Christmas Wishes

Friday, 23 December 2016

Season's Greetings, Blog Readers!

How are you all?

We are working, dancing, skating, baking, cleaning, house designing up a storm over here on Brunswick street

Still a winner, Mark B.
.

Standard fare is to ask if we are ready for Christmas.  I am ready for a rest!  Is that what they mean?

But yeah...Santa will find his way to Brunswick street.



As per usual, we have made our usual Christmas Crack (the family demands it in their Christmas packages), Sarah Richardson's Pecan Puffs, and Five Star Bars. We added a new recipe to the repertoire.....Candy Cane Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Basically, you take my favourite Choc Chip Cookie recipe by America's Test Kitchen...CLICK HERE...and add 15-20 crushed small candy canes or 3-4 large crushed candy canes.  These make chocolate chip cookie magic!  The candy canes melt and re-harden as they cool...giving it a crunchy and soft texture at the same time. It definitely adds a festive flavour and appearance!



I am also making Brown bread today by hand....recipe from my friend Sherrie's old blog on Twentytwo pleasant.

Tomorrow: homemade white bread for toutons and maybe a pie...we'll see!


We are getting a turkey from 1000 Hills Farm...and Andrew is spearheading a spatchcocked turkey baking plan...don't ask me why...but we are gonna try it! (Read about the turkey tales HERE)

We also brine the turkey with Chuck Hughes Brining Recipe (see that HERE).

Anyhow, I hope you all have a wonderful weekend with food, friends and family :)

If you can't tell...we are all about the food in this house!



All the best,

K.

Kitchen Tidings

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Hello again!

I find myself apologizing frequently for my lack of blogging.

It's interesting...a friend of mine recently asked me if I had been doing much blogging lately...and of course I said no. She asked why.

I thought for a moment and said:  I think the blog was initially a creative outlet for me...and now putting together my house is my creative outlet!

It's true I spend my evenings, (after Emma is in bed, and all the usual chores are done) looking at home stuff.

What's on my list?

Well we have been working on ikea-designing the kitchen. Picking out siding, vanities, roofing, lighting.

All kinds of fun stuff!  For real...a lot of people get overwhelmed with the shopping side of things.

I prefer to be decisive.  Plus I really know what I like.  Even when I am forced to reconsider an item, based upon price. I treat it like a giant puzzle...looking for all the things to make it fit together.

Ikea has a (really) slow web-based app that allows you to design you kitchen.  Andrew has been fiddling with it mostly.  It allows you to design your kitchen based upon your measurements and allows you different cabinet choices/options depending on what you think might be best. e.g. cabinets vs drawers; pantry cupboards, microwave niches etc.

I had done some research and found this link particularly helpful when it comes to planning a kitchen:  Of course, some people while building, get a kitchen designer.  We are on a budget..and in that case it comes in handy!

We are hoping for ours to look similar to this:


We want to have the sink in the island, and the dishwasher hidden in the island...along with a microwave niche. We are hoping to have tall cabinets on either end of the kitchen with some open shelving around the range hood. 

Certainly not everyone's cup of tea...but we are pleased as punch to design a clean, modern looking kitchen.  We chose Ikea's high gloss white cabinets: Ringhult.





I had done some research and found this link particularly helpful when it comes to planning a kitchen:  Of course, some people while building, get a kitchen designer.  We are on a budget..and in that case it comes in handy! It helped us make decisions about the width of the space between the island and the stove etc.

This link on lighting in a kitchen is also a great one!

Finally...we chose a dual-fuel gas cooktop/convection oven...

Well you soon learn that you need to choose an appropriate vent hood that will take care of any airflow that is required when you are using propane in your house (cuz of course, Yarmouth does not have natural gas in the area).  This link makes sure that you are using a strong enough range hood based upon the BTUs of your cooktop.

I seriously don't know how people independently planned kitchens before the internet.  Now, if you have a question, you can just type the question into google...and poof there ya go!

The only thing we haven't for sure decided on is countertops.  I am hoping to get at least the island in the kitchen as a solid surface countertop.  Not sure what direction we are going with the other counter top, that surrounds the cooktop...stay tuned!

K.




September

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Gosh darn it.

Where have I been?

Truth is, I have a tendency to feel blah after vacation and have a hard time getting back into routine. So bloggin falls by the way side a bit. Sorry y'all. I really do miss regular blabberings on this little piece of the internet.

In the meantime, we have been making slow and steady progress on the house front. Including actually doing the whole mortgage signing with the bank etc. It's been a very interesting learning process.  In fact, some people have approached me to talk about the logistical process of building...and all that goes into it.  While I know not nearly enough, I think for sure I would like to share all the things you don't realize or think about when it comes to building..maybe it might be helpful or interesting on some front.

September has been a big month so far. My little one has started school (gasp!) and I spent tons of time wrapping up with many kiddos on my caseload, as we say farewell, and they move on to school as well.

My down time has actually been spent perusing home stuff...preparing myself to make decisions (cuz I hate being indecisive...it's very wasteful IMO..but then so is browsing the internet). Sourcing has been interesting....but I think, all in all, I feel pretty confident about the aesthetic of the home we are building.  If anything, I am a bit too confident.  (Fingers crossed we can fit it in the budget!)

I hope to write some upcoming posts on the following...cuz I wake up some times and think about some of these things!!

- appliances (a doozy)

- light fixtures

- flooring

- kitchen

Cuz framing is starting and soon we hope to have a place to put all that stuff!!

Happy Fall!

K.



Newfoundland Vacation

Wednesday, 24 August 2016


Well, tomorrow is my first day back at work, in what feels like a looong time.

We had wonderful vacation adventures in St. John's, NFLD.

Some highlights:

1) A seriously amazing trip to Ferryland, where we walked out to the lighthouse and had a wonderful picnic of Curried Chicken Sandwiches, Orzo Salad, homemade lemonade in Mason jars, and Apple cake with toffee sauce.  The selection of desserts were ridiculous and the sandwiches were on homemade brown bread. I love brown bread....


Emma tried her hand at some rock climbing and we foraged on berries along the trail. It was a windy day, but the moss under our picnic blanket held on to our body heat and I was so sad that I had a child to be responsible for at that point, because after that picnic, all you wanted to do was nap.



2) I really really wanted to go to Mallard Cottage, for supper while we were there, but they were booked solid on the evening that we had planned to go out.  Recently, I had heard that the Reluctant Chef was fantabulous so we made a reservation.

It was a 5 course tasting menu.  They accommodate allergies and aversions which is quite considerate.  I threw caution to the wind..and went whole hog into what the chef had in mind.

We had: Garden carrot prepared two ways - boiled and shredded/fried with ginger sauce and black sesame seeds.  (You really can't go wrong when you deep fry anything.  It was delicious.)

Scallop ceviche (!!!!!) with a salad made of a green similar to bok choy (he said the name but I can't remember the of it...) with a delicious citrus vinaigrette.  (Full disclosure:  I don't eat raw meats or seafood but it was pretty good!)

House made sausage with mashed potatoe, and a poached egg on top. (AMAZING!)

Cumin and paprika crusted sirloin with cauliflower puree (AMAZING!  Although the meat was a little rare.)

Vanilla poached pineapple with pineapple weed (which is all around us in NFLD) and a cardamom shortbread and toasted meringue (AMAZING!)

We had great company, great conversation, great drinks and a babysitter. Great evening all around.



3) Picking wild blueberries.  Anyone that has read {this blog post} knows how I have grown into my berry picking ways.

In a secret spot in Harbour Main, just a few minutes from my nan's house, you could pick berries by the fistful.  They were as large as high bush berries, you could get here in Nova Scotia.   Cue the sounds of the tide rolling in, a sunset and a child eating as many blueberries as one can grab...can't get much better than that!




4) A trip to Signal Hill.

I was a bit sad that we hadn't realized that Justin Trudeau was there the day before. Emma has a thing for him and would have loved a pic with him.  But we thoroughly enjoyed the interpretation completed by Parks Canada re: the shooting of the noon day gun.  Emma was thrilled and wanted a picture with the guy dressed in a traditional navy uniform.



5) A trip to the Rooms Museum.  We got to see a heartbreaking exhibit on Beaumont Hamel and tempered it with some wonderful interactive exhibits that are perfect for kids.

An extra long see-saw in the exhibit called Free Play
A piano that you play with light-switches (also in Free Play)

6) A visit with my 90-something year old grandmother. She's a sweetheart. Emma agrees.




7) Spending time with my nephew!  He has grown so much!! He's definitely Emma's favourite cousin.

Beach fires on a chilly evening at Topsail Beach



So it's back to reality tomorrow..but a vacation well spent. 

Looking to share some house stuff, soon!

K.








World Breastfeeding Week

Friday, 5 August 2016

I debated writing about this topic.

Breastfeeding is the "gun-control-in-the-bible-belt" topic of parenting...and I am not here to offend anyone.

But it's World Breastfeeding Week and I have alluded to my strong feelings about breastfeeding on the blog before.

So here we are! Here's my story..

I, myself was nursed until I was 6 months old.  In the words of my mom: "There was no fuss...no right or wrong way...you just did it".  No obsessive weekly weighing of babies..no expectations...I am not sure if it was the right way, but certainly a lot more simple than it is today.


I decided very early on in my pregnancy that I wanted to breastfeed. A. was very supportive for a number of reasons...but the main one: it's cheap. In it's purest form: free.

I listened attentively during my pre-natal class's session on breastfeeding...bought the pretty nursing pillow, the bras and the breastpump...ready to go, I was.

Then I had Emma...who promptly lost 9% of her birth weight in the first day (which I come to find out now was probably because I had a bolus of fluids via IV prior to getting an epidural, which can often inflate a baby's birth weight). Lost a few extra ounces the next...and so we were well over the "cut off" for no more weight loss than 10% of baby's birth weight...prior to discharge.

We had to stay an extra night in the hospital. I was so miserable.

I remember being told by the lactation consultant, at the time, that there was no way a doctor was going to let me go home with a baby that had lost that much weight.

I am not sure if she thought that was helpful.

But it really wasn't.

It planted this unhappy little seed of self-doubt.

Then when I asked a nurse how frequently a baby should breastfeed, she responded every three hours or so (HA!!!!!!! I don't even remember when Emma stopped nursing every 1-2 hours).

..and so I headed into this downward spiral of misinformation and doubt.


The nursing pillow was mostly helpful for tummy and nap times.


Long story short...breastfeeding for me was like running a marathon.

Add a dash of post-partum depression and I had serious thoughts of switching to formula full-time (we already had done some supplementation with formula).

But breastfeeding my baby was my goal. So kept on going..finding ways to meet my goal.

But what about the moms that didn't meet their breastfeeding goal?  These moms may not have met that goal..but they probably met other goals in their life. Goals that they decided were more appropriate at that time. (I won't even list any of the possibilities....because I am sure there are a lot of different reasons.)

Here's the next part of my story...how I became really aware of this really uncomfortable rhetoric. This push and pull between mamas that breastfeed and then can't anymore (for whatever reason) and this impression of judgement.

When a mama decides not to breastfeed or decides to stop breastfeeding you often hear these words..."well my baby had formula and he/she is fine.  He/she is smart. He/she is healthy..."

When I hear that...it makes me feel so deflated.

These mamas respond this way because of fear and often anger. Fear of judgement....from others...from moms...from me! Possibly anger that they received judgement...or perceived judgement.

Of course your baby is fine/smart/healthy and they had formula!  Why wouldn't they be?


I think in the end...we as moms sometimes think that just because one mom has a certain goal...it infers that she thinks we should all have that same goal. And it really shouldn't be that way. Everyone should decide their own goal.

My nursling shortly after her first birthday


Let me fill you in on a little secret......


I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NEVER HAD A GOAL TO RUN A MARATHON!


I have several friends that have run a marathon.

Does that mean I infer, that they want me to run a marathon?

No.

For a variety of reasons...but when it comes down to it...it's just not going to work for me.

I will never run a marathon....and I am ok with that!

I don't have to defend my lack of marathon-running-ness.


But here's the thing....let's say I did want to run a marathon....and I was having a lot of trouble....but still really wanted to.....do you think I would be ok if my friends came to me and said: "Ya know what Katie?  maybe you shouldn't run this marathon after all...I know you wanted to...but...it doesn't seem to be working out....so-and-so hasn't run a marathon and they are fine...".

It probably wouldn't make you feel too good about yourself...and in the end...if you stopped...it was because someone was influencing your confidence to make that goal.

And that's never a good position to be in.

(Do ya get what I am saying here?)


Take home msg: If you want to breastfeed...have a goal. Surround yourself with people that are supportive of your goal. Don't let the seeds of doubt overtake you...and if you change your goal to one that doesn't include breastfeeding...don't feel the need to defend your new goal...cuz maybe you decided to learn how to race a bike instead of a run marathon...and damn it...that is hard too!

Feeding babies is hard work. Regardless of our method.

Happy World Breastfeeding Week to all the moms, that nursed a baby with milk of any kind....and be kind to all the moms and their choices.


(p.s. thanks to my supportive people....especially A. cuz he encouraged me to make my own decisions about my body.)










Cost Over-runs

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Fun topic, eh?

When you are building a house, everyone tells you that their house building or reno, was more expensive, than they thought it would be.

That's not surprising...but the difference in how much people spend over their budget is largely variable. It can run from thousands to tens of thousands, and beyond.

At some point, there really must be a time where you have to say, no.

(I mean, there really is a point where the bank must say "hell, no".)

We can't go endless amounts over budget, is my point. We have savings, but we need to avoid being house poor and we need to maintain our savings in our RRSPs and education funds for Emma.  

So the problem so far, is that our contractor is super-fabulous and talks in very practical terms.

He tells us things that he thinks are appropriate to consider...and I am thankful for it.  But as a result, we are just over a month in to the build, and so far, we have run into three cost over-runs that we signed up for.

Let's chat about them...

Basement gravel with a hit of coral - so chic

1) We get a phone call in the first week, to ask if we want trees to be removed at the lake front area of the property, since they are excavating the site for the house.

We say:  "We were thinking we would do the removal at another time, to prioritize the house, rather than landscaping."

We hear: "Well....right now we can get a large excavator down there and remove foliage and trees, faster.  When your septic field goes in, you can't get a big machine down there, due to the width of the property and fear of crushing the septic tank. Hence, it will cost more down the line, because smaller equipment will take more time.".

Darn you, reasoning skills. Less money now....less chance that we will be wading in our own waste, on the front lawn... Budget - 0, Reasonable thoughts - 1


Some Fox Gloves hanging out near the waterfront

2) We hear:  "Hey, the basement that is facing the water, is going to look like a concrete monolith.".  (I am exaggerating, but that's how I imagined it).

Let's try again:  "Hey, the basement wall that faces the water, is exposed floor height to ceiling height, and will not look very good aesthetically, without a window....when you look at it from the water, it is a lot of concrete. Plus, a window will allow a lot of light in....and if it is an egressed window, it will allow for you to put a bedroom, in the basement, in future."

 (P.s. did you know what "egressed" means?  I didn't...it means "openable").

Darn you teenage Emma, who will want a basement bedroom, so she can sneak out at night and drink beers with her friends.

Budget - 0,  Reasonable thoughts - probably still 1, if you take into consideration that I am enabling my child.

One of the few raspberry bushes that survived the excavation! 

3) We hear: "Did you want a "rough in"  for a bathroom put in the basement, before we pour the basement floor?"

Gah. Teenage Emma will need to use a bathroom, at some point.

In the meantime, Andrew wishes to put his workout stuff in the basement and was advocating for an "open air" toilet for ease of use.        

No.  Just no.

But alas: Budget - still 0, Reasonable thoughts - 1 1/2, if we avoid the open air toilet.


I hope we do.


K.









Laying Foundations in the Neighbourhood

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

First of all, thanks for the birthday wishes and response to my birthday blog post!

When I started this blog a year ago, I really didn't intend to write to share big pieces of me...but then it happened and the writing itself and the response has been truly cathartic.

As I have said before, I don't identify as a writer at all...but now I guess I should at least think that maybe I am, on a good day. :)

This blog was intended to be a place of sharing re: our experience of building a home in a place that has limited building resources....along with a place to talk about baking.

That is still intended!!

Rogue flowers in our yard 

With that...not many fun updates on the house front. Thanks to a stretch of great weather a few weeks ago, we have the majority of our foundation poured.

Yesterday, we ran over, after soccer, to take a peek at progress.  They are preparing to pour the basement floor and they have a ton of gravel around.  Also, they have started waterproofing the exterior of the foundation, which is really interesting looking...it is being applied on a sloping grade, to match the grade of the land. It's marked with a chalk line and is being carefully met.  It's really fascinating to see detail even on the most boring of things.

Looking "through" where our basement window will be...featuring my model, Andrew, in soccer attire, for scale. 

In other house news, we had to cut down some trees for pole access by NS Power (maple tree vs apple tree) and are crossing our fingers that the well drilling, that is coming up, will go smoothly.

Finally...what was extremely heartwarming last night, was watching Emma play with two girls that will be our neighbours when we move in.  They all chased their dog down to the waterfront area of our property and explored around...looking for raspberry bushes.

That's one thing Emma does not have at our current property...children of a similar age that she can just go around and explore with. While these girls are older and won't have the time of day soon, for Emma...it's still wonderful to have neighbours that you can chat with...borrow sugar etc.

Stay tuned for further updates and fingers crossed for ongoing lovely weather for building and summer adventures!

K.

Ten things at 35

Thursday, 7 July 2016

So I am hitting a milestone birthday today...35.

I remember when 30 was my scary year and then I turned 30 and I was like....ok.... 35 is the new scary year....

Well....I don't think I have a new scary year....which tells me that maybe I have matured a bit when it comes to thinking about aging.

Cuz I feel like I know a lot more than when I was 30....but I don't really feel any older. So what's wrong with that?  Nothing really.

I feel more settled than when I was 30...have a better understanding of what my morals and ethics are...I feel like I understand my job more.....feel more comfortable with what I want in my relationships and friendships.

Nothing wrong with that at all!


So when I was thinking about a birthday post I was like...maybe I should do 35 things about me to celebrate the number of years I am turning....but that felt like I was beating a dead horse...cuz I don't know if there are 35 things I want to share about myself!

So I settled on 10.  Nice even number.


A carefully curated selfie so that I can look back at my 35 year old self.

Let's go with the random, boring facts!!

1) I used to take painting lessons.

I don't think I was that good...but my best friend took them...and I liked the idea of painting. I have one painting that I did in my house....in a drawer.

2) I used to.....


ok... let's start over again...these are superficial things about me...that no one probably cares about...let's get to the nitty gritty.

1) I am a feminist.

Yup....and I married one too.

2) I am non-spiritual, non-religious....but I support your right to chose religion. I am driven by human compassion.

3) I am a straight ally.  What does that mean?  I support equal rights no matter your identified sexuality or gender.

4) I support choice.

5) I seek diversity...I love learning about other cultures, ethnicities...there is no need for intolerance.

6) I believe in science.

7) I believe women have remarkable bodies..we can carry and/or feed a baby, run a marathon, work 12 hour days, solve problems....what's not to love?

8) I support families who have children with special needs: physical, social/emotional, behavioural, developmental...I have been bit, hit, yelled at, had to help kids out from under my desk....they all leave a mark on my heart and I remember them.

9) I believe in early intervention...because why should we look back with regret?

10) I believe we all know someone in poverty. Understanding and assistance is what they need...not suspiciousness and ignorance.


These are 10 things that I possibly knew before I was 30...but definitely know now that I am 35.

So why look back!?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!


(And Ringo Starr...cuz we share the same birthday)


Jerk Chicken + House Updates

Friday, 17 June 2016

First off.... We are really building a home now!  The excavation is started and we are super thrilled.  We had a lovely walk around the property last evening and it's amazing what some excavators and chippers can do.  There is even hope that one day we can access the lake!

Emma was pumped about all the dirt piles and the rocks...typical fun sliding down dirt mounds etc. We had to stop her from jumping in the excavator.

Emma puttering around our water's edge

The septic system is going to be the next big step..whoot whoot!

I am sure for the amount we are paying for it, it will be a gorgeous septic system....where all our human waste will be laid to rest....
      
Trees at 12pm 
No trees at 5pm


On that note...let's talk about barbecue for the upcoming weekend! (cuz it's supposed to be sunny...and thank gawd, because we are going camping in a tent...)


Over ten years ago, I met once of the best people I have ever met, in my speech language pathology program.  She doesn't know that I am writing this, so I will call her A.

A. is of Jamaican and Grenadian descent.

This girl introduced me to food I had never had before...plantains....ackee....mango...(for realz...mango was not a popular fruit in Pasadena, Newfoundland....it does happen to be Emma's favourite fruit).

While I don't see A. or her family nearly often enough...as they live in Ontario...when we talk it's like we didn't miss a beat.

One of the best gifts A. has given me...ahem....besides her friendship...is an authentic Jamaican jerk chicken recipe.

I am sharing the recipe along with a few tips:

Tip 1: There are many variations on an authentic jerk chicken recipe.  Most have a few staples: allspice, vinegar, garlic and heat. Traditionally...it's the habenero pepper that brings the heat. Which...to me....is fairly inedible; it is so hot.  If you chose to use habenero...be careful!  Wear gloves, remove the seeds and mince finely...

I stick to cayenne pepper...you could also probably use other kinds of hot peppers...however, if you want authentic...it's habenero or bust.

Tip 2: Marinate over night if you can (in the fridge).

Given the number of spices, the longer you can take to marry them together the better.

Tip 3: Grill this chicken...Oven doesn't cut it. Perfect summer barbecue food.

Tip 4: This marinade works on other meats like pork, as well as, fish.

Tip 5: Use a grinder or mortar and pestle for as many of the spices below, as you can. Freshly ground spices are like freshly ground coffee....way more fragrant and potent.

Now to the nitty gritty....hope your spice rack is robust or you have a bulk barn nearby (which really is the way to go for buying spices)

My first time using whole nutmeg


A.'s Jamaican Jerk Chicken:

1 TBSP of ground allspice
1 TBSP of ground thyme or whole dried thyme
1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper (this makes a mildly spicy chicken...increase to up to 1 1/2 tsp)
1 1/2 tsp of ground pepper
1 tsp ground sage (I sometimes omit this cuz I am not a huge sage fan)
3/4 tsp of nutmeg
3/4 tsp of cinnamon
6-8 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp of sugar
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of soy sauce
3/4 cup of white vinegar
1/2 cup of orange juice
Juice from one lime
3 green onions-finely chopped
1 cup of onion, finely chopped
1 habenero (if you dare)
4-6 chicken breasts

Combine all the ingredients and pour over the top of the chicken. Place chicken in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

Chicken in it's spice bath

Grill the chicken on a hot barbecue until juices run clear.  Take remaining marinade and bring to a boil for 10-15 mins in a pot on a stovetop. Use as a dipping sauce or spread over sliced chicken prior to serving.

Drink with plenty of beer.

Put your feet up and wish you were in the Caribbean....or at least hanging with your best Jamaican/Grenadian friend!!



K.


Windows

Monday, 13 June 2016

Windows. They are kinda important and kinda expensive!

Plus they are not the sort of thing you can easily change your mind on!

They are also a part of your house for the long haul. It's not like some of the other stuff that you can spend less on and then upgrade later.

On the other side of things....you can't just do floor to ceiling windows. Ya need to have some restraint.

So...if you haven't figured it out yet...we have been picking out our windows.. Our contractor had given us some homework last weekend: look over a very long list of windows that need to be purchased!

We had to make some changes, as it turns out some of the plans had very big windows in the shower stalls.  I didn't feel as though I wanted to put curtains in the shower...and I certainly didn't want us to have a display window for our neighbours....cuz ya know while I have some element of body confidence...we don't need to get that intimate.

We also added some windows in the vaulted section of our living room plans.  So exciting!

Most of the homes in the area (and Yarmouth in general) are fairly traditional.

We really wanted to make a statement with our house exterior, which of course, is largely affected by the aesthetic of the window.  As such, we went out on a pretty big limb and ordered windows with a black exterior and a white interior.  (i.e. On the outside, the window casings will appear black.  From the inside the window casings will appear white...more or less).

An example of windows without trim
The large windows and the sliding glass door to our small deck, are in groups of three, side by side, rectangular panels. No fancy pane work...contemporary design...super sleek.

We sourced a contemporary front door with three glass panels (oooh the possibilities of front door colors will be a convo for the future!) and of course, a basement door.

We have been having convos with our contractor re: interior window trim.  A lot of homes with contemporary design choose to forgo window trim....which I would prefer. We are still in the process of seeing if that is financially viable.  We have been warned by our contractor that the edges are not as durable as windows with trim...so that's a conversation to be had too.

Lots of decisions...but I am really enjoying the challenge so far.  I am sure decision-making-fatigue will be in my future...but until then...I will hold on to the excited feeling!

We are hoping to break ground this week!!  PUMPED.

K.







May Things

Monday, 30 May 2016

May was a bit of a marathon month for me.

While others were training for Bluenose...I was getting by!  I went to Halifax, three times in less than a month...plus one trip to Middleton (That's like a record for me...not a good one, either).

It felt like a lot of my week days were scheduled...both inside my work life and outside.

There was a lot of me saying yes, when I should have probably said no...(or "could we try this instead?")

On a good note...all our financial stuff lined up and we finally finished the approval process with the bank with our house.  Yea!

We chose a contractor and signed a contract of sorts.

I am super pleased with our contractor (in this very short period of time that we have been working with him). He has taken so much time to ask us detailed questions about anything and everything to deal with our house. He has been extremely forthcoming re: suggestions and very available via email and to meet on short notice.  Their product sourcing has been phenomenal (from stair railings, to siding to fixtures)..and I can't wait to see it all happen....eventually.

We are now in the permit phase of things.  I have learned to take timelines with a grain of salt (already...which is probably a good thing...be zen with the timeline)....and until then, we will wait for our start date!

Hoping to witness some of the big dig on start date...and in the meantime...I hope to come up with a little something to introduce ourselves to the neighbours.

Anyone that knows the area we are building, will know space is somewhat tight and the road is pretty much single lane.

Here we are coming in...making lots of noise...lots of upheaval and most likely lots of mess for everyone to "enjoy".

I hope to start things off on the right foot and give a little something to our close neighbours to buy us a little patience.

I am thinking maybe something baked, with a note introducing ourselves and the promise of coming over for an open house at the end of it all....gawd knows...we will probably all need a large drink at the end of this all...(whether it be the month of May or the end of house building).

Wish us luck,

K.


Newfangled Camping Adventures

Monday, 16 May 2016

I grew up camping.

My parents were big outdoor people....plus, we didn't have tons of money.  Summer vacation was usually a trip to "the mainland" on the ferry...where we camped our way through Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI, Quebec, Ontario and the States.

The view from our Keji campsite
Last Labour day weekend, we went camping with friends, to Keji.

It had been a looong time since we had been camping.....we definitely hadn't been since Emma was born.

Our tent was moldy from living in the basement...the air mattresses questionable.

So we borrowed as much gear as we could...we did invest in three sleeping bags from MEC....and slept on foam "pads".  By "pads", I mean thin, hard strips, of hell.

Yes. Hell.

If there is something at this end of this life...and I have been judged to have been a miserable, horrible person with little humanity...I fear I shall see that our beds will be these foam pads we slept on for two nights, on a gravel campsite.

That and we only have soy milk to put in our coffee.


So we are going camping again this year (hopefully, more than once!).  I found some sweet self-inflating mattresses at Costco last time I was there (similar to the awesome Therm-a-rest products) and am expecting a much better sleeping experience this time 'round.



Next up....the tent.

We borrowed our tent last time...but this time our friend we borrowed from, is going with us!  It might be a bit cozy, so we are opting to purchase.

Tents are so confusing.

I grew up with the pyramid type ones that had stainless steel poles...where if your tent fell down, the poles might turn into weapons that could cause blunt force trauma.

Later on in my teenage camping years I discovered dome tents, that were easier to set up. Obviously, dome tent for the win.

Hot tip: If a tent says that it is a 2 person tent....it's really a 1 person tent....unless you are into spooning.  (And maybe you are....so spoon away.)

So that means we would probably be looking for a 4-ish person tent.

Personally, I prefer tents that have a "fly" that creates a zip up vestibule to the tent entrance, itself.  It creates a barrier between weather, bugs...and gives you some extra privacy for when your child opens the tent door while you are changing out of your swimsuit...it happens, right?

Where to shop?

Here's the part where I tell you I googled "best tent for the money canada" (cuz otherwise all these U.S. tent articles show up).

So of course, MEC shows up...where the cost of a tent is a healthy RRSP contribution and you would feel comfortable camping with their tents at some base camp of a mountain.

What you notice about the cheaper tents, is that they don't have much protection from weather and the fly is very skimpy....and a bigger tent is not always better. A tent can be roomy but not great quality. Who wants to buy a new tent every few years? (We are trying to be a "one and done" style of shopping family...in fact I will save that topic for another day!)

Canadian Tire and Cabela's share some reputable name brands (Eureka!).

In the end..I think we are going to purchase a tent from Cabela's online store. The one we are looking at comes in 4 and 6 person sizes. The plan is to take the dimensions for each, go out in the back yard and map out the size difference...probably lie down in the grass side by side to get an opportunity to see how we would fit (plus or minus gear)...have the neighbours peek out to see what the heck we are up to....

One nice feature about the 6 person tent is that you can stand up, full height, if you are less than 6 feet tall...non essential...but a nice feature none the less.

Next up...a camp stove..cuz nothing is more important than food, while you are camping (is it just me, or does food taste exponentially better while camping?)

A truly happy camper


Stayed tuned...since our house planning is limping a long..I will have lots of time to think and research camping gear for families!!

Do you go camping, glamping, RV-ing or hotel hopping?

What gear is the must have?

K.





Cookies and Cream Cookies at Oak Island

Monday, 9 May 2016

Tax season is really tough.  It's really hard on the people that work so hard, for their job.  It's also really hard on families.

I was told recently, that the breakdown of all relationships all come down to expectations.

Expectations that aren't met.

Expectations that are implicit to some; failed to be made explicit.

A mismatch in expectations.

Tax season always challenges us as a family (hello, overtime).  It's when I struggle to change my expectations, from my usual. It's when I have to say "I understand", but also ensure I say "I need help", before my frustration turns to resentment.

Each tax season is easier, as I become more explicit with my expectations and Andrew with his.

(Each tax season is still hard...but I felt more confident this year. Emma still notices...that's a different story. It helped that the winter wasn't too hard this year...not too many storms...hardly a cold or a sniffle in this house...yea for immunity building...and flu shots!)

One great thing that Andrew's workplace does is go on a weekend trip to celebrate the end of tax season.  This year we went to Oak Island Resort. I didn't take many pictures...which is probably good, because it meant I was busy doing stuff...and all three of us had a great time as a family, and a great time with the work crew.


We did a lot of rock throwing


Emma and I had side by side mini-pedis. 

Since I have been trying to bake for the crew, this tax season, it only made sense that I make cookies for the get-togethers, we had over the weekend.

I got this recipe from Joy the Baker's website...but she actually got it from Graham Blackall from the website Glazed and Confused (cute name, huh?).

He likes to make these crazy cookie mashups that often have other iconic ingredients in them (Cap'n Crunch, Nutella etc.)

Well.....this cookie that I made for the weekend was....in short....the Inception Cookie.

Cuz this was a cookie with Oreo cookies.....meta....I was intrigued by this cookie...a cookie within a cookie. Find the recipe HERE!


And I had reservations...because while everyone loves an Oreo cookie...it's not as good as a home baked cookie.


In short...it's a good damn thing that I felt that I should make these cookies for others, because I would have eaten most of the dough...(and I certainly ate a large chunk of it.)


A few dozen came with us....and none came back....and I was a bit sad. Tax season baking complete....

(I was so busy that I completely forgot to take a pic of the final product! Oh well....)

Guess I will have to push through start a new baking tradition...June 30th filing deadline baking! O-lay!

K.



White Chocolate & Macadamia Nut Cookies

Monday, 25 April 2016

Fun fact: I used to be a Subway Sandwich Artist in university.

I used to sling meatballs, arrange pepperoni, slice onions, tomatoes and green peppers, refill the mayo bottles after some teenager came in and requested extra extra extra extra extra mayo and pickles on their sandwich (I admit sometimes when people did that, I would give their sandwich an extra squeeze, as I was wrapping it up).

I became a connoisseur of what the best sub was...(Just for the record...it is NOT the Cold Cut trio).

Subway is also where I got my start as a cookie connoisseur.

Subway receives their cookies, already mixed and portioned in little, frozen balls. Place those babies on a matted cookie sheet and bake for 8 mins. Not 9, not 7...8 minutes.

It was the perfect length of time to achieve a soft middle, slightly browned bottom.

It is a cardinal sin to bake your cookies too long. For reals.

Well...my favourite cookie at Subway is the white chocolate macadamia nut cookie.

Sometimes, if you worked a morning shift, you had "waste" cookies from the day before.  We weren't supposed to eat them...but, you know we did.

I ate several waste pounds of them that summer.

(Fun fact:  The cookies tasted even better when you wore Satsuma lipbalm from the Body Shop...don't ask my why...but they did).

So recently, I came across Joy the Baker's recipe for the best White Chocolate Macadamia Nut cookie and her blog post of nostalgia.

These cookies are totally nostalgic for me...they remind me of summers in undergrad, when I had to walk to and from work and my apartment in student housing, smelling of deli meat and white cheddar cheese. They remind me of the singing along to the radio to Eminem and Butterfly by Crazy Town, while preparing veggies...and they remind me of the hot ridiculous days of dealing with people's crankiness as they stood in line on their lunch hour demanding deli meat sandwiches and flat pop.

Ah those were the days...(certainly made me realize that I didn't want to work in customer service for the rest of my life!)

So Joy talks about the reason why these cookies are so ridiculous is that they have three forms of fat in them: cream cheese, browned butter and unsalted butter.



The cookie dough itself is remarkable and very edible...

You can find the link to the recipe itself: HERE.

The only thing I did differently was toast the macadamia nuts a bit (and then slightly cooling them) prior to adding them to the dough. This is a risky move.  I realized quickly that they are like pine nuts and burn easily...They also cost way more than a bouquet of cauliflower....So toast at your own risk!

Toasty
I ate a lot of them...So many, that I didn't eat my supper right away tonight...must have been the protein in the macadamia nuts and cream cheese...right?

Little dough balls...you can see the flecks of the brown butter and the toasted nuts

These went to the Wheelans White crew...bolster the mood...it's crunch time!


So try your hand at baking these babies...grab some milk or flat pop and go to town!

K.




Spring/Summer Bucketlist

Saturday, 23 April 2016

I was raised outside...I made "cabins", popped spruce gum bubbles with sticks, picked wild strawberries in our backyard, made dandelion stem curls, went ice fishing, camping, exploring....

Now...somedays....I go outside, because I know I should. Or because I know Emma, should.

What happened??

1) I think I am a fairweather outdoors person. I dislike extreme temperatures, windiness, drizzle, flat-out rain...wait a minute...I live in Yarmouth....this describes most of our weather...always.

2) I find kids parks relatively boring (did I say that out loud?). I rely on other adults being present to also keep me entertained.

3) I always feel like there is something to complete in the house...laundry, pretend spring cleaning, trying to reduce the "my house is a litter box of toys" feel.

4) Sometimes, I don't feel like moving at all...welcome to full time working and parenting.




So...what to do..the trendy bucketlist of course.

...and make it public so I have some accountability...


1) Go fishing.  Emma and Andrew want to. I will go fishing this year.

2) Take Emma in a canoe or kayak

3) Go seaglass hunting. Emma really sees it as a treasure.

4) Go camping again at Keji (This I really can't wait to do.  We had a ball at Keji last year)

5) Go swimming in a lake. (No ocean swimming for this girl.  I draw the line)

6) Use chalk with Emma on the sidewalk

7) Plant our herb garden again (although we are getting some chives and mint come up already!)

8) Plant some perennials (I wrote that initially, so that autocorrect changed it to perineums)

9) Do a hike...maybe one without Emma. (I did Gros Morne a couple years ago and it was an awesome experience)

10) Do all of the above without getting a sunburn (SPF for the win)



What outdoor adventures am I missing?

K.




Chicken Tikka Masala + Garam Masala

Sunday, 17 April 2016

I went to an Indian wedding reception once. It was aaaahh-maaay-ziing. It was probably my first real intro to Indian food (it set the bar high). Andrew's cousin married a girl from PEI, but her immediate and extended family came from India. They were married in India, but had a reception in PEI.

The reception was an education.

Everyone was blindingly beautiful in their intricate, jewel-toned, embellished saris and delicate, but stacked, gold jewelry. If we had attended the real deal in India, all the women's appendages would have been showcasing carefully applied henna and the bride and groom decked out in flowers.

I was well underdressed in my floral dress from Smart Set.

We received an Indian dancing tutorial at the beginning of the night. We were told that all we needed to do was to follow three simple moves and we would look like a Bollywood dancer: pretend to turn a door knob with two hands, while moving your shoulders...pretend to screw in a lightbulb with two hands...again, while moving your shoulders....(try it......really......now you know what I am talking 'bout)..and finally pretend to rub a dogs back with two hands...again while moving your shoulders....it's all about the shoulders..

Food is a big darn deal at Indian weddings (and every wedding really). But according to Indian customs...us Westerners are doing it wrong.

They fill us with tons of skewers of kebabs, indian candy, and many other appetizers that I don't even remember due to the flow of alcohol that we sucked back, while dancing.

Then just when you are at the point of bursting....a midnight Indian meal with all the fixings: curries, stews, grilled meats, veggies and flatbreads of every shape, size and flavour.

This is the tradition: basically you save the best for last...and if you are a westerner, you are already drunk as a skunk and filled to the brim with Indian appetizers...and then you eat a full supper.

Tradition cites that after the supper, everyone goes home. So that's when every Westerner is left on the dance floor and everyone else goes home to sleep.  (It's really a good plan if you think about it...naan bread really does cause carb coma) So yeah...us Westerners kinda do it backwards.

I would never claim to be a great cook, let alone a great cooker of Indian food. But I do like what we make. So I wanted to share a recipe we have been making a lot lately: Chicken Tikka Masala.



Just like I have said before, patience is key, especially when it comes to Indian food. The more time this dish has time to sit and stew, the better it is.

Also, look for ways that you can really use the freshest ingredients (which I try to do in this case, except for the chili paste that I use).....and hands down...you have to make your garam masala. Don't buy a premade one. If you can grind some of the spices yourself, the brighter and more flavourful the dish will be.

We use a garam masala recipe from a rand-o website (allrecipes.com). But it's still pretty awesome.

We have a mortar and pestle that we use to grind the spices...which is a pain but I refuse to use my coffee grinder (I really should buy one that we only use for spices). You could also buy pre-ground stuff too.

1 tablespoon cumin (ground or self-ground cumin seed)
1 1/2 teaspoon of coriander (same as above)
1 1/2 teaspoon of cardamon (ya gotta grind this one yourself...I insist...even though the seeds from inside the shell pods, kinda look like little mouse poops)
1 1/2 teaspoons of black pepper (buy a pepper grinder)
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves (these are also good to grind fresh)
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg (you could grate some fresh stuff)

Cardamon pods and the seeds (adds a bright citrus flavour)

Clove grinding with a mortar and pestle
Fresh Garam Masala


You obviously don't use as much in the recipe, that this batch would make.  You can store it in a tupperware container in the cupboard, but I do find that it loses it's potency after a few days. You might have to add additional spice to whatever you use it in, the older it is.

So here is my make-shift tikka masala...

I don't marinate the chicken as some recipes call for. I like to tenderize the chicken by cooking it low and slow for some time, instead.


So you need:

4-5 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons of red curry paste (I use Patak's)
1 large white or yellow onion
a healthy dose of garlic (5 or 6 cloves, minced or pressed)
1 inch of ginger, minced
2-3 tsp of garam masala (2 tsp if it is freshly ground, 3 tsp if it is pre ground)
2 large cans of salt free diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 cup of plain yogurt (I like greek yogurt cuz it's thicker)
1/3 cup of cream (you can really work with what you have here...whipping cream, blend cream, whole milk etc.)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped fresh cilantro

My new garlic press!! So much better than my last one.
Grab a large stewing, heavy bottomed pot. Heat a tablespoon of oil in the pot, on medium heat (I use canola cuz it has a high smoking point). Chop the chicken into bite size pieces and add to heated oil. Brown chicken and remove from pot. Add onions, then garlic and ginger to the same pot. Cook and stir until softened. Add chicken back to the pot and then add garam masala, curry paste. Stir until spices and curry paste have mixed with the chicken and aromatics. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to minimum heat. Simmer for 2-3 hours with the lid on, checking and stirring every so often to ensure it is not sticking to the bottom. Add yogurt and simmer another hour. Add cream and salt and pepper to taste at the end of the cooking process. Top with cilantro.

Yogurt going in the tub

Serve with naan bread and rice...and lots of wine or beer.  Add a dash of door-knob-turning dancing and you are all set.


Grilled Naan Bread!  A recipe for another day!

Not too shabby I think....

Have a great week!

K.