Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Strawberries with White Wine

I know you've all been on the edge of your seats waiting for this one, so here it is, as promised.

Strawberries with White Wine

1 cup strawberries
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup white wine
vanilla ice cream

The ratios for this can easily be adjusted.  The amounts I used made enough for two servings.

To start, chop up the strawberries into small pieces and place them in a bowl.

Next, sprinkle the sugar over the strawberries.  I didn't end up using the full 1/4 cup because the strawberries were well-coated, and I didn't want them to be too sweet.

Pour the wine over the strawberries.

Cover and let stand in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.  Remove from the fridge about 15-20 minutes before serving as strawberries taste better at room temperature.  Scoop the ice cream into bowls.  Stir the strawberry mixture and use a slotted spoon to put them on the ice cream.

And there you have it!  Strawberries with wine...mmmmmm...

Oh, wait!  I almost forgot the best part.  After you scoop the strawberries out onto the ice cream, run the wine that's left in the bowl through a bit of cheesecloth to strain out the seeds and excess sugar, (yes, excess sugar).  You will be left with a lovely strawberry-coloured dessert wine.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Progress on the Garden

As promised, to continue my discussion on the progress we've made on our yard, here's some of the progress we've made on the gardens.  Basically, the previous owners of our house did nothing to keep up with the landscaping of the property, and we've been fighting quite the battle with overgrown gardens filled with weeds, shrubs, and other plants that I can't identify, and therefore, don't really want even if they might actually be something nice. 

I'd like to start by refreshing your memory with a picture of the back of our house as we saw it when we went to view the house for the first time.  Take note of the garden behind the garage and in the corner of the house.

They look a little better now.  I've pruned the shrubs behind the garage significantly, and they look much better.  There was also a plant at the front left corner that I moved to a garden at the side of the house. 

And I completely removed the euonymus bush that was in the corner of the house as well as another plant that was growing there, but I don't remember what it was.  I have no idea what I'm going to do with this little corner yet, but the rocks are kind of fun.

The garden along the fence in the backyard still requires much work. I've cleared out about half of it and put in some tomato plants for a friend that is moving soon and has no place to put them.  We also picked up a bunch of annuals, and I've put two of them at the end of the space I cleared out.  There are three sections of peonies, but I think I might cut that down to one.  They are huge plants, and I'm learning that I'm not into huge plants.  Also, the one set is blocking my rose bush, which has actually done rather well, but I haven't been able to enjoy it because of the peonies standing in the way.  I also have a small lilac bush/tree that I'll keep, but there are a few other miscellaneous shrubs and plants that I think I'll just get rid of because everything is just such a mess.  I think it might be easiest to start from scratch.

Also, the one set is blocking my rose bush (seen below), which has actually done rather well, but I haven't been able to enjoy it because of the peonies standing in the way.  I also have a small lilac bush/tree that I'll keep, but there are a few other miscellaneous shrubs and plants that I'll probably get rid of because everything is just such a mess.  I think it might be easiest to start from scratch.

Here's a close up of my barrels.  I've planted herbs in them, and I'm pretty excited to have fresh herbs to use in my cooking.  In the barrel on the left, I have cilantro (aka coriander, which I didn't know), lavender, aloe, and chives.  In the barrel on the right, I planted two kinds of rosemary, parsley, and basil.  I already used some of the basil to make bruschetta on the weekend, and it was lovely.

The last garden I'm going to show you is the one around the big tree in our front yard.  This tree was surrounded by massively overgrown euonymus bushes, which I cleared out with the help of Tim and my dad.  THAT was a chore, let me tell you.  I will never plant euonymus.  Ever.  The rest of the annuals we picked up went in this garden, as well as a hosta that I had in a pot from our old house.  I'm hoping to get more hostas to put in between all the annuals.

And that's the progress we've made on our gardens so far this year.  I haven't shown you the garden along the front or side of the house because we haven't really done anything with those yet.  I'm hoping to do some planning over the winter to figure out what I actually want to put in them.  It's a bit exciting to be able to plan my own gardens, but I can definitely see why the previous owners let it all go so much.  The amount of foliage we have to keep in line is crazy!

Well, I hope you all are having a good week so far...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Asparagus Puffs

I know I'm supposed to be showing you my garden progress today, but my sister Justine and I made Asparagus Puffs last night, and they were delicious.  I'm super excited, so I decided that I'd share this instead.  The garden can wait until tomorrow...  Observe...

Asparagus Puffs

puff pastry, asparagus, red onion, goat cheese, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil
Photo Credit: Justine

First, cut the red onion into rings and saute in a saucepan with 1 tbsp olive oil until soft.
Photo Credit: Justine

Add 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and stir to coat.  Set aside.
Photo Credit: Justine

Next, unroll the puff pastry and cut into squares.  You can buy puff pastry in the frozen section of the grocery store by all the pre-made crusts.  Use the parchment paper it comes in to line the baking sheet you put the squares on.
Photo Credit: Justine

Spread about 2 tbsp of goat cheese onto the puff pastry, leaving about a 1/2 inch border around the edges.  We did 1 inch because that's what the recipe said, but upon eating the finished product, we determined that less of a border would work just fine.  Also, for the record, goat cheese is hard to spread.
Photo Credit: Justine
Next, break the woody ends off the asparagus, and then cut each stalk in half.  Place on the goat cheese.  (Check out the picture; I don't know how to explain this any better.)
Photo Credit: Justine

Top with a few of the onions that were cooked earlier.
Photo Credit: Justine

Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes and enjoy!
Photo Credit: Justine

These were amazingly delicious and would make a great appetizer for any dinner party.  We decided that one puff per person is plenty, as we had two each and ended up quite stuffed.  The onions add incredible flavour, although we decided we might sprinkle on a bit of salt and pepper next time for a bit of added taste.

For dessert, we had strawberries soaked in white wine, but that's a recipe to share for another day...  (And yes, I'm just going to leave you hanging with that...)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Progress on the Yard

When we first moved into our new house, the yard was a mess.  Actually, the yard is still a mess.  But we are making some slow but significant progress.  Allow me to show you with a few, somewhat not great pictures.  I really wish I'd been better at doing the before and after photos thing.

This is a picture of the back of our house.  If I may direct your attention to the actual yard portion of the picture, you can see a couple of things.  First of all, we're not sure which owner previous to us did this, but there used to be an above-ground pool in this backyard, and when it was removed, they didn't bother to remove all the gravel and plastic sheeting that surrounded it and replace it with something like, I don't know, GRASS.  You will also note that at the back of the garage there is a garden with shrubs that is looking very, very overgrown, and way at the back corner of the house is also another garden that is very overgrown.

 This is the view looking from the deck out to the back of our yard.  Believe it or not, this is actually somewhat of an "after" picture -- okay, more like a "work in progress" picture.  I'll get you an actual "how it looks currently" picture in a minute.  The fence-line of our yard was basically a long row of trees and shrubs.  There was actually a cedar hedge here that had completely overgrown and then died.  Tim could actually rip the stumps out of the ground with little to no effort.  Here, you see my studly husband in action using a chain saw to cut down one of many trees that have been removed from back there.

Here's the "what it looks like now" picture.  Please excuse the toys.  There's still a lot of trees back there, but clearly, we've removed a lot.

Here is a shot of Tim in action again, as well as his friend Tak who gave him a hand for a few days.  At this point, they have removed all the gravel and plastic sheeting from where the pool was, and they rented a roto-tiller for a few hours to plow the area under.  Behind them, you can see our garden along the fence.  This picture was taken early in the spring before anything had much of a chance to grow, but let me assure you, I fight a constant battle to keep the overgrowth at bay.  ...but that's a post for another day...

Here's a view from the deck of the area where they are roto-tillering. 

Unfortunately, since they've roto-tillered, we haven't had a chance to plant any grass or make a whole lot of progress, mainly because of this massive pile of brush that came from all the stuff we've chopped down or ripped out of the gardens.

The brush is accompanied by a large dead tree, and we are waiting for the tree guy to come chop down the tree and remove the pile of brush for us.  We called him a couple of weeks ago, and we're starting to get a little anxious for him to come so we can get some more work done.

Anyway, that's the yard progress that we've made so far.  Tomorrow I'll show you the progress I've made on the gardens so far...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

On smells in my house...

I got to do something yesterday that I haven't done in absolutely ages: sit alone at a Tim Horton's with nothing but my coffee and a book for company.  It was glorious.  I even had a moment of epiphany as something I was reading made me suddenly stop and think.

You want to know what I was thinking about?

How to make my house smell better.

Yep.  That was my deep and profound thought.  The first time in ages that I get to sit and think by myself during daylight hours, and the best thing I can come up with is how to change the odor in my house to something more pleasing than cat pee and garbage.

A few solutions came to mind.  First things first, I need to change the cat's litter box and the soiled newspaper from around it.  I don't know why, and we even recently bought her a larger box, but she still has a horrible habit of missing the box when she pees.  Yeah.  Yuck.  (Don't deny it.  You know you said it, too.)

I should probably also start a habit of taking the garbage out more frequently, as in before it becomes so crammed full I can barely get the bag out of the can without ripping it.  Ditto this for my bowl of compost, although I am slightly better at emptying this on time just because the bowl gets full pretty quickly when you have two kids that frequently don't finish all their food.

There's always the standard air freshener options like deodorizing sprays and scented candles, but who wants to be breathing in all those nasty chemicals I'm sure they're chock full of?

I could try some natural air freshening options, like pot pourri or pots of cinnamon sticks boiling on the stove, and maybe I will do some research on some of that later.

And I'm sure it would also help if I toilet trained Kaylee and eliminated her diapers from the garbage mix.  But go figure, she hates the pull-ups I picked up for her last time I got groceries.

Overall, one thing has become glaringly obvious to me.  I am really just not that perfect housewife whose house is always sparkling clean and smelling of sunshine. 

And frankly, I'm okay with that.  (Although I might still try to do something about those nasty smells...)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

So many ideas...

There are so many blog post ideas running through my head right now, I don't even know where to start.

I could write about how my garden is doing and about the slow progress we're making on our yardwork.

I could write several posts about life as a trucker's wife and what that means for me.

I could write about dreams, and how disconcerting it is to dream about people from your high school days who you haven't seen in years, and then how completely disoriented you feel after being woken up by your son, who has no idea these people even exist.

I could write pages upon pages about God's everlasting faithfulness and how the simple fact that I have so many blog posts I want to write is further proof of His faithfulness and the way He carries me through each and every day with my sanity intact.

He is so good.  I'm even finding the time to write up some of my posts in advance instead of on the morning I post them.  (Gasp!  It's happening!)

If you'll allow me to just exude some joy for a few moments...  I love that I have so much to say.  I love that my brain is functioning enough to let me actually put into words the millions of things that I think every day.  I love that people are actually reading what I have to say -- although even if they didn't, I would still say it because I love how therapeutic writing has become for me.

God is awesome.  He truly is.  And while I've definitely gotten better at putting into words all the things that are in my heart, I don't think I could ever really explain just how much He is doing for me and how totally and completely I need Him to get me through each day.

"Praise the Lord.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever." Psalm 104:1

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thoughts while driving

With Tim gone so much, it's rare that I actually get to be the passenger in the vehicle when I go anywhere.  More often then not, I'm the one driving while dealing with two children in the back seat, and the experience ends up being less than relaxing.

However, this past weekend, my sister Justine and I decided to surprise my dad for Father's Day, so we packed up the kids at 7am into HER car, and I got to sit for four whole blessed hours in a vehicle NOT DRIVING (two hours to my parents', two hours home at the end of the day).  There were still two children in the back that I had to deal with, but when you're not trying to focus on the road at the same time, the experience was significantly more enjoyable.

I actually found myself with some time to ponder while we were on the way home, but it struck me how the way I travel as a passenger has changed so much now that I have kids.  It used to be that I could sit for hours, just looking out the window day-dreaming, or I could sleep for a chunk of time, or I could read for the whole drive.

None of that really happened.  Yes, I still do those things (well, not the sleeping because of the dealing with the children thing), but I'm not doing them for chunks of time anymore; the pattern is a little more disjointed.

How can I explain this better?  Basically, I spent the drive home on Sunday going from one thing to the next, but never focusing on any one thing for a long time.

I'd go from staring out the window day-dreaming to staring out the window writing blog posts in my head.  I'd go from just sitting quietly marveling at all the awesome shades of green God created to chatting with my sister about random things and mental images, and then we'd randomly start singing along with the John Denver CD we had playing -- ah, the good old days.  (And yes, I just admitted that I sing along with John Denver...)  I'd go from feeling melancholy about the passing of time to feeling content and at peace with just being in the moment.

I'd go from enjoying the silence to desperately trying to figure out what book of the 20-some-odd books we had with us my daughter meant when she incessantly yelled, "Cat!" and, "No, no, no, no!" when I'd try to give her the wrong one...

I don't know if it was the constant interruptions from the kids in the back seat, or my brain was just not having a good day with focusing, but it was a weird feeling not to be able to focus on doing any one thing.  I think part of it was just that I wanted to be able to do all of those things, but the two hour drive just wasn't long enough to fit them all in.

I need to be a passenger more often...

Monday, June 20, 2011


That I may never forget the little one we never knew, who would have been due four years ago today.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

For Meditation

Today I'm too tired to even think straight after being up every two hours through the night for Reuben who's got a bad cough right now.  May these words strengthen my soul and yours as we get through this day.

"...For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we may boldly say: 'The LORD is my helper; I will not fear.'" Heb 13:5b-6a (NKJV)

"Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise His holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all His benefits --
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion...

For as high are the heavens above the earth,
so great is His love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us."   Psalm 103: 1-4, 11-12 (NIV)

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Heb 15:13 (NIV)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Don't mess with the morning chi

The postal strike is ruining my morning chi. 

I know it's a bit sad, but getting the mail is close to being the highlight of my day.  I don't know why.  There's just something thrilling about opening the mailbox, finding there's mail in it, and then looking through it to see if there's anything more exciting than bills.  Generally, there's not.  But I can honestly say I would rather get even just one piece of junk mail than no mail at all.

And the days when there does happen to be something other than a bill, like say, a paycheque, or an unexpected tax rebate cheque, or the postcard from Starbucks that tells me I get a free drink for my birthday, those are the sweetest days of all.

I'll be the first to admit, I don't know the a whole lot about why Canada Post is on strike/locked out.  I did some reading on the Canada Post website and on the CUPW website, and I have to say, I understand Canada Post's side of it significantly better than the CUPW side of it.  Sorry CUPW, I love my mailman, but you are not doing a whole lot to make me understand why I don't get to see him everyday anymore.  Show me that you have a good reason to be on strike, and then maybe I will be a little more understanding about why I'm now having to look at switching to e-billing for all of my utilities.  I've managed to hold off this long for most of my bills, and the prospect of relying on my email to tell me how much money I need to pay to keep my hydro running does not fill me with joy.

So stop messing with my morning and the small things that I take pleasure in to get through my long days at home with small children.  Bring me back my mail service!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Have I found our new church?

It's been about six weeks since our last gathering with our "old church", and I've now had the chance to visit a "new church" for a few services.  I thought I'd give you all a bit of an update on how that's been going.

The church we've been checking out is the Presbyterian church down the road from us.  It is literally a five minute walk from my house, ten with the kids in tow.  I can honestly say the proximity to my house has been a real draw for me to make this our permanent church home.

The first service I attended was their Good Friday service, which also included participating in communion.  It was a little daunting because they perform this sacrament by having everyone file to the front pew by pew to partake of the bread/cracker and wine/grape juice, and I felt a little out of my element just because it was a new church, and I didn't know anyone.  Awesomely, it turned out I did recognize someone there as our neighbour from across the street was also in attendance that morning.

I found out later that it was also her first time visiting the church, and they are also looking at perhaps making it their church home.  We've gotten to know those neighbours quite well since moving here, and I find it really cool that we might end up going to the same church together right here in our own neighbourhood.

Since that day, we've gone to three more services, and each time I go, I am more and more convinced that this is the church God is leading us to make our new church family.  They have amazing kids' programs there, which is something I was hoping to find in our new church, and the kids have handled the adjustment really well.

I feel such a sense of community and togetherness from these people during the services, and they have been very welcoming to me and my children.  Several people have already introduced themselves to me, and I'm looking forward to more chances to become part of this church family.

And all that aside, this past Sunday during the service it really struck me that this church is a place where I sense God's presence, and it's a place where I feel comfortable to worship and meet with Him among these other believers.  They have an incredible praise team, and since music has always been a big part of my life and the way I worship, this has helped significantly in making me feel at home here.

Have I made a firm decision that this will be our new church?  Not quite, but I'm getting close.  I haven't spent as much time in prayer over it as I need to yet, but that will come.  I'm also hoping that at some point Tim will be able to come to a service with us, but given that he works on weekends, this might be a while.

Anyway, I could write more, but the kids need breakfast.  Till another time...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Birds in the Morning

I have a love/hate relationship with the birds outside my window.

Sometimes, I think they're great.  I love to hear birds chirping, especially in the spring after they've been relatively quiet all winter.  They remind me of those early morning hours when you're camping, when everyone's just starting to wake up, but the birds have been awake for hours.

And sometimes, when it's 3:45, and the birds are so loud they're waking me up with them, I'm ready to buy a gun and shoot them all.  Okay, maybe I wouldn't actually shoot them, but I'd sure like to find a way so that they're not disturbing my slumber quite so much.  It really doesn't help that the branches of my lovely birch tree are directly outside my bedroom window, and said birch tree seems to be the preferred dwelling for several birds.

Because let's be honest here, people, my kids get me up at ridiculous hours as it is.  I don't need endlessly chirping birds ruining my good night's sleep on top of that.

I'd invest in ear plugs, but then I wouldn't be able to hear my children when they wake up.

Wait.  Maybe that's not such a bad idea...

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

God Doesn't Need Coffee

"I lift up my eyes to the hills--
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip--
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep." Psalm 121:1-4

It's good to know that God doesn't need sleep.

I don't know about you, but when I find life the most challenging as a mother, it's usually because I haven't gotten enough sleep.  When it's hard to be patient, it's usually because I'm tired.  When mornings are difficult, it's because I just want to go back to bed and get more sleep.  When I'm grumpy, it's often because I've been or am being woken up at some ungodly hour.

Except if God doesn't sleep, then technically no hour is an ungodly hour.

I need to get better at looking to Him for the strength to get through those hours when I'd rather be sleeping.  I need to get better at trusting in His limitless patience while I dangle at the end of my rope.  I need to get better at keeping my focus on His never-failing love when I'm staring bleary-eyed at my coffee maker trying to figure out why there's no coffee in the pot even when I scooped the grinds into the filter and pushed the button to make it go.  Oh wait.  It needs water?  (And yes, one morning I actually forgot to put water in the coffee maker when I tried to make my morning coffee.  See what being tired does to you?)

Because God's strength is the only thing that can overcome my desire for more sleep.  And the joy that comes from relying on Him is WAY better than any caffeine buzz...

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

On pests and homeownership

Something ate my garbage last night.

I don't know if it was a raccoon or a squirrel or something else, but when I looked outside this morning, our garbage can has been tipped over, the lid is off, and there's garbage all over the ground. Given that we're also having a lovely thunderstorm this morning, it's going to be very yucky to clean up later. Joy.

I strongly suspect that most homeowners have to deal with pests of all sorts, but it feels like the battle is never-ending. Whether it's bugs in my laundry, chipmunks in my basement, ridiculous amounts of spiders living in the corners of every room, and big black ants that crawl on me while I'm sleeping, I never know what to expect next!

Obviously, the next pest problem is whatever is tearing the lid off my garbage can to eat my garbage. Frankly, I'm surprised they haven't gone for my compost bin because that's where all the food scraps go. Although given the smell coming from said bin lately after all the warm weather, I can't say that I blame the poor bugger.

The neighbour suggested a way to rig up the lid so that it's tied down and nothing can get in. That sounds like a lot of work to me as it involves drilling holes in one side of my garbage can because we only have one handle. I think we'll probably just end up keeping the garbage can in the garage.

Stay tuned to find out which pest we get to deal with next...

Sunday, June 05, 2011

About nothing

So I haven't been feeling a whole lot more inspired to write anything this past week. I'm sorry I can't be one of those bloggers that gets to write all kinds of posts in advance so that you still get regular posts even whe I don't feel like I have anything important to say. I wish I could do it differently, but of course, whenever inspiration strikes me, I'm usually nowhere near a computer or my kids require my attention so I can't write it out anyway. And then, inevitably, when I sit down at the computer in the mornings when I do have time, the inspiration is gone or the idea that I had just sounds boring.


Unfortunately, it means you get stuck with either dull posts or no posts. Again, sorry.

In fact, the only reason I'm posting at all this morning is because I'm so tired of not having anything to post that I'm forcing myself to sit here and post SOMETHING, even though it means I'm posting about not having anything to post.

Anyway, I'm sure ONE of these days, some real inspiration will strike, and hopefully at the right time of day, and then you'll get some decent posts again. Until then, you'll have to make due with, well, dull posts.

For the last time, sorry.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The birthday girl always cries

We had a party for Kaylee's birthday last night. At one point, the irony struck me that there were actually only three children at the party, two of whom were mine, and the other 14 people were adults. I think my kids need to get out more and make some new friends...some younger friends.

But no offense intended to any of our party guests. In fact, all of them were specifically requested by my kids, and interestingly enough, the names of two children my kids have been asking about seeing all week didn't even come up. So there we have it. A child's relatively child-less birthday party.

And it was fun. At least, I think it was fun. The kids got extremely excited when the first guest arrived and got progressively more and more worked up as more people came. It was good the weather was so nice so they could spend some of that energy outside.

We had burgers and salad and cake. Kaylee opened her presents and said some really cute "thanks" to everyone. She kept asking for a Buzz Lightyear toy, and I'm not sure if she was actually disappointed or not that she didn't get one. I don't think I had even realized she wanted one. Do two-year-olds get disappointed when they don't get toys they want for their birthday?

And of course, the birthday girl ended up in tears when it was time for her to go to bed at the end. Can you blame her after having so much fun?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Lemon Rosemary Chicken

This is a recipe that I found a few months ago.  It is amazingly delicious and simple.  Not to mention, I always feel like I'm a real cook when I use things like fresh herbs and lemon zest.  :)

You will need a few sprigs of rosemary, a lemon, 2-4 chicken breasts, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Chop 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary and put it in a small bowl.

Add 1 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of black pepper.

Add 1 tsp of lemon zest (about one lemon worth).  Lemon zest is ridiculously hard to measure accurately.

 Add 1 tsp of lemon juice and 1 tbsp of olive oil.  Stir it all together.

Rub the mixture onto all sides of the chicken breasts and place onto your baking pan of choice.  I have cooked these both in covered casserole dishes in the oven and also straight on a baking tray in my toaster oven.  I have yet to determine which way is best.  Cooking times vary depending on how many chicken breasts you use, but for those pictured above, I believe I cooked them in the oven at about 350 for approximately 30-40 minutes.  The trick is not overdoing them because chicken can dry out pretty easily when it's overcooked.

Unfortunately, I don't have a post-cooking picture for you as once the meal was done, I got a little crazy trying to put it all on plates to feed my hungry family.

So there it is in all it's glorious yumminess.  If you try it, I'd love to know what you think!