Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Debate


Little boy turned 3 a few months ago, and Little Girl is turning 5 in about a month.  The other day I was getting dressed in our room as hubby and the kids hung out on our bed.
Hubby told me I should not be getting dresses (aka – naked) in front of Little Girl anymore, since she is almost 5.

What?  I looked at him like he had 3 heads!  Are you kidding me?  She is a girl; I am a girl – why can she not see me naked?
I get that very soon I am going to have to close the door on Little Boy seeing me naked (I am thinking before his 4th birthday for sure), but do I have to do the same for Little Girl?

I told Hubby, that I grew up seeing my mother naked well into my teenage years, and if we take the kids swimming, there are plenty of women in the change room where you see more than their ankles.
So I told him I would put this out on the blog and see what everyone one else has to say.

Is there an age that I should no longer let me daughter see me naked?

Monday, January 30, 2012

On My Nightstand - Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter



Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter – By Tom Franklin

Format: Paperback - 272 pages

On the back cover:
In the 1970’s, Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones were boyhood pals in a small town in rural Mississippi.  Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry was the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, black single mother.  But then Larry took a girl to a drive-in movie and she was never seen or heard from again.  He never confessed ... and was never charged.

More than twenty years have passed.  Larry lives a solitary, shunned existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion.  Silas has become the town constable.  And now another girl has disappeared, forcing two men who once called each other “friend” to confront a past they’ve buried for decades.

My thoughts:
I really liked this book.  The writing style and character development reminded me of a John Irving book (just not as long).
I read the whole book over one weekend and had a really hard time putting it down.  It made me want to keep reading to find out who really was responsible for the missing girls but I found the book read much more like a drama novel than a mystery novel.

My rating: 4 ½ out of 5.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Thai Meatballs

I made these meatballs the other day for dinner, not only were they super easy to make on a week night but they are super delish as well.

Even the kids liked them (at first they were a little hesitant to eat them because of the 'green stuff' - green onion, but we had them try one piece and after that there was no stopping them).


Thai Meatballs

1 lb. lean or extra lean ground beef
¼ cup hoisin sauce
¼ cup dry bread crumbs
3 tablespoons finely minced green onions
1 egg
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt

Mix together all of the above ingredients in a large bowl (a clean had works best for this), place meat balls on to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Cook at 400F convection for 18-20 minutes, or until done.  Cooking time will depend on the size of the meat ball.

Serve with sauce.
Enjoy.

Sauce
1 cup light coconut milk
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
Zest of 1 lemon
1/8 – 1/1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Combine all the ingredients together in a small sauce pan, cook over medium-high heat stirring constantly until mixture boils.
Remove from heat and serve with meatballs and rice.

Source: Adapted from Eat, Shrink and Be Merry cookbook.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Siblings

Sometimes they surpise us.I found them like this the other day.

Little Girl was teaching Little Boy how to play Go Fish.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Kryptonite


I love Valentine's Day.
I could care less if I get a card; chocolates - I won't eat them anyway, but the candy!
Oh, I love the candy.
Cinnamon hearts - I adore and those jelly candies - ohhh, I swoon.
I was picking up milk yesterday at the grocery store and saw these, unfortunatly the jelly hearts are not cinnamon - but these will do.

What about you?  What is your kryptonite?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Daddies


As we raise our 2 children I often sit back and marvel at the different kinds of relationships children have with their parents.

I know quite a bit of it is due to each parent having different personalities, but more times than not, I hear from my girlfriends about how their children and my children are the same in wanting Daddy for things over Mommy.

Today Hubby is going to be the parent helper in Little Girl’s pre-school. 
She is beyond excited about it.

He is bringing the snack – okay I planned and prepped the entire snack – he just has to remember to actually bring it.
Does he want to be the helper today?  Not really, but he is going to do it because he loves his daughter and it is going to be so special for her to have him there.

Dad’s hold such a special place in a child’s heart, I am so lucky to have a husband that is involved in his kids’ lives.

He is an amazing father!

Fishing together last summer.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Healthier Eating - Turkey Burgers

When hubby works out he does P90-X.  If you know the program you know it is super intense, a very hard workout program that comes with a recommended eating plan and recipes.
Here is the best part, it works!  It works really well, but the workouts are way too intense for me, however the food is not.

Some of the recipes we have gotten from their book have become part of our regular everyday foods regardless of if we are working out or not, they are that good.

I thought I would share with you the turkey burger recipe since I made them just the other day.




Turkey Burgers

1 lb. ground turkey breast
¼ cup dried breadcrumbs
½ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 green onions, finely chopped
4-6 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground black pepper

Place all of the above ingredients in a large bowl and mix well (hands make a great tool).
Shape into burger patties (make sure to make these the same size as your bun since they will not shrink in the cooking process like beef patties do).

BBQ until done, and serve with your favourite toppings.

You will notice there is no salt added to this recipe, I find that as long as you are serving it with cheese, you don’t really need the salt, but if you are not going to have cheese, you might want to add ½ to 1 teaspoon of salt.


When I make these, we use pretty large buns so I get about 6 patties, smaller burger buns would yield more patties obviously, since I don’t need 6 burger patties for one meal, I freeze them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, then once frozen, remove and place them all in a large Ziplok bag.  They barbecue super well from frozen.


Source: recipe adapted from P-09X meal plan recipe book.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

On My Nightstand - The Poisonwood Bible



The Poisonwood Bible By Barbara Kingsolver
Format: Paperback (543 pages)
On the back cover:
The poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959.  They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it – from garden seeds to Scripture – is calamitously transformed on African soil.  What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

My thoughts:
I have to admit, I had no desire to read this book, but it was chosen for book club, and I have discovered some gems before through book club picks that were not mine, but this book did not turn out to be a hidden gem.
It took me a really long time to read (which is so out of character for me), but I found I did not like very many of the characters.
It was a time in history that I am sure many people are not proud of (the nations involved in essentially killing not just the African jungles, but the people and their heritage as well).  I was shocked at what this book revealed (of course this was not taught in my history class).

But, just because I did not like this book, does not mean you will not as well.  This book is a New York Times bestseller, so at least a few people liked it.

My rating: 2 out of 5.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Eating Healthy – or at least more healthy

Generally I am a pretty healthy eater.  We eat pretty healthy meals at home, and I try and bring my lunch as often as possible.

But I get lazy sometimes too.  I get bored and don’t want to eat last night’s leftovers for lunch.
I love a good burger, fries and coke.
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE salty crunchy snacks.

90% of the time, I make from scratch meals, but I also have Hamburger Helper in my pantry.

So as January is here, hubby is working out, and we are both making a very conscious effort to make and eat healthy foods.

I thought I would share with you all some of our healthy meals and snacks.

Oven Roasted Chickpeas


There is not really a recipe to this one, I got the idea from Julie van Rosendaal – tried it myself and love it.
Open a can of chickpeas, drain, rinse, and dry on paper towel, discard skins.
Place in a bowl; toss with a little bit of olive oil and seasoning of your choice.
Seasoning ideas:
Salt and pepper
Chili powder, cumin, salt (if you like it spicy try a spicier chili like chipotle powder or even cayenne).

Place on a baking sheet and roast for 40-50 minutes in 400F oven.
If you like them crunchy, like I do, you might want to go even a bit longer on the cooking.

Here is the best part – you can buy a can of chickpeas for $1.50 approx at most grocery stores – if you don’t like the flavour you made – it will not break the bank to toss it and try a different seasoning mix.

This is a very cost effective snack – it is not hard to eat the whole can (they shrink considerably when you roast them) and chickpeas are a bean so they are a protein and very filling.

These have become my go to snack when I need some crunch.

More ideas and recipes to come….

Monday, January 16, 2012

On My Nightstand - Tiger Hills



Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna
Format: Hardcover book (464)

On the back cover:
As the first girl born to the Nachimada family in over 60 years, the beautiful Devi is the object of adoration of her entire family. Strong-willed and confident, she befriends the shy Devanna, a young boy whose mother has died under tragic circumstances. The two quickly become inseparable, until Devi meets Machu the tiger killer, a hunter of great repute and a man of much honour and pride. Soon they fall deeply in love, an attraction that drives a wedge between Devi and Devanna. It is this tangled relationship among the three that leads to a devastating tragedy--an event that forever changes their fates and has unforeseen and far-reaching consequences for generations to come.

My thoughts:
I first heard about this book when the author was being interview on CBC radio, the books was being described as an epic novel very much like Gone with the Wind, and I thought I need to read that book.
So very soon after I bought it in hard cover since paperback was not released yet.

It sat on my shelf for months, and finally I picked it up and started reading.
It is a little bit hard to get into in the beginning, there are quite a few characters and none of the names are common to North America, so it was a little hard to keep track of who was who at first.
But as I find when you read books with lots of characters, very soon you have no problems knowing who is who.
I loved this book!
I loved the characters, I loved the story, and I could not put it down.
This is a book you read to enjoy the whole journey not to find out the ending. 

It is a wonderful story that will make you love and hate the same characters at the same time.

My rating: 5 out of 5.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

2011 Books in Review

Last year I was terrible at doing my book review posts, but honestly I found I read more duds than winners last year.
I am tempted to do a post about the crappy books I read, but I will save you from reading about what books not to read, instead here is a post about the books I did like last year.

Last year I read 45 books, and here are my top 12 in order of how I read them.  I have linked the titles to Amanzon.ca because I am feeling quite lazy and do not really feel like writing up about all of them.


1.       Still Missing by Chevy Stevens


2.       Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

3.       Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

4.       Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

5.       Blackout by Connie Willis

6.       Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

7.       One Day by David Nicholls

8.       The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

9.       The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larson

10.   The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

11.   The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

12.   A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay



Friday, January 13, 2012

Parent Information Night

I blogged a little while ago about how we had an upcoming parent information night for Little Girl and Kindergarten next year.

Well that was last night.  We got our baby sitter and hubby and I went together.
I was so glad I brought him along; the school we want her to go to is Foundations for the Future Charter Academy. 
It is quite a bit different than the type of schools we both went to as kids, and I really needed him to see and hear that first hand.

First they require 20 hours of parent volunteer time each year, and it is very academically based compared to what we know from the past.

Kindergarteners sit in a desk and have structured subjects and homework almost every day.
I know there are a lot of parents that feel that Kindergarteners should not have home work (I actually know parents of junior high school age children that think their child should not have homework either), but as they explained in the session last night, the homework is actually a review for the kids, designed to help reinforce and solidify what they have learned in school, not designed to actually have the parents doing the teaching.

But now we start the process: full days or half days?  If we go with half, what half?   Morning or afternoon?
Right now Little Girl is in pre-school 4 afternoons a week, so to add on an extra day (Friday) would not be much of a stretch, or do we go out of our comfort zone and put her into full days, where she would have to eat lunch at school?  Oh that freaks me out!  I am not sure I am ready for her to be that old yet.

The other question we need to answer is what are we going to do with her?  How are we going to get her to and from school and what do we do while she is not in school?  I work full time.  Our day home is not able to do before and after school care and it is now where near the school anyway.

So the research starts.  I will be looking into day cares, etc. and trying to find what works for us and our family for next year.

What about you? 
Any of my readers have / had children in FFCA?
How is / did your school selection process go?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sweet Potato Fries

I came accross this recipe while watching the show Eat, Shrink & Be Merry with Janet & Greta Podleski.
I love their show, if you have never seen it, you can catch them on the Food Network, but they challenge local popular chefs and their signature dishes to make a healthier version.
I have no idea who they were challenging in this episode, but they made burgers and fries.
The fries they made, they called Yummy Yammy Fries - so they used yams.  The orange vegetable people often refer to as sweet potatoes.
I took their recipe, kept the spices the same, but changed the vegetale.  Instead of yams, I used sweet potatoes, and honestly, I think they are better this way.
You be the judge, try this recipe both ways if you like and let me know which one is better.
These are super delish, not hard to make at all, and wonderful along side almost anything!

Sweet Potato Fries
¼ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese, small grate
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ - ½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
4 medium sweet potatoes (not yams)
3 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 450F.
Combine all the spices together in a small bowl (cumin, chili powder, paprika, chipotle chili powder, garlic powder and onion powder).
Peel the sweet potatoes and slice into French fry shapes, toss with olive oil in a large bowl, then toss with spices and Parmesan cheese.
Spread fries onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes, or until tender, turning once.
Cooking time depends on how thick your fries are.

Source: Modified slightly from Eat, Shrink & Be Merry


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Getting to Know Us - Brutis

I thought I would try and do a few posts about who we are and share more about us.

First up is the dog.
He often makes appearances here, but I don’t talk about him a whole lot.


Stats:
Name: Brutis
Age: 6
Birthday: Dec 2, 2006
Breed: Long Haired Miniature Daschund
Colour: Red

We got him when he was about 13 weeks from a breeder up past Edmonton. 
What we did not know, was we got him quite sick, he had gotten a parasite from the well water at the breeders place that looked like Parvo to the vet.
He was hospitalized for 2 nights while on medication and got better.



He was our first child and although he has been knocked down the totem pole a few times, we always tell him he was first and we picked him, but just got stuck with the kids.
That and he get to stay up with us when the kids have to go to bed.
Plus, he loves going to the park with us when we take the kids - he loves going down the slides!


 
Yes - he is humping Little Girl here.

If you know the daschund breed, you know they are full of personality and like to bark.  Well Brutis is no exception, he certainly likes to bark.
He is hubby’s dog.  If I am left alone with Brutis, he will steal kid’s toys and run away from me – and let me tell you – he is impossible to catch – so he gets a leash put on him when hubby leaves, this allows me to catch him.


Little Boy has loved him since day one, Little Girl however sometimes barely tolerates him – but we know she loves him and will miss him terribly when one day he is gone.

 
While camping one time, he hurt his leg, thankfully we had the Snugglie along (and he fit).

 We have tons of funny pictures of situations he has been in, or should I say we have put him in.

He is so much a part of our family, we are lucky we camp for our holidays because I could not imagine a family vacation without him.




He can often be found under a blanket with only a nose sticking out.

Wearing Little Boy's pajamas

Tobogganing with Dad and Little Girl

In the morning he loves to snuggle with Dad in bed.  I think Dad likes it too.

 I love the look on his face.  I think he is swearing at me right there.


Monday, January 09, 2012

Reading

I have posted about my reading before, and if you know me, you know I love to talk about books.  Books I am reading, books you are reading, you name it, I want to talk about them.

I love to read.
I have been reading since the summer before grade 6 when I discovered The Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High series at my local library.

I am in 2 book clubs and still read more.
Last year I managed to read 45 books, the year before I hit a personal best of 57.
I never do not have a book on the go.
I will finish reading one book and pick up another one 5 minutes later.

With e-readers hitting the market a few years ago, I have been paying attention.
I have to admit, as much as I love reading, I do not have a love affair with the actual paper books.
I hate borrowing a book from the library and getting a big, heavy hard cover.
I hate buying a cheap book, and trying to keep the book open without breaking the spine.

So this year, I bought myself a Christmas present.
I bought myself a Kobo.
I arrived just the other day.



So far I have 5 books loaded onto it, and as soon as I am done reading my current book (which happens to be a big, heavy hard cover), I will be diving in.
(Editing to add: I wrote this post late last week, finished the book on the weekend and I am already over half done my first Kobo book.)
I am looking forward to seeing how or if this changes my reading.

I am pretty sure if anything it means I read more.
You see I often read while I am sitting with one of the kids while they are watching TV, but sometimes it is hard to hold the book, or if it is too big, it gets in the way – with a Kobo, this will not be the case.

Why a Kobo?
I did quite a bit of research.
Mostly I looked at the Kobo vs. the Kindle.
I picked the Kobo because I often get gift cards to Chapters for birthdays, Christmas, etc. – and I can use those gift cards to purchase e-books at the Kobo store.
Also, I like that I can go to Chapters and pick out my case – that is something I can’t order online.

For the Kobo – I picked the Kobo Touch – I like the idea of the Kobo Vox (colour screen), so I could have recipe books, magazines or even kids’ books on there, but I own a million cookbooks already, I never read magazines, and I think the kids need tactile books for now.
And the kicker – the Kobo Vox will not allow you to download books from your library.
Done – I am a library supporter and love to borrow from them.  Now Calgary Public Library, you just need to get more e-books please!

What about you?  Are you a big reader?
Do you have an e-reader or are you holding out with paper?

Friday, January 06, 2012

Chocolate Raspberry Cake

Chocolate Raspberry Cake

If you are looking for a super rich, moist chocolate cake, this is it!

Source: I found it on the internet, and for the life of me I can’t find the site I pulled it from, but I do know it is an adaptation of Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.
The frosting, is a recipe I got a long time ago, and although it has Ovaltine in it (weird I know) it is really, really good.  It is worth it to buy the Ovaltine – you will want to make this one again.

I did not read the recipe very well, because it clearly says to prepare 3 cake pans and for whatever reason I did not see that, and only prepared 2.  So needless to say, I have some over flow, and my cake is only a 2 layer cake instead of a 3. 

Cake layers:
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 ½ cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoons baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cups buttermilk; well shaken
¾ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 F and butter three 9 inch round cake pans.  Line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper and butter the paper.

Place chopped chocolate into a bowl and pour hot coffee on top.  Let sit, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

In a large bowl mix together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Using your stand mixer, beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon coloured (about 3 minutes).  Slowly add the oil, buttermilk, vanilla and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well.  Add the sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.

Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until tester inserted in center comes out clean, 35-45 minutes.

Cool the layers completely in pans on rack.  Run a knife around the edges and invert layers onto racks.  Carefully remove parchment paper and cool the layers completely.
I always make the cake a day before, so I leave mine in the cake pans to cool completely, then wrap with press and seal wrap, refrigerate overnight, and remove from the pans when I am ready to ice.  Note – if you are going to use this method – your pans have to be very well greased or you will never get the cake out.

Raspberry Filling:
600 g bag of frozen raspberries, thawed
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Puree the raspberries in a food processor.  Press the puree through a fine-mesh strainer with the back of a spoon, removing the seeds.  Heat the puree in a small pot with the sugar and cornstarch until mixture boils, stirring constantly.  As it boils, it should thicken quickly.  Let it thicken to about the consistency of cold maple syrup.

Chocolate Buttercream Icing:
1 ½ cups butter
1 cup cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon salt
4 cups icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
¼ cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup Ovaltine

Cream together butter, cocoa powder and salt.  Turn off mixer, scrap down the sides of the bowl and add powdered sugar.

Turn the mixer on low and mix in the powdered sugar while adding the milk and vanilla.  As the sugar incorporates, raise the speed of the mixer to beat the frosting.  Beat until smooth.

In a 2 cup measuring glass, stir together the cream and Ovaltine.  Turn mixer speed to medium and pour cream mixture into frosting in a slow, steady stream, until you’ve reached the desired consistency.  You may not need the full amount of Ovaltine and cream.

To assemble the cake:
Make sure your cake is cold before assembling; this makes it easier to control the crumbs. 
I put a thin layer of frosting on to each layer before toping with raspberry sauce.
If you like a really think icing, you might want to make another half batch to ice a 3 layer cake.