Last week when we had our Portobello, Kale and Gouda Paninis I made the kale mixture the night before so it was simply a matter of assembling the recipe for supper on the night of.  It's also good to poach chicken ahead of time, brown your ground beef, or cut up some vegetables.

Working - As I mentioned before I do not like the term "Time Management", but that doesn't mean I don't try to manage my work day.  I often write out a schedule for my day marking off blocks of time for different files and tasks.  I include five minutes periodically to check my emails, or ten minutes to grab another coffee, but every minute is scheduled.  This helps when I am overwhelmed with a lot of work or even when I am not very busy and it's tough to get motivated.  Knowing that I only have a certain amount of time to work on something means that I need to focus for that 15 minute or 45 minute period.  And even if I don't have that task completed when it's time to switch to another one, I have still made some good progress so when I come back to it later, it's easier to finish up.

Party Planning - When we have a party or invite people over for dinner I make a list of everything that we will be serving and then break it down by ingredients, including garnishes for drinks, so I can make a grocery list.  Then I work out what can be prepared in advance, and what needs to be done the day of.  I have been known to type this up in a chart, but I can also work with handwritten notes.  Here is a picture of my plans for our Christmas Party. I try to be conscientious of my guests' dietary restrictions and include dairy-free or gluten-free options if I can.  I love having people over for meals so I like to make a lot of things myself, although from time to time I do accept offers to bring something.

Travelling - When we travel to a new city, we make a Google Map of that place.  We lay out the airport or train station, our hotel, and then start plotting out the sites we want to visit, as well as restaurants in those areas.  This helps a lot when you want to see a lot of things so you can group together certain high points by geographic location, and you don't spend all day walking from place to place instead of visiting the places you want to see.  We have done this since our honeymoon when we went to Rome, Venice, Interlaken, and Paris.  We also did it for our London and Dublin trip.  And for Boston, Vancouver, Lima, Cusco, and New York.

Living in Toronto - I know that I have to leave about 45 minutes to get somewhere.  This includes driving or taking transit to my location, and finding a place to park or walking from the subway/train/streetcar.  When I first moved here I would get so annoyed by the length of time it took to get everywhere and I hate being late!! Now that I know the timing, pay attention to road closures, and determine if it's better to take the car or transit, and plan accordingly. Having accepted the size of this city, and its surrounding areas, I consider the travel time part of the experience, and I'm much happier about it.

I'm looking forward to reading the other posts participating in this link up.  I could use some tips on some other household chores, storage, and reducing clutter.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Weekend Recap

I didn't do a great job of documenting our weekend with pictures, but we did have a full weekend filled with friends and family - I'll try to do better next time.

On Friday night, I made this pizza. I didn't take a picture, but it did look just like the one from the recipe.  Making your own pizza sauce, this time from spinach and basil, is so easy and really elevates the flavour of the pizza.  By the way, it was nearly impossible to track down fresh basil last week, I went to at least four different stores, and finally ended up with a tube of pureed basil, and it was a fine substitution.

Dave went out on Friday night to watch the Raptors game at a hipster sports bar in the Junction.  It's okay though because he has new glasses and a plaid shirt, so he blended in well.  I had a productive night, did some cleaning, some blogging, and watched part of A Time to Kill, such a great movie.

Saturday morning we attempted a Swiss Roesti.

It did not come together as well as we would have liked, but I did salvage part of it to make my own version of the Charlotte Lane roesti.  Certainly not on the same level as Roland's, but he is from Switzerland so I'm pretty sure he can make them in his sleep.  (Charlotte Lane is a restaurant in my hometown and it is one of the best restaurants in Nova Scotia, no word of a lie.)

Roesti topped with cheese and friend egg

Then E and I were off to swimming.

We did some errands down the street - bread, meat, produce, and a coffee (of course!), and then I did head to the actual grocery store for some other items.  I was happy that Vector was on sale.

Dave's parents arrived late afternoon on their way home after being out west for Christmas.  I made chicken and dumplings and a fancy coleslaw (think belgian endive and radicchio rather than cabbage and carrots).  I also made this cake.  It too looked like the picture and tasted amazing!

Our table.

After E went to bed we watched Boyhood.  I took some selfies of Dave and I on the couch.

I really liked Boyhood, I haven't seen many of the other choices for Best Picture (aside from The Grand Budapest Hotel), but I could see that this could win.  I hope to catch a few more before the Oscars.

E and I went to church on Sunday. I was volunteering in the nursery but we were in church for the first part of the service.  The children always get their own bulletin (even those who can't read, like E), and a slip of paper with something on it that is their "offering".  This week it said "I am a disciple of Jesus".  When all of the kids were sitting at the front the minister asked "What sorts of things would a disciple do?"  The first kid said "believe in Jesus". And then E raised his hand and said "Shovel".  I don't know where he got that answer, but the minister was quick and agreed that disciples would do practical things like help others. I know I'm his mother but I do think it is quite remarkable that he is only 3 and already answering questions at church.  I was very proud.

In the afternoon, I made muffins with my little helper.

Dave went to the Raptors game, so we had some friends over for a playdate.  Then the boys came back and we had some dinner - pulled pork on buns, caesar salad and cake.

I don't want to talk about the Green Bay loss.

Some tulips I bought this weekend.  They are nice to brighten up the house but they do seem a little too "spring-y".  It is only January, and as much as I love summer, I am not really done with winter yet.