Friday, January 21, 2011

Culinary Challenge 2011

Yesterday I was out with a friend for coffee (well actually London Fogs) and she asked me if I could work on one "thing" Decorating or Cooking/Baking this year which it would be. I thought about it and decided that because many if not most of the things I want to have done decor-wise are done or not a huge priority. So I picked Cooking/Baking. Together her and I made goals for ourselves in Cooking and Baking for the year. It's more focused than a 101 list and doesn't take nearly as long. So I have a whole year to work, perfect and hone the skills I choose. And I think it will be AWESOME and super divine.

1. Make amazing breads- a variety of great breads with different grains especially working on using whole wheat. I would be very interested in making focaccia with whole wheat after my attempt failed this weekend and in making ciabatta, and so on and so forth.
2. Find MY perfect brownie, chocolate chip cookie and other favourite recipes.
3. Make a double layer GORGEOUS cake.
4. Make a real deal Tiramisu

1. Work on making my own dressings. In particular Caesar dressing.
2. Make homemade pasta
3. Make sushi
4. Work on honing my skills in my two favourite cuisines. Mexican and Asian
Mexican- make amazing Enchiladas including homemade enchilada sauce
learn to make tamales.
Asian- make a mean Lemon Chicken and a Honey Garlic pork or chicken or ?
-perfect making stir-fried veggies- in particular timing. Either they are ready too early
or get mushy.
-learn to make Pho. It's a Vietnamese soup. I had it roughly 3 years ago. It was the last
thing Renee and I ate together. Maybe I will try to make it on the 3 year anniversary of
her passing or her birthday.

Theme Ingredients- Like the Iron Chef but a little less intense
1. Work with more spices and learning what to add, how much to add and how to to make dishes pop with flavour with the right combination of spices.

Spices/Herbs I want to work with more- Cumin, Corriander, Ginger Root, Garlic, Rosemary, Flavoured Oregano, Saffron and I want to successfully grow basil, thai basil and cillantro.

2. Potentially roast some of my own spices and get a mortar and pestle to grind them and use
them in my dishes.

Things I will need to buy or acquire in order to complete these challenges
1. A mortar and pestle. I don't know if I will get an expensive one because I don't know how much I will use it.
2. More baking pans, for breads and such.
3. Serving dishes including a cake stand for the double layer cake
4. Sushi making stuff
5. Books about great breads, Asian, Mexican or spices. (Recommendations would be fabulous).

I want to take notes on my recipes so that I can adjust them. I have found WAY too many times that I use a recipe from online that has great reviews and then it sucks. And chances are if I made some tweaks that it could be okay but if I go back to it most often I don't know what I didn't like about it.

I am hoping to come out in the end of 2011 with my signature dishes that are flavourful and even a little bit healthy.

So here's to a year of good food!



Wednesday, January 19, 2011


(Warning- Andrea this one might not be for you)

If life is a test, I think we passed our pop quiz today.

We had the Dude today and soon after Steve got home from work, said Dude, started puking. Complete projectile vomiting. It caught us quite off guard and we definitely had a look of panic in our eyes. But, we were able to stay calm clean him up and strip him down after the first round, then bathe him after round two (bonus points for the tub being a fairly contained area to clean if round 3 came). We stretched out the bath for a long time based on this (plus he was having fun).

Finally, we hung out with him a little bit more and unfortunately round 3 came. So we decided to bundle him up and take him home (we had him because our SIL was sick and Steve's brother was OOT). While I got the vehicle ready Steve was able to get the dude into his snow suit all by himself. : )

Why am I talking about all this? Because it feels awesome to know that when the time comes with our own kids that we can handle it. We can stay calm and handle the bodily fluids. I know that we can work as a team and deal with anything that comes. Now when the time comes I know that we won't be able to bring our kids somewhere else for night but we'll handle that when we need to.

Until next time!



Saturday, January 15, 2011

All About the Dude

Dude, Buddy, Spud. Whatever we choose to call him on any given day Steve and I adore our little nephew Rylan and last Wednesday he turned one. What an exciting day to remember a year ago when he was born and how much he has learned already and how our lives have changed in the past year.

Wednesday they had a small family party with the grandparents, great grandparents and aunts and uncles. So a whole bunch of adults with Rylan as the star of the show. He decided to show off his walking and walked almost everywhere. He loved using the unopened gifts as drums, sneezing on several of his guests and had a great time making a mess of his cake. (case and point)

Just to look back... here is Rylan and I,
January 12, 2010 and then January 12, 2011.

Looks like we've both pretty much kept the same hair style although this is technically his second crop in 12 months. My hair is shorter but the same colour. Last year I was in the midst of my Grade 3 year and had just returned from Mexico. I was lighter than I am now by a couple of pounds. He was considerably lighter last year. : ) This year, well I talked about that a couple of posts ago. No need to rehash.

While Rylan may not smile for the camera
(rare smile caught in this picture)
or get all excited he has definitely developed a super awesome personality in the past couple of months. He does get super excited about some things. Often he gets super pumped to see his Uncle Steve (especially if Uncle Steve has yogurt) and he loves soft things. At our house he loves this awesome faux bear blanket that we have. He cuddles his face into it and gets all happy. He also loves squishing his fingers in our shag rug. Rylan likes shopping and seeing himself in mirrors (which is easy entertainment when we're doing the former).

He also (and I don't think that it's just my unobjective opinion) recognizes that there are pictures on the wall of Bridget and him (which excites him) and he definitely knows when his name is being called. His favourite place to go at our house after his cuddle with the blanket is the Tupperware cabinet. He knows exactly where that is and can empty it in no time flat.

Listen to me ramble about this boy. I just love him to bits. In a year that had it's ups and downs he has been my up all year. Often if I had a rough day at school I would call Rachel and ask if I could come to play with Rylan. Just seeing his cute face lifts my heart. And because I was off for the summer and now with subbing I've had more time than I would have, and because Rachel's been on Mat leave there's been time to shop, have breakfast and have coffee. I've seen him at least once a week for all 52 weeks that he's been here and I am SO very excited to see all he's going to learn and do as he marches to two. By this time in 2012 will he have a name for me? Will he be mischevious or obedient? Will he have a case of the terrible twos? What will make him laugh and what will his favourites be?

Happy Birthday Rylan! Maybe one day, on your fourteenth birthday maybe I'll pull this out just to prove to you that I was crazy about you all along!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Oh Yum!

I think most of you would know that I love to bake, cook and eat. So it should come as no surprise that I have been doing just that recently.

This weekend I tried a new bread recipe, though I can't say that I have made a lot of bread in my baking career, but this one was SO easy that I have to share. I made a delightful foccacia bread and we had that with cream of broccoli soup for supper. It was really good. Soooo tasty. The huge massive bread is... gone. Well I am bringing some of it along with the soup to our friend's who just had a baby boy. So it wasn't all Steve and I.

For this recipe I used my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer with the dough hook which was very helpful during the kneading portion but I think it would be completely doable by hand. I used dried rosemary but I can't wait to make this in summer when I have fresh rosemary. I have also seen a very similar recipe at $5 Dinners. That one has eggplant on it too and I would love to make that sometime that recipe website was down when I went to make my bread the other day so I had to look for an alternate which happened to be the one. I have high hopes for this bread. I can imagine making it with a nice pasta and salad for company. I could make it with the eggplant parm that I used to make quite often. I could make it with the eggplant stacks that I love making from Rachel Ray. That with a caesar salad out on the patio in summer. DIVINE. I better go eat something before I head to the grocery store.

Tonight for supper I made sweet and sour porkwith veggies and the Pioneer Woman's Sesame Noodles. It was sooo good. I bought some Asian Wun-Tun noodles but could have easily used a spaghetti or angel hair. I also used cilantro instead of green onions because I'm sensitive to green onions and I love cilantro.

The Sweet and Sour Pork was divine. I made it loosely based on this recipe. I used pork tenderloin because that's what I had and coated it thinly with cornstarch which really helped it brown. I also made the sweet and sour sauce that I make when I make chicken balls which was only slightly different. The one thing about this meal is that you have to serve it right away. This was my problem. It seemed like it would all take awhile but once I started going it was quickly done. I had it ready over twenty minutes before Steve walked in the door. It still tasted good 20 minutes later but things weren't as crisp as they should have been.

I didn't take any pictures of the above food because, well my camera isn't very good. I have my eye on this beauty which I am hoping to buy with my birthday money in a couple weeks. My brother Chad just got this one for Christmas and it has amazing reviews and if you've seen any of his pictures lately you know that it's working for him.

Anyways. I think now that supper is over I will go camp on the couch and hope that the dishes fairy will be along shortly.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

I'm just not into that

For several weeks in December and now the first week in January 11pm on Wednesday night has been "date" night for Steve and I. A little late if I say so myself but sometimes there's not many options. We've been watching the Penguins/Capitals 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic on HBO. While we both like hockey (Steve might be on the love level) I don't think I would have watched this had it not been for my hope of seeing my cousin featured and getting an insight into the everyday life of professional hockey players. Quite interesting actually. The documentary follows both teams and talks about the daily ins and outs of hockey. The highs and lows of winning and losing, Sidney's horrible moustache and they did actually feature Eric on episode 3. They showed Eric and his wife Rachel giving back by sponsoring a family through the Salvation Army and giving them Christmas presents. Kind of cool.

But what WASN'T cool was all of the swearing. Four years ago when I was serving I probably wouldn't have thought twice about all the swearing. I was so accustomed to it then. It was part of my daily life and while I didn't necessarily agree with it, I wasn't sensitive to it. Fortunately, things have changed. Through being an elementary teacher, being involved with mainly people from church in my circle of friends I hear very little swearing in real life. And I'm totally okay with that. I am glad that I have re sensitized to the unnecessary and vulgar nature of using expletives instead of real words in a conversation or to express to someone that you're not that happy.

Unfortunately what I watching didn't carry that same value. In Episodes 1 & 2 the swearing was intense. Lost a game, lost your cool, things are going well... swear about it. I wanted to do a vocabulary lesson with them to teach them some words they could use instead of the F word. That may be part of their everyday life but fortunately I was a little taken a back listening to it. Episode 3 either they edited out the swearing or the players and staff actually swore less... we'll never know. It might have had something to do with the Capitals coach's mom publicly saying that she was embarrassed to hear her son swearing a blue streak. But Episode 4 everyone was back to their old tricks. While I was really interested in the content the swearing just totally turned me off. Being HBO which is all about that there was no bleeping and they are all about the shock and vulgar aspect. In all I'm glad that while that negative and vulgar language isn't part of my life and find it so disappointing that other people are so consumed with it being part of their life. And that's what I have to say about that!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Looking into the past and forward into the future

Hello blog... haven't seen you in a while.

It's been about 7 months since my last post on this old blog and I thought I'd give posting another go. Would this be happening if I hadn't given up FBing for the month of January? Maybe not but here it is.

So here's a look at what has been happening in 2010 and a look into the year ahead.

2010 started with two joyous events! Meeting our niece Bridget who was born on Christmas Day 2009 and soon after the birth of our nephew Rylan who was born 51 weeks ago today. Watching them in the last year has been such an amazing joy. While Bridget doesn't live very close to us we have enjoyed watching her grow and watching her personality develop in the past year when we see her on holidays and when Sarah and her visited for night in October. Christmas was a great day as she turned one and both Rylan and her experienced their first Christmas. Craziness.

Rylan on the other hand I have seen at least once a week for the past 51 weeks and being able to be so close to him has been outstanding for both Steve and myself. I know if I looked back at my status' for the last year that many would be about him. He is a great little almost one year old. Not easily excitable but so wonderful and his own little character. We have this great picture from the family pictures we had done for Steve's parents for Christmas with both Bridget and Rylan and in it both Rylan and Bridget's personalities shine through. The mischief in his eyes is so evident. This mischief has led to some baby-proofing and quite often in finding my Tupperware cupboard fully emptied on the floor. Uncle Steve and him are quite fond of each other and Steve even babysat him by himself this week while Rachel and I went out for breakfast. We came back to see them both in front of the TV, with one of them fast asleep. It wasn't Steve... We are looking forward to his first birthday next week and getting to see what he will learn in the year ahead.

But as much joy as those little people have brought to our lives in the past year we have had our share of struggles and challenges. Just before Spring Break I found out that I wasn't going to be hired permanent in the position I was in last year due to many different things one of them being that after two full year terms, under MTS regulations, a teacher hired into that division again needs to be hired permanent. Because of some struggles that I had during the first half of the school year and many other factors they chose not to hire me permanently. This was hugely discouraging and then with nothing else coming up last spring for this current school year also dealt a large dose of struggles and feeling like being rejected. But despite this reality I had a great end of the school year. I fell in love with my students more every day and finished strong. During the summer I was hopeful that a position would open up and I would get a call... but that too didn't happen.

So since the beginning of the school year I have been a substitute teacher which has been challenging and humbling. But it has also been so much fun and in many ways I have fallen more in love with teaching. I have subbed everything from Kindergarten to High School Foods and Cosmetology. I have met amazing students, teachers, principals and other staff in this division. I have kept pursing positions (after the start of the school year I could be hired term again) that come available but so far I am still a substitute. One of the best joys that this has provided is that I have been able to continue some of the relationships with students and staff at the school that I worked at last year. I have been able to see and received so many hugs from my students from last year. It has been truly life changing actually. The first time I was back there in this school year I was overwhelmed with the joy that I saw in my students eyes when they saw me. I felt as if I had not just been a passing wind but that I had made some difference in their lives and that was really a huge answer to prayer and so exciting.

The end of 2010 also brought a new job for Steve. He is now working at Furniture Plus and is loving his new role and the new challenges that it brings him. He has moved from quite a small company to a bigger company and the change has definitely been good for him.

The other major thing that has happened in my life in 2010 is that through the struggles and the changes and all that happened that both Steve and I have grown in leaps and bounds in our relationships with God. The struggles have grown us closer to Him but also to each other. We have learned so much from the teaching at our church, from the people that we have met and from our cells (Bible study). We started the year in a large worship cell that was led by one of the pastors of our church. It was great but we had initially wanted a smaller young couples' cell and in May one was starting and we jumped in. We actually offered to host the cell (while another couple leads) and it has been great. Along with the young couples cell I also go to a Teacher's Cell (which also includes EAs, substitutes and others) Wednesday mornings before school. Through the struggles we have learned to trust God because He is good. Not sometimes but ALL THE TIME. We know that through our struggles and through choosing to walk closer with Him instead of walking away that He has a plan for our lives that is so much more than we can do with our own strength. He has brought us so much joy in following Him in the past year and I am excited to see what He has in store for this upcoming year.

So yes... looking into 2011 as I see it right now.

This month we have not only Rylan's big birthday but it is also Prayer and Fasting month at our church. Not that every month shouldn't include prayer and fasting but this is a fresh start to a new year. I felt God was asking me to give up Facebook (currently just for the month) so I did. It's been 5 days and the urges to go on have been less but then there's also been times like when I heard about my cousin's engagement and I wanted to go quickly congratulate them, or the excitement that I felt the other day with my cousin having a huge game in the outdoor Penguins/Caps game, or wanting to contact people for whom I don't have email addresses or that I still think of FB status' throughout the day. I also have been struggling with not filling the time that I would spend on FB with other online things. In addition to all these things I'm hoping that I will work yet this week as I feel like I've had enough time at home and would love to get "back" to school and into the world.

In February I will be turning 28 and we will be celebrating being home owners for 2 years. Yikes. Time has flown but we love it here in Steinbach 98% of the time. I say 98% because sometimes I wish I was closer to the city, or that I could go shopping on Sunday but the pro's definitely outweigh the cons and one of the big pros is living so close to our gorgeous nephew (and his parents too). We will also finish the month with a retreat with our cell group to an Encounter God retreat.

As for the rest of the year. Looking ahead I don't know what is going to happen. I guess I have hopes and dreams. One of them being that we are hoping to become parents in 2011. Another being hired for a teaching position. While I do enjoy subbing I would love to be in a classroom of my own, if only for a couple of months now at the end of the school year. We would also love to keep working at paying off our student loans so that we can be debt-free ASAP but we'll see how that goes. My goals don't necessarily all "fit" together. Other than that it feels like my life is open to whatever possibilities come my way. The title of my blog still seems to work as we are still in the unknown, but the great thing is that God knows and that's okay with me!

My heart's goal for 2011 is that all who I encounter will be encouraged. I hope to be a positive beacon and that will take some work but I will work on it!

So... that is my reflection of 2010. Longer than a status update but if nothing else it will be something for me to look back on next year and see where we were and where we were hoping to go and where we actually got to. Life truly is good!