Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Years/Fresh Start

What is it about starting a new year that brings about feelings of change and a fresh start? Is it the cracking open of a new month in the agenda, taking the cello wrap off of a new calendar? All those open days. Days to be filled with expectations and possibilities. Any day is good for a fresh start but even I find myself drawn to the opportunities that knock on the dawn of a new year.

Personally I don't really do resolutions. I used to but I am more about entering the new year as who I  want to be not who I was and needing to change. Overall I like who I am. Obviously I know I'm not perfect (who is) but my flaws aren't my focus. My husband and I on the other hand prefer to make goals. Lists of things we wish to acquire or achieve.

Therefore in the spirit of all things starting fresh and new here is a small sample of a few of the things that are popping up on our list of goals this year...

#1 Big House

At the risk of sounding materialistic in that I want a big house let me assure you that is not the case. We need space. Lot's of space. Our boys our getting bigger. Our collection of guitars is growing. Our family and everything that implies is growing. Ideally I would love each of the kids to have their own room, a room for crafting and homeschool and creating. A room for music and all of our musical collections (from instruments to magazines). An office/library area for myself, a quiet place to reflect and work on my own personal pursuits. A nice fenced yard for the children and dog to play in safely. Maybe a fire place and a pool but there I am just getting picky. My point is, space, we need it.

#2 Let's get this rock thing rolling

Daddy and I have both been blessed to be musically gifted. I don't mean to toot our own horns but really we are good. There is a lot in life that I feel we are missing out on by not pursuing a musical career. The time for that is now. I have words and music that I want to share. Since our genre is mostly God Rock I want to get out there and share the love. The new year will bring more shows for us and hopefully more and more musical connections. I don't want to be selling out stadiums or anything but to live comfortably on the profits of our talents would, well, ROCK!!

#3 Blog It

When I started my blog I really wanted to be writing a minimum of 3 posts a week. I am sorely behind. I start many posts and then delete them because I feel they are either poorly written or just not interesting. I want to post more and share more of our lives with my readers. If you have shown up on my blog I want to at least give something good to read. I also figure that as a mother of three with lots going on I'm sure I have a few nuggets of information that others may find useful.

#4 Declutter, streamline, minimize

We have lots of crap. LOTS. Between the toys and books and clothes. Then on top of that the mess of every day living. I feel like we have so much waste in our lives. Keeping things tidy and neat and organized is always something I need to work on. I often get frustrated at always having to step over and around things. Part of our problem is the lack of storage space our home has. This is one of those life long type of projects.

#5 Mom Time

I need more time. Not just time in general but time for myself. I can feel myself loosing a bit of myself every day. I don't mean to sound like a downer because that is not my usual way but I truly do nothing without at least 2 people surrounding me. As I chose this to be number 5 I essentially brought my laptop and coffee upstairs to type. I never do that. It feels nice. I can actually think. I don't need much. Just an hour or two here and there.

#6 The finer things in life...

Again I don't wish to sound materialistic but sometimes you need to be. I feel that sometimes we need nice things in our lives. I'm not talking about extravagant things but things that you use every day. I bought myself a new kettle yesterday and it is nice. Simple, but good looking and of course functional. Why does functional have to utilitarian. If you are using it every day you better enjoy using it. In order to accomplish this it means not acquiring as much useless and meaningless stuff. In the long run I foresee this helping more with  #4.

#7 Keep it off!!!!

With the exception of a set back in the getting rid of weight department in December I am back on the wagon. I am back to counting my points, back to watching what I eat and in general back to getting myself into a healthier space. I won't go on and on about weight loss because I've done that before and that is not what this is about. Rather this is about reaffirming that I am on the right path and I am going to keep it up (and off).

#8 Create More

I really want to make more things. I received some wonderful rotary cutting supplies for Christmas and really want to get back into sewing. I do enjoy it. I need to make a space where I can do that though. I think my first project back at the needle will be a little quilt for Evelyn. I have seen some lovely fabrics and that would be an easy transition. I also wish to learn to knit. I have hand me down needles from my Grandmother (God rest her soul) and I want to do her proud. My first project there will be a little case for Vik's 3DS that Santa brought him (basically just two small dishcloths stitched together-easy right?). Still need to find a good project to make for Max, it's coming though. I have a few ideas up my sleeve.

#9 Tackle the Kitchen

I enjoy cooking but recently making nice things in the kitchen has taken a back seat to life. I've been busy but that is no excuse. Pre made stuff is full of preservatives and cost lots. Cutting corners in the kitchen is dragging us down both physically and financially. I pledge to get back to what I enjoy, cooking and baking. Really you can taste the love. In order to do this my kitchen needs a major overhaul. My stove has issues, my fridge has issues and the cupboards, we won't even go there. It's a major undertaking but I can handle it.

#10 Invest in Ourselves

In the new year I plan to start investing in ourselves more. I have a few top priorities such as finally getting a good family doctor, getting to the dentist and optometrist more, getting CAA coverage for our vehicles, health insurance etc. All of this is about protecting ourselves and being proactive in our own health care. We are very lucky to live in a country where those things are available and accessible to us. I feel that investing in ourselves now is part of securing our future.

I think that is a good list to start. There are more little things but those are more things I WANT not really need. Tonight the children and daddy and I will sit together and ring in the new year and look at our goals for ourselves. Maybe tonight will be a good night to watch The Secret.

I will close now and wish you all a very prosperous and love filled New Year. Ring it in baby.

Friday, 23 December 2011

The Countdown Is On

It's down to the wire. One more sleep until Christmas Eve and only two more sleeps until Christmas morning. I know this not only because I love Christmas but because my kids won't let me forget it either. There is one chocolate left in the Calendar and only one number left on the countdown. I know it's the same time every year and as cliche as it sounds I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S CHRISTMAS ALREADY!!!!

I still have a small list of things we need to do. Basically some laundry and tidying up the house. There are still a few present to wrap and other than that I am all set. I am a lucky duck that going to my parents' farm means not worrying about cooking, baking or hosting. Don't get me wrong, I help out when I'm there, we all do, but the big planning goes to my mum every year. She has a system. We don't mess with it.

Tomorrow morning will be spent doing the packing. That in itself is a major feat. I really don't know how we will get everything to the farm. Just listing it sounds crazy: three kids, 2 adults, mountains of gifts, 2-3 suitcases, a dog, laptop, random technology and countless other things I need a list to keep track of. Really is that it? I think I'm missing a partridge in a pear tree or a few lords a leaping.

I "plan" to have everything ready to get into the van in the afternoon. I have scoped out the best Mass time to be 4:00 pm at a Parish close by so we will get ourselves to that. After Mass operation pack the van commences and then upon completion we will begin the journey to Christmas Magic Wonderland (a.k.a. the farm).

So many goodies await us. Sweets treats. Savoury bites. For those who like to indulge, some home made liquid libations. Christmas Eve courtesy of my mum will be fabulous and I really can't wait. That is when our family magic really begins. There will be much laughter, singing and joking.

The kiddies will get into their new Christmas jammies, open their small Christmas Eve gift and of course leave out cookies and milk for Santa. Since our family is getting bigger my childhood room does not fit us five well so this year we will hunker down into the basement to get a good sleep before the wrapping paper carnage the next morning.

This is how it goes every year. I wouldn't change a bit of it. It's tradition.

I am especially excited because my older sister is home this year for the holiday. Last year was the first year she was gone and her presence was definitely missed. My sisters and I are like a trifecta of fun and when a piece is missing you feel it. I am so happy she is home.

I love Christmas and I love my family. Spending it together is the epitome of happiness.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Brunch at Hotel Fort Garry

This year marked our 5th annual family brunch at the Hotel Fort Garry. This historic hotel was Winnipeg’s first luxury hotel and every Sunday their brunch continues to convey this feeling of decadence through both taste and visual appeal. From the always full glass of orange juice to the chocolate fountain and every delicacy in between this hotel delivers. 
Every year the menu changes slightly while some staples can always be found and after five years we have all perfected our best game plans. Mine includes starting with the cold salads and the baron of beef while my husband prefers to create his base layer out of the desserts. 
Honestly though words can not do justice the awesomeness of this brunch buffet and since a picture can tell a thousand words I will leave up to a few snapshots to give a glimpse. 

Normally I don't do the "breakfast" and "lunch" items at the same time but since I had three kids waiting I got as much as I could in each trip. Here we have an omelette (with cheese, onions, peppers, mushrooms and ham), some top grade roast beef, steamed veggies, beef tips in some kind of wine gravy, roasted chicken in another kind of yummy sauce, arctic char in yet another sauce, hash browns and bacon. 

This is my cold plate with appetizer type fare. I chose some red potato salad, shrimp and cocktail sauce, a couple fancy crackers (one had thyme in it), a lettuce mix with a champagne vinaigrette, a pasta and bacon and green bean cold salad, and then some random grapes, pickles, dates and apricots. 

Viktor scored some cold slab ice cream and gummy bears from the dessert section.

I did all my sweets together. There is a waffle with raspberries and whipped cream, a cherry danish, some kind of chocolate dessert square and a short bread. Of course there were some chocolate fountain items as well: strawberry, pineapple, pound cake and 2 coconut covered marshmallows. 

These shrimp are a coveted item. They make only a few at the time, deep fried fresh and are almost always gone. I almost thought I was out of luck but as I was about to head to my table I saw the chef bringing fresh ones from the kitchen. I turned on my heel and chased him to their station. I may or may not have cut someone off. I grabbed three, because that's how I roll.

Here are a few pix of the brunch set up...

 This is the view of the main area from the balcony. The tree is surrounded by the hot chaffing dishes containing everything from beef tips to hash browns to eggs benedict. 

A view from behind the omelette and carver stations 
(they featured roast beef, roast turkey and pea meal bacon).

A few close ups of the Christmas tree and displays.


 The breads display 

 Any perfect brunch isn't complete without a chocolate fountain and a vast array of desserts. Oh the desserts...

On a high note (as if the brunch itself wasn’t enough) the children were on their top behavior. Sure they popped out of their chairs a couple times but for the most part they got their fill and had fun sitting beside various family members throughout our time there. Couldn’t have asked for more. 
If you are ever in Winnipeg on a weekend and have the opportunity (and $40 per person) I highly recommend going. You will leave full and satisfied and thoroughly delighted. 

Monday, 12 December 2011

I definitely smell a pork product of some kind...

Bacon was on sale this week at our local grocery store so we scooped up a few packs and have been making some yummy dishes featuring bacon. There was the traditional breakfast fare of bacon and eggs, bacon and cheese on toast, corn chowder and a new one, pasta carbonara. The corn chowder was a recipe I had made before and as usual it turned out super yummy. The pasta carbonara recipe was brand new to me and was uber tasty. It was simple and quick to make and best of all the boys gobbled it up.

The original recipe came from so you can head over there to see it. I did however make a few minor modifications so I will share with you here how I made the pasta carbonara.

Pasta Carbonara

1 lb of dry pasta noodles
1 tbsp olive oil
8 slices of bacon, diced*
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 dry white wine**
4 eggs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup cream
pinch of salt and pepper to taste
garnish with: fresh chopped parsley and parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Cook bacon. Set bacon aside and pat dry with paper towel. Pour bacon fat out of pan however save approximately 2 tbsp of bacon fat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to bacon fat. Toss in onion and garlic. Sauté until onions are translucent and add bacon back to pan. 

Add 1/4 cup of white wine to bacon and onion.

Whisk the 4 eggs and add the parmesan cheese and cream to eggs.

On low to med heat add the bacon/onion mixture to the noodles and toss to coat. 

Add the egg/cheese mixture to noodles/bacon and continue to toss until the sauce is cooked and heated through. 

Place the pasta on plates and add a dash of salt and pepper and garnish as you like. 

*I like to use a scissor and cut the bacon up directly into the pan
**I substituted plain apple juice in place of the wine

You may notice that there are three different types of pasta there. Spaghetti, fettucini and penne. I didn't have enough of any one kind so I used the last remnants of each and it worked great.

I love to serve bread along any soup or pasta dish (as if there wasn't enough carbs already) so we had a nice french bread along with it. A light salad would go just as nice if you are trying to watch your waistline (in which case you probably aren't going to be making this carbonara anyways).

Bon Appetit!!!

(Oh and if you didn't get the joke in the post title you need to watch some Wayne's World)

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Getting in the Spirit

I am currently sitting at my computer (obviously) drinking a cup of Santa's Secret tea (from David's Tea) while Elf is playing in the background and my oldest is reading a Christmas book to brother and sister. There is a pine scented candle burning in the kitchen and if everything plays out well today then the smell of freshly baked sugar cookies will also be wafting from that general direction.

These Fruits & Passion candles are amazing.

The Christmas books and movies have been in heavy rotation already...

... and we have been enjoying some lovely Christmas themed bath goodies (melting snowman bath melt anyone?). 

Some of our LUSH goodies. Missing are the melting snowman and snow cake soap.

Make no doubt too that the Christmas music has been in full swing as well, from both iTunes and my own fingers. I have been playing like a fiend from my new Muppets Christmas Carol piano book.

Am I in the spirit? Hell yeah!!!

There should be no question now as to where we stand in the whole Christmas thing. We are soooooo totally Christmas people. Everything about the whole holiday gets me giddy. The sights, the sounds, the smells. We also observe both the secular and spiritual aspects of Christmas. Family traditions play heavily into our celebrations from the beginning of Advent to Epiphany. 

Speaking of Advent, we started our Advent calendar and so far the boys are loving it which actually surprises me as marzipan isn't often a kiddie flavour. I had secretly hoped they wouldn't like it so I could enjoy a fine chocolate every morning with my coffee but no biggie, I enjoy seeing them enjoy. The calendar we have also goes from 1-24 so I made up a little countdown so now every time I am asked how long until Christmas I direct them to the countdown. 

The marzipan Advent Calendar from Niederegger in Germany 
and that box of nougat didn't even last a day.

So what it looks like my 5 yo could have made it. That is about as artsy with markers as I can get.

The Santa letters are written and waiting to be mailed. It was pretty fun actually. I made up a little template for each of them to fill out. Tomorrow we shall go to the post office to stamp it and mail it and then await anxiously for a response from the man in red. 

Last night the Christmas tree came out. Every year there is a debate on whether to get a real tree or use the el fakeo we already have. Since I had a bee in my bonnet to do the tree last night (heaven only knows why)  Daddy won by default and el fakeo is in prime living room real estate. We don't have a fancy tree or ornaments but they are all special. Each ornament was either a gift or bought very specifically. This year I am so jazzed about the Starbucks ornaments I got. 

I love my Twilight Ornament (L), the Elvis for Daddy (middle) and one of the Starbucks ornaments (R).

While I have chipped away at the decorating block in the sense of having the tree and some garlands up we still have lots to do. I haven't even put up my village yet!!! This is the first time the tree is up before the village. I'm just having trouble figuring out where to put the dang thing. I keep thinking on the top of the piano as that is really the only spot it can go, I'm just procrastinating on taking off everything that is already on the piano. 

Seeings as how I still have an ever growing list of holiday preparations and my five year old has tired of reading and wants to bake I shall close this post now and get my heiny into the kitchen.