It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…. 

Last weekend we headed out to get our Christmas tree, wearing the Santa hats and taking our usual wagon (only thing we really keep the wagon for!) 

Reggie got a little ride: 

I lay all the decorations out in piles (they each have their own pile of ornaments they have been given over the years and they put up their own.) This year we put Gabe’s up for him since he’s not home until the 21st. 


Our quote wall goes up of all the quotes we’ve done over the year:Zach got a Christmas sweater this year! Reggie Love! He’s always beside me when I’m baking or cooking:Quiet Elfie arrived, with a whole bunch of new accessories and clothing! 




We went to the Christmas market but were sad to see the night we went all the stalls were closed! The lights were still pretty:

Rob and I went to our annual Christmas concert. It was beautiful as usual:


Reggie loves napping under or near the tree!And the baking begins….

A nice start to the Christmas season! 

Recipe: Baked Ham and Cheese Sandwiches

These are super yummy, and we will often have them for Sunday lunch. They are super easy to bring to a brunch too.

24 dinner buns
12 slices Ham
12 slices swiss cheese

1/2 cup Butter
1 tbsp Mustard
2 tbsp Brown sugar
1 tsp worcestershire

Melt butter, add in mustard and brown sugar and worcestershire sauce until it is all blended. I sometimes play around with the mustard and sugar depending on how sweet you like it.

Cut open small dinner buns, and place in half a slice of ham and half a slice of swiss cheese (can do more if you want).

Put buns in a baking sheet, squeeze them in close to each other. Drizzle the sauce over them and then bake at 350 until the sauce on buns is bubbly (15 min). You can drizzle the sauce on them and then put in fridge until ready to bake.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Turkey Burgers

Some recipes I just have in my head. Either I read a recipe for them ages ago and don’t know where I got it from, or sometimes I try things out. Often I will eat something at a restaurant and then try to recreate it.

One of my fave burgers is from Hero: their fiesta turkey burger. It’s pretty simple to replicate:

Ground turkey
Poultry seasoning
Grated apple (I use Granny Smith, it helps keep it moist. Depending on how much meat you have, I often put in about 1/2 apple – no peel)
Chopped onion (we have some picky eaters who don’t like the onions bits, so sometimes I also grate a bit of onion in it)
1 egg, lightly beaten.

Mix all together. Form patties and cook on grill pan or BBQ.

For a sauce, I mix together mayo (or non fat greek yogurt works well) and cranberry sauce (I use jellied cranberry to keep the consistency smooth.) Spread on bun.

I also get the French’s crispy onions and heat them up a bit to serve on top of the burger. Alternatively, you can salute some red onions for topping as they are yummy too.

You can serve with or without swiss cheese on a nice crusty bun.

Recipe: Pumpkin Pancakes and Buttermilk Syrup

I’m really trying to get these recipes all up and running so forgive me for having whole bunch to post in a row!

These pancakes are delicious. I took the recipe from here. We often have them in fall or the winter.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice/nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. In a bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vinegar. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and salt in a separate bowl. Stir into the pumpkin mixture just enough to combine.
  2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Serve them with this sauce that I found here.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, buttermilk, butter, corn syrup, and baking soda. Bring to a boil, and cook for 7 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla.

 

Gran’s Christmas Baking

Every year when my Mom and sister arrive for Christmas, they come bearing lots of her homemade baking and goodies. The kids love it and send their requests for their favourites.

This year, unfortunately, they won’t be able to come as my Mom still is recovering from her hip surgery. So, on top of my normal baking that I do, I am going to try to make some of her things so my kids can have a little bit of “Gran’s baking”. I decided I wanted to include all the recipes so that i will have them forever! (I’m including a few others too even though I will only make a few!)

 

CONFETTI FUDGE

1 pkg (170 g ) white chocolate squares
6 tbsps butter
1/3 cup water
1 pkg (4 oz serving size ) instant vanilla pudding
3 cups icing sugar
6 (or more) tbsps multi-colored sprinkles, divided

Line 8” square pan with foil (let extend over ends)- (I always grease the foil a little)
Microwave white chocolate and butter and water in microwave pan- about 2 minutes to melt all ingredients
Blend well and add in dry pudding mix and stir with whisk (2 mins)
Add sugar, one cup at a time, stirring well after each addition
Stir in a heaping ¼ cup of sprinkles
Press to pan and top with remaining sprinkles.
Refrigerate at least 2 hours (more is better)
Store and cut up fudge (keeps 2 weeks in the frig)

 

CHOCOLATE MARSHMALLOW ROLL

4-6 ozs chocolate ( I use 6)
1 tbsp butter
1 cup icing sugar
1 egg
3 cups mini marshmallows (I love the colored ones)
¾ cups chopped walnuts
2 cups shredded cocoanut

Melt chocolate with butter in microwave
Add in icing sugar and egg
Add marshmallows and nuts.
Cool slightly.
On 3 sheets of foil wrap, sprinkle coconut on one sheet making a 2 inch band with the coconut; then spoon 1/3 mixture of the choc. Marshmallow mixture over the coconut and wrap up foil to make a long roll and SEAL WELL.
Make 2 other rolls following same instructions as above.
Can freeze rolls for 2 months
Slice frozen (or a bit thawed) into ½ inch slices. ENJOY

 

BUTTERSCOTCH SQUARES (MAPLE FUDGE)

1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup butter
1 ¾ – 2 cups icing sugar (probably 2 cups)
¼ cup cream (lite)
1 cup chopped walnuts

Butter 8 “ square pan
Sift icing sugar
Melt butter, and stir with brown sugar
Cook and stir over low heat – 2 minutes
Add cream. Cook till mixture boils 5 minutes and COOL
Beat/fold in icing sugar and add nuts; cool and spread in pan. Cut when set.

 

CHOCOLATE PHILADELPHIA FUDGE

1 – 8oz package SOFTENED cream cheese
4 cups icing sugar
4-6 ozs Bakers chocolate , MELTED ( 6 OZ is better)
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla
Beat cream cheese till creamy; gradually add sugar and then add remaining ingredients and mix well
Spread to greased 8 “ pan & refrigerate till firm. Cut to 1” inch squares

 

VIENNESE BROWNIES

¾ cups flour
½ tsp baking powder
6 ozs chocolate squares
¼ cup butter
2 LARGE eggs, beaten
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla

Cheesecake batter:
1 pkg (8 ozs) cream cheese
2 tbsps sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla
Sliced almonds

-Line 9 “ pan with greased foil, Preheat oven to 325
-Make brownie batter. Combine flour, baking powder, sale and set aside
-combine butter and chocolate and microwave 1 min. or till melted and stir till smooth
-whisk eggs, sugar, choc. Mixture, vanilla together and stir in flour. Reserve one cup batter and spread remaining batter in pan.
-make CHEESECAKE BATTER/ Beat cream cheese, and add in sugar, egg, vanilla. SPREAD over brownie layer in pan.
– drop remaining one cup brownie batter over cheesecake batter and spread slightly.
-cover with sliced almonds, if desired and BAKE 40-45 mins ; cool in pan. Take out of pan and peel off foil and cut into bars. FREEZES WELL.

 

DATE SQUARES

(These are Rob’s fave)

Base:
1 ½ cups flour;
1 ½ tsps baking powder,
1 cup butter,
salt,
1 cup brown sugar,
1 ½ cups oatmeal
Sift flour, bp, and rub in butter with fingers,
Add sugar and oatmeal and mix well.
Spread ½ of crumbs on greased 9×13 pan

Filling:
1 pound (or more)- I use more – chopped dates
1 cup plus cold water
4 tbsps brown sugar
2 tsps lemon juice
1 large orange rind, grated
4 tbsps orange juice
Cook dates, orange rind, sugar, water in pan till thick and smooth
Remove from heat and add fruit juices
COOL before spreading on base
Add filling on top of oatmeal layer and then add other ½ of oatmeal mixture
Bake 30-35 minutes and then increase heat and bake a bit longer to brown squares
Cut into squares while still hot and cool in pan/ FREEZES well.

 

NANAIMO SQUARES

6-8 squares chocolate (semi-sweet , divided)
¾ cup plus 1 tbsp butter, divided
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
1 cup cocanut
½ cup chopped walnuts
2 tbsps BIRDS CUSTARD POWDER
3 tbsps milk or cream (I use cream)
2 cups icing sugar

Heat oven to 350
-Microwave 2 ozs chocolate and ½ cup butter about 2 mins till melted
-Blend in egg and vanilla; then stir in graham wafers and nuts
-Press to 9 “ pan (foil in bottom of pan), bake 8 mins AND COOL COMPLETELY
-Mix custard powder with milk(cream) and whisk till blended. Add ¼ cup of remaining butter and mix well
-Gradually beat in icing sugar and spread on crust
REFRIGERATE AT LEAST 15 MINUTES
Microwave remaining chocolate and butter 2-3 mins; Stir well and spread gently over custard layer/ REFRIGERATE AND CHILL
PINK OR GREEN BARS: add ½ tsp peppermint and drop of green or pink food color to filling

Leaving home swinging through the (Ecua)door

Zach had to write an essay for English class and chose to write about his experience in Ecuador with HEFY. He had certain parameters to follow for his class, but I loved how it captured a different side of his experience and wanted to document it here. 

If you want to know more about his experience in Ecuador with HEFY, then you can read more here and here and then some sappy Mom stuff about him going and preparing him to go here and here

It was seriously the best experience for him and he came home telling all his siblings that they MUST go on an HEFY trip. Zandra is all signed up and ready to go to Dominican Republic in June 2018! We are super excited for her to have this adventure (and Josh and Sam are already starting to save and plan for their service trips too!)

Ok. Enough blah blah. Here’s Zach:

This past summer, I had the opportunity to participate in a humanitarian trip in Ecuador. My brother had the same opportunity previously but turned it down. I certainly wasn’t going to let the chance slip by. My nerves were at ease through the process of signing up, fundraising and even the week leading up to the trip; but once the reality of leaving hit the night before, the nerves came like a storm. There was nothing I was planning to do on the trip that I had done before. That was certainly a reason to be nervous, despite my dad constantly saying to relax because everything was going to be ok.

The initial hurdle I faced was leaving Toronto early in the morning. I was meeting the rest of the group in Los Angeles and I had to fly alone for the first time in my life in order to get there. People talk about having butterflies in their stomach when they’re nervous, but for me there was a whole conservation. Simply trying to keep my emotions down felt like one of the hardest things I had ever done; how could I travel alone?

I finally arrived in one of the busiest airports in North America, feeling confident, as I had been travelling alone for hours by this point. I learned that I could do things by myself and I was more independent than I thought. I felt as if I was on top of the world but the only way to go from the top is down; I got lost and eventually found two people from my group who I needed to approach.

I mustered up the courage to talk to them, after having quietly followed them from afar for a few terminals, which was hard for me as I am usually cautious with strangers. It actually went well and we soon became friends. I once again learned something new about myself: that I do have the confidence to talk to and meet new people.

Everyone on the trip was from the West Coast, except me. Everyone on the trip was American, except two other girls and me. I was different to all the others and yet I bonded with the 22 Americans and 2 girls from Calgary in our first destination of the trip, the Galapagos Islands. Who knew that embracing the Canadian culture could be so beneficial in making friends, eh?

After the relaxing part of the trip was over we headed to Cuenca on the mainland of Ecuador to get to work. Our project was to build part of an orphanage for disabled orphans. Physical labour is not one of my strengths and everything I did on the worksite was a new experience, so it was challenging for a “city boy” like me. Some of the work included: cementing, plastering, chipping and sanding. It took me a few days and a few angry Ecuadorians until I finally became comfortable with the construction I was doing. The worksite enabled me to learn so much about construction, none of which I would have ever been able to learn.

On weekends we did lots of activities, which included eating guinea pig and swimming in a freezing cold waterfall that was all crazy for me to do since I am not usually one to try new things. I am especially not the adventurous type so the “adrenaline junkie activities” freaked me out most.

The one activity in particular that scared me the most was a swinging chair, which swung over a cliff and overlooked the city. The thin branches, which the seat was tied to sagged with every person that sat down. The knots tied to the branches slid back and forth with every swing. This was not the type of swing that would pass any Canadian safety regulations, and yet I knew I needed to go on it. I needed to take a huge step out of my comfort zone. This was one of those things that I would regret not doing, even if I was scared. I sat in the seat, stomach twisting and turning with nerves, playing them off with laughter. Suddenly the lever was pulled. The nerves I had were gone as the wind rushed through my hair, city seemingly flying closer and closer. With falling through the air, I took a swing out of my comfort zone of land and it enabled me to see new views, and feel new rushes. I saw new horizons and it was amazing.

In the evenings of our workdays, we got to spend time with local teens. We went to their homes for visits, played sports and had a dance. The activities started off where the two groups were rather separate; “Gringos” (as they called us) on one side and locals on the other. The language and cultural difference had been a barrier between us. Using my new learned lesson from the swing, I decided I needed to yet again become the new found me and try to be more outgoing. My venture into an unknown language that I had never spoken showed the locals I was trying and, despite them saying that I sound like a little baby, it worked. We all ended the trip united and friends, one Ecuadorian even confessing his love to a girl in my group.

When I first heard we were working with orphans I pictured little kids who were abandoned as babies. This orphanage was extremely different and took everyone on the trip by surprise. It was an orphanage for people of all ages who were severely disabled. I had never worked with anyone like that in the personal manner I did. At first I was reserved and intimidated but eventually I got out of my normal self and into the service of my fellow beings. There was one guy in particular who really stuck with me. He loved doing push ups and would get us to do hundreds and hundreds with him. I started off standing and watching but then realized I wasn’t learning or helping anyone by doing such; so once he gestured me to come join, I didn’t hesitate. Two sore arms and an aching chest later, I realized how much my little actions meant to him and was really quite humbled. Spoon feeding each orphan, which again I was hesitant at the start to do, also made me realize how important service is.

Normally I am the kind of person to stay where I am comfortable and not take risks. On this trip I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone on numerous occasions and learned a lesson from it every single time. This trip gave me many unique experiences and taught me many important lessons. The most important lesson I left with is that I need to leave my comfort zone whenever and however I can, because that’s when the most valuable life lessons are learned.

P.S. The blog title was his essay title and it is all his. I guess coming up with captions or memes for things like his edgymormon instagram account helps with school work too (If you don’t follow edgymormon, check it out. It’s quite hilarious. And a bit edgy:))

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quote of the Week

“It’s not about the size of the dog in the fight, it’s about the size of the fight in the dog.”

It’s been a busy week, so when we sat down to FHE (minus Rob who’s in Edmonton (again) for work), I told the kids to skip the quote of the week because I didn’t have one.

Zach jumped in and said he had one. It was a quote that he heard at school (I think it was on a handout or a test, or something). He shared this quote and we all agreed it was a keeper.

It’s really the perfect quote for all of us: we all face challenges, trials, disappointments, upsets, letdowns, discouragement, conflicts and temptations. Doesn’t matter who we are or where we are on this path of life. We will be in the ring, at some point, and usually, at many points.

What matters most is that we do get in the ring and we fight with everything that we have. That we keep going, endure to the end (we talked about this common saying during FHE too) and never give up. We give it our all and don’t stop!

This week one of our kids had a major disappointment. It’s so hard as a parent not to want to step in and take all disappointments away:( But we can’t (and I mean there are some things we have no control over, as well as we can’t deprive them of life lessons… but this was one that I had no control over so it always seems worse). I do know that all disappointments help build resilience and strength, but it’s much harder to watch your kid go through it….

As I talked about the challenge with this child, he quickly referred to a talk we had started to watch the week before during FHE (and we will continue the talk when Rob is back). It’s the “Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. It’s an amazing lecture by a professor who found out he had terminal cancer back in 2007. You can find it here. (He wrote a book too). In it, he refers to challenges as being “brick walls” and says:

 

This child, despite the disappointment he was feeling, said about his challenge, “It’s like the brick wall, except it’s not even that bad because I can even see over the wall already.”

I was so proud of him. So proud of his attitude (it was better than mine!) and so proud of the “fight” this kid has in him. It’s really the fight that counts.

Recipe: Bang Bang Shrimp Wraps

I used to post some of our staple recipes more frequently, but haven’t in a long time. I often refer to them, so I decided I better get posting again as I like to have our staples recorded and then I always know where to find the recipe online!

This is a simple recipe for shrimp that we often use. It’s the sauce that is yum.

Shrimp:

Peel, devein uncooked shrimp
Lightly coat shrimp in eggs and then toss in flour.
Sauté shrimp in some oil until pink.

Mix 1/2 cup mayo, 1/4 cup sweet child sauce, squirt sriracha sauce.

Spread the sauce on the wrap. Place 5-6 shrimp on wrap. Add whatever toppings you want: cheese,avocado, tomato, lettuce etc.

I often make a quick mango salsa to put on mine:

Chopped mango
Chopped red pepper
Chopped red onion
Chopped cilantro
Lime juice.

Sometimes we just have the shrimp and dip it in the sauce too:)

 

Quote of the Week

“Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them but you know they’re always there.”

Last week I headed to Montreal to be with my mom as she was having hip surgery.

It was a long few days being in the hospital, but I was happy to be there to support her. She had lots of visitors and kind people stopping by dropping off treats, food for my sister and me, and just bringing words of encouragement. I won’t put up any pics:) But needless to say, she is very blessed to have so many good friends!

While in Montreal I got to spend a bit of time with the couple of friends that are still in Montreal. Not very many left! My one beautiful friend made sure to stop by to bring my Mom and sis some food, and then we headed out to catch up and enjoyed some yummy food at an indian restaurant.

I also had the chance to see one of my old grad school pals. We spent hours and hours and hours together while at McGill not only studying, but sharing our lives together. I last saw her 9.5 years ago when Rob and I got married and she was pregnant with baby number 2! We have touched based here and there over the years, but this was the fist time we were able to sit down and catch up! It was so amazing.

I have been truly blessed in my life to have some amazing girlfriends. Although as life has its’ ups and downs, and we go through different phases, I find there are many periods that we go without speaking or seeing each other, and yet, when we reunite, it’s like old times.

That’s how it was with this gal. 


We talked and talked and laughed and both of us left feeling like it was old times. Except relieved that there is no exam tomorrow! She sent me the friend quote a couple of days ago and I couldn’t agree more.

So appreciative of wonderful friends!

Quote of the Week 

“Do more things that make you forget to check your phone”. 

At church today we had a conference for all the congregations in our area (Stake). The stake president gave an awesome talk and told a story about his lawn.

He said his lawn was beautiful when he first moved in and over time the dandelions and weeds grew. He would try to weed the lawn, pull out the dandelions on a weekly basis. But still they returned. It was frustrating. 

He noted that his next-door neighbour’s   lawn was looking quite good. He asked his neighbour what the secret was? (The neighbour had hired a lawn care company and they had told them the secret!!) 

The secret : take great care of the grass. Fertilize and water. Don’t worry about the weeds. Worry about the grass! Feed the good so it can grow stronger.

So when I saw this quote, it connected with me. The phone can be like the weed. We can keep focused on it, but it’s still there. You can tell everyone to put it away, but they are right back on it.

But if you are really busy with other things? There’s less time to be idle on your phone!

Studies (academic, spiritual, interest etc.), sports, work, service, and relationships. Busy yourself with those things and you will put down your phone. We need to focus on feeding and enriching our grass and that will take care of the weeds!