Thursday, March 29, 2012


Little Girl got this dress from my brother and his wife last year sometime, and every once and a while, she puts it on and becomes a princess.

The other day, she was a princess and said she needed to dance with her handsome prince.

I really hope some day in the the future, I can get a picture of them dancing together at one of their weddings.

It has truly been an amazing experience to see these two become such great friends. 
To see them play so well together (yes they still fight, but not as much as they play) and to see them love each other, it has been more than I could ever have imagined or wished for.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Forever Dog

I saw this on someones blog and I knew I had to post it for all my dog loving friends and family.
Brutis is so much a part of our family that I had a little panic attack the other day when I realized we might not be able to bring him with us to the hotel we are planning on being at next Christmas.
I had to call my Mom and find out right away, because we have never had a Christmas without him and honestly it just would not be the same.

I tell him all the time, he might have gotten kicked down the totem pole a few times (with the arrival of the 2 kids) but he was my first baby, and I picked him.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hamburger Stroganoff

This is a fantastic weeknight meal.If I have a package of noodles in the pantry, chances are I have all the necessary ingredients on hand.
Oh, and it is absolutely delish too!

 Hamburger Stroganoff
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, diced
3 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup dry sherry or white wine
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt & pepper
Egg noodles
Cook the ground beef in a large skillet over medium high heat, while cooking sprinkle with salt. Once cooked, drain meat and set aside.
Return skillet to stove, turn the heat down to medium, add some butter if needed and sauté the onions until done. Remove onions and set aside.

This is a good time to start cooking your noodles now in a large pot of boiling salted water.

While the noodles are cooking add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet, increase the heat to medium high and add the sliced mushrooms. Sauté until nicely browned. Add the sherry and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits. Let the sherry reduce by about half, then lower the heat to low.
Remove the skillet from the heat. Mix in the sour cream and paprika until smooth. Return the skillet to very low heat and make sure not to let the sour cream boil or it may curdle.
Stir in the lemon juice and add a tablespoon of water if needed to thin the sauce out a bit.
Stir in the meat, onions and parsley.
Taste, add more salt and pepper if needed.
Serve over egg noodles and enjoy!
Source: I have adapted this recipe from Simply Recipes.

Monday, March 26, 2012

On My Nightstand - Child 44

Child 44 (436) by – Tom Rob Smith
Format: Borrowed book
On the back cover:
Stalin’s Soviet Union strives to be a paradise for its workers, providing for all of their needs.  One of its fundamental pillars is that its citizens live free from the fear of ordinary crime and criminals.

But in this society, millions do live in fear… of the State.  Death is a whisper away.  The mere suspicion of ideological disloyalty – owning a book from the decadent West, the wrong word at the wrong time – sends millions of innocent into the Gulags of to their executions.  Defending the system from its citizens is the MGB, the State Security Force.  And no MGD officer is more courageous, conscientious, or idealistic the Leo Demidov.

A war hero with a beautiful wife, Leo lives in relative luxury in Moscow, even providing a decent apartment for his parents.  His only ambition has been to serve his country.  For the greater good, he has arrested and interrogated.

Then the impossible happens.  A different kind of criminal – a murderer – is on the loose, killing at will.  At the same time, Leo finds himself demoted and denounced by his enemies, his world turned upside down, and every believe he’s ever held shattered.  The only way to save his life and the lives of his family is to uncover this criminal.  But in a society that is officially paradise, it’s a crime against the State to suggest that a murderer – mush less a serial killer – is in the midst.  Exiled from his home, with only his wife remaining as his side, Leo must find and stop a criminal that the State won’t even admit exists.

My thoughts:
I really liked this book.
As you know, I like historical fiction and this book is set in the mid-50’s in Russia; a place and time that I have never read about, I found it fascinating.

I also thought the book was really well written, we were kept guessing about certian things throughout.  Smith did a great job in letting the reader understand how different a time it was; where human life is some ways had the same importance that it has today, but for the most part back then it was nothing to kill someone.

Anyway, I thought it was a great book and well worth the read.

My rating: 4 ½ out of 5.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Little Girl

I did not post this on her actual birthday, how bad of me I know, but I still wanted to do a post dedicated to my now 5 year old.

First I know it is so clichéd, but it is so true, I can't believe she is 5 already!
As I look back at the past 5 years, it feels like it was just yesterday but at the same time it feels like it was over a decade - there is no other way to describe it but like that, and I am sure there are many parents that can relate the same way.

Five to me feels like such a big year. 
A milestone year.
Maybe it is because I have memories from when I was 5.
Very clear memories, and so I know that now, she will also have memories from some of the things that go on in her life.

I thought I would ask her some questions.  I am going to try and ask here these same questions next year and we will see how much her answers change.

Q: How old are you?
A: 5!

Q: What grade are you in?
A: I don't know?

Q: Who is your teacher?
A: Mrs. Brosch

Q: What is your favourite colour?
A: Pink and purple (hmm, big surprise there)

Q: Who is your best friend?
A: Teá (friend from school, and I know this answer changes daily if not hourly)

Q: Do you have a boyfriend?
A: Anthony, Carter & Logan (wow, busy girl)

Q: What is your favourite food?
A: Strawberries and cookies (interesting, since that was the snack that Tea brought to school yesterday??)

Q: What is your favourite animal?
A: Kitty (really? we don't even have one)

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: (pauses to think about this one) Like you Mommy! (ohhh, I think I melted a little bit there)

Q: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
A: Here, Earth (Can you tell they have been learning about the planets in school?)

Q: What is your favourite thing to do?
A: Make crafts in school.

Q: Is there anything you want to add?
A: I like to play with my Rapunzel and Cinderella dolls.

When Little Girl was first born I did not have an instant connection with her.
It took me some time to feel that 'connection' that everyone talks about.  From what I have read, this is pretty normal, especially for first time Mom's.

But now it is different.  I enjoy so much our one-on-one time together.
Often on the weekends while Little Boy still naps, her and I will head out and go shopping.
Sometimes it is just to the grocery store, or sometimes it is to the mall.
Where ever it is, she is a fantastic shopping partner with me.
I often feel like she is way older than 5 and look forward so much to the years to come and our many shopping trips together.

I love you baby girl!



Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sausage and Dilled Orzo

I found this recipe when someone posted a link on their blog, I made a few changes that I feel make it better, but this is a great recipe to have in the summer and can be made ahead of time because it is also great served at room tempurature.

Sausage and Dilled Orzo

5 large sausages (I used mild since the kids were eating with us, but spicy would be even better)
4 ripe but firm Roma tomatoes
1 yellow or orange pepper
Olive oil
250 g (or 1/2 a package) uncooked orzo
1 bunch of broccoli
1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill
3 green onions, thinly sliced
Chicken stock

Preheat BBQ to high.
Cut the tomatoes in half and quarter the pepper.  Brush each with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Prick the sausages each a few times.
Turn one side of the BBQ down to medium low - place sausages on that side, turn often for even cooking.
Place the vegetables on to the BBQ side that is still on high.  The tomatoes will not take long to cook, remove from grill when done.  The peppers will take a bit longer, remove when done.  Allow to cool slightly, then chop into large chunks.
Meanwhile, bring chicken stock to a boil and cook orzo in the stock.  The orzo should take about 6-8 minutes to cook, add the broccoli pieces for the last 2 minutes.
Drain both and place in a large bowl, add salt, pepper, basil, dill, green onion and grilled vegetables.
Once sausage is done, slice and add to orzo and vegetables, toss together and serve warm or at room tempurature.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Devil's Food Cupcakes

Here is the recipe I used for Little Girls cupcakes and cake.  This is actually a cupcake recipe, so if you want to make a cake, just prepare your pans like you normally would, and plan on cooking much longer - check cakes at 30 minutes and guage from there.

Devil's Food Cupcakes

1 2/3 cups cake flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup sour cream
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, cooled

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Place the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, sugar and salt into the bowl of your stand mixer.  Mix together on low, until well combined.
In a large measuring cup, mix together the buttermilk and sour cream.  In a separate bowl, mix together eggs and melted butter.
Alternately add sour cream mixture and egg mixture to dry ingredients with the mixer running on medium low until mixed.
Pour batter into muffin cups, only about 2/3 full and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when tested.

Makes: 24-30 cupcakes.
Source: This recipe is from the Ad Hoc at Home cookbook.

 Chocolate Buttercream Icing

This is a very good chocolate buttercream, it is pretty easy to make, tastes great and pipes super well, but it has one weird ingredient – Ovaltine.  Don’t ask me why I even made it the first time, but now I have a big jar of Ovaltine in my pantry, so I keep making this icing, partly because it is so good, and also because, what the hell am I going to do with the Ovaltine otherwise.  But I like it so much, I will probably buy another jar when I finish this one.

1 1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup Ovaltine

Cream together butter, cocoa powder and salt. Butter mixture will be very thick. Turn off the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add powdered sugar.

Turn mixer on low and mix in powdered sugar while adding milk and vanilla extract. 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 heavy cream and Ovaltine. Turn mixer speed to medium and pour cream mixture into frosting in a slow, steady stream, until you’ve reached your desired consistency. You may not need the full amount of Ovaltine and cream.

The pink icing pictured was just a simple vanilla buttercream with pink food colouring - honestly it was nothing special, so I am not going to blog the recipe. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How Fast Do You Read?

Not only do I read food blogs and Mom blogs, but I also read book blogs.
I love to hear what other people are reading and I add their top reads to my list of books I want to read.

A post on a blog I follow asked the question: how fast do you read?
I hear that quite a bit actually, since I read a lot, I think people assume I read super fast and just fly through books.
Now I know I read faster than Hubby, but I do not think I read that much faster than the average person, so when Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?  posted a link to find out how fast you read, I was all over it.

Follow this link to find out how fast you read.

My results:
You read 436 words per minute.
That makes you 74% faster than the national average.
Not bad, but definitely no speed reader.
I do know that I fluctuate in my reading speed based on what I am reading and also how interested in the book I am.

What about you?  Take the test, how fast a reader are you?

Monday, March 19, 2012

On My Nightstand - The Wednesday Sisters

The Wednesday Sisters – By Meg Waite Clayton

On the back cover:
Friendship, Loyalty, and Love lie at the heart of Meg Waite Clayton’s beautifully written, poignant, and sweeping novel of five women who, over the course of four decades, come to redefine what it means to be family.

In the late 1960’s, Frankie, Linda, Kath, Brett and Ally find themselves meeting every Wednesday at the park in Palo Alto, California.  Defined at first mainly by what their husbands do, the young homemakers and mothers are far removed from the Summer of Love.  These “Wednesday Sisters” otherwise seem to have little in common, brutally blunt Linda is a remarkable athlete, Kath is a Kentucky debutante, quiet Ally has a secret, and quirky, ultra-intelligent Brett wears little white gloves with her miniskirts.  But the women are bonded by a shared love of literature – Fitzgerald, Eliot, Austen, du Maurier, Plath, and Dickens – and the Miss America Pageant, which they watch together every year.

As the years roll on and their children grow, the quintet forms a writers’ circle to express their hopes and dreams through poems, stories, and eventually, books.  Along the way, they experience history in the making – Vietnam, the race to put a man on the moon, and a women’s movement that challenges everything they have ever though about themselves – while at the same time supporting one another through changes in their personal lives brought on by infidelity, longing, illness, failure, and success.

My thoughts:
I thought this book was only okay.  Not terrible, but by no means great.

I found it frustrating how the author (Clayton) would spend so much time on one specific event in time (like the Walking on the Moon) and so little time on other things.  This story only seemed to skim the surface of these woman’s lives.  It almost felt like a glossed over story, yes there were parts that difficult aspects of their lives, but it did not feel real.  They seems to have unlimited amounts of energy to be able to stay up all night writing and then still deal with their kids during the day.  If I did that – I would have a very horrible day with my kids the next day and not like myself.

My ratings: 2.5 out of 5.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Family Birthday Party

After we celebrated Little Girl's birthday with all her friends, we then had a family dinner to celebrate her as well (yes, I was thoroughly exhausted come the end of the weekend).

She requested a pink and brown cake, the shirt actually matching was a complete coincidence.

Before Little Girl was born, I was given a gift from my Mother-In-Law.  A beautiful crocheted blanket.

This blanket became her blankie.  It has been loved so much that it is falling apart, and although it has been fixed a few times, it is just loved too much.

Little Girl will put her blankie to bed, walks her in her doll stroller all the time and treats her blankie as her best friend.
But as this blankie is falling apart, we have made her keep it only in her bed so it does not get even worse.

Well Grandma gave Little Girl a super sweet present - a new blankie!
It is almost identical to her old one and although the old one will always have a special place in her heart, this new blankie can now be carted around the house again and go for rides in her stroller.

The other part of the present was a doll bed from Ikea - or in our house it is blankie's bed, it is up in Little Girl's room, right beside her bed where she tucks blankie in every night - yes, very cute!

Her other Grandparents gave her this necklace for her birthday.  It could not have come at a better time since the day before she was asking me for one.  Thanks Mom!

And I could not do a post without this picture of my brother - can you tell he was having fun!

Kid's Pizza Party

For Little Girl's fifth birthday I planned 2 parties, one for her and all her friends and also a family dinner.

First up was the friends party - as previously mentioned I did a Pizza Party!
The kids had a good time making their own pizza's, and then I let them decorate their own cupcakes - I gave them all little baggies with icing and let them go to town with the sprinkles.

Here is a picture I took of all the kids in their aprons and chef's hats.  I did not want to show the children who are not mine on my blog, hence why their faces are blocked out.

I used fabric paint to write each child's name on their apron, and they got to take them home in their loot bag.

Hopefully we have a few future chef's on our hands.

Cupcakes I decorated for the parents.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Han Solo and Cinderella

I am sorry to have abandoned you all for the last few days, but I have been up to my nose in birthday parties and icing!

I am in the process of writing and compiling pictures from the Little Girls birthday weekend, but in the meantime I thought I would share with you about what I am hearing in the other room as I type.

This weekend hubby pulled out from the depths of the basement a box of old toys.  Toys he got for birthdays and Christmases in his youth.

This box is full of old, falling apart and pieces missing Star Wars and Transformer toys.  Now don't worry, we already looked - nothing is worth anything, so we are not throwing our retirement nest egg out the window by allowing Little Boy to lose more pieces.
Anyway, Hubby pulled out these toys for Little Boy, and he LOVES them.

He is currently playing with Han Solo while Little Girl plays with Cinderella. 

Conversation I just overheard:
Cinderella (a.k.a. - Little Girl): Han Solo, I love you, will you marry me?
Han Solo (a.k.a. - Little Boy): No, I no want to.
Cinderella: But I love you!
Cinderella: You can come to my house.  It is nice and close, you can walk there.
Han Solo: No, I no want to marry you.

Yes, I am currently laughing.

Disclaimer: I claim no part in the knowledge of anything Star Wars - Hubby takes full credit for this - I actually Googled Han Solo for spelling because I thought it was spelt Hans Solo, hmmm, who knew!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

On My Nightstand - Matterhorn

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

On the back cover:
An incredible publishing story – written over the course of thirty years by a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, and widely acclaimed in hardcover – Matterhorn is the timeless story of a young Marine lieutenant, Waino Mellas, and his comrades in Bravo Company, who are dropped into the mountain jungle of Vietnam as boys and forced to fight their way into manhood.  Standing in their way are not merely the North Vietnamese but also monsoon rain and mud, leeches and tigers, disease and malnutrition.  When the company finds itself surrounded and outnumbered by a massive enemy regiment, the Marines are thrust into the raw and all-consuming terror of combat.  Matterhorn is a visceral and unforgettable novel that transforms the tragedy of Vietnam into a powerful and universal story of courage, camaraderie, and sacrifice.

My thoughts:
I know nothing about the Vietnam war, I don’t even remembering studying it in school, although I am sure we touched on it a bit.  So I found this book a bit complicated at first (but thankfully the glossary at the back helped a lot), but I found it incredibly fascinating.

I read a lot of book set in WWII, and this is the first I have read and learned a little about a much more recent war.
Because this book is written by a Vietnam vet, it feels so honest, as I am reading about the things that happened that today we would think ridiculous and impossible, I am sure those things did happen to Karl and his fellow comrades.

I would recommend this book to everyone, such an eye opener!

My rating: 4 ½ out of 5.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The History of My Blog

Since I have had a lot of new readers recently and not everyone is my Mother, I thought I would share with you all a little bit about me and my blogging history.

I started Minivan Stiletto just over a year ago, but I have been blogging for over 6 years now.

Why I started blogging and why I blog today are two very different reasons and that is part of why I started this blog and chose not to continue on my first blog.

Hubby and I - first picture I posted on my old blog - 4 months pregnant.

I started blogging very soon after I found out I was pregnant with Little Girl.

You see I had a lot of friends that had babies before me, and them like most Mom’s do, loved to share cute pictures of their babies.

So as I was looking down at my flat stomach, envisioning its impending expansion, I thought back a few years and remembered my thoughts as I got my inbox inundated with emails chalked full of photos of yet again another baby making a poop smile.

Knowing I would probably be the same way, and feel like my child was cuter than all other children to ever grace this earth, and of course all my friends and family would want to see every poop smile photo I could manage to capture, I decided I would start a blog and post all the pictures there instead of filling their in boxes too.

Little Gil - Poop Smile
This would allow me to guilt-free post as many pictures as I wanted, and also allow our friends and family to stop by my digital photo album as often as they want.

So I started blogging about my pregnancy and all about Little Girl and our life once she arrived.

I continued blogging when we had Little Boy and even after I went back to work.

But soon I started to think about taking my blog a different direction; I want to make it a bit more public, and more about parenting and not so much about just our family.

Because on my last blog I had posted baby bum photos, my children and friends children’s names were on it, I decided to stop that blog and start fresh.

So Minivan Stiletto was born.

Why the name?  I was looking for something catchy, I drive a minivan and I can wear a wicked pair of heels, of course I don’t every day, but I can be caught once in a while picking my kids up from day home in heels.

Minivan Stiletto is my blog about parenting, my blog about my family and our lives here in Calgary.

Thanks for stopping by, feel free to tell your friends about Minivan Stiletto, and if you are a blogger, make sure to leave your blog address in the comments, I would love to stop by and say hi!

What about you?  Why did you start blogging?

Monday, March 05, 2012

Manhattan Clam Chowder

I am not the biggest fan of New England Clam Chowder, but I love, love, love the Manhattan variety.
I have been making this recipe for years and usually make a double or triple batch.  It freezes great, but just make sure to use red or yellow skinned potatoes (russets fall apart too much in the cooking process and certainly in the freezing and defrosting).

Manhattan Clam Chowder

1 ½ tsp vegetable oil
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup sliced celery
½ cup sliced carrot
½ cup diced potatoes
1 (540 ml) can diced tomatoes in juice
1 (142 g) can baby clams
1 cup chicken stock

2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp parsley flakes
1/8 - 1/4 tsp thyme
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat; add onion. Cook 2 to 3 minutes until transparent. Add celery, carrot, and potato; cook. Stir often until tender. Add tomatoes and clams with juice. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper, stir until blended.  Simmer 25 minutes or until vegetable are tender.

Friday, March 02, 2012

On My Nightstand - Secret Daughter

Secret Daughter – By Shilpi Soaya Gowda

On the back cover:
On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to a baby girl.  But in a culture that favours sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter’s life is to give her away.  It is a decision that will haunt her and her husband for the rest of their lives, even after the arrival of their cherished son.

Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discover that she will never have one of her own.  When she and her husband, Krishnan, see a photo of the baby with the golf-flecked eyes from a Mumbai orphanage, they are overwhelmed with emotion.  Somer knows life will change with the adoption but is convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles.

Interweaving the stories of Kavita, Somer and the child that binds both of their destinies, Secret Daughter poignantly explores the emotional terrain of motherhood, loss, identity, and love, as witnessed through the lives of two families – one Indian, one American – and the child that indelibly connects them.

My thoughts:
Overall I liked this book, but there were a few things I did not like.
I did not really like Somer’s character.  I had a hard time with how she treated her husband’s and daughter’s culture.  She made no effort what so ever to understand and help her daughter know where she was from.

I felt there was so much more missing from this book – it seems to only scratch the surface of the emotions that were happening, the struggles both families were facing.

As I said, it was a good book, i liked it, I would tell people to read it, but for me it could have been even better.

My rating: 3 out of 5.

Thursday, March 01, 2012


If you are Canadian, you should know how to skate.

You might be like me and not know how to do a hockey stop, but I think all Canadians should at least know how to tie on a pair of skates and be able to join in the counter-clockwise rotation of public skating.

I can remember being 4 years old and my parents taking us to an indoor rink and I learned how to skate by pushing an old chair around the ice.

I have quite a few friends who have enrolled their children in skating lessons, because Little Girl has not been the greatest at unparented  classes in the past, we decided Hubby would teach her how to skate – at least the basics for now.

We started last year and she did okay, but could not move at all without a learning support.

This year, first time out she was pushing her support to the side and skating.

Hubby has taken her a few more times and she is doing fantastic – loves it, and proving to us she is Canadian through and through!