Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Paper Cats and Cash

It was my birthday last week. It was one of those that end in 5. Nothing too heavy, just a gentle reminder that I'm halfway to another 0. I am fortunate to have wonderful friends and family who joined me to celebrate.

A few things I noticed this time around though: I kinda missed the streamers and balloons; the Girl was the only one who insisted on wearing a party dress; I carried my own cake to myself and made the coffee and tea; I got to clean the toilets in preparation for guests. :) Don't get me wrong, I'm not making any complaints, I like preparing and serving for my guests, but I may be noticing some things wistfully. A sign of my impending old age?

I did receive some lovely gifts. This was one of my faves:

My sister printed photos of the two of us from the last 3 trips we had together: New York, Orlando & Boston, and put them in a lovely frame. I smile every time I look at it.

This was another:

Yep, paper cats. It wasn't until yesterday that the boy decided to go through my birthday cards. (When I was opening them for the first time, he was busy with his cousins and friends in the basement.) He noticed that I had received a couple gift cards and some cash from my parents and grandmother. He asked me this:
"Mama, what do you like better, the paper money that you got from Nonna, or the paper cats that I made you?"
I didn't even hesitate. "The paper cats, of course."
He seemed skeptical. "Really, Mama?"
"Absolutely. If I wanted money, I know how to make that, and I would. But I would never have made myself these paper cats. I didn't even know how much I wanted them until I opened your present."
He was more than pleased with that response and walked away happy and sure of himself again after a hug and [reluctant] kiss. 

I'm not going to lie, I definitely appreciate the cash and gift cards. It translates to a little pampering for "Mama" that may otherwise not happen, and that is never a bad thing. But the paper cats, and the conversation that followed, rank just a tiny, but measurable, step above. Happy birthday to me. 

What was the best gift you've ever received? Do you prefer cash, gift cards or "actual" gifts?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

WW: The Man

Yes. He's that hot. I'm a lucky lady. :)

Monday, 14 November 2011

Sick little girl today....

Just a shorty post today. The Girl is ill. Just 40 minutes after I dropped her off at school, I received the call to go pick her up again. I was greeted by a teary face and sore tummy. PJs, bed, bottle of water and Mama's kisses have helped so far. No trips to the porcelain bowl yet. Good thing I put that bucket beside the bed.

I wonder if it might be all the seafood she ate yesterday at my nephew's baptism.

And speaking of seafood (and quite possibly the worst segue evah!)...

Here's a preview of my upcoming Boston trip review which I've no time to work on yet! [Kids come first!]

Stay tuned!

Friday, 11 November 2011

More time = less fun?

So, I'm still in Boston, and I can't wait to tell you all about it! Now is not the time though. :)

Many of my friends and acquaintances get a little freaked out when I tell them that I'm travelling. Not really about where I'm going, but rather how long I'm gone, and on such little notice.

Boston for the day? I'm game. (Yay!)
Paris for the weekend? Sure, why not. (France, not Ontario!)
Nova Scotia for a couple days? Sounds good. (It's a 17 hour drive.)
Orlando in 48 hours? Hogwarts, here I come!
30 hours in Prague? Let's go! (To be fair, I was only 8 hours away.)
NYC for a night or 2? I don't see any reason not to...

Yep, all places and timeframes I've done. Some of my friends have crowned me the queen of the mini holiday. I've got to say, I don't mind my reign. Granted, this is not something I tend to do with the little ones in tow. This is something I do for me and usually with a friend or two. Which means it happens once or twice every year or so.

New York!
In my early twenties (it can't have been THAT long ago!) I left Canada for Europe. I worked. In one place even, but every weekend was a trip to a new city, a new country. I was bitten by that travel bug, and haven't completely worked it out of my system. I hope I never do.

True, my mini-trips are usually whirlwinds of activity, but I wouldn't trade them for weeks on end in the same spot. I pack as much as I can into my 40-odd hours while I'm in a place. Rarely any down-time. However, I consider sitting in a cafe for 3 hours a "jam-packed" activity, just as much as walking 16 arrondissements in a day. Climbing a green mountain is the same as drinking a bottle of cheap pink "champagne" on the Charles bridge, in my books. It's all good. I like the sounds, sites and tastes of a new place. When I'm out of my comfort zone, I'm bolder and more inclined to be friendly. (!) I *gasp* talk to people. Crazy, I know.
In a cable car in Zakopane, Poland!
I know I miss a lot of the "important" stuff to see and do when I go places. I don't mind. I usually like what I do see and do. Just because I wander, doesn't mean I'm lost.

How far would you go for just a weekend? Would you even consider leaving your country/province/state/city for less than a few days? Would you cross the ocean for a weekend?

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Thursday, 10 November 2011

Vacation prep hell.

Honestly! I'm just going for 2 days. Not even! By the time this post goes live, I should be in Boston. Without the kids! Just the girls and me! Woo hoo! In the meantime, I'm taking a 5 minute break from preparing.

What do you need to prepare for just 36 hours away from home, you ask? Well, let me tell you.
- 3 loads of laundry
- pack 1 set of clothes for me.
- pack 3 sets of clothes for the kids. (I know!)
- prepare list of lunches for next 2 days.
- make sure there is enough food in the house for dinner for next 2 days.
- go in to school to check council box and send out letters home.
- write letters to teachers informing who will be picking up the children.
- figure out who will be picking up the children!
- bake 3 cakes for this weekend's parties.
- wrap birthday present for Saturday.
- bake cookies for Sunday's baptism since I won't have time on Saturday!
- leave house in relatively clean state. (no promises)
- do regular work (why do clients all call at the same time, and only when you're super busy?)
- deal with Girl's tantrums: "Why are you leaving me!!!!!!! AHHHHH!!!!!!"
- there are another 10,017 things for me to do, but I can't list them because I have to do them...

Actual picture of me while getting ready:
It'll all be worth it though! Right? Please!

How do you prepare for leaving the kids for a few days? Do you need a vacation from your vacation? Do your kids go psycho when you have to leave them for a night? Am I the only one?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

WW: Dreaming of summer

Summer daydreams on a cold November day....
Road Trip!
Stuck in the middle again. :)

Scary monsters in the badlands.

Please, Mama! Can we take her home!

Hanging out with Willie.

Heading home.
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Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Slow Cooker Pepper Orange Pork Stew

When I know my day will be too busy to make a decent meal (and I can't justify going out for dinner) I often rely on my trusty slow cooker to save the day. 

On Sunday, our day was packed with Nutcracker rehearsal for the Boy in the morning, followed by an outing at the Science Centre. I knew we wouldn't be back until 6, and by that time no one would feel like cooking, or waiting for food. 

Using what I had on hand, and making a few changes, I adapted this recipe from The Complete Canadian Living Cookbook:

This is my go-to cookbook for everything. I received it as a gift in 2001 and have consistently used it since then. I have SHELVES of cookbooks, but this one is by far the most useful. [By the way, this is not a sponsored post, but if anyone at Canadian Living is reading this, I'd wouldn't refuse a subscription renewal! :) ]

On with the stew!

I started with 2 large red peppers and 1 large knife. [I don't mess around with knives.]
Chop them into bite size pieces and set aside. 
Next, chop 1 large onion. Add to the peppers. 
Chop up about 850g of pork. The recipe calls for 2lbs/1kg of shoulder  butt. I used pork loin for two reasons. Less fat = less prep and it's what I had on hand. :) The recipe also calls to brown the meat in oil. I used a non-stick pan and no oil and reduced the fat as well.  Once the meat is browned/seared, dump it into the crock pot.
Add the veggies to the pan and brown those as well. These steps can be omitted.  If you'd like, forget the browning part completely and just dump everything into the crock pot and turn it on. I like the extra flavour it gives when browning first. 
I added 6 cloves of slivered garlic into the pan. I'm using my handing garlic shaver.  Works like a dream.  The garlic  is paper thin and nearly completely dissolves in whatever you're making. 
Cook veggies until they just start to wilt, then add them to your slow cooker.

The recipe calls for a cup of broth, which I didn't have ready. So I cheated and used half  a bouillon cube and a cup of water. 
I added a couple turns of a coarse salt/rosemary mix.
I also threw in some extra asparagus spears that were left over from the quiche I made to take with us to the Science centre. 
Next, the recipe asks for tomato paste, but I didn't have any of that either. [Notice a theme here?] Luckily I  DID have some diced tomatoes that my mother put up this summer. I threw in about 2.5cups. 

Next for the orange bit. I grated the rind of one orange with my microplane, right into the slow cooker. 
Followed chunks of peeled orange and some rubbed sage. 

Give everything a good mix...
Turn on low and enjoy the rest of the day!
By the time we got home, I was tired and not thinking. [Surprise, surprise.] I just cooked up some basmati rice (I have a microwave rice cooker - perfect rice in less than 20 minutes) and fed the brood. I didn't even think about taking a picture. :S However, the reviews were mixed. My husband and I loved it, but the kids were not too keen on the orange flavour. I'll probably make this again, but without the orange.

What do you make when you know you won't have time to cook? What is your favourite slow-cooker recipe? Do you plan your meals or fly by the strings of your apron?

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