Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Girls Weekend in Victoria, November 2013

Back in November I had the chance to get away with a group of wonderful ladies. These were all women I'd served with up at Anvil Island - some of them on Program with me, and some of them in leadership. We had all connected and enjoyed each other at camp and wanted to continue this away. It was basically a weekend filled with laughter, food, great conversation and beautiful views. 

The views from our suite

And of course, our PERSONAL HOT TUB. Are you kidding me with this??!!

We escaped to Victoria on Vancouver Island, a place that is close to my heart. We stayed over looking the harbour, and walked on Dallas Road, and it was a perfectly lovely time. Especially the times in the hot tub over looking the water. Yes, especially that. 

It is a rare gift to go away with a group of women and enjoy every single one of them. To know that if I ended up sitting next to any of them at dinner or in the hot tub we would have much to talk about is a beautiful thing. Some of these women I have known longer than others, but all of them are women I would be proud to call friends. 

The group of us

Adelyn, Gina, Margot, Lindsey & Shena

Margot & Lindsey

Me & Gina

Trying to get a photo of Margot, and the sisters (Shena & Leah)
It was tricky.

We ventured out to shop and eat and walk - we got caught in the Santa Clause parade trying to get home. That sounds funner than it was. 

We ate very well

And I finally like Red Wine!

These ladies make even a ferry trip fun

All in all it was perfect. 

And, though I don't have picture proof, the weekend started off with an evening with my Nana in Victoria and a day spent with her and later my Auntie Lesley. I had a most lovely time to start my weekend also!

And, also, here's a picture of me walking with Lesley-Ann - she asked me to go for a walk... I was thinking like an hour...it was two. My knee hurt by the end, haha....but it was a gorgeous walk and a great conversation. Thanks for pushing me out of my comfort zone, Les!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Menu Plan Monday: Looking back at Christmas, and forward to New Years

Monday, the 30th: Chicken Pot Pie (from holiday leftovers) 
Sunday we had another big family dinner here - so between Christmas and Sunday I have lots of leftovers. I have everything from veggies to stuffing and a lot of meat! I'm going to turn that all into Chicken Pot Pie when I get home. I have two refridgerated pie crusts I'm going to roll out to use, and inside will be a mix of leftovers with some corn and green beans added. The basic recipe comes from M is for Mama's recipe, but it is always a bit different when I'm using holiday leftovers as the filling. either way, mmmmm. I'm back at work today so it's nice to know there's an easy dinner waiting. 

Tuesday, the 31st:  Tortilla Soup
I work, and we're out for dinner but I'm going to make a batch of Tortilla Soup for lunch (the night before) and leave that for our house to eat over the day. It's my Brother in Law Colin's birthday, so we're having dinner with thema nd some friends - then Paul and I are heading back here and our friends are invited over for New Years Eve just to hang out and celebrate together. The name of the game is low key - rather than stressing myself out to make a great spread, I'm just throwing together a few things I have around the house (mmmmcrab drip) and calling it a party. 

Wednesday, January 1st: Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken, with Fried Rice. 
New Years Day always seems like a good time for Chinese food for some reason - so I'm going to attempt one final Chinese Meal - and this will either be the start of great chinese food or the nail in the coffin. Every time I try to make Chinese food I'm disappointed, so we'll see if I can make this one work!

Thursday, the 2nd: Chicken Alfredo Bubble Up with roasted vegetables
Since I'm working Thursday I will get the dinner prepped the day before - we're having a bubble up with leftover turkey. The Bubble Up's are always super popular around the house, and a great way to use up leftover turkey without feeling like you're having turkey AGAIN. Double win. I have a friend joining us for dinner, so I wanted it to be something tasty; bubble up's always fit the bill. 

Friday, the 3rd: Leftover Mashup
Friday we both have the day off - we will do some house projects but also we will be visiting with some old time friends that I haven't seen in almost 10 years. I'm really looking forward to it.  With a few parties being had there will undoubtedly be some leftovers around, so I'm going to take those and turn them into a meal so they get used up. 

Saturday, the 4th: YOYO (You're On Your Own)
We're heading out to spend the day with our friends the Froese's - we'll have lunch and dinner with them and all contribute. We'll be playing board games for the day - I'm very excited. 

Sunday, the 5th: Pork Ramen Stirfry
We didn't get to this the week before, so I've kept it in for this week. We'll see how it goes! We have church in the afternoon and nothing all day - this feels like the real final day of the holidays. 

In Review:
I mentioned a review of the weekend and Monday here earlier. 

Tuesday, the 24th: YOYO (You're On Your Own)  [Morgan Family Dinner]
Christmas celebration with the Morgan's! It was a day full of food and fun and family. I ate way too much, and got to enjoy Amaretto on the rocks (always a favorite). We played TriBond and Scattergories (where I was not a good sport) and I got to read for a while too. It was a pretty perfect day. I got a necklace and a new board game - and lots of fun stocking stuff, and some stuff for the BBQ! We slept there as well that night and as always, loved our time. 

Resting at Dad & Carol's

Salem, our nephew on the Morgan side, being adorable as a lion

Paul, his sister Katie, and I

CHRISTMAS DAY, Wednesday, the 25th: 
We woke up atthe Morgans and got to open our first ever stockings from each other. In my family we always did this in bed, since stockings appear at the foot of your bed while you sleep. Deep sleeping (sleeps like the dead) Paul Morgan even managed to wake up before me and put mine out - love! Then we all enjoyed breakfast together before Paul and I headed back to Vancouver. We went straight to my sisters house to open gifts with my family

The aprons I made

The boys showing off their new aprons - never quite sure which camera to look at

After that we immediately headed home to rest for a bit and open our own gifts. Paul was so kind and generous and I felt so loved and thought of. And he liked what I got him - we were both very happy. We then opened gifts with our housemate Duncan and everyone seemed pleased again. We rested for a while reading and enjoying gifts, then started on the meal prep. We had 17 people planning to come by 3 or 4 for dinner and I got that Turkey in by 2:30 - shockingly it was ready by 4:30! I swear, Turkey bags are the way to go every time!!!

We had Turkey (I cooked 2!), Ham, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Roasted Vegetables, Maple Roasted Vegetables and stuffing. It was so tasty and we were sooo full by the end of it. Games were played all afternoon and evening and there was a lot of laughing and poking fun. We were up until almost midnight with some of the younger folk. It was a perfect day. 

Thursday, the 26th: Breakfast Enchiladas and Holiday Leftovers
Our friends Hanne and Drian spent Christmas night at our place, so we got to wake up with friends in the house! The Maxwell's came over by 11am and we all had breakfast together. The older guys headed off to run errands and the girls stayed in, layed on couches and watched Elf. I made a gingerbread Train with Connor and Austin - it was a wonderful, relaxing day. 

The finished train

Connor standing beside the creation

Afterwards I had coffee with my Auntie Lesley (always a treat), then headed over to meet up with Paul at his Aunt Janice's house. We got to hang out with the Friesens and Morgan's and even his Auntie Louanne, when she arrived from Oregon. Lovely. 

Friday, the 27th: YOYO (You're On Your Own) TONS of leftovers in fridge
Friday was going to be a relaxing day around the house - maybe work on some projects. We slept in - I woke up at at 9am but laid in bed reading next to Paul who slept right in until 11:30am. When he woke up he said, "We should go to Whistler". So we did. I hadn't been to Whistler since I was 14 - and even then I went in the spring for a band retreat, so I didn't really experience Whistler. All I remembered of it was that they had a Le Chateau store. We packed a lunch and hit the road by 12:30. We stopped a few times: Park Royal for Old Navy's buy one get one for a dollar sale and Squamish's Walmart for Washer Fluid, socks and candy bars. We really enjoyed the drive up the sea-to-sky highway - not only is it pretty, but we also loved chatting with each other. We talked about everything from possible baby names (no, we're not pregnant yet) and future plans - all sorts of stuff. It was a lovely time. When we got to Whistler we walked the village and window shopped and eventually stopped for dinner at a cute pub - we ate outside and had a great time. We headed home and watched Home Videos (Paul promised to finally watch my family home videos - I've let him off the hook thus far but it was finally time) and we enjoyed a quiet night at home. 

Amsterdam Cafe Pub

Of course we wait until nightfall for the photo - so we're those black blurs!

Saturday, the 28th: YOYO (You're On Your Own) [Mitchell Family dinner]
Saturday felt like it started so early, when in reality it wasn't until 9:30am that my alarm went - it felt soo early though. I got up for a haircut, then headed over to have lunch with my friend Anacat. 

Anacat helped me step out of my comfort zone with Indian food for lunch!

After lunch I got to rest at home for half an hour, then took some time to process some meat I'd bought a few days earlier, and set out a dessert tray to bring to dinner that night. Thankfully our fridge/freezer was full of desserts! Then it was off to family dinner - there were about 26 or so of us and it was lovely. My friend Candace even joined us, which was so extra fun. We all sat around and chatted all evening - Paul and I were home until after midnight. Then I stayed up and read for a couple hours, then Lyndsay came home, so we stayed up and chatted until 3:45am....at which point I realized I could put the pork in the crockpot for lunch the next day. I was asleep by 4am and definitely a little tired the next day. 
Peaceful chatting around the room

Candace and I!

Sunday, the 29th: Balsamic Glazed Porkloin
Sunday we hosted a big lunch at my place for my family to do christmas with my Grandpa. I made Balsamic Glazed Porkloin, and my favorite Maple Roasted Vegetables. I also made roasted Broccoli and Asparagus, served some sundried tomato pesto pasta Jenna made and whipped up a stuffing dish. I had a bunch of mushrooms to use up, and a big batch of gravy, as well as some dry-ish leftover stuffing. I added dark meat turkey to the stuffing, then sauteed mushrooms in the grave and combined the whole bunch with some parmesan. Sooo tasty. It was a big hit. 

Then we were on to church - my cousin Jonathan preached on the Prodigal Son, but not about the runaway son, rather he focused on the older brother, the religious side of us. It was an amazing sermon and really convicting. Sam sang a beautiful song that was very moving and then worship was awesome. It was great all round. Then it was off to the Mitchell's for another family dinner, just for fun. We played Things in a Box and laughed. I left early since I worked in the morning and spent some time quietly reading in bed before having a great sleep. 

And that brings me to now....as the Christmas Season is brought to a close and it is time to take down the decor I keep looking at my little Christmassy bar and wish I could figure out how to make it all last a little bit longer. There's something about gold ribbons, red berries and candy cane stripes that make it all seem to magical. Especially as much of this display is gifts! My sweet husband surprised me with the gold tray and chargers - I'd been eyeing them at target for months. And he got me the little clear vase from Crate & Barrel. And our great friends Irene and TC gave us the owl cocktail stirrer's for Christmas - so this little vignette is not only festive but full of love too. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

It's beginning...

   It is, indeed, beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Thursday night marked the start of my holidays (despite the fact that I do work today - but it's the only day this week and it's a slow work day). We had a group of friends over to celebrate Christmas together before we all headed our separate ways for the holidays. The plan was for it to be an easy casual gathering - no real fuss from me and no stress for others...shockingly this actually happened! Friends came over when they could and left when they needed to. I only put out a small amount of food (restraint!) and people brought an appropriate amount of food and drink to contribute. We ate, we talked, we laughed. The mood was cheery and relaxed. I was happy as could be to have so many wonderful friends in one place. 

   Also I tried out two new recipes that evening; 1. Crockpot Peppermint Hot Chocolate and 2. Homemade Mac and Cheese. Both were HUGE successes and I made both again that very weekend. The Mac and Cheese was such a wonderful dose of warm comfort food and the Hot Chocolate was so easy but still tasty. 

   And to make the whole thing even better, my dear friend Candace and her husband Earl were visiting and were spontaneously available for the party. Not only did they join us for the party (and were quite the hit - my friends all loved them) but then they stayed the night. The next day Earl did all the dishes with some help from Candy and I. He was speaking my love language for sure - dishes are such a pain to me! Usually Paul does them but he'd fallen asleep an hour into the party and missed most of it. Friday was the best possible start to the holidays I could have imagined. We had a snow day! Not just frost like normal, but actual snow! While it snowed we could see kids making snowmen in the school yard out back, and got to watch people trampling through the snow in the streets out front. We stayed inside, drank warm christmassy drinks and chatted. I got to catch up with Candace all morning. 

   Candace has been my friend ever since I first met her in September 2009 at Langara College when I was a Campus Minister. I had been praying for a fellow campus minister (and friend) and I was at a christian club meeting when she walked in and introduced herself as a campus minister! Those are pretty rare people to find in Canada and I knew God was answering my prayer. We connected fairly quickly after that: I introcued her to all my friends, and some of them introduced her to Earl - they started dating and fell in love, guaranteeing that she wasn't moving away back to the southern states, making me very happy. She lived with us for the last 4 months before getting married (an awesome wedding)and I got to coordinate her wedding, make her bouquets (with help) and throw her her wedding shower and stagette. It was such a joy to be such a big part of her special day. Shortly after that her and Earl moved to Ottawa to follow the dreams God had put on their heart and sadly through a twist of terrible fate we haven't seen each other since! Each time she has returned we have been out of the country - I even visited her home state, a month before she was there. We have been missing each other for far too long! To have her in my house for a full 24 hours was a HUGE treat. It felt like old times. What a treat to know that despite years apart our friendship can pick up just where we left off - a strong, deep, rewarding friendship. I've always felt so blessed to have such a friend as Candace. She's a keeper for sure!

After a couple hours of girls only conversation Earl emerged from working downstairs and Paul returned home from a morning of work (work being a loose term since his day at school involved pelting teens with snow balls and playing games) and the four of us had lunch together and then spent the afternoon chatting and playing board games. It felt like a perfect holiday day. 

Candace and Earl left by 5:30, Paul and I cuddled on the couch and watched some TV until I left for a party with some girlfriends a few blocks away. I headed home fairly early as Paul and I were planning a morning trip to Bellingham for groceries, and on the last Saturday before the holidays we wanted to ensure we hit the border nice and early. We got up at 6am and were on the road by 6:30am. We only waited 8! minutes in the border lineup and had great success at WinCo, Target, Trader Joes and Costco (USA and Canada!). We were home by 1:30 with a full car (and a 30 minute border wait on our way home). We unloaded and I got to have coffee with Rachel before heading over to my sisters house for a International Student Christmas Dinner. 

Dinner was great - it was Jenna's first solo holiday dinner and she did an awesome job! Great food, and more than enough of it. I was so proud of my little sister on Saturday. The party was great, we were visited by 2 students from Langara, 2 of our international friends from church and most of Jenna's household. It was a great night - and when my back acted up I took the opportunity to lay down on Austin's bed and got to read a bunch of stories to him, which helped fill my "cuteness" quota for a while. 

We headed home around 6:30 as my back was acting up quite a bit. We put away the rest of the groceries and then reorganized the fridge for efficiency (very important at the holidays) and then were happily catching up on week's of SNL by 8. While we watched I also worked on some iron-on's for Connor and Austin's christmas gift - personalized aprons to cook with mom and auntie. I wanted to keep them from being girly and I'm very pleased with how they turned out. All in all we enjoyed a very lazy evening at home - lounging, movies, tv, snacks, drinks...it was perfect and we were so very content. 

The aprons

Sunday we had our friends Kathleen and Prakash over for breakfast. I made these Breakfast Enchiladas which were a BIG hit. I will make them again for sure. We spent another perfect holiday day with them - playing board games, chatting, and enjoying being together. 

After that our housemate Duncan brought his new girlfriend home for dinner. We were very excited to meet Kait and I can say she is lovely. We so enjoyed having her over and she let us know that Paul is famous at UBC, as she immediately recognized him from a picture of him in the History building. Woot woot. I made Man-Pleasing Chicken for dinner as well as Maple Mustard Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Parmesan Rice, salad and roasted zucchini. This maple sweet potato dish is always such a hit! I usually add diced up carrots and brussell sprouts and seriously, despite the fact that I usually hate all three of those veggies I just LOVE it. I also don't have maple in the house, but use honey instead, which works just as well. We had a great night chatting, the 6 of us. 

Then it was time to head out for a church Banquet at the Alpen club (where we had our Wedding Reception). We were all glammed up and had a wonderful time. There was caroling, and a dance party and so many friends to talk with. 

And I found an outfit twin!

Tonight is a dinner with our students at our place - we have some little gifts to give them and we wanted to celebrate one time all together. Then Paul and I head out to Surrey for Christmas with the Morgan's, and back into Vancouver Christmas day for a Mitchell & Friends christmas. It will be busy but so so so gloriously perfect. 

Merry Christmas to all! I'm off to Costco one last time - must be crazy!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Plan

Rather than do an official Menu Plan Monday, I thought I would do a Holiday Plan for you....and really for me, since getting it all done helps keep it organized in my head. 

Thursday, the 19th: Mac & Cheese, plus party food
We're having a small casual christmas gathering with some of our friends. First I'll make Mac & Cheese for the house, and to put out for anyone that wants some. I'll also be putting out some smoked salmon (that we got at work as a gift), cheese, meats and crackers for nibbling. We also have many sweets leftover from a week of parties. But that's all! Normally I go so overboard with food and I refuse today! Casual! Though I will be making a batch of this (Peppermint Hot Chocolate) in the crockpot. 

We also have dear friends, the Maynards, spending the night Thursday and I get to hang out with Candace all day Friday. I could not be more excited. 

I have plans later on in the evening, so does Paul but we're home for dinner first. Then I'm going to a girl hangout with some lovely ladies

Saturday, the 21st:  Christmas Dinner at Jenna's house
Bright and early, Paul and I head to America for a final christmas grocery run, and we'll swing by Costco Canada on our way home. We won't need to go shopping again until after Christmas - Praise the Lord. Then we're off to my sister's house for a Christmas Dinner with International Students - it should be a fun time. After that we'll be home by about 8pm and have a stay at home christmas date together. Also, for sure, some SNL. 

Sunday, the 22nd: Man Pleasing Chicken, Roast Veggies & Rice.
Sunday we're having friends over for brunch. I'm making breakfast Enchiladas. We're hanging out with them and playing games in the day. For dinner I'll be making Man Pleasing Chicken, then we're heading out to our ENV Church Christmas party afterwards. I'll be bringing homemade butterscotch/peanut butter fudge and peppermint bark. 

Monday, the 23rd: House Christmas Dinner: Mexican Style
Monday is my last day of work. Then it's home for a House Christmas Dinner. Our house LOVES Mexican food so that's what we'll be having. Not sure which type yet. Here are the top  contenders:
Then late on the 23rd we leave for Surrey to stay with the Morgan's (Paul's Dad and Step mom). We will be there until the 25th. 

Tuesday, the 24th: YOYO (You're On Your Own)  [Morgan Family Dinner]
Christmas celebration with the Morgan's! This will be a great, relaxing and fun day. I can't wait. Big dinner that night as well. 

CHRISTMAS DAY, Wednesday, the 25th: Christmas Dinner at our place
We wake up with the Morgans and enjoy breakfast together, then Paul and I head back to Vancouver to host dinner at our house. I'll put a turkey in (in a leisurely fashion), Paul and I will open gifts together and then we'll await our guests! We have quite a few people coming.
  1. Paul
  2. Me
  3. Dad
  4. Mom
  5. Jessie (our student)
  6. Joanna (her friend)
  7. Duncan (our housemate)
  8. Jenna (My sister)
  9. Colin (Brother in law)
  10. Connor (nephew)
  11. Austin (nephew)
  12. Finja (Jenna & Colin's student)
  13. Xing (Jenna & Colin's student)
  14. Jason (church friend)
  15. Auntie Lesley (my mom's sister)
  16. Hanne (church friend)
  17. Drian (church friend)
And those are just the "for sure's". Phew!

It will be a day filled with fun, family, relaxing and food. We'll play games and hopefully watch a holiday movie - probably Elf. 

Thursday, the 26th: Holiday Leftovers! 
This is relaxing holiday time - no plans just free time! We hope to see a lot of the family over the next few days as well as complete some projects

Friday, the 27th: Chinese Food - Baked Sweet & Sour Chicken, with Fried Rice. 
Another relaxing day, followed by Chinese Food at our house. Always a fun addition. 

Saturday, the 28th: YOYO (You're On Your Own) [Mitchell Family Dinner]
A Mitchell Family dinner, following a day of hanging out family. I can't wait!

Sunday, the 29th: Pork Ramen Stirfry
The last day of the holidays for me - church, and an easy dinner.

Projects to work on over the Holidays:
With time off, comes the desire to finally finish the projects that have weighed on my mind. I have a goal to accomplish four projects.
  1. Greek Key Stencilled Art (for our bedroom)
  2. Completing a Miniature Mounted Menagerie
  3. Painting my bedroom nightstand turquoise
  4. Sewing Cloth Napkins to make Pillow Cases

Monday, December 9, 2013

Menu Plan Monday: December

Menu Plan Monday with Laura at Org Junkie

Upcoming week: 
Monday: Leftovers
Tonight is the only night we're home with no plans between now and Christmas, so after an easy dinner I will be folding and sorting laundy, putting away the extra christmas decor and at 8:30 meeting up with our chinese student Jessie to do some Christmas Baking. 

Tuesday: Salmon, Rice, Roasted Veg & Garlic bread
It's our last lifegroup so we're having a party and a nice dinner together - one of our LG guys, Thomas, caught some Salmon this summer so we're eating that. So excited. 

Wednesday:  Mexican Skillet Pasta
We have a womens ministry meeting, so I needed something easy to make, and this seemed warm and comfortable to eat as well. 

Thursday: Tuna Casserole
This is the first meal I learned to cook when I was a kid. It screams comfort food to me. I haven't made it in years and years. 

Friday: Paul Meal
I'm heading to the Island for my mom's 60th birthday so Paul will be in charge of dinner - probably french toast or chilli. 

Saturday: YOYO (You're On Your Own) 
Both Paul and I are away for the day - I'm still on the island and I think he'll be hunting.

Sunday: Rainbow's Bridal Shower: Party Food
Sunday we will be home mid day, just in time for church. Paul's preaching and I'm hosting - then we're hosting a bridal shower at our house after church - so there will be lots of food!

Reviews from last week:
This was good but not amazing - I ended up adding a jar of cheese sauce and that really helped - everyone also added more once it was on their plates - ketchup for me and hot sauce for the rest of the house. In the future I'd add taco seasoning to the meat to start. 

Tuesday: Slow Cooker Beef Short Ribs, served with roasted veg & mini Pommes Anna
I made these short ribs...and while I was just ok with them my house LOVED them, so I guess that's a win! I made this meal with rice instead of potatoes since that's what I had on hand. We had the McCarthy's join us spontaneously and it was lovely. 

Wednesday: Mexican Bubble Up
Everyone loved this and I made extra to send to a friend with a small baby - always make sure to cook it long enough, it's not great if there is runny buscuit in the middle. 

Thursday: Chinese Roasted Pork with roasted vegetables & Parmesan Rice.
I ended up doing a simple yoshida pork instead, and kept the roasted vegetables simple with parmesan rice. My nana loved the meal and so did everyone at home. 

Friday: YOYO
Paul and I went out to the VIP theatre in Coquitlam for Hunger Games: Catching Fire and LOVED both the movie and the seating. If you're paying with scene it points, then the movie tickets are the same price as normal tickets! Score!!

Saturday: I made a giant brunch at 11am, then pulled out italian meats, and ukranian suasages, crackers, cheese and pickles....there was more than enough food for our students and our guests. 
This is the day we celebrate Paul - we had 12 friends over for brunch, then the guys went to a beer tasting at 2, while the ladies relaxed at our place, the guys rejoined us just before 4, and they all stayed until about 6 playing games, eating and talking. It was perfection. Our house felt so wonderfully full. Then Paul and I headed out to his work Christmas party, which was also very fun. 

Sunday: Morgan Family Dinner / YOYO
Paul and I gobbled up leftover eggs from the party the day before and headed to Culloden to watch my cousin Jonathan preach - so good! Then we came home and did house stuff before heading out to a Morgan Family Dinner for Paul and Kevin's birthdays. A wonderful, wonderful night. Carol puts together amazing dinners and the time was great. 


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