Thursday, January 18, 2018

Bread

 

So apparently we make our own bread now. This started happening about a month ago. In the past, I've made naan bread, pizza dough and cinnamon buns and I believe there was an unsuccessful attempt to make buns many years ago, but the world of bread-making was mystical and beyond my wildest dreams (I'm one of the only people in the world who never owned a bread maker). In my mind, baking bread was equivalent to building my own computer or sewing myself a swimsuit. Sure, I suppose I could do those things with years of training, but do I really want to?

Then a friend posted a picture of her homemade bread on Instagram, along with the recipe link. I'd been watching Great Canadian Baker and I was hungry. Suddenly I had made bread.

It literally took only one hour from start to finish. Most of that hour was spent waiting for it to rise and then to bake. There was maybe five minutes of actual work to do. And the bread was good. So good. Too good. The recipe made two loaves and we ate it all while it was warm and fresh. The kids loved it so much that I showed them how to make it. We've made it several times since then; Spencer made it the other day almost completely on his own. I helped him start before I went out and he finished strong by himself. You'll notice that eliminating carbs was not one of my new years resolutions but I am trying to limit the bread production to once per week.

It's called One Hour French Bread and it lives up to its name. If I decide I'm hungry for fresh bread (and when am I not), in one hour I will be pulling it out of the oven. You can find the recipe here: http://fastandcheapandeasy.blogspot.ca/2013/04/1-hour-french-bread.html. I followed the recipe exactly.* If you don't have a KitchenAid or mixer of some kind, there will be slightly more manual labour involved. But it still shouldn't be too difficult.


 

 
I did not include photos of our expanding waistlines and jiggly thighs. Don't think about that when you're making this. Just enjoy all that white-flour goodness.
 
So that's my game-changing news. This opens up a world of possibilities that I didn't know I was capable of. I want to try making focaccia bread next. Let me know if you have a good (easy) recipe.
 
*Except for the time I forgot salt. I learned that salt is very important - it brings out the flavor and even changes the texture. The bread was still edible but not nearly as delicious. Don't forget the salt.

 

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

New Year New Me



I have a history of being cyncial about new years resolutions and usually steer clear of them. Or I call them "goals" which is totally different, right?! But for some reason, this year I am filled to the brim with New Years resolutions. In fact, I have so many that they're spilling over the sides of reality and dripping onto the floor of impossibility. I'm setting my goals high in hopes that I'll at least accomplish some of them.


I RESOLVE TO:
  • Call her up a thousand times a day and ask her if she'll marry me in some old fashioned way. (I just had to.) Okay, for real now:

  • Volunteer. Between the kids' schools and church, I used to volunteer a fair amount. Now that Neve is in middle school and we stopped going to our church quite some time ago and haven't found a new one, I've been neglecting that aspect of life. The Leadership Winnipeg program that I manage at work is all about getting involved in your community so I feel like a bit of a hypocrite. But that's going to change! I have something in mind that I'd like to do and just need to act on it.

  • To be more mindful before buying new things. I'm not a big shopper and I don't need much but I'm still guilty of buying things on a whim. Cleaning out Neve's room has reinforced the fact that no matter how excited you are when you first get something, eventually you don't want it anymore. And that's totally fine for some things but I just want to be more purposeful about bringing "stuff" into the house. And when there is something we really want or need, I'm going to make an effort to check out kijiji or a secondhand store first. I also want to watch some of these videos and re-watch the original Story of Stuff video. 

  • Go to more concerts, plays, art galleries and other cultural events. It doesn't have to be fancy - I'm fine with an evening at Rumor's or a free concert in Old Market Square. I want to take the kids and show them the value of the arts and how it makes our lives better. Also to admire and celebrate all the crazy talented people out there.

  • Touch base with friends I rarely see. And not just a text or Facebook message but physically getting together if they live nearby. And with my regular friends, I want to DO stuff with them - either fun stuff like movies, yoga, or biking (or one of the activities in my last point), or practical things like walking or even running errands. I'm sure there will still be lots of coffee and lunch dates, which fall into both the fun and practical categories. Weekly happy hour also goes without saying.

So those are the main things that have been on my mind. There are also the usual resolutions like eat better, exercise more, spend more quality time together as a family, be nicer, care more, blah blah blah. I want those things too but I'm more focused on the big picture this year. I've also made lots of resolutions for my family, which they don't seem to appreciate. I don't know what their problem is. Why wouldn't you want to clean up after yourself more? Or do your own laundry? Or empty the dishwasher without being asked?

I'll leave you with my final resolution. Maybe someone out there can even help me with this: I really want to make it out of an escape room.

Feel free to comment with your 2018 resolutions!

Friday, January 05, 2018

More Christmas

Catching upon on Christmas stuff, here are a few pictures of our family celebrations. The first batch are from the day at my parents on the 25th. It was a really fun day even though we were missing a few people (Dan & Jenn and my oldest nephew and his family).

The grandchildren that were present

Last year at this time, we didn't even know this little one existed and now he and his mom are a big part of our family. We all love this kid to pieces, especially Chloe who spends a lot of her time plotting how to steal him.
 

Dan and Jenn sent these fun cards to make us all look weirder than we already do. In hindsight, I wish we'd also taken a normal family picture while most of us were assembled in one spot. But this is more fun.



Dad is looking smug - he's probably about to pull off another "sluff"

Intinse Wii game



This is part of a game that I can't remember the name of.
Most of the family stayed at my parents' for night and then the next day we headed straight to Dale's mom's for his family celebration consisting of more turkey, more games, more presents and more family time. As I've already mentioned, Dale's sister and her family were here from Miami so that always makes it more fun. Too bad it was such a deep-freeze the whole time they were here but the upside is that I'm sure it reaffirms the decision they made many years ago to move south.

Neve took this first picture and it made me laugh because I think she was trying to take it of Sarah and Chloe but didn't focus correctly, or maybe the girls just thought she was taking a picture of them and posed accordingly.


This one's better but it got grainy when I cropped it.

My nephews singing their annual Old Crow Medicine Show song.

Gift card exchange game

Every single one of the grandchildren (plus a wife, a fiancé, and a girlfriend)

The whole family

Playing Code Names
I've said it before and I'll probably say it again but I feel very fortunate to have not one, but two families that I really enjoy being with. I'm also thankful that both my parents and Dale's mom still want to host Christmas and that I've never had to cook a turkey. I know that all families can be complicated sometimes but overall I have it incredibly easy.

For New Years Eve, we went to Rob & Gab's for an amazing seafood feast. They served multiple courses including appetizers, mussels, giant shrimp, salmon and much more. I ate so much. I took some iPhone pics of the food and the people but they don't do the evening justice. All I'll say is that there was much food, drink and laughter.

I took an extra week off work so it's been great to extend the feeling of not knowing or caring what day it is. I've been helping Neve clean out her room which I'll go into more detail about another day. It's just astounding how much stuff she has. ASTOUNDING, I tell you!! I've also started a month of hot yoga. But mostly I'm enjoying an easy lazy week of hanging out in my warm house. Soon enough life will be back to its regular routine and responsibilities. I dread Monday when I will return to work, exercising regularly, and trying to stop eating like a pregnant teenager with sky-high metabolism.

Friday, December 29, 2017

It's over already?!

Since my last post, I started and finished my Christmas shopping, had a birthday, and celebrated Christmas. Now the tree is down, decorations are mostly put away and it's all in the past.

But it was a good month. In fact, I'd say it was one of the better Decembers I've had. Doing my Christmas shopping later seems to work well for me. It seems like it would be more stressful but somehow it's not. I have less of a tendency to over-buy and over-think things.

We also had a lot of quiet evenings at home and some outside entertainment as well. Dale and I took the kids to see A Christmas Carol at MTC. We literally had front row seats (cheap seats!) to all the action and all five of us loved the show. Another evening a bunch of us went out for Vietnamese food and to a Christmas concert at the West End Cultural Centre. I saw the ad on Facebook and rounded up a crew to go see a band none of us had ever heard of before (Sultans of String). They were great and it was a spontaneous fun night.

We had friends over for appetizers another night:





Dale's work party was another night, which is not my favourite. I don't know anyone because it's the staff of the office where he rents space from. We literally talked to one guy the entire time - it was just the three of us at a table - and I spent a fair amount of time strongly encouraging him to seek counselling to get over a wrong that had been done to him in the past. That was not super festive.

It really makes a difference having no kid activities in December. The days of school Christmas concerts, recitals, and gymnastics parties appear to be behind us. I kind of miss them, but I guess there's a reason this was such a relaxed December.

Now let's talk about my birthday in great detail. You can skip this paragraph if you saw my pics on Instagram. I basically photo-documented the whole day. But I'm glad I did because it was such a great day. From now on, I'm going to try and replicate it exactly every year. Every month would be even better! Or every week! Every day might be a bit much.

Dale is always good about making my day special and tries to keep it separate from Christmas. He always wraps my gifts in birthday wrapping paper. He left me Ferrero Rocher chocolates in my underwear drawer and there was a stack of gifts on the table when I got up. He commissioned Chloe to bake me a chocolate cheesecake birthday cake.

Darla, Shannon and I went for to Stella's for brunch. Darla's birthday is the day before mine (and Shannon's is in January) so it was a general celebration. Once we all found parking, it was a great way to start the day. They could set up a Stella's in the middle of a cow pasture with parking a mile away and it would be packed all the time. Even if people had to walk through knee-deep cow shit and deal with raging bulls. But I love every menu item I've ever tried there so I guess there's a good reason for that.


I stopped in Osborne Village to do some last minute shopping and then headed home. On Academy, I saw a car ahead of me lose control on the road and her car slid around and crashed to a halt when it smashed into a street sign. I was right behind her and stopped to check on her. Her window had smashed all over her and she was very shaken but she was physically okay. I stayed with her a while to make sure she was okay and knew what to do and luckily she could still drive away. She was pretty distraught and I felt really bad for her. But it could've been so much worse.



In the afternoon, Kristin stopped by for a short visit and then Janet came over and we went to Starbucks. When I got home, it was almost time for happy hour. My neighbours brought all the food and even made fancy birthday crantinis.





Right after that, Dale and the kids took me to the Marion Street Eatery for dinner. I've been there a couple of times and it never disappoints. I had a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich which I would definitely have again.





We came home for birthday cake and presents. Chloe always does an amazing job of organizing and collecting from the other kids and buying gifts I love. They got me a yoga mat, soap and more. Dale's not too bad himself - I got clothes, a puzzle and a Hamam gift card from Ten Spa.

This is one of my favourite gifts. I always beg Neve to let me do her hair like I did when she was younger but she always declines. So she made me this clever jar where I can pick out hairstyles to do on her. I love it so much.

Later Dale, Neve and I went to Jim & Sabrina's Christmas party. By this time I couldn't eat another bite which is too bad because the charcuterie board they put together was like nothing I've ever seen. I should've taken a picture.



So that was my birthday. I'm very thankful for my family and friends who made it such a great day. Hashtag blessed. Hashtag ILoveThem. Hashtag IlookforwardtotheexactsamedaynextDec.22. Yeah, that's pretty annoying.

Dale's sister and her family from Florida come for Christmas every other year and this was an "on" year. It's always a treat to have them here and makes the celebrations more fun. They came over for brunch on the 23rd, and then we celebrated Christmas with the whole family on Dec. 26.

On Christmas Eve, we cleaned up, played games, and watched a movie. Then we had our annual fettuccini-scallop dinner, followed by the candlelight service at Grant. Singing Silent Night with all the candles lit is probably one of our favourite things ever. Dale's mom joined us for the service and then came over afterward. We had a chocolate fondue and opened a few gifts. Later, we went for our annual Christmas Eve walk to see lights and then watched the animated version of "The Grinch."



Thanks to Pat for that beautiful centrepiece - it should be turned 90 degrees to show an even better side!


Santa must have put the kids on the Nice list because this is what we woke up to on Christmas morning.



Followed quickly by this:



Dale and I usually just buy each other a few little things like socks or a book but sometimes he surprises me and goes all out. I thought I'd beat him at his own game this year and buy him a foot massager that he wanted (it's really a gift for me since that means I don't have to do it). I was going to make him wait until Christmas morning to open it but he suspected what it was and really wanted to open it on Christmas Eve. So I let him, and sure enough, he was all excited. He unwrapped it and took it out of the box, plugged it in and pressed the "on" button. Nothing happened. We tried many times, with different outlets, but it was a dud. I was so mad. Especially since of course he bought me something bigger too. I got a heated mattress pad which sounds like something old, sick people use but let me tell you how awesome it is. I turn it on about 15 minutes before I go to bed and climb into a toasty warm bed. It's a game-changer. Anyway, I went to exchange the foot massager after Christmas but they didn't have any left so they ordered me a new one.

The karaoke machine was a hit

I'm going to stop there and leave the rest of the Christmas updates for another day. I've been enjoying this mixed-up, unstructured blur of days between Christmas and New Years. I've finished one 1000-piece puzzle and am about to start the second. I've read, watched movies, and barely left the house. No exercising and lots of carbs is a temporary lifestyle I'm enjoying to the fullest. Chocolate covered pretzels for breakfast? Yes please.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Party on

 

I'm breathing a big sigh of relief and happiness over here.

We hosted our sort-of annual (we sometimes skip a year) neighbourhood party last night. A large part of the past week was spent cleaning and preparing for it but it was definitely Worth It. We had a great turnout and had a lot of fun. We have awesome neighbours. We have a mix of young and old, singles and families and I love it when they all meet and mingle. I feel like a proud mother watching her children get along and have fun together. Some of them didn't know each other before but everyone was chatty and friendly and fun. One of my favourite moments was when two women who knew each other professionally spotted each other and were shocked to find out they'd been neighbours for over a year. They live literally straight across the street from each other. They were both so excited and made plans to see each other. There were other great connections made as well; it really is a small city and an even smaller neighbourhood.

I regret not taking pictures during the party. It's just a bit weird to start taking pictures of people that I don't know super well. I wish I'd at least taken a photo of the table spread. We had so much food. I made a lot of it but people brought stuff too. I love appetizer/snacky foods SO much. We set up a photo booth in the study and mostly forgot to tell people to go use it. The kids had a heyday with it - it was quite entertaining to see the pictures on my camera today. At the end, we did some pics with Janet and the girls (honourary neighbours!).

Tia wins by far for the best face. Actually I didn't know we were making faces. Neither did anyone else - I guess it was Tia's secret.


Other happenings last week included a busy week at work. Thursday was our annual luncheon with the premier and you may have seen the news about an a comment he made there. It caused quite a stir because it was inappropriate and put all involved in an awkward position.

On Friday we had our staff Christmas party. We had a nice dinner, followed by virtual reality games. It's the first time I've done VR;  I didn't really know what it was. But it was so cool! I did "The Plank," which involved walking a plank off the edge of a really tall building. I was okay with walking the plank even though it was pretty freaky, but when I was told to step off the plank, everything in my body resisted the idea. It took me a couple of minutes to build up the nerve to step off. The company who did the VR has a place in the Exchange District called the Portal. If you're looking for something to do during the holidays (or any time), check it out!

Another thing I did this week was go on another tour of the North Forge Fabrication Lab (the place I talked about a couple of weeks ago). This time my dad and two uncles came and I think they all found it very interesting. I don't get many opportunities to hang out with my dad and his brothers so that was fun.

Now that the party's done and work is less busy, it's starting to feel like Christmas. Yesterday morning I zipped over to Shelmerdines and walked around the greenhouse with Janet. I bought a wreath (pictured above) which I love but ironically it's made of real greens and is meant to be hung outside, while the wreath I have hanging outside the front door is artificial. So I keep switching around the wreaths to give the real one as much outside time as possible. Whenever anyone comes over, I'll quickly switch them. Except if they come to the front door, it's going to be awkward. Christmas is complicated.

Today I slept in, went for a run, wrote out a few Christmas cards to people who live far away, went to the Forks with Dale to do a bit of shopping, and then went to Starbucks for eggnog lattes. We had planned to have coffee at the Forks but it was so full. It's nice to see it all vibrant and busy but the older I get, the less time I like to spend in a crowd. After our usual Sunday nacho dinner, we played Dutch Blitz and watched Elf. How's that for a good weekend?!

This week I hope to turn my attention to Christmas shopping. We have a few other fun things going on so I think it's going to be a good week. Wishing you all a happy mid-December week!

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Day 30

This is the end of the line for my 30 days of blogging that took me 40 days to complete. The same thing happened the last time I did a 30-day challenge. I'll have to start calling it the "30 in 40 challenge." It was kind of fun forcing myself to write something but I struggled with meaningful content. Maybe that's a sign that I need to shake things up and find new things to do and experience. I'll let you know how that goes.

The vast majority of the day today was spent at Neve's gymnastics competition. Unlike her last in-house one, this was a competition with at least six different clubs competing. Neve's club is less intense than some of the others so our expectations are realistic. She did really well, but unfortunately so did the others. I was secretly willing her competitors to fall off the beam. A lot of them did. Is that bad? Coincidentally, she placed second in beam which was her best event. I'm mostly joking about wishing ill upon her competitors; I'm really not a hardcore sports mom and generally want everyone to be happy. But it's nice if my kid is the happiest.



In an exciting and unexpected turn of events, her final score earned her a spot in the 2018 Manitoba Games, which are being held in Thompson in March (the top six gymnasts in each level were chosen). A week or two ago, I heard Neve mention this possibility in passing but apparently I wasn't listening or didn't think it pertained to us. So when the announcement was made at the competition today and the team members were instantly whisked away to get fitted for new team bodysuits, I was caught totally off guard. I had to ask other parents what was going on and they all seemed to know all the details and some of them had booked hotel rooms in Thompson in August already. WTF? How am I the only mom that is totally clueless?! So I guess we're going to Thompson. Except all the hotel rooms are already booked so we might have to sleep in the van (fortunately the gymnasts already have accommodations). I suck.

Of course Neve was super excited about being part of this team, and also excited that a friend from school came with us to watch the competition. This is a new friend she's made this school year, and I have to say a new friend that will sit for over three hours to watch you is a very good friend indeed.

It's a busy week ahead filled with work, cleaning, shopping, decorating, Christmas parties, appointments and more. Bring it on!