31 December 2007

Fondue and Lebanese Wine

Broth Fondue, Hot Pot Style
I think I'm getting the hang of this tradition thing. Below is my variation on what I found on Go Fondue. It starts out as a fondue and finishes as a soup. It's both good and fun. We will definitely be making this again before next New Year's.

4 C. beef broth
3 green onions, chopped
4 mushrooms, chopped
2 T. cilantro, chopped
1 T. garlic, minced, prepared (found in Chinese food store or aisle)
2 T. ginger, grated, prepared (found in Chinese food store or aisle)
2 T. soy sauce
1 t. sesame oil

Bring Beef Broth to a boil. Add remaining above ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes.

Prepare 2 Platters
1 C. broccoli florets
1 C. snow peas
4 bok choy leaves

1/2 lb beef tenderloin, sliced in thin strips
handful of prawns, large
handful of rice noodles

Spear beef strips with fondue forks and cook in broth for 3-5 minutes. Spear vegetable strips and cook until tender. Dip cooked beef and vegetables into prepared sauces such as: teriyaki, hoisin + chili, barbeque, chutney etc

When the meat is finished add the noodles to broth. Add remaining vegetables and prawns and any small meat bits to broth. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Serve portion to each guest in a bowl. Enjoy!

And because the 31st of December is also our wedding anniversary we decided to share this special bottle of wine which is from Lebanon, bottled in 1999. I know, when you think of good wine, Lebanon generally doesn't come to mind. But that's the year we travelled there. And it so happens to be their best year. A coincidence I'm sure. It was fun to reminisce about our pre-baby times there ... the internet cafes in Beirut, the military checkpoints, skiing among the cedars, the deserted hotels, the anti-aircraft gun shots that made us drop to our knees, the crazy driving, the Roman ruins in Baalbeck with the tallest columns ever erected, the fantastic food, and the best wine you'll find in the Middle East. Á la santé.

UPDATE: The above links used to go to some of our travel stories posted on Rough Guides which has since been shut down. I wish I would have saved them.
: (

Oh! Wait! Update again! Oh wait! My brilliant husband found a link where the stories are being kept until they upgrade their site! Here they are in the meantime.
: )

30 December 2007

Foofy Drink Umbrellas ...

... become play house accessories! First the grown-ups play. And then the kids. Everybody's happy.

24 December 2007

Orange Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 C. butter, softened
1/2 C. white sugar
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. peanut butter, creamy
1 egg
1 t. orange extract
1 1/2 C. wholewheat flour
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
36 miniature peanut butter cups, unwrapped
1/2 C. white chocolate chips

Pre heat oven to 350 F. Combine the butter, white sugar, brown sugar, peanut butter, egg, and orange extract. Mix until fluffy. Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Roll dough and divide into 36 1-inch balls and place one in each recess of a non-stick, mini muffin pan.

Bake in oven 8–10 minutes or until lightly browned. When done, remove from oven and immediately top each cookie with a mini peanut butter cup. Cool in fridge for 10 minutes before removing from pan. Repeat until all the dough has been used. When all the cookies are baked, melt the chocolate chips in microwave and drizzle back and forth over the cookies using plastic bag with a slight corner snipped off.

Christmas Eve Tradition

I've never really been much about tradition. Looking back, about half my childhood Christmas's were spent away from home; San Francisco, Montreal, Toronto etc. And as it turns out, as an adult, I generally avoid routine. Even when it doesn't make sense to change it up. If I'm given the option of doing something the same way or a different way, all other things being equal, I usually choose the different way, even if it's more complicated. I even annoy myself in this regard.

After Spud came along though, suddenly, I felt like the keeper of his Christmas traditions. So, I've been practicing the last few years but since he's 3 now and quite aware of the Christmas business, I've made a list of what we're doing on Christmas Eve to keep us on track. I love lists. But I'm not going to lie to you, next Christmas Eve's traditions are anybody's guess. We'll see. My husband has plenty of traditions to draw from. And I pulled one from my own. Oh and the other thing I tend to do is try to put too much into a day ... even on regular days ... so we'll see how this goes.

1. Well the first one would have to be that Spud sleeps in until after 9 am. That is exactly happening right now, for some reason, and the only reason I'm able to write this. Obviously this one is out of my hands as far as traditions go though.

2. Bake cookies for Santa. This year will be Orange Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup cookies. Recipe in next post.

3. Make Clove oranges ... this smell IS Christmas to me

4. Make paper snowflakes

5. Go on a quick Christmas light tour of a nearby neighbourhood

6. Sing Christmas carols

7. Have an easy buffet dinner. This year the menu will include a cucumber salad, olive-tomato salad, paté, brie, salami, smoked salmon, pickles, and a baguette. The big deal dinner is tomorrow.

8. Open one present. This will help blow off some of that built up Christmas steam. We have a Cranium game under the tree that we can play with him a little before bedtime.

That is a full day! Other things that will no doubt creep in are TV such as Grinch or Rudolf. A bath. And about 3 loads of laundry and vacuuming [spud said yesterday "Mama, I think we need to vaccuum so there aren't so many crumbs on my feet". To which I cheekily replied "that's what slippers are for, sir". But he does have a point.).

23 December 2007

Instead of Just Stuff


· KIVA "Loans that change lives"
This one is a little different from the following list because it's not a charity. No tax receipt for this one. You lend money to an entrepreneur in a developing country, and they pay you back. There's no guarantee of course that you will see your money again but they have a pretty good track record. And the fun part is you can give someone a gift certificate whereby they, themselves, can go to the site and choose which people they want to lend money to.

· WWF "Give the gift that makes a difference"
Adopt a polar bear for $40. This site takes awhile to load up but it's nicely done and worth the wait.

· OXFAM "Let them know the camels in the mail (sort of)"
The mildly irreverent tone of this site really caught my attention. Forty-five bucks can buy a family a sheep and a mere 18 bucks can buy a farmer a can of worms to improve his fields. And this can all be done with an e-card to your loved one!

· UNICEF "Gifts of Magic"
For 20 dollars you can buy a child "Art in a Box" and for $35 you can buy a child the Gift of Play which includes puppets, a soccer ball and other things. Check out other areas of the site for more traditional gifts of water, education etc.

· PLAN CANADA "ways for you to make a lasting difference"
Thirty bucks can buy 10 Mamma Kits ("A safe welcome into the world for newborns"), 60 bucks can buy Portable Gardens for One Farmer in Kenya ("Nourishing food and the potential for income") and a 100 can buy a solar powered well. You can arrange an "e-acknowledgement" (I'm not sure how I feel about that word) or a printable version of the card to present to your loved one.

Happy Giving!

21 December 2007

Mountain Babe

I've really missed going to the mountains and snowshoeing through the trails. I don't think we made it up once last year. Spud was just at an awkward age, I think. He was too big for the baby carrier, at a cool 40 lbs. And also too small to be expected to strap on some shoes and go for a hike.

This year, we invested in a plastic sled big enough to carry gear too. There is a wide range of types of sleds. And we saw all kinds of contraptions on the hill. In the end we spent 13 bucks on this bright orange beauty and hope that it will last this year and next at least.

The little guy wanted to have a little sleep on the sled about half way through our trek. It got a little too cold for him though. He was dressed warm enough but I think that lying that close to the snow just makes it chilly. Next time we'll line the bottom with a piece of foam and see if that helps.

20 December 2007

Free Audio Books

On a road trip or in the restaurant waiting for the food to arrive, a little Peter Rabbit can go a long way. I love Storynory for a nice variety of tales to download. Natasha on Storynory does a great job telling the stories, and in a charming English accent. And now my son does the same.

I've also subscribed to the podcasts on iTunes and found some other free ones to subscribe to. So far I haven't found any as good as Storynory. But nonetheless, these little ditties are a great alternative to TV and perfect for long road trips.

19 December 2007

Walkie-Talkies and Baby Monitor

The Motorola T9500 2-way radios seem perfect for use on vacation and in places where cell phones won't work. Motorola claims they have a 40km range (25miles) and we are going to try the voice activation feature as a sort of baby monitor.

I wish we had this on our previous travels with baby. Now I look forward to spending some humid Cuban evenings with my husband on our balcony while wee guy saws logs in the hotel room. We can also use them to keep in touch with each other when we're out-and-about ... the resort, in town, the market etc. I'll let you know how it goes.

02 December 2007

Mums in Snow

It's official. Winter is here.

01 December 2007

Tree Ornaments

A bunch of buttons and sticks. Oh, and a lot of hot glue. Ta da! Tree ornaments.

28 November 2007

Friday Night Short: Quatchi, Miga + Sumi

My first mascot was Amik, from the Montreal Olympics in 1976. I loved him to pieces regardless of the fact that he wasn't the least bit cuddly and lacked any sort of personality at all. Since then, I've acquired [or more accurately, my son has acquired] one of the Athens mascots from a good friend who was living there during their Games. And one of Torino's mascots that I brought home after seeing the Games there.

And now I'm a proud owner of three more. I'm really smitten with these wee Vancouver critters. The video is beautiful. Stunning even. Check out video here. The plush versions are here.

25 November 2007

The Best Seat in the House

We parked the car on the parade route this morning, in parking lot facing the street. In the afternoon, when the Santa parade started, we set up camp, fully bundled up and with some warm beverages. The little sun roof in the back of our Element came in handy yet again, allowing us to poke our heads up over all the other spectators.

24 November 2007

"Tony Chestnut Knows I Love You"

Tony [touch toe, then knee]
Chestnut [touch chest, then head]
Knows [touch nose]
I [point to eye]
Love [cross heart with my arms]
You [point to wee one]

We tried our hand at roasting chestnuts on the BBQ. I love them. The flavour starts out quite bland. Immediately I felt little disappointed. But then the flavour became quite complicated and deep. A delicate combination of sweet and nutty. I would do it again for sure ... even if our little Spud was completely disinterested in them. I think they would compliment grilled root veggies nicely. And I might try them chopped up in a fresh salad next.

Here's what we did:
1. Cut an "x" or a simple slit in the side of each chestnut with a sharp knife [this will prevent any dramatic explosions].
2. Grill 20-30 minutes on medium heat, turning once.
3. Let them cool enough to handle. Peel and eat.

Serving them with salt is optional. If you are having troubles peeling they may be either overdone or underdone.

22 November 2007

Getting Messy

My wee guy is a bit fussy about getting stuff on his hands. I wanted to show him how fun it can be to get messy. We bought a cheap plastic table cloth and some cheap shaving cream at the dollar store. It took a little while to get him started but before long he was right into it, making mountains and volcanoes with his hands.

Next time I will try it with canned whipped cream. If I use shaving cream again I will be sure that I love the sent. It's surprising how long the scent of Old Spice fragrance can linger on ... making my little guy smell like an old man.

21 November 2007

Armchair Travel: Cuba with Child

We are going to Veradero for a one week in January. It will be our third time to Cuba. We went once BB [before baby], to Jibicoa. This trip included two daytrips to Havana. Love Havana! Our second trip, with child, was to Cayo Coco. We did one long daytrip to Trinidad from there. This time it is the touristy mecca of Cuba: Varadero. While we are independent travellers at heart, we have yet to do anything other than the all-inclusive there, with a few light forays, out and about. Nonetheless, I will enjoy journalling our experiences of r-and-r'ing with our 3 year old, in the new year. In the meantime, it's fun to do a little armchair travel. What follows are some links with tips and travel stories about travelling in Cuba with kids.

1. 6 Fun Things to do with Kids in Cuba Scroll to the bottom for a list of 6 kids books on Cuba.

2. Family backpacks Cuba with 2 year-old "Despite it being a challenging holiday, principally due to our new status as a family, Cuba was exactly what the psychotherapist ordered in terms of a plausible adventure for all of us."

3. Travelling Cuba en Famille "If you want more than a beach holiday, Cuba with young children needs careful planning. Compromise is the key: beach time for them, sightseeing for you"

4. Preparing for Cuba with kids and Parental Leave "Cuba seems a perfect destination for travel with kids: no rampant tropical diseases, a great health system, a reputation for being family-oriented ..."

5. Tips Avoiding All-inclusives Travelling Cuba with Kids "... stay in casas particulares (private houses that rent out rooms and usually provide meals"

6. Keeping kids busy on overcast resort days "Sketching local flora was one way to occupy a six-year-old, who had his heart set on building sand castles, in windy Cuban weather"

19 November 2007

Hey, Mr. Socks-for-Hands...

"Daddy dressed me and first he put my shirt on my knee. And then he put my pants on my head. And then he put my socks on my hands ... look Mom!"

11 November 2007

Visiting Some Wild Ones


OK, so my favourite runner-up animal, next to camels, are donkeys [hmmm, what does t it say about a person when they are so enamoured with beasts of burden?]. Today we saw, donkeys, squirrels, bunnies, guinea pigs, ducks, crows, herons, gulls, and countless other bird varieties. We visited a nearby Wildlife Rehab centre where we saw some pretty incredible animals and heard some pretty incredible stories, both heart-breaking and heart-warming.

There was the little sea bird that eats 1 prawn and 13 shrimp a day, among other things. And the lonely bunny who finally found a partner [spayed, of course]. The star of the show was the Barred Owl. It was such a pleasure to meet him, with his beautiful curiosity and mysterious cooing sounds. With only one eye and damaged wings, this guy is never going to be the wild, free owl he once was; he will always need to depend on people to look out for him.

Besides the animal stories themselves, inspiration lies in meeting the people behind these operations. The people who dedicate their lives to rescuing and healing creatures at their most vulnerable. Perhaps your nearby Wildlife Rehab Centre would appreciate a little visit from you and your wee wild ones and a little donation to help keep the operation going. Try googling one for your region.

08 November 2007

Yay for Wee Parts!


Is it too early to start thinking about the holidays? I can't wait to get my hands on these sweet sets. The kings are awesome. I adore the little cook set. Do you think they are making felafel? And anyone who knows me at all, knows I have a special place in my heart for camels. I've always appreciated the detail that goes into Playmobil. It's toys like these that make me extra-specially happy that my little guy is past the choking hazard stage. Yay small parts!

06 November 2007

Scavenger Hunts


I created this photo list of items found in a park, in Fall. On the weekend, I'll take the little guy to the park and we'll check off all the items we see together. We did this last Fall too and it was loads of fun. Next, I'll make one for the beach and forest. And the market. Maybe more. If you'd like a pdf, send me your email address and I'll shoot it your way.

UPDATE: I have these pdfs available at wee printables. Help yourself!

04 November 2007

Marble Mayhem


What You Need:
· A cereal box with one of the sides cut out
· Art paper which is a little smaller than the box
· A piece of tape to lightly keep the paper in place
· Marbles
· Paint

What You Do:
After placing the paper in the box, let your little one roll the paint-dipped marbles around in the box.

The art is in knowing when to stop. This is probably where you come in. Simply whisk away the paper when it's achieved framability and slip in another for your little artist to continue his genius.

03 November 2007

Crochet Project Complete

I did it. I finished my second-ever scarf last night and here it is in action. In the end, it's quite long, going around his neck twice, but it's a little narrow I think. It only took me 2 in-front-of-the-tv evenings. I don't know why I thought it would take so much longer. It must be that my first experience of crocheting a scarf, took ... well ... it seemed like a lifetime.

02 November 2007

Maritime Holiday Photo Journal

Extraordinarily long bridges [Confederation Bridge]

Boats to board [Halifax, NS]

Sea life to see [Mahone Bay, NS]

Theodore [Halifax, NS]

History [Lunenburg, NS]

Stunning beaches [PEI]

Dramatic coastlines and lighthouses [Peggy's Cove, NS]

"Cow's" ice cream [PEI]

Cabin life [PEI and NS]

And sometimes peace and quiet [PEI]

29 October 2007

Panama Pics

Bridge of the Americas, linking two continents. Panama City.

28 October 2007

Another Stab at It

This is a from-memory-drawing of the my first crochet project; a scarf for my dad. I was 7 years old. I didn't bother with the mundane task of counting stitches to make sure it stayed a consistent width. Boring. But I did put a lot of thought into the plethora of colours of yarn I used. It had a fantastic number of wildly mismatched hues. And it barely fit around his neck.

In my late teens and early 20s I dabbled in granny squares and various afghan projects. And now after all these years, here's my second scarf project. It's for my little guy. I've taken what I learned the first time around and applied it this one. So far so good. Although, the bottom is a little wider than the
middle right now.

This Debbie Stoller has partly inspired me to get back into it. Wish me luck.