Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas is.....

A happy time.... when I look forward to my kids coming home, too much food, too much mess and too many gifts. In my life, working at an elementary school, there is so much hype in the air.. with Santa talk, with concerts and Christmas music, Christmas Shopping party for the kids, Operation Others. We have a diverse staff who have all different plans for their holidays... There are staff parties, staff nibblies, staff gifts....
Our holiday was filled with traditions like Fondue for Xmas Eve, stockings after breakfast and Chocolate Oranges. We played games, we built puzzles and we sat around and talked.. a lot..
A sad time.... when I think about Christmas's gone by... and who I have lost... who isn't here with us right now... and what the next few Christmas's will bring. Like every other sadness I experience, the anticipation of the sadness is far worse than the real sadness. I worry about how I will deal with this particular sadness long before the event... and then when it comes... its certainly not as bad as all the worrying before hand.... That being said, I missed Stephanie this year but we talked several times on Skype and it felt like she was home. She and Sean were not sad or forelore, like I thought they might be... they were fine and spent Christmas like they would have if they were here.. a few gifts, some movies and a nice meal! I missed my Dad but it was not so bad this year.. not like last year... and I missed Mollie a lot... but having Kelly and Lucy here... filled that furry void I thought would be so big!

A time for family... and that was a blast. My sister in law, Kim and her two girls spend Christmas night with us for supper and a fun morning, making banana chocolate muffins with Grace (our tradition). This time, we were talking so much, I messed up the ingredients and we had only half the flour that we should have. What a funny looking and tasting muffin we produced.... ewww.... . My sister arrived this afternoon for some shopping, sewing and the Wii...

Michelle and Scott left yesterday with all their pets, Michelle's cooking supplies, their laundry and their loot. I hate to see them go... its been a fun time, with all our cooking, our Wii fun and movies...

Pictures are worth a thousand words.... please enjoy..
Christmas eve.... talking to Stephanie and Sean on Skype... it was their Xmas Day....

Christmas eve Fondue... a Matheson Tradition with a Peters twist!! We had both a oil fondue and a broth fondue, with chicken, beef and seafood... yum. The Matheson Hollandaise Sauce, oven fries and fresh garden salad... yum....

A Wii surprise.
Christmas PJ shot... with all the boys in their matching flannels...

Christmas Dinner with turkey and all the fixings.. Kim brought a sweet potato dish, which I refused to like.. since I was sure I didn't like sweet potato. But.. I loved it.. yum. so delish!
plus a fancy plated dessert with a medley of tarts, double churned ice cream.

When you ask a young man to put the blocks on the ledge to special Christmas.. and this is what we got... each day.. a new one....

Some cute pets shots.......

Lucy and her new toy
Kelly snoozing after all the xmas fun

Tonks and Parallax in the basement, ready to Wii
Tonks looking annoyed... but she wasn't.. she never is!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sharing Christmas fun with kids

Traditions start with the simplest gestures. Last year, my friend Linda invited two little friends from school to her home to make a gingerbread house. The invitation was made by Linda in the hopes of brightening up their Christmas and also her own. Some families have nothing, not only materialistically (if that's a word) but also in spirit, traditions, and values. Linda wanted to share some of her traditions with these little ones who haven't done very much with things like bake cookies, spending afternoons listening to Christmas music, making decorations (other than at school) and writing letters to Santa.
Linda invited me along for the fun, and she bought one of those gingerbread house kits for us to put together. It was a great day, full of mess, chatting, licking of fingers and gobs of candies stuck in weird places.
Well, this year, in late November, the kids went to Linda's office to see what day they were coming over to make cookies, etc. And voila, a tradition is born!
This year, instead of a house, Linda bought a sleigh kit. Also, this year, Michelle was home for this event, and she made a batch of gingerbread cookies, and three kinds of icing. She put them in piping bags, and the kids went NUTS.!!
What a fun day... and there was lots of finger licking, and candy stealing and Michelle made 12 or so little stars for "sampling" and they got decorated and eaten throughout the process.
The Sleigh was a little trickier and although they wanted to follow the sample on the box, the creative side of both of them took over once they had the bowls of candy decorations in front of them...
I was in charge of the "royal" icing glue... and we had to hold the pieces together for like 5 minutes before they could take the weight of candies. That was no easy feat to stop them from putting candies on the sleigh until it was good and solid! hee hee

We left Linda's house quite colorful... with icing stains, sprinkles and round hard candies deposited in the funniest places (not on purpose!). You can see a little gingerbread star hiding under the plate. It was discovered during clean up, promptly decorated and eaten!
Thank you to Michelle for her wonderful cookies, and to Linda for inviting us over for this newborn annual tradition!
I am not quite sure if they got the sleigh home all right, but the cookies were safely stacked in several Christmas cans to be given as gifts for mom, and grandparents.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Tree is up.... finally

As I wrote in my last blog, we are putting the tree up in front of the picture window this year. We have never had it there before for many reasons, mostly, for the past 10 years both Dad and Mollie got daily pleasure from the view of the window and it just wasn't never considered to cover that up.

For PEACEFUL reasons, we thought we would try it there, and I love it there. Terry and Scott bought it on Sunday (and we were not the only one buying our tree so late. The Tree Selling Guy said he sold over half of his trees that weekend! Geesh. That evening the lights when on and then we left it sit for a day (because we didn't have the time to decorate.)
Monday night we decorated the tree, and as always it is so fun to look at all the decorations and select our favorites to put up, and leave the rest in the box for the next year. This is Scott's second year with us, and it was fun to have him help decorate. He noticed decorations that we don't notice anymore. If you know what I mean. We have so many decorations on the tree for sentimental reasons, not for beauty, and it was fun sharing stories about where they came from and why we love them.
We have all loved these tiny little birds doing a paper chain and as you can see, its pretty old. Michelle and Stephanie always felt it was them working together to make the chain. I can't remember who is who of the two little birds but they loved to look at them.
I love the icicles and snowflakes that adorn our dining room chandelier. As most of you know, Stephanie and Sean are in Korea for Xmas and they will celebrate Christmas day very differently than we will. While we will do all the same things we do every year at Christmas, it won't really be the same at all. Our first Christmas without Michelle two years ago, was hard, but she was spending Xmas with Scott's family. I knew she was having fun, sharing Christmas with another family, and experiencing their Christmas morning traditions. This year, I will think about Stephanie and Sean spending Christmas in a country who doesn't generally celebrate this holiday. While their subways and malls have Christmas Trees decorated, there is no midnight mass and no turkey dinner. They will spend a very different Christmas, and its their first Xmas together, too, so they will start building their traditions together.
Stephanie was in our thoughts and stories as we pulled funny decorations out of the boxes... her green angel she made in Kingston Ontario in 1987 when she was three. It was my first "gift" from Stephanie. She made it with the help of her babysitter.

Every Christmas is different, and that's the fun of it. This year, we have two dogs here and neither dog was here last year for Xmas. Of the 5 cats who are here for Xmas this year (with their own tree downstairs) only one spent Xmas with us last year. Who knows what next Christmas will bring!
Some other favorites... this little mouse playing his violin....
our Angel who sits regally on the top of the tree looking over all of us and and reminding us that this day is Jesus's birthday and that's really why we celebrate this holiday. That's what I think when I see her, anyway.
A few glass balls... Michelle bought a few years ago....

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Kelly comes to town......

I have a sister in law, Kelly (who was here last year for my birthday and planted bras all over my yard ). But the Kelly I am talking about, is Jill and Mel's little lab mix, who is spending Xmas with us.
Jill was stressed when she dropped Kelly off on Friday night, worried, not about what she was subjecting her little dog to, but what she was subjecting us to. She seemed to think that Kelly would drive us crazy... I was more worried about Kelly missing Jill and Mel, and being freaked out about the cats and other dog we were going to surround her with.
Her first night, she slept in every chair in the livingroom to see which was just right for her. She ended up sleeping in bed with us, as I wrote in my last blog.
The next morning, Terry and I got up and made coffee, made space on the cluttered kitchen counters (see previous blog to see why it was still a mess... yipee... because I slept!!!!) to start making pet breakfasts. I went into Mollie's old food bin to get some of her food to mix with Kelly's and there was Mollie's cup. She ate her breakfast out of a cup each morning... as a game.... This was my first time seeing it, or even thinking about it since she died in August, and I immediately burst into uncharacteristic tears. I cried for the next half hour, on and off as I thought about Mollie. (Freaked Terry a little) Geesh, I didn't realize how much I miss her. Kelly reminds me of Mollie, too. Her first morning, she crawled all over us to get right in the middle and snuggle in to the pillows. I have had morning visits from Lucy but she is hyper and licky licky.... Kelly is more like Mollie.... after the pillow, more than anything.. hee hee..
Lucy, the cats, the pigs and my children (2 of them) arrived late in the afternoon... and we ASSUMED that because Lucy and Kelly had met a month earlier for the afternoon, that all would go well when they met this time...
Well, it didn't go well when they were on either side of the screen door, since one started barking which caused the other one to bark... no sissy girly barks either.... Kelly has a very distinctive beagle howl yodel bark, while Lucys' bark is more high pitched and panic sounding.
That got all of our attention, including most of the neighbourhood. After we settled them down in their separate spaces, we tried again... but it just got worse, once they met, as there was jumping, snapping and howl/bark/screaming (Michelle and I). I pushed Michelle and Lucy out the door... and we all took a few minutes to regroup.
Then, Terry and Scott bundled up in coats, hats, scarves and mitts.... geared up the dogs in leashes and harnesses (no easy feat, I must say) and they took the yappers out for a brisk cold windy walk. Michelle and I sat in the livingroom in glum and worry.. wondering what the week would be like....
20 minutes later, the girls arrived home, frisky, cold and happy to be in the house.. Treats were handed out all over the place, and they seemed to be ok again. They are now tag team beggars at the table, with Kelly doing the begging, and Lucy scoring a nibble every time Kelly gets one.
They are sharing the window bench and couch.....
but we have decided that although our window perch is perfect for nature watching.. its not so perfect for barky dogs. We don't mind the barking of one dog... and barking of two dogs is not so bad either... but it seems that when the barking starts... so does the snarling and growling... sort of like they are trying to "high 5" each other but it gets a little tense...
Our solution......we are putting the tree in the window, and we have "wrapped" the viewing part of the window with Xmas paper to block their view! hee hee....
So, all in all, after less than 24 hours, things are calm and peaceful. The treats flow freely, and they are happy and content. Kelly will prolly weight 3 lbs more when you get home... but, hey, so will I!

And I slept!

Well, the strangest thing happened to me last night. Yes, I am telling you .... I slept. I slept for the first time in 9 days. For the past 9 nights (except last night) I woke up between 4:10 and 4:20am.. each morning. Wide awake. To add to that, life has been busy and I would go to bed between 11:30 and midnight each night. That means, not once have I slept more than 5 hours in 9 days. At first I blamed my H1N1 coughing. But really, the cough is pretty much over. Then I blamed hormones, since my internal temperature won't seem to stay steady anymore, and I am hot, then cold, then hot again (since my H1N1 vacation). Then instead of blame, I looked for solutions. My friends who have all had bouts of this gave me all kinds of solutions from Lemon Tea to meditation practices. Each night, before I went to bed I would plan a strategy on what to do to fall back to sleep at 4:10 when I woke. After several tries and nothing working, I began to plan a list of tasks I would do at 4:30am if I didn't get back to sleep. My last blog was completed at 4:30am, my spicy nuts were made (2 batches) another morning at 5:00am. Laundry, list making, email writing.... you can get quite a bit done when you have a 20 hour day.
The end result was, though, that I was getting thin on patience at work, leaving my purse at the cash register, starting my car... when it was already running :( Yesterday morning, my strategy was to NOT look at the clock. I was starting to think that I was wanting to wake up at 4:10 each morning. So, there I lay... a time junkie... trying not to look at the clock. It was sort of funny!!! Anyway, up I got at 4:30 to start my day.
Last night, I was so tired I was teary and stupid. It was Friday night and Terry and I didn't even eat supper. I had toast at 7pm... and Terry napped on the couch. I chatted on MSN, not wanting to nap... I knew that that would kill any chances of sleeping..
At 8:00pm, we started wrapping gifts, making the final shopping list, and planned a few meals. We wrapped for 3.5 hours, with a short intermission, when Jill and Mel dropped off little Miss Kelly, their small black lab. She will spend 2 weeks in the Peters Nut House, while they sail off to the Rock for Xmas.
By 11:30, it was done, the house was tidied and Kelly was planted on the bed, ready for her first night at the Peters. I was whiny when I went to bed, anticipating my 4:10 wake up... and I mentally planned what I would do (tidy the kitchen, which was filled with packages from work, all the boxes of chocolates, wrapped candies, mints, Xmas gift foods, that we had around on coffee tables and the floor, that had to be moved somewhere for the night, since Kelly is a food hound, and would make short work of any food item).
I drifted off in seconds, once I got in bed, and I woke at 4:20am. I barely remember it, but I did. I zonked out again, and woke at 6:00 when the alarm went off....I shut that off and then crashed again and woke at 8:30... 8:30..... I woke up with sore bones, dry lips, and bright white eyes... I had joy in my step as I stumbled to the kitchen to get a drink..... I SLEPT.....
Was it the stress relief of having all the gifts wrapped and the house tidy again, was it the comfort of a dog tangled up in my legs while I slept, or was it pure exhaustion that helped me sleep, I don't know. But I slept..... thats all I care about!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Veggie Ring!

Do you get the magazine "Kraft Foods - What's Cooking".
If you do, count yourself lucky because they are not adding any more people to their subscription list. This magazine is filled with amazingly easy and yummy recipes, with easy to read instructions and lots of pictures. The foods you use are usually something you have in your cupboard, or are easy to find in a grocery store. I went to their website and they said you can sign up for their online recipe stuff, but there is also an archive page that links to you all the past magazines. Click here for the archive page. They send this magazine out quarterly by season and there isn't a magazine that I haven't tried and saved one or two of their recipes. This season's book is no different. When I opened it about a month ago, I saw this Veggie Tea Ring and said.. I gotta try that. A week later, Terry read it, and said the same thing. So, my first opportunity to try it arrived this week. Our curling pot luck supper was last night and I bought all the ingredients a week ago.

If you don't get the magazine, I will write out the recipe. It is worth having... If you have it, its on page 37.
Easy Baked Cheese and Vegetable Twist

What you need:

2 eggs
1/2 block of Phillie cream cheese
1/2 cup Kraft 4 Cheese Italiano
3 cups frozen broccoli, thawed and drained
(I used fresh broccoli and I steamed it for 7 minutes)
1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
(I used red pepper instead, I thought the tomatoes might be mushy)
4 green onions, sliced
2 cans refrigerated crescent rolls
(make sure you don't buy the GRANDE ones, oops, )
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix the eggs, cream cheese and shredded cheese, til they are good and blended. Add in the mushrooms, broccoli, peppers (or tomatoes) onions.

This is what it looks like after you get the crescent rolls all unwrapped and placed in a circle. Then top with your veggie stuff, near the center.
I did mine on my baking stone and it worked fine, although I transferred it onto a serving plate afterwards cause my stone is pretty ugly.
It would have kept it warmer in the travel process, but it was fine for about a half an hour after it was cooked.
Everyone at the potluck truly enjoyed it. Definitely a keeper, I would say, and we will make it for Xmas dinner I think.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dinner out

Well, its been a very busy week between school stuff, curling, watching curling and Christmas prep. Every minute of every day has been earmarked for something. Sadly, my minute by minute planning of each day in order to get stuff done for Xmas, gets thrown off immensely when I sit down after supper and immediately fall asleep. After speaking with some of my H1N1 survivor friends, I have come to the conclusion that I am not fully recovered. My cough is now only around at night, when I try to sleep. My body temperature won't stay at one level, and my energy level is at about 70%. Still, I feel blessed to be back to work, and the land of caring about things.

I looked forward to Friday night this week for many reasons. First off... its Friday... yipee. Second, Michelle's course was putting on an elaborate dinner for family and friends. We had to leave home as soon as possible after work to get there on time. We raced out of our village at 4:30 which would get us to Halifax for 6:00... plenty of time. Until we saw the "engine" light come on!!! A quick decision was made... to turn back and get the other car. Off we flew again, got to about the same spot and I didn't remember putting a particular box in the car.. which was filled with Michelle and Scotts "12 days til Xmas" gifts..... ugh... back we go again!!! Finally, at 5:00... we are on our way.....

We arrived at 6:30 to pick up Scott, Michelles' grandmother, Joan, and her aunt Kim. We arrived at the supper... at 6:45... 15 minutes before the meal started. We couldn't find enough seats for all of us to sit together, but the girls sat at one table and just 2 tables over, Scott and Terry sat. The room was full of about 200 people and there was 5 supper serving stations. How it worked was that the 20 first year culinary students prepared and served 5 different courses of supper. We, as family and friends, went from station to station... eating one course at a time. I only made it to three stations. I wanted to leave room for desserts.
My first stop was the cheese buffet, with fruit, salads (potato, carrot, couscous)
and a strange looking meat loaf thing...
Then the soups. There was 5 kinds of rolls, 3 kinds of soup. I had Minestrone, but they had Caribbean Seafood Chowder with Black Rum, and a cream soup of some sort. The rolls didn't look as good as what Michelle makes, so I passed on them. Later she told me that the cooks made them, and they never turn out well, because they are not BAKERS.... a little snobbery going on there.
One of the stations I missed was the Pasta station where they made your pasta dish right in front of you. The line was so long, I decided to pass. The other was seafood and sushi station. I don't enjoy either so I stayed away. Some of my table mates had the vodka soaked oysters, the tiger shrimp on a stick, and sushi with the Norri on the inside instead of the outside. It was beautiful and they all enjoyed them. Kim made it as far as the pasta bar, and she enjoyed her pasta. Terry, Scott and I met up in the meat station line, and we compared notes on what we had eaten already... and there we were lined up to go through the longest table of food. I couldn't take a picture because it was filled with covered servers, big heat lamps and people all around. They served us pork loin, jerk chicken, spicy haddock, roast turkey and risotto with PEAS (no thanks), twice baked potatoes (my recipe is better), stuffing, gravies, juices, stir fried medley of veggies... beautifully done!!! Now, my plate below doesn't look that appetizing, but truly it was. It was hard to chose, so I had a bit of everything, and the cooks just sort of piled it on my plate.
Then we were on to desserts, tea and coffee. The bakers were in groups of 4, and each group had to prepare, display and serve a list of generic items... 12 tarts, one cheese cake, one coffee cake, two kinds of cookies, cupcakes, creme desserts, a yule log, candies, chocolates. Now, the theme of each table was their own idea, and the types of desserts was also their choice. They prepared a menu, and work schedule and task list to be completed. Michelle was the team leader and found it very challenging to be the boss of your own classmates and it was frustrating at times. She is glad that part is over. Below is my table mates desserts.

He had a cream puff snowman with a chocolate hat. A truffle, a chocolate mousse in a chocolate cup. He was eating his dessert while I ate my turkey/chicken/pork/fish/veggie plate. It was hard to concentrate on my dinner while I stared at his desserts... he chose all his desserts from Michelle's table, mostly because his daughter was also on Michelle's team. I had decided long before I visited the dessert table, that I would chose just 2 desserts, and both would be from Michelle's table.

There were 5 tables, created and manned by the 5 teams, all with the same components but all VERY different. Michelle's Team center piece. Very fun.
I got so excited about my desserts, that I forgot to take a picture of what I chose. I chose a raspberry sorbet dessert with vanilla ice cream, in a candied bowl. I also took a sweet little square raisin tart. The little tart is in the picture above, its pretty small, but amazingly delicious.... the sorbet was fantastic, and the only picture I have is on the plate of desserts of the gentleman next to me, just below, its the round red dessert at the back of his plate.
The bakers answered questions, cut and served their desserts with pride. There were so many, at least 100 different desserts to chose from. I left the dessert area with my two treasures and a cup of tea. Terry went for cheese cakes, from two different tables, and Scott had probably 3 different desserts. Kim had two different cheese cakes. I enjoyed my desserts immensely and wouldn't chose differently, but wished I could have had 3 more!!! I tasted Kim's cheese cake and it was the most amazing creamy cake. I wanted more!!!!
At the end of the night, the cooks and bakers took a bow and received a standing ovation from everyone.
After the crowds started to leave, and before the students were banished to the kitchens for clean up and dish duty, they were released from duty to eat what they wanted. It was fun to see the cooks head for the desserts and the bakers head for the meat, cheese, soup tables.
We got a quick tour of Michelle's kitchen, we met Jean Luc and then we headed off to the Matheson's house, and it didn't take long for me to peel off my pretty duds and put on my PJ's. Michelle called about an hour later, and the boys went and picked her up. She brought home the cheesecake I fell in love with, and a cappachino cake. She said they took home a couple of things each and the rest got thrown out.... can you imagine. Those girls were so sick of sweets they couldn't bring themselves to take anything else.

Please go to Michelle's blog here... to see her side of the day. She has a lot of great pictures.

This is Michelle's blog where she shows how her team made the centerpiece... here.....