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.