Friday, December 30, 2011

Insta-Friday in real life

My husband just got a new cell phone. It takes pictures.
Seems normal to you, I’m sure. Not to us. Our previous two cell phones were about eight years old, and on pay-as-you-go plans. I’m not a big fan of talking on the phone. I’d much rather talk over a cup of tea.

Inspired by Lindsey, however, I have used the new cell phone to do a bit of a photographic week in review.

Here’s what I managed to capture…some everyday inspirations.

My husband made a delicious curry yesterday, from Robin Robertson’s Vegan Planet.

Everyone got a little something sweet in their Christmas stockings…and I don’t mean the clementine in the toe. Here’s the kids’ candy stash.

The grown-ups have a candy stash too. We haven’t used much because we are too busy eating Christmas cookies.

I made another banana bread today. With eight kids in and out of the house, it didn’t last long. My niece liked it. She said banana bread usually makes her gag. She had a second piece.

My daughter had the rare opportunity to play games with three of her female cousins today. So cute.

My husband took five kids skating. Brave man.

I made some pasta while they were gone skating, along with Nonna’s peas and mushrooms.

For dessert, I made some “classic chocolate chip cookies” from How it All Vegan. I used chocolate chunks for a change.  Yes, I made dessert, even with a bunch of Christmas cookies still in the freezer and a candy stash in the pantry. I can’t be stopped.

I am not generally a snow lover, but it does make the front path look pretty.

The trees are wearing fur coats.

Our family room looks so cozy with the Christmas tree. If only we could actually sit down. You’ll see that there’s a book on the table. It almost looks like people read here…but the kids won’t allow that. My husband tried today (while I just knowingly smiled), until the banging in the basement got too loud to ignore.

Have a great New Year’s Eve!

Friday, December 23, 2011

C is for...

I’m supposed to be going to the gym right now. But, I find myself thinking about making more cookies instead. After all, tomorrow is Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve has always been my favourite part of Christmas. My mom would make tea and put out a lovely three-tier cookie stand full of various cookies and squares. Friends would drop by for a short visit before heading home to prepare for Christmas Day.
The cookie stand is mine now, and I intend to fill it up for our guests tomorrow night. My kids and my nieces expect it, just as I did when I was a child. I have made four recipes so far, and I have (at least) a couple more planned.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Vegan Hot Chocolate & Our After-School Snack Schedule

Vegan Hot Chocolate - a warm treat for a cool fall or winter day! Much healthier and more natural than buying hot chocolate or preparing from a conventional mix. With a touch of cinnamon for flavor. #hotchocolate #vegan #nondairy #dairyfree

Every day the kids come home from school hungry. Until a couple of weeks ago, I picked a snack just before they got home, or even just after. But two weeks ago I decided to create a formal, written snack schedule. I came up with some ideas, printed a weekly calendar and asked the kids to join me for a meeting to discuss the selections. What I hadn’t expected was just how excited they would be about the whole thing. I knew that they were accustomed to snack schedules from their days in daycare and after-school care, but I didn’t realize how well they would respond to the idea of doing it at home.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's beginning to look...

We haven’t had much snow yet this year, so it took me awhile to realize that Christmas is coming soon.

No, I haven’t done all my gift shopping or baked my holiday cookies, but at least we have the outdoor lights up and the Christmas tree decorated.

Baby steps…

When I was growing up, we had the colour-coded artificial tree. You had to match the colour on the stem of the “branch” to the colour on the “trunk” of the tree. Trouble is, the colours wore off. After that, nobody in my house was eager to put up the Christmas tree.
Maybe that’s why nowadays I prefer the real Christmas tree to the fake, although I am sure that will change when the kids get older. We alternate between cutting one down at a local farm and buying a fresh tree at the store.

You might notice that the angel's head is touching the ceiling. Our last house had a very high ceiling in the family room. I can't quite get past that, so we get as large a tree as possible.

My favourite ornaments are the pewter picture frames my mom gave the kids.

Jolene likes to cozy up on a chair in front of the Christmas tree. She is a rescue dog, with unknown origins. We originally thought she was street-wise and tough, but it turns out she doesn’t like to go outside when it’s cold (she actually pees on the deck when there’s snow) and she prefers to sleep on a soft blanket.

Jolene gradually seems to grow tired of my picture-taking.

We also celebrated my husband’s birthday this week, with a quiet family dinner.  I decided to make a cake I’ve never made before. I settled on this recipe for chocolate cola cake that I spotted on Pinterest. It is more decadent than my usual recipe, but nobody seemed to mind. It turned out to be quite delicious, nice and firm with lots of chocolate icing.

Here's the fam, just waiting to dig in.

 How are your holiday preparations coming along?


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Favourite Holiday Films

I am a movie addict. You name it, I’ve probably seen it. Let’s face it, there’s not much to watch on TV nowadays (although I just finished watching and loving the first four seasons of Mad Men on Netflix).

The lack of suitable TV shows makes me turn to movies for entertainment all the more. So, here it is, my tried and true list of favourites to watch during the holiday season. Although I took a couple of electives in film when I was in university, you won’t see any Kurosawa here. The older I get, the more I watch movies just for fun—they don’t necessarily have to be funny, but they have to at least be absorbing and compelling in some way. Grab some popcorn, snuggle up and enjoy!

1.       Home for the Holidays (1995)

This is a Thanksgiving classic, directed by Jodie Foster. I’m going to take this description right off the package, because it pretty much sums it up. “In a span of 36 hours, Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) has managed to lose her job, make out with her boss and learn that her daughter (Claire Danes) is planning to go all the way. But Claudia’s fortunes actually take a turn for the worse when she flies home to endure an even more gruelling trial: the family Thanksgiving!” One thing they should have mentioned is that Robert Downey Jr. is hilarious as Claudia’s gay brother, who is also home for the holidays and making Claudia’s life more difficult with his practical jokes. You will love this dysfunctional family, including the mom, played by Anne Bancroft, and the lovable dad, played by Charles Durning.

2.       The Ice Storm (1997)

This Ang Lee film has Kevin Kline, Joan Allen and Sigourney Weaver portraying life as parents in the 70s. Memorable moments include the wife-swapping key party (let’s hope that didn’t happen in my neighbourhood) and the beautifully depicted but tragic ice storm that causes the characters to re-adjust their priorities in a big way.

3.        The Family Man (2000)

Somehow Nicolas Cage is the perfect fit for this tale of a single, wealthy Wall Street trader who one day at Christmastime magically wakes up in a suburban New Jersey home with a wife (Tea Leoni) and two kids—the life he might have had if he had made different choices as a young man. I’m not saying it’s not predictable, but I never fail to enjoy watching as he comes to appreciate all of the lovely imperfections of everyday life with kids.

4.       The Family Stone (2005)

They call this a comedy, but it’s not all fun. Sarah Jessica Parker plays the uptight and ultra-conservative Meredith Morton so well that her comments are often cringe-worthy. But, when Morton leaves Manhattan to meet her boyfriend Everett Stone’s tight-knit family during the holidays, she meets her match with Everett’s mother (Diane Keaton) and sister (Rachel McAdams). Thank God for Everett’s brother (Luke Wilson) for lightening things up a bit.

5.       Love Actually (2004)

This is the only one on the list that my husband won’t watch with me. Yes, it’s pretty much a chick flick. But, I’m not apologizing. I love the way several storylines skillfully intertwine in this feel good romantic comedy, which is set during Christmastime. As the cover says, the movie features an all-star cast including Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman (who brings me to my next selection).

6.       Die Hard (1988)

Okay, so this one doesn’t exactly scream holiday cheer, but the sentiment is there. New York City detective John McClane is newly arrived in Los Angeles to spend the Christmas holidays with his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia) and kids. As he waits for his wife’s office party to finish, terrorists take control of the building.  While McClane wages a one-man war on the terrorists, including leader Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), he also learns to re-evaluate his priorities and remember the importance of family. This movie is a holiday tradition for my husband and me.

What are your favourite holiday movies? Please let me know. Maybe I haven’t seen them. That would make me so happy.

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