Year: 2016

A Day at the Lake

It’s a lovely thing to come to the lake in the winter. We drive as far in as we can then strap on our snowshoes and hike in a couple of kilometers to the Bell camp. This year we didn’t trust the lake so we went by road, dragging a couple of sleds behind us. The girls went ahead, helter skelter, dropping various things off of their sleds with nary a look behind them. Funny how they didn’t notice. By the time Paul and Liam and I got there, we were laden with bags that had fallen by the wayside. Next year, bungie cords.

The lake is dead quiet. Surreal in the lack of wind and waves and birds and children hooting as they get dragged behind a boat.

We hike in the woods when the ice seems too thin for comfort. We wander around our friends’ cottages. There are snow fights and icicle finds. We are overdressed but grateful for it all.


Inside, it’s so cozy. We all have our books (paper or otherwise) and some have a project – a puzzle, sudoku or a pair of socks to work on. Charades.

Of course lots of great food – and baking is a sure bet with me in the cabin! I get to create all sorts of yummy things – cinnamon buns and cookies and tea biscuits. For dessert tonight is a banana cake. I forgot the ingredients for the topping so I have had to improvise with ice cream bowls, marshmallows, chocolate and pecans. Result? YUM!

All in all, a glorious time at the lake.


Photo cred @carolbell268

A jumble of goodness.

At the dinner table we always share a “highlight of the day”. This December we’ve had so many highlights. Here are a few:

Oyster Bay Chardonnay from NZ and Sanders caramels from Costco.

Perfect pairing.



I solicited the help of a wee kindie to assist in making a sample piece of artwork for our craft day next Friday. She was all painted up and gleeful to be in the P office on the rolling chair. I just love the positive energy of the little ones. “I can do it missakenzie!” when I was about to squirt some paint into a tray, and afterwards, shrieking “the soap is green!” when washing the green paint off of her hands. Joyful moments.


So proud.

A follow-up a call from the receptionist at my Endodontist. She told me that she worked something out. What? What do you mean? Well, I wanted to do something, so I … let me just work this out … instead of $2505.00 per tooth… it will be $1791.00. Um … what?? Why would you do that?

“I just wanted to do something.”

I have no idea if how she managed to do it. How she might have approached her boss and explained our situation – with Bree not able to be on my medical plan and the Healthy Smiles program not covering repairs on root canals. ‘It takes a village to raise a child’.


My staff coming together time and again to make school an awesome place for the kids – so much evidence of their efforts in December! Happy kids performing at our outdoor Christmas Concert, kids participating in a full day of creative crafting, sledding sessions on the hill, the creation of gorgeous center pieces, spirit days, secret Santa … the list goes on and on. For me it all comes down to my staff. They are willing to pull together and go the extra mile for the kids. And it shows.

Each year our good friends Michael and Deborah invite us over to decorate Christmas cookies and share a meal. They make a point of inviting different families to participate each year. This year they invited the Syrian family that they’ve been sponsoring. It was a lovely afternoon and I was grateful that my children had the opportunity to connect with Nour and Hashem and their children.

Our future.


My brother is home from his work gig in the U.K. It was the first time in eons that all three of us were together for Christmas. So special!


Crap Day for the Neighbours … and a Cake

Today Paul called to tell me that our neighbour’s place was on fire – he was jumping in his truck to go over. I grabbed my hat and coat and boots and booked it out the door.

First barn ignited.

When I was 18 I witnessed a cottage burning down, and not long after there was a huge fire at the Camp I worked at. The 2 events traumatized me at the time and instilled in me a healthy fear of fire. The fire today brought it all back. The sight, sound, heat, smell. The panic, the emotion.

After I woke up my next door neighbours, I ran across the road to see what I could do to help. Not much of course. I bawled a bit. I talked to each member of the family, let them know that they should come over for shelter, food, tea. Brought two of them to my place and found them clothes – one had a towel wrapped around his waist and another was in undies and a T-shirt. Eventually Em and her 4 month old settled in for the day.  Paul made a big stew and I got busy baking up a cake and a pan of brownies. People came and went through the day. It was an action packed day.

And of course today being Sunday … “traditional family dinner”… I was in charge of dessert. The plan was to make a lemon chiffon cake for my sister’s upcoming birthday. Here were the various stages.

It’s a rich, moist, light cake. Has a total of 14 eggs in it, and quite a bit of fresh lemon juice and butter. Whipped cream in the frosting and of course white chocolate grated on top. It’s a beauty!! Happy birthday Lou!

Here’s to a better day for my neighbours tomorrow.


photo credit for featured image: Harrison Perkins @HaPerkins

Gifts of Wine

A week or so ago a friend posted a photo on her feed that compelled me to investigate. So glad I did! My 6 bottles of Lost Inhibitions arrived this morning.

How great are they? I plan to give them as gifts – to my potty mouth friends. They come from a winery in British Columbia called Church and State.

You can’t get this line of their wine in the LCBO but you can get a few others – Cabernet Sauvignon for example. On their website you can join one of their wine clubs or buy bottles individually and have them shipped. I should probably try some of their more serious wines in my next shipment. This purchase was definitely motivated by the desire for fun Christmas presents.

Let Them Eat Cake

Friday night I picked up the girls after they had been earning a few community service hours. They’d been helping to set up for a fundraiser for Jamaican Self Help (an organization near and dear to my heart).  While there I spied the bake table that my mom had told me about earlier in the month (“Do you think you could bake anything?”). So I went home and made 1 1/2 dozen giant peanut butter cookies, wrapped them and priced them for the sale. Done. And I ate one.

Saturday I went to the sale (to drop off the cookies and spend some money), then dropped in to my favourite antique store on the way home. Picked up a lovely cake plate and cover for $12 (steel is a bitch – it took a long time to take a pic that didn’t reveal me in my pjs in too much detail). I also found two small carbon steel pans for Paul and I ($20 each, which may be a great deal but the jury is still out). A while ago I read an article outlining the horrors of cooking with a non-stick (aka coated) pan … it’s a miracle I’m still alive, according to the article. So I watched a couple of vids on You Tube and have decided that I need to make the switch so that I live longer and stop poisoning my children. According to an informative Cook’s vid, the best one is Matfer Bourgeat. It’s approx a 12″ pan, and with shipping and tax would be about $100, so I thought the wee ones for $20 were decent. They have an 8 on the handle which refers to something that only other people know. (It’s got a 4″ diameter base and flares to 6 1/2″, so you can stop thinking those thoughts…)  Can’t wait to make an omelette in mine and see how much oil I have to add so that scrambled eggs won’t stick it does.

Made my fav layered chocolate cake Saturday evening. It’s my Uncle Ian’s 80th sometime soon and we’re having dinner with him tomorrow, so OF COURSE we need a traditional birthday cake! My recipe was given to me from a fav secretary approx 20 years ago. It’s “Bid’s Chocolate Cake” but I changed the recipe to “Super Chocolate Cake” after I gave it to several people and they were “uh, who’s Bid?”. In my head I think Bid is short for Sheryl or Sheila but that makes no sense. I have had too much wine though, so whatever. ANYHOW, it’s been the “go to” birthday cake since that time (you can tell by the condition of the recipe card). The best thing about this cake is that it’s always moist and rich and it’s made with super basic ingredients. Butter, sugar, eggs, dutch cocoa, flour, water, baking soda, baking powder, salt. That’s it. It gets better the 2nd day too. Not kidding. Probably even better on day 3 but haven’t had the chance to find that out. (Go ahead, roll your eyes.)

Dana, my CYW and fellow blogger who won’t actually turn her blog on, has told me to get a fancy recipe widget that will make a recipe card that you can print from. OMG I got freaked out after the first paragraph. So forget it. If you really want the recipe, leave me a comment and I’ll happily add it to the post.

Once the cake was baked I decided to utilize the heat of the oven and make some granola, since I’m out and I can also give some to Uncle Ian as a gift. (Seriously, what do you give an 80 year old?) It’s a fab recipe given to me by my good friend Deborah. I wrote about it on another blog post. Go make it! So crunchy and yummy and healthy-ish:

Finally, made the icing, sliced the cake into 4 layers, iced it and TA DA! What a beauty.

And… delicious.



Plums and Blueberries

Today was a beautiful day to be alive! It was sunny and crisp – perfect for raking a shitload of leaves. It was also the “fall back” day for daylight savings time, which gives you this idea that you can tackle 50% more things than normal because you have one more hour in the day. Ya well, I was on fire!!!

Yesterday I picked up these beautiful plums at the market…


Today I made them into this!

My nephew Ben served it up at our “traditional family dinner” … and it was AWESOME! You can find the recipe on smitten kitchen (which I LOVE). They call it a Plum Torte, but really, if you want to get technical, it’s more like a buckle. Look it up.

After making the plum thing, I polished off my LAST SET of progress reports, raked for a while, then got going on some blueberry muffins – recipe also from smitten kitchen, coincidentally. (Did I mention that I love that website? Hell ya.)


This is currently my fav blueberry muffin recipe. It’s cakey going into the muffin pan, but moist and has a perfectly crunchy top with that fat sugar on top. Love the fat sugar.

There’s nothing like incorporating fruit in some kind of dessert. Makes you feel like a hundred bucks, eating fruit in a naughty way … don’t you think?

Lists and Sundays

I heard a while back that creating lists actually reduces stress, and that if you have trouble sleeping, you should make a list right before you go to bed so that the ‘list’ won’t be swimming around in your head all night. I think it’s a bunch of bunk because a few weeks ago I woke up in the middle of the night with lists swimming a marathon through the grey matter, got up, wrote a small novella, went back to bed and woke up with hives. What’s my learning from that? I make smaller, more manageable lists, not ones that encompass every aspect of my life: work, kids, meals, birthdays, chores, appointments. Today I present to you my very reasonable list.

As you can see, this blog entry is part of the list … since I have to blog in order to cross of two other items. Huh? Well here it is: Last week I wrote a letter to my cousin’s daughter Tessa who is 5, super cute and will likely be thrilled to get a letter in the mail. I added in photos of what we were doing that night. I mailed it the next day knowing full well that when she got it her younger brother James might freak out because there wasn’t one for him … so I’ve been planning his letter which I’ve decided will be all about Liam (my 12 year old) who he adores. Since I love technology (read: I have a problem), I took a vid of Liam at drumming lessons and made a QR code for the letter so that when James’s mom or dad scan it with their phone, it takes James to this blog page and this video of Liam. Clever, I know. LOL

So here’s Liam at his lesson last week. Playing along to Toxicity. Jaunty tune… HOPE YOU LOVE IT JAMES!

After creating a QR code and finishing the letter I will tackle the knitting tasks … since I can watch Netflix while I do that (I’m binge watching Lie to Me right now. I think it will become very handy when questioning kids about incidents at school. “Did you throw that snowball? See there, that’s a lie.”)

I love to knit! My favourite projects are generally small things – socks, scarves, mittens – since they are done relatively quickly. At this time in the year I’m mending 2 pr of mittens and finishing up a third. Here they are:

After that will be the Halloween costumes. I have a pink taffeta bridesmaid dress that I wore in 1989 that I’m going to turn into a tooth fairy costume. Liam plans to be Nathan Drake. Whoever the hell that is. I’ll post the shots of those costumes later on!

Better get to it!

Another New Cookbook

You know how bloggers often go on and on about being absent and so on? I’m not going to do that even though I can see the appeal … so much to say about all of the things that have kept me away from the blog. But I’m not going to tell you about my impossible lists and my unbelievable busyness and my incredible ability to cook and clean and rake and do homework with my kids. Because that’s everyone’s life, more or less, and I for one am sick of hearing about all of that. So this is my humble pledge to avoid those two blogging traps: apologizing and being overly harried.

I WILL tell you about the insanely awesome new magazine that I picked up yesterday … omg I love it!! It’s called Milk Street and was placed strategically at the checkout line so I had the opportunity to stare at it for about 10 minutes … just close enough to read the cover but just far away that getting it would have cost me my place in line (or a conversation with the stern lady behind me). So once it was my turn I grabbed it and perused in the the minute and a half that I had while the teller rang in my other purchases.  img_0898

It’s written by Christopher Kimball – the dude who headed up the famous Cook’s Illustrated magazine. I have loved to read them mainly because the recipes are perfected in “America’s Test Kitchen” (which is an American TV show that I’ve never watched because I never watch TV … not to be confused with Netflix, people!)


For whatever reason, I enjoy learning about the science behind cooking, and the trials and errors that chefs go through in order to get the result that they are aiming for. I’ve endeavored to do the same thing at home when I’ve wanted a chewier cookie, a less sweet jam, a nuttier crisp, a lemon curd that’s more tart. So I felt I’d hit the jackpot years ago when I started picking up the magazines. (FYI they are not written by theme – but this doesn’t matter to me).

There are others than have come out that ARE by theme – these are from “America’s Test Kitchen” – and I love them! They are generally “best of” compilations and I can’t resist that shit!

More recently I picked up a big fat Test Kitchen cookbook – no idea why – it’s not all that beautiful … but I know that the content is great. I haven’t really gotten into it yet but it’s got 15 years of TV show recipes in it, so I figure I have 15 years to get through it.

The best thing about these cookbooks – apart from all of the stories about the proces of testing recipes – are all of the scientific reasons why various foods need to be prepped or cooked in a certain way. (The hamburger patty lesson changed the way I cook burgers and my recount of why the patties need to be shaped like a donut is usually enthralling…) I also love learning about the different products and ingredients that they try out (e.g., pans, blenders, foil, chocolate) … in quite a bit of detail. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that they don’t have advertising in their magazines and no brand pays them to include their ingredients or cook with their pots / utensils / dish ware.
Tonight we picked off the first recipe in the Milk Street mag – tenderloin done in a Moroccan style dry rub (coriander, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper). So tasty! Served with my aunt’s recipe for roasted (whole) cauliflower and a rice pilaf … it was a fabulous meal.


Can’t wait to try out more of the recipes (although not the charred brussel sprouts – eek, I’d rather poke my eyes out with sticks!)


Wedding Weekend in the Big (Canadian) Apple

Rather than our typical Thanksgiving traditions at the lake, all of the fam and extended fam are in Toronto for my cousin’s big-ass wedding. So here I am, writing on my iPad on a Sunday morning in a semi-dark hotel room while Paul is at the gym and the kids are still sleeping.

Being a mom is always busy, but being a mom when you’re going on a trip of any sort, kicks it up a notch. So much to consider – so much to pack – so little time. So yesterday morning, in preparation for a weekend of city, and as a way to get my chi back after packing (and re-packing) for the kids plus myself, I took a long relaxing walk with the dog – in the rain, no less. Felt awesome!! I love walking through the bush as the colors are changing. The light is magnificent, and with the rain, it smelled magnificent too! I really need to do that more often. Maybe every day. (Ya right.)

Baked up a batch of banana oat muffins for the hotel room while watching a little Grey’s  (while doing some laundry and cleaning up so that the house is in some semblance of order for our return). We made it out by 1 … put Bree in the middle as a strategy for world peace, then a quick pit stop at Chapters to get a card (oops, forgot that!) and the obligatory book for each passenger (who can go on a trip without a book?).  It wasn’t a quick pit stop, but lots of fun. Paul’s book was a baking magazine for me lol. Of course Starbucks was involved and that rounded out the preparations. Who isn’t happier with a chai tea latte?

Arrived in Toronto, checked in to our gorgeous hotel and headed out to explore. Hit Bloor Street and got some deals at the Gap. We also watched a lady boldly walk right out the front door of a store with a $200 jacket. Unreal how that happens. The employees are essentially powerless. Makes me wonder how some people can have no morals.

After considerable discussion about the definition of ‘smart casual’, Paul and I, my sibs and my mom headed up to join other immediate fam for the rehearsal dinner – atop the hotel – good eats, great people! (Many of whom flew from Oz, Ireland and the UK.)  The kids ate dinner with their cousins at a restaurant on Bloor, but managed to pop in for dessert because they’re smart that way. Liam was first up to the mic after formal speeches, relaxing everyone who were considering if they had the courage to say something. His speech went something like this: “Hi. I’m Liam, I’m 12 and I’m not supposed to be here – so this is a bit ‘under the table’… (long pause)… everyone clap.” Hilarious. Stole the show.

Toronto skyline. Not exactly what I’m used to…

Tokay is Wedding Day! Stay tuned! We’ll be off to Casa Loma once we visit the ROM. Guess I’d better get the kids out of bed… (but it’s so peaceful!!!)

Trying to Chill

Last week my body freaked out on me. Even though the week felt to me like most other weeks, my body didn’t think so. It must have felt as though it was under attack because it produced a shitload of histamines and covered me with hives. Generally I think my body is pretty smart and does a great job looking after me, so obviously it was trying to tell me to chill the fuck out!!! The hives started out small then joined together into plaques (according to google, my dear friend). Soon enough hives were in my ears and through my hair, all over my torso and legs, and when I thought it was done, I woke up with swollen and beet red hands. They were ON FIRE.

Yes there was a lot going on – my Superintendent came to talk to me about my goals for the year (it’s an evaluation year), I had a busy schedule in the evenings with doctors appointments for the girls and shuttling to extra curriculars, there were lots of calls to various agencies about Bree, a situation with a student who ran away from a school trip and police had to be involved … and a 1/2 day Professional Development day to plan. It was a lot. Oh and a pot luck. Oh and a whole school trip to help coordinate. Not too much.

The fact that our entire school population can fit on two (crowded) buses … sweet.

But then I worked with staff on the PA day in an ice cold room. As I worked with them, my stress melted away. I think I gained so much peace and goodwill from them on Friday that my hives went away. I love my staff. We talked about First Nations peoples and the importance of recognizing the First Nations land that our school is on, our beliefs about our awesome little school, we marvelled over our students’ math thinking. It was all pretty great.

By the weekend I was hive free and thinking about how to prevent that from happening again. I think I need to get outside and breath in the air. I should be able to fit that in.

soon these trees will all be red and orange …

And so I had a fairly peaceful weekend – after getting Bree some new shoes and running the girls to various events, I managed to have a tea date with my good friend Alison, have dinner with Paul, do some baking and join a “traditional family dinner” at my mom’s. Paul got a ton of wood brought in (I helped a tiny bit…). Quite stress free!!

Favourite breakfast – date & ginger scone from the market and a chai tea latte.
Spies are for pies!! 
“There’s something slimy in my glove!” Paul had dropped his glove for a moment and a wee frog took advantage.

Now I’m well into another work week and despite the fact that today I was short 2/3 of my teaching staff, the Grade 7/8 kids had immunization shots, it was a Blue Jays theme day and the Director of our Board visited the school … no hives. So far so good!