Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What's Cooking Wednesday and other stuff

So, my DISTRACTION (as yet unrevealed on this blog) has kept me from blogging only because I haven't wanted to blog out the DISTRACTION yet. If you're a Facebook friend with me, you already know. If you only read the blog, you'll be in the dark a bit longer. However, when you have a DISTRACTION like this it's hard to blog when that is the one thing you really want to blog about. Anywho, normal life continues and yet I've been silent... not really like me. So, I'm going to give you my recipe for What's Cooking Wednesday and then I'll give you a few bullets to get you (sort of) up to date on what's going on around these parts.

This is week three (I think) of my new foray into menu planning and by extension, reducing our grocery bill. So far, so good I'd say. The menu this week has been:

Monday: lasagna
Tuesday: spaghetti
Wednesday: borscht (finally got around to making that one and it was oh, so good)
Thursday: sushi (a special meal for our 10th wedding anniversary tomorrow)
Friday: chicken drumsticks, roasted beets and potatoes, something green
Saturday: zucchini, tomato and fontina pizza
Sunday: still undecided - something from the freezer or cupboard

Today I also whipped up a broccoli soup for lunch for my sick Emily. It is one of my favourite wintertime soups because it tastes like broccoli with cheese sauce but in soup form. Although there are more steps to make it than I like in a soup, it's worth it once in a while:

Broccoli and Cheese Chowder

1 bunch broccoli
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
6 cups chicken stock
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 large carrots, grated
2 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

Cut broccoli tops into very small florets. Peel remaining thick stems; cut into chunks. In large pan, melt butter. Stir in onion, celery and garlic; cook until soft. Sprinkle with flour; stir until absorbed. Slid pan off heat. Add stock a little at a time to avoid lumps, stirring after each addition until smooth.

Return pan to heat. Add broccoli stems, thyme and bay leaf; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered and stirring occasionally, for 15 min or til veggies are tender. Remove bay leaf and puree in blender. Return to saucepan.

Heat soup until hot; stir in grated carrots. Reduce heat to simmer, covered, for 10 min. Stir in florets; simmer 5 minutes. Stir in milk, salt and pepper. Heat until hot. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Ladle into heated soup bowls; garnish with generous sprinkle of Cheddar.

I have a photo but not a very good one. It really won't do much for you. Just try the soup. If you like broccoli, you'll like this.

On to the bullets:
  • On Sunday we spent the day visiting John's mum in St. Catharines. It was lots of fun. We went to the Port Dalhousie Carousel. I enjoyed it even more than the kids I think. We also stopped in my hometown of Fonthill to buy apples at Galagher's. Glad to see the place is as great as ever.
  • Hope had her first swimming lesson on Tuesday afternoon. It was her first time in the pool without me. She LOVED it. In fact, all caps doesn't really convey the enthusiasm she had for going in by herself.
  • Emily would have had two new activities this week also if not for her nasty cough. I had to keep her home from her first night of Sparks last night (the prequel to Brownies) and from her first swimming lesson today. I wanted to make sure she would be fit to go to school tomorrow. It's picture day tomorrow and we all know that we don't want her to miss the chance to pose for the camera. It's one of the highlights of my year... what will happen in front of the lens? No one knows but I can't wait to see!
  • I have so many projects on the go around here and none are complete. It seems I start to make some headway and then life pops up, the kids want to play, dinner has to be made and nothing ever gets finished. We've been here for 3 months and still only one curtain is sewn for the main floor room. Also, I have photos to post of our house so you can all see what it's like... still on the camera! Also, plants sitting in the garden waiting to be put in the ground... also, a tire swing to be hung up... also, peach jam to be made, tomato sauce, red pepper jelly... all still yet to be canned.... also, Halloween costumes to be sewn.... also so many blog posts to write... I've only written one "Life in Waterloo" post yet I have at least two written in my head but not down on screen yet. How can I train my body not to need sleep?
And that is my quick and unsatisfactory update.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I was doing so well

I seemed to be back on track with blogging but this week threw me a curve I didn't see coming and it has left me a bit distracted.

I hope to get back to more frequent posts this week but for now just know that all is good. I'm currently relaxing at Omi's house before we all return to Waterloo and the routines that we've finally got going.

Sorry for being so secretive but that's all I'm willing to divulge for now.

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, September 21, 2009

This week's menu

This week I'll be making:

Today: cauliflower pie with roasted beets

Tuesday: beef tacos with guacamole

Wednesday: Brazilian rice and beans with a green vegetable

Thursday: borscht with homemade bread and cut veggies

Friday: lasagna with salad

Saturday: ribs with roast potatoes and green veg

Sunday: squash soup, salad, bread and cheese

Notes: I have a lot of gr beef in my freezer from last week so I planned my menu to use that up. I also didn't make the squash soup last week after all so I put it back on the menu for this week. Ribs and avocados are on sale this week so I'm going to have both of those.

I'll add links to recipes a little later.

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Back in the saddle.... and out of it again

Today we did our first long family bike ride. Well, John and I rode bikes; the girls rode in the bike trailer. Yes, we should have done this long before now given that John and I both love to ride but I figured we'd be subject to a lot of whining and complaining given that the bike trailer makes for pretty tight quarters for the two girls for anything longer than 15 minutes.

I was wrong.

They were amazing. Now, we didn't go for a solid two hour ride. We took a long break (due to John's flat tire) at the 40 minute mark and then again after another 20 minutes when we arrived in Waterloo Park, home of a playground. The girls had been begging to stop there on our way home.

And that was the site of my EMBARASSING INCIDENT.

It wouldn't be embarassing if I was 5 or if I just learned to ride a bike. It's embarassing because I'm 37 and have been riding a bike without training wheels since I was about 7. And I've ridden a lot.

However, I'm pretty out of shape now. I was biking up a steep hill, the third one in a few minutes and I knew I wasn't going to make it (just like I didn't make the other two). My legs just didn't have the power, even out of the seat. Unfortunately, this third time though, I couldn't get my foot out of my clip fast enough. As I saw the pavement getting close to my head I shouted "DOWN!" to no one in particular. Don't ask me why. I guess I wanted John to know I was in trouble and he was a ways ahead of me. Unfortunately it also drew the attention of pretty much EVERY OTHER PERSON in the vicinity. They all got to see me fall over like a total dufus. I jumped up, shouted "FINE!" and pushed the bike up the hill wondering when I forgot how to properly use my freaking gears.

Was there blood? Yes. And scrapes? Oh yes. Did it hurt? Not so much... until the wind started hitting it.

At least I was able to point out to Emily that see? Grown-ups fall off their bikes too! Her only response was "You should have cried, Mummy."

And after all this they didn't even want to play at the playground. We were all tired, we went home and I successfully made it up the rest of the hills, thank you very much.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I could make a good mixed drink with my toes

It is so cold in our house at night right now that, I'm not kidding, I could ice a martini with my toes. Not that you'd want to drink it after but it might be an experiment worth trying JUST TO SEE.

The past two nights I've worn wool socks to bed.

Last night I got up, as per usual, to see what Hope was going on about. Seems her blankets were twisted. And she had to pee. As I walked up to her room I realized that my entire body, which was clothes in said wool socks and winter pyjamas, was freezing... head to toe. I was deeply, entirely cold.

So I grabbed the giant, stored away until winter, duvet and hauled it onto our bed, under which I had another blanket. And that is how I spent the rest of my blissful night. Warm and smothered in a duvet and winter pyjamas.

People, today was September 17 and I shouldn't be doing this yet. What is going to happen in February for example when it is minus 20 outside (it does get that cold in Waterloo, right?)?

I'll tell you. I'll move into the dryer and set it to fluff.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What's Cooking Wednesday

I've been so delinquent in participating in Shan's What's Cooking Wednesday. I want to get back in the habit. And since I'm now posting my weekly menus, it seems like the right time to start sharing recipes again.

This chicken recipe was given to me by a former boyfriend's mother before he became former. It has remained my favourite BBQ chicken recipe. Most people who try it ask for the recipe. If you like it less peppery, just half the amount of pepper.

Mrs. Logue's Chicken

For about 6 chicken thighs:

Mix together:

1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
4 tsp paprika
4 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tarragon

Dip chicken thighs into mixture and put on grill, turning frequently.

I usually double the recipe. Enjoy!

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The weekly menu

Well, last week didn't go as well as the first. I did very well the first week. I stuck to my menu and came in just over the budget of $120.

Last week wasn't as successful. Hope's birthday picnic was last Monday so that was unusual spending and it made everything else feel a bit off the rest of the week. I also wasn't terribly inspired by the menu I set.

This week will be different. I'm already excited about what I'll be cooking this week:

Tonight: Mrs Logue's chicken, roast potatoes and green beans bought this morning at the farmstand

Wednesday: Hawaiian meatballs, rice and salad

Thursday: sausage and lentils with roasted beets

Friday: linguine with lemon, garlic and anchovy sauce, sliced tomatoes from farmstand

Saturday: chili, homemade bread and salad

Sunday: butternut squash soup, tomato salad, homemade bread and cheese

Sounds good, doesn't it? I'll add links to recipes if I've posted them here before when I get my computer back from the girls.

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hope's first day at preschool

To say Hope was excited to go to her first day of preschool WITHOUT MUMMY would be an understatement of mythic proportions. The photo evidence:

There were no tears; I think she may have given me a token wave and then she was off. There was a tiny bit of hesitation when she went in the play yard and didn't see her friend Elias immediately but then she saw all the things to do and I think her hesitation changed to "what do I play with first?"

John did the pick up and the only small issue was that it wasn't me there and I had forgotten to tell her it would be Daddy picking her up. She seemed to recover quickly however.

And where was I? I was at Emily's school picking her up from her first day of SK. One thing I absolutely love about Emily is how she greets you when she is excited to see you. She reserves the best of these greetings for Omi but I got a pretty good one today. She saw me, squealed, ran at me and literally jumped onto me (which I was luckily prepared for). I started crying. I really missed her today and I was happy to see that she was so happy after her first day and that she was happy to see me.

She had a great day. She loved her teacher Mrs. K and her worries about not knowing other kids were quickly put to rest when Mrs. K introduced her to everyone and had Emily introduce herself. She was busy doing fun things all day including a trip to the library and gym outside. (They get gym everyday! Okay, so every other week they're only there for two days but still.)

She can't wait until Tuesday when she is back and Hope is already asking when she goes to preschool next.

I'm glad we're going to the cottage this weekend to keep them distracted!

First day of school

Today is Emily's first day of Senior Kindergarten (SK). Waterloo schools (most of them) do full-day kindergarten alternating days, which is a confusing way to say that she attends on Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other Friday. Other kids go Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Friday. This is a not-so-great way to save on bus money, making things more difficult for teachers and students alike. Mrs. K, Emily's new teacher, told me this morning she would much prefer the "old" way of half-day every day. I know we really liked it last year in Ottawa and I'm glad Hope will be going back to that when she starts JK next year back at home.

No matter, I think Emily will have a great year. Mrs. K seems very nice and Emily was characteristically enthusiastic this morning, asking me about 10 times starting at 7:30 if it was time to leave yet.

This year we get to walk to school which is wonderful. I love the charm of walking to school. There are so many treasures to discover and pick up along the way! I did it up until Grade 9 and I wished Emily had that chance last year. I will love walking her to school this year with Hope running along behind.

Because Emily is there for full days, she has to take a lunch. Eek! Packing a lunch! I really wanted to avoid this until Grade 1. And there is a snack too of course. Today she headed off with a fruit/coleslaw salad, two plums, a piece of lemon square (thanks, Sara!), an apple, a rice pudding and water.

Yes, she requested the fruity coleslaw. I made it last night, packed her whole lunch and then realized at 6:00 this morning that I left her lunch out all night long. With mayonaisey coleslaw and rice pudding. I repacked the lunch at 7:00 with fresh COLD food. And an ice pack.

She wasn't teary at all (I didn't expect her to be), she was very excited and didn't seem too worried that she didn't know anyone. There are 4 other new SK kids in her class so she isn't the only newbie.

I hope she has a great day. Later today my wee Hope goes to her first drop-off preschool. Mummy may have a heart attack.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Eating dirt

For the past two months, Hope has had this unfortunate habit of landing face first in playground dirt/sand/gravel with her mouth wide open. Usually during some odd dismount of equipment.

The first time, she came over and said "Somethin's crunchy!". I tried to wipe it out but it was essentially a poor finger sweep. I thought it was just a one-off. Apparently it was the start of a "thing."

Since then, every single time we're at a playground, Hope spends a good part of it with a mouth full of gravel. She now prefaces this by making a beeline in my direction, saying nothing, but with her tongue sticking out as far as it can go. (Photo evidence below.) Really, words aren't necessary for her to tell me what's wrong anymore. I know what the problem is every time. Since it happens EVERY VISIT to ANY playground ANYWHERE.

A friend here in Waterloo, Julie, finds it unbelievably funny and weird. Both are true. I usually find it hard to clean her tongue since I'm laughing so hard.

I now have a system in place to deal with the gravel-tongue. I carry a good size water bottle and pour as much water on her face as she'll tolerate. Still a bit crunchy in there but good enough to head back to the playground and fill her mouth with sand again.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Turning a new leaf: meal planning

This summer I've been thinking and reading about ways to be more frugal; ways that I can trim our budget (or, hell, even set a budget!) and pay down more debt and increase our savings. We have a big trip coming up - two months in Texas - during which time we'll be paying two rents. We need to be as frugal as we can leading up to that.

Aside from the obvious ways to cut spending - no snacks or meals out, buying only when we really need something and not when we WANT something, getting clothes on consignment, reusing everything we can - I am absolutely committed to reducing our grocery spending. I know we spend more than we have to. However, I also have two priorities that I won't compromise on: buying local as much as possible and eating as healthily as possible (lots of fruit and vegetables in season). To achieve this I'm continuing to shop at the local farmers' markets (there are two great ones to choose from in the K-W area - a blog post to come) and as of yesterday I started to shop at farm gates. This is VERY easy here as many Old Order Mennonite Farms are only a 15 or 20 minute drive from my door.

I've also decided to do something else; something many people do every week and I've wanted to do for some time: make a weekly meal plan. Up until now, we decide what we're having for supper the same day that we make it. If I'm lucky, I decide the day before. This has resulted in more meals out, more trips to the grocery store and more groceries bought for full price. It also sometimes results in vegetables going rotten in the fridge when I forget what I have or buy it at the farmers' market and don't have a good plan for it. All this changes as of today.

Last night I sat down and made a meal plan for us based on what we like, what is in season, what I already had in the fridge. I didn't have any flyers in front of me. I knew I was going to the St. Jacobs Farmers' Market today and I knew what I would likely find. I expect the result of this new ritual will be a lessening of our food budget but I've decided to also set a limit on what I spend each week. I'm starting with $120 and hope to reduce it closer to $100 over time.

Here is our menu for this week:

Tonight: Brocolli strudel and corn on the cob (brocolli and corn bought at farm stands)
Wednesday night: Chicken simmered in white wine and fresh herbs (from the garden), roasted beets and potatoes
Thursday night: Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and pecorino cheese (tomatoes bought at farmers' market today)
Friday night: Homemade pizza and salad
Saturday night: tourtiere (because Rose will be here and loves it) using beef and pork and apples from market, green and yellow beans (from market)

I'll let you know how it goes and I'll likely jump back into Shan's What's Cooking Wednesday (it's been a while!) and post one of the recipes from the week. Wish me luck. I'm not sure how I'll react to this much organization!