Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Just write

I've got a list ten items long to blog about...and I want to do each topic justice...and so my blog reminds quiet. That bugs me. I love writing and documenting life and I hate how long it takes to do that justice! Especially if I want to edit the pictures to look attractive, which is half the fun of documenting life! So in an effort to get writing again I thought I would sit down and just write. 

First off, here's what's on my mind to write about:

  1. Crystal's Shower/Stagetter and her and John's epic wedding
  2. Steph's Wedding and my Portland Weekend
  3. Bedroom makeover
  4. Sewing Cabinet turned Bar Stand Makeover
  5. Victoria Girls weekend
  6. USA Shopping, a "How to"
  7. Christmas Decor thoughts
  8. Nancy's Visit
  9. Weddings 2013 by the numbers
  10. Faith and Tension in marriage. 
And those are just the topics that keep coming to mind! Let along the stuff that will now continue to be added to it. 

So rather than tackle any of those today I will talk. I've discovered a new website called Julie's Eats & Treats. If you haven't gone there for recipes you should probably change that. I haven't made one recipe from here that wasn't awesome. Especially her bubble up's. Oh the goodness. 

Man, has life been great lately. Hectic but great. It's been a steady stream of birthdays and gatherings and out of town visits and out of town visitors, church meetings and parties, crafts and room makeovers, food and exercise. It's been lovely. This week is filled with more birthday celebrations, time with favorite female friends, an overnight Black Friday Shopping trip with Ana and Ereka (what?!?!) and helping some great friends move, and Chapel and an 80's roller skating birthday party. Seriously, it could hardly get better. 

The following week is more of the same - out of town friends visiting, christmas decoration, dinner with my Nana, Paul's birthday (a date, a brunch, a family dinner) and church. 

On top of that I really like my job. it's not exactly stimulating in every moment (especially not these last two weeks - we've been working on a crazy tedious task) but I love the work environment, I love my boss, I like my coworkers a lot and I love the office. The work itself is still interesting. It's win win. And it pays me, so that's cool. The other day my coworker/friend Irene and I gave our boss some flowers and wine for being awesome....while she was out we put it on her desk. She came back from being out with a box of chocolate for both of us for being awesome. What sort of awesome is that?

Have you heard of Songza? If no, please go download the app on your phone right now. It's awesome. Great music, great! 

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the Christmas Season - for me it's what really starts it off - tomorrow is the Sutton Place's Gingerbread Luncheon. This is my third year going and I could hardly be more excited. Gingerbread making with other professional grown adults, while we drink christmassy drinks and then eat an amazing lunch. I could it not be awesome? 

And on that I'm going to head off - more tedious task to come. I think I will be dreaming about this task before long.

Monday, November 25, 2013

On Blogging, or a thank you for not making me write only to myself

I have been blogging since I was 16. I have archived blogs back to when I was 21, mostly over on live journal. I’m very glad none of those blogs are linked to my current blog, since I was fairly ridiculous back then.

I started blogging because one of my groups of friends in high school all blogged. We would all go to the same event and then go home and write about it and wait to read how everyone else described the event. I loved that we all had such different ideas or thoughts on the same events.

Then we all moved away for school and blogging was a great way to capture life. This way you didn’t have to write a bunch of email, but we could all be updated.

I continued blogging after that because I loved having a record of life – I loved being able to look back at what I was doing earlier.

In the past year blogging has gone from a place to the daily comings and going to a place to record life and be creative. I get to express my thoughts and opinions. Show crafts and food. I get to share the things I’m passionate about, and document life. I love that.

Part of the reason I blog is because I love to write. My sister and I used to exchange long, ridiculous emails. These made me laugh and laugh. Jenna always said I was the best writer she knew, this coming from someone who hates reading was a bit compliment! So I continue to capture my thoughts. I know I am not someone who could make up stories or write fiction, but I love to document what I know.

When I was in creative writing for plays, I found it hard to make up stories, but I could easily take a rough outline from something that had happened and weave that into a real story. Every play I wrote was based off of something I had experienced or heard – I loved to flesh things out and make them come to life.

I love to figure out how to take the events I’ve been to and let you have a glimpse of what they were like – I don’t think I accomplish that as much as I’d like to but it’s something I’m working on.

I love that blogging allows me to excersize the creative side of myself, without leaving a mess to clean up. No peices of take to pick up off the floor, no stacks of paper to sort or store, no supplies to purchase. Just me and any computer that connects to internet. Though of course, I bought a mac, because really how do you have a hobby without spending too much money? Is it really even a hobby then?

I read this and this today and loved them. They follow many of the “rules” I’ve always wanted to follow in my blogging.

Some of the points have been trickier, like photography. My new iPhone has helped since it’s photo are so much superior to that of my Blackberry and even my camera! My mac book has helped with photo editing, though Photobucket and my friend Laura have been greatly useful as well.

Laura has been awesome – she first challenged me to a month of blogging last year, and then another one shortly afterwards. These two helped kick start me to write every day. Before that it was VERY sporadic. She also helped me learn how to edit some photos a bit. Also, just to show you how ridiculous we are, we email all day long. We both work in offices with no peers, so we email back and forth. So already we talk all day, but then we both blog and we both encourage the other to blog. AND if I haven’t blogged yet, she’ll ask me all day about it until I do. She wanted to make sure that I knew, though, that she pestered me for it because she just loved reading it so much. Now that’s some motivation!

Blogging is funny to me, I kind of thought no one read mine. I average 1 comment every 3-4 blog posts. That’s fairly low in the blog world, or in any world, considering that means most blog posts get no comments. BUT when Laura suggested I started posting them to facebook I started getting comments on FB. So that was great! And it helped up my readership – now often someone will start a conversation with me by saying something like “oh yeah, I was reading on your blog….” Awesome. Now two of my bff’s Stefany and Jodi read my blog every time I post, and are always bringing up things I blogged about. So much fun! Though I know how to be careful when I want to complain about them, *jokes*. So while I still average 1 comment for every 3-4 blog posts, and have 17 follower (up from 12 2 months ago, woot) I have on average 50-100 people a day that read my blog. That shocks me! And then to have friends comment on how much they love to read it, and that they look forward to it, well it warms my heart a lot!

So thanks to anyone who takes some time to come over to my blog and read it – you make me smile. And you make this me not just “talking” to myself. Or writing to myself as it were.

Friday, November 8, 2013

7 Quick Takes (Volume 10)

--- 1 --- 
Favorite TV line this week:
"Respect my ability to access a bucket" - SNL

Top 2 favorite sketches: career week speaker and "what does my girl say". Oh it's good. 

--- 2 --- 
The other day I felt like maybe a bird pooped near me. I had lunch with a friend - I was walking back to work and something felt like it swished past me and might have splatted but I barely noticed. It missed me, so move on. 

It wasn't until I was pulling a blazer out of my closet to show my sister-in-law Katie how cute it was and she asked, "What is that white streak on your blazer?" Yikes, it was bird poop. On the side of the blazer I had worn for half a day after being pooped on and had hung up in my closet, no idea that it had poop on it. Awesome. It was obviously a top level moment for me.
--- 3 --- 
Tonight I made an amazing new recipe. My boss, Leigh, recommended it and as per usual Leigh is right. Being awesome and right is kind of her thing. 

She suggested I try making Balsamic Glazed Porkloin. The pork smelled AMAZING in the crockpot - the kitchen was a treat. Once I had cooked up the side dishes I made the Pork sauce - easy and fast - and then poured it on the pork and served the meal. Sweet and tangy and savory and Oh so good. This is a must make again for sure. Also we ate it so quickly that I didn't get a chance to take a photo, but mmmmgood. 

I served it with Maple Mustard Roasted Sweet Potatoes, roasted asparagus and Mini Pomme Anna's. For the Sweet Potatoes I used the precut crinkle cut ones from Costco - great choice. Nice and easy. I have made the Sweet Potatoes now twice and each time they have been met with wide happiness and approval. The mini pomme anne's I have only also made once before and also for the same crew I made it tonight and again it was well loved. I used garlic and seasoning salt, rather than just salt and pepper. 

All in all it was a big success and I was happy. 

--- 4 --- 
It's 11:51 Thursday night - I am halfway through 3 taped Grey's Anatomy and MAN - how nice to not work in the morning and get to just chill. Life is good. Busy life is good, but sometimes relaxing life is sooo awesome. Also I just ate like 20 raspberries and they were awesome.  

--- 5 --- 
Today I found a new outfit and I'm stoked about it - Black boots, heathered grey leggings, cute black dress/tunic, small black belt and gold chain necklace. I am so pleased. It's kind of boring just to tell you about it BUT I don't have a photo....sooo...yeah. Outfits. Take my word for it. 

--- 6 --- 
Costco is at once amazing and dangerous. I go there to purchase one bag of salad mix and one bag of crinkle cut sweet potatoes and somehow $90 dollars later I'm leaving with a full cart. The time before that was for toilet paper, asparagus and avocado's and $250 later I'm leaving with a cart full including a new dip and veg tray AND a new baking set. Happy happy happy...yet so damaging to the pocketbook. 

But in all honesty I LOVE Costco. A lot. Like a lot. Ask me about it sometime - I don't shut up about it in real life. 

 --- 7 --- 
Wednesday night I went to a Philipino Lifegroup birthday party. I was reminded of a few things.

1. It is awesome to go to a party that you didn't plan. What a treat.
2. Philipino's are awesome - they are some of my favorite people. 
3. Thai food, butter chicken, curry chicken wing, etc - I actually have grown to love asian good. Saturday night is Thai food with Paul's family and I'm stoked. 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Octoberfest: Thanksgiving by the Numbers

Earlier this month was Canadian Thanksgiving. Here it is, by the numbers:
  • 2 Ham's cooked
  • 2 Turkey Pot pie's made from leftovers
  • 3 dinners hosted
  • 3 Turkey Shepherd's Pie's made from leftovers
  • 3 Bags of Turkey, Rice & Broccoli Casserole made from leftovers
  • 3 & 5, ages of nephews that stayed over for the weekend
  • 4 Turkey's cooked
  • 6am, when the boys woke me up Saturday morning
  • 7am, average wake up time each day
  • 9 Friends for Saturdays dinner
  • 10+ people served dinner leftovers
  • 12 Morgans chatting happily Sunday night
  • 23 Mitchell's talking, laughing and playing on Monday night
  • 44 guests served total
  • 70 Pounds of Turkey cooked
Phew! It was a weekend for the books that's for sure. Exhausting but worth it, 100%.

Have I told you how I cook Turkey's? My aunts taught me how and I am so super thankful that they did. Here's what I do. I take the Turkey out of it's wrapping and place it on a cutting board, ensuring that it's innards and stuff are out. Then I rub margarine all over it. Then I sprinkle it with seasoning: Garlic salt, Onion salt, Garlic Plus seasoning and Seasoning salt.

Then it's time to be cooked. For my cooking I use an Oven Bag - you can buy these in most grocer stores. I lightly sprinkle some flour in my oven bag and shake it around and place it in the roasting dish, open. 

Then I slide the turkey into it - top it with minced garlic and diced onions, close up the bag and put it in the oven for two hours. 

After two hours you have perfectly tender and tasty Turkey, with TONS of juices for gravy. 

And now - we're up to the details of the weekend. Friday night my sister dropped her two kids off with us - we ate dinner together, dug around in a pumpkin to weed out the seeds (boy did they love getting their hands messy) and headed to the park to wear them out. This is the part of the evening where Austin asked me if I could be "the ugly old troll under the bridge." Awesome, thanks kid. Also he was playing robot - he spent ages walking around then freezing and needing to be reset. Too cute. 

Robot Austin 

We got them down to sleep and the food / house prep continued since we were going to be hosting the three dinners. And then we crawled into bed knowing that the kids would be waking us up early...which they did. Then it was a morning of cuddles and then a trip to the pool - swimming, then lunch and finally nap time for Austin. While Austin napped and Connor helped uncle Paul clean up outside I set tables and put a Turkey into the oven. I chose to take the whole day to set up so it wouldn't be stressful - I chopped veggies and watched TV with Connor, I enlisted the help of Jessie and Connor to make Pumpkin Gnocchi which was fun - cooking with a 15 year old chinese student and a 5 year old. Awesome. Then it was time to feed the boys and get them to bed before the dinner party started - we had friends coming for an friends thanksgiving - for our friends that didn't have a place to go - we had Lindsay and John (an American and Canadian), Hanne and Drian (two new arrivals from South Africa) and Samir (a coworker from Toronto). We also had our students Duncan and Jessie join us and it was lovely. We laughed and talked and it was perfect. 

The Table setting

The Spread

Pies by Lindsay - homemade apple and homemade Pumpkin Chiffon (BEST PIE EVER). The Pumpkin Chiffon was two layers - bottom was plain pumpkin pie, top was pumpkin freaking good. 

Sunday we were again woken up bright and early, and had more cuddles - love my nephews. Then it was time to set up again for the day, but also found out how to make it fun for the nephews. We made a quick park visit - lots of swinging and then headed back the house - Paul kept the boys entertained while I got the Turkey into the oven and then we did lots of cutting and prep and table setting. We were going to be heading to church with both boys (!), while I hosted the service and Paul was doing a special prayer - trying to wrangle the boys is like herding cats - it's a lot of crazy. We got the turkey in moments before heading to church and the house was dinner ready by the time we left. We dropped the boys off after church and headed home for dinner. We were having Paul's family over for our Morgan Thanksgiving Dinner - 14 of us. Everyone was chipping in with types of food and stuff and it was so much fun. 

The table setting with an extra 5 places added

New Drinks cabinet! From a sewing machine desk, details to come shortly.

Monday was finally sleep in day! Except I woke up at 8am and couldn't sleep. Thankfully I felt rested, so I did my new strategy of slowly working all day rather than powering through in a rush. I set the tables first - setting for 25 to eat is a bit harder than the other days were! I had a table set for 12 in our dining room, a table for 8 set up in the kitchen and a table for 5 set up in the living room. Success! I slowly worked all day - with a turkey nicely cooking in the background. Paul was away for the day helping a friend with some renovations so I worked alone. The family was coming by 4 and I was ready for them! Everything was tidy and organized and quiet by the time Paul came home and 3pm - and we were all ready minus carving the turkey, which Paul was to do. Victory! Dinner with the Mitchell's was great - everyone laughed and talked and everything went smoothly. The kids ran around like, well like something loud and crazy and it felt like family.

I was able to quickly throw together leftovers for lunch and then make a bunch of leftovers into other foods - I made leftovers into three Lifegroup Meals (needs to feed at least 25 ppl): Shepherds Pie (with turkey, roasted veg and gravy, topped with cheesy mashed potatoes), Turkey Pot Pie (also with leftover roasted veg, shredded turkey and pie crust) and Rice Casserole (Steamed broccoli, Rice, leftover turkey). I was so pleased. I also made all 6 lunches of leftovers, portioned out turkey for people to eat that week, set aside some shredded turkey for the freezer for later meals and made a few other small dishes. While I worked our student came in and out of the kitchen to chat with me - I had at least 15 minutes with each of them and was feeling pretty pleased with that. I was in bed by 10 feeling very very accomplished. 

And that was our Canadian Thanksgiving. Very Thankful indeed!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - November!

Menu Plan Monday with Laura at Org Junkie

Upcoming week: 
Monday: Taco Salad (bumped from last week)
Lettuce is chopped, taco meat is already cooked, cheese is already shredded and all I have to do is heat up the taco meat, cut some tomatoes and put everything out. I LOVE an easy dinner. 

Tuesday: Shepherds Pie (with Thanksgiving leftovers) for Lifegroup. 
I made it the day after Thanksgiving and froze it, and now it's defrosting in my fridge ready for it's big debut. The veggies are all roasted veg leftovers from the three dinners, the sauce is mostly the gravy and the potatoes on top are a mix of regular mashed potatoes and my Dad's cheesy mashed potatoes with bacon. The meat is shredded turkey meat. I have a feeling this meal is about to be a star. 

Wednesday: Poppyseed Casserole served with broccoli
I have had this dinner on the menu plan for weeks and it keeps getting bumped as I get closer to the date - finally I'm going to try it. 

Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday & Monday (Remembrance Day):
Paul's mom is in town from Texas (woo!) so we'll be hanging out with her a lot - we're splitting her time with Paul's sister Katie - we get Nancy half the time and she gets her the other half. These are the meals I've been wanting to try for sometime and therefore will finally attempt for Nancy. I know I don't need to impress her (she's great that way) but it's fun to get to feed her great food. We will hopefully make two of these, if not all four - depending on how often we want to go out and eat in Van - this city has a lot of good food also!

Dinner 1: Slow Cooker Beef Short Ribs served with roasted veg and Bacon Hassleback Potatoes.
Recommended to me by my boss - it better be good because I struggled to track down short ribs!
Dinner 3: Bruschetta Chicken with Rice and roasted vegetables. 
Dinner 4: Skillet Shepherds Pie with side salad

Reviews from last week:
Monday: Indian take out
It was my third time eating Indian and I liked it. I'm starting to feel open to another new food type. 

Tuesday: Harvest Party!
The party went so well! Many, many pumpkins were carved and much food was devoured.
Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies (mix) Easy and fast, success!
Pumpkin Spice Loaf (mix) Easy and fast, also success!
Apple Cider (premade) I wish I remembered the brand as this was really tasty. I put it in a pump thermos and set it outside for around the fire. Big hit.
Pumpkin marshmallows These were purchased on a whim and wow, they were the belle of the ball, everyone LOOOOVED them. 
Chicken Wings (Honey Garlic & Thai Yellow Curry) Safe but successful
Cocktail Wienies (served with BBQ sauce and mustard on the side) Always a crowd pleaser / I tossed these in the crockpot for 2 hours with a bit of water on high. Perfect and easy.
Hummus and Pita I used hard pita chips and soft pita's - and the Hummus was from Costco. Easy and tasty.
Easy Rotel Queso with chips Big Hit! And so easy
Mini Pizza's (from Costco) Popular and easy - they were eaten super fast
Pork Bites (Costco) I knew this would go over well, it always does. And indeed it did.
Shrimp Nests (Costco) These were popular though I was reminded to save them for smaller parties - they are a fancier more expensive appie and they make more of an impact in a smaller setting. 
Mozza Sticks (Costco) Huge hit! Soooo easy and wow, so good. 

For three of our students/friends this was their first experience carving pumpkins! 
And then there were those like Jonathan who took it very very seriously. He even missed dinner he was so busy carving the entire night. 

Wednesday: Taco's - Hard shells with ground beef and the fixings - just like childhood.
I was saddened to discover that the hard shells I'd bought tasted like cardboard, but we had some really tasty tortilla chips in the cellar so I pulled those up and we thoroughly enjoy taco salad - with leftovers for Thursdays lunch. Everyone was happy. 

Thursday (Halloween): Crockpot Meatball Stroganoff
This was a first time trial for me and it was a success - the meatballs were a bit soft for me, but overall it was an easy and tasty dish and one I'd make again. Turns out we didn't get a lot of kids at halloween, but we did have lots of candy! We had our friends Hanne and Drian over - we ate candy and played board games and excitedly ran to the door each of the 3 times there were trick or treaters. 

Our front door

The aftermath

Leftover treats for our students

Friday: Appie Night 
We had the Froese's over and ate great appies - we also ate more candy and played more games.
Nacho's (loaded with the works and served with homeade salsa, guacamole and sour cream.)
Wings (Honey Garlic)
We ran out of Boursin and Crackers, but we had extra stuffing mix from the mushrooms, so we added some extra cream cheese and some crab from the freezer and made a tasty tasty crab dip. Success!

Saturday: YOYO (You're On Your Own) 
Saturday we rested, rested and rested some more. We took some leftover Nacho's, added more cheese and rebaked it all and MAN, it was tasty. We took a walk at Granville Island, found a bike for Paul at Our Community Bikes and ended up at the Montroy's for dinner - we had a great time with their family - they do hospitality well. There house and style is warm and inviting and it was totally worth the walk in the rain to get there. Afterwards we swung by our friend Laura's place for her birthday party and I brought with me Cranberry Gin & Tonic to share - it looked super cute. Instead of using Tonic Water and Cranberry Juice, I used a Cranberry Pop I picked up at Superstore. Worked just as well!

Sunday: Taco Salad
Sunday was supposed to be Taco Salad, but when I found out we were having our friends Josh and Ana over I wanted to make something a bit more special, so I bumped Taco Salad to the following monday and had a wonderful new meal. I prepped it all in the afternoon and then put it in the fridge - and after church I pulled it out and put it in the oven. That's a win of a meal for sure!

Chicken Alfredo Bubble Up, served with Maple Mustard Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Boursin Asparagus. Wow - I will make all of this again. Daaaaang. 

The Chicken Alfredo Bubble Up was delicious. I used shredded cooked turkey from the freezer instead, which was a delightful addition. I could only find jumbo grands biscuits, so I used two cans of that and doubled the rest of the recipe since that was a lot of biscuit. I'm so glad I did - there ended up being 6 of us for dinner and we the dish was so tasty it's a blessing I'd doubled it. There was only enough leftovers for two lunches (with veggies, or one lunch without veggies). 

I wanted to do something with sweet potatoes - I'd seen some at Costco and felt inspired. They were precut into crinkle cut shapes - I found this recipe, Maple Mustard Roasted Sweet Potatoes, on pinterest and a plan was born. I used one shallot and a section of an onion since that's what I had on hand. I didn't have real maple syrup, but used Rogers Golden Syrup instead. I also added some garlic and onion salts near the end, and baked it for longer than they recommended, mine didn't seem to be baking that quickly - and I finished it off with 3 minutes on broil. 

Lastly, I had some spare boursin and decided to crumble that and put it on top of the asparagus to bake it that way - man that was a good call. 10 minutes at 400 in the oven and BAM, great side dish. 

And lastly this photo was just posted online from Jonathan and Greg's 25th Birthday party - Photobooth photos usually trickle out later and man, I am so pleased with this shot of me and my dear friends Jodi, Lindsay and Stef. We look gooooood.


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