Sunday, July 25, 2010


We did well this past week following our menu, however; due to some extreme Alberta heat, we adapted a few things. I tried Weeknight Lasagna Toss on a whim and it was very good! Thankfully, it's all stove top so it didn't heat the house up anymore than necessary! I only used 1/2 a green pepper and 1/2 a red plus one medium onion all chopped up. I also added some additional spices to my hamburger while it cooked - pepper, parsley, onion & garlic powder. I can see it being a bit bland with out a little jazzing up but it's simple, easy and tasty!

Also, I tried using the barbeque more as an oven and attempted to bake our nachos on it. It worked very well - so well, I never got an 'after' picture of our dish as we ate it all before I remembered! With this success, I'm going to try more roasting and baking in the barbeque in the coming weeks (and days) as it looks like summer has finally decided to show up!

It's a lazy week - TroubleMaker and I are heading to my Mom's for the weekend so I wimped out in the planning department. It's also going to be warm here all week and I know when it's hot, I don't want to cook but it's also appetite zapping so we'll play some of these meals by ear. I also took a pork roast out so I don't think we'll have pork chops this week...

here is our week at a glance!
July 26 to August 2
Monday Tuna Sandwiches & Salad
Tuesday BBQ Pork Buns (I'll post the recipe ASAP)
Wednesday Weeknight pasta toss
Thursday Clubhouse Sandwiches with Fries
Friday To my Mom's!
Saturday At Mom's!
Sunday Still at Mom's being spoiled!

Ummm. Yeah. I haven't planned anything this week. When I did the months' menus a month ago, I was out of inspiration and time.

Cereal, toast, bagels, muffin - all with lots of fresh berries!

Hope you have a great week and check out more Menu Plan Monday cooking and meal planning ideas over at Org Junkie!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Can you see Christmas in that dining room?!

Recently, we had the opportunity to view an historic home in an adjoining neighbourhood. We weren’t expecting much from the place (it was, after all, covered in pink stucco) but we went anyway, disappointed that we’d wasted our Saturday having booked this viewing.

Off we went and the realtor met us and subsequently warned us “there are renters and they aren’t the best of housekeepers”. Well. That was the understatement of the year – the renters didn’t ‘housekeep’ at all but even the piles of junk, dirty laundry and resulting damage of having four university students living within its walls could not hide the absolute beauty and splendor of this magnificent 1920’s built home.

It was amazing, from the grand staircase to the 10’ coved ceilings – the period ‘register’ covers and the original wood floors made me sway. The fat, plump wood around the once majestic dining room just needed some serious love (and gallon or seven of paint stripper). The house was amazing but it was seriously suffering from many (too many) years of abuse and neglect. We wandered around often amazed and then dismayed at the state of disrepair this majestic home had been allowed to deteriorate too.

It would be a total gut and it would require some serious consultation with an architect (good thing we know one of those, thank you very much Best Man at our wedding) to get the 70’s craptastic addition up to something that deserved to be attached to this home. We asked questions like “how new are ‘newer furnaces’ and “how much of the plumbing was upgraded?” and “was it just the panel upgraded or was new wiring pulled?” all questions the inept and incompetent realtor was unable to answer.

We left and took our son for ice cream. We dreamed and talked and dreamed some more. This would be our only chance to get into a true ‘character’ home – the ones that had been renovated and restored in the neighbourhood had been out of our price range for many years already but the work, money and time commitment could be so worth it in the end. I’d be able to design and implement a complete restoration of an historic mansion – the kind of things most interior designers only dream of. We dreamed more and found sources for (modernized) period fixtures for the bathrooms and kitchen. We postulated what we could do and how we’d do it – slowly, room by room gaining skill as we went. What things we’d keep (there was a weird pedestal sink complete with tile backsplash in an upstairs bedroom) and what we’d change (the basement was SCARY).

We dreamed up an offer - a low ball knowing that the house would likely fail a home inspection. I considered calling in industry friends to help us get a handle on what the restoration would cost. We thought about booking a second viewing to better document the space with pictures.

But the reality became all too clear. The home was already at the very top of our ‘comfort zone’ and no lowball offer could likely finance the $250 000.00 renovation and restoration we were likely going to have to undertake. Certainly, we could move into the home and ‘keep it up’ but we realized we were just unable to be the family to take this once magnificent and majestic gem of a home back to her original splendor. I think both our hearts broke a little when we realized that – I don’t think I’ve ever been broken hearted over a house before, but what a house she could be.

And for what it’s worth, both of us could picture Christmastime wrapped in her beautiful arms but as our toddler son locked his arms with ours, we knew that he needs the loving Christmas with food in his belly and a toy under the tree more that we need her beautiful embrace.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Our camping weekend was a success! Our first trip out in the Motorhome (now known as “MH”) is usually good but often we’ve forgotten to “reload” some essential supply or realize we forgot things like blankets or soap, but this trip, the only ‘forgotten’ things were:

Peanut butter
Hot chocolate
TroubleMaker’s Toothpaste

That is pretty good! Also nothing broke or wore out, which is also very good! Our first trip last summer (summer ’09) saw us break a vent cover (and of course, it rained most of the weekend) and the valve on the propane tank stripped (and caused a leak which my Hubby and Step Dad were able to ‘fix’ for the weekend). Although we did have a teensy issue with the coach battery (it was dead) my Hubby was able to fix it before we left, but not before he nearly sawed his thumb off in the process.

So one quick panic attack from me (and yes, folks, I’m a certified First Aider), several rounds of “Hizzzz zat?” from TroubleMaker in response Hubby’s trail of blood and one very large bandage later, we were off!

We arrived without incident at Miquelon Lake Provincial Park and then Hubby whacked his other thumb on some unknown object and was bleeding, again…

The weekend went well, we relaxed, we played in the dirt, chased TroubleMaker out of 1000 different puddles and swatted 1, 645, 234 mosquitoes. One nice thing about Alberta in the summertime is spontaneous weather (torrential downpours, sun, more rain, sun, thunder that scares the dead, more sun, more rain, repeat) and mosquitoes. I think we won the battle this weekend; and although I’ve got a couple of bites, TroubleMaker won the swatting war and has finally realized the benefit of insect repellent. He now knows trips outside do not happen unless he’s got “sun-skeen n’ bug spay”!

Our camping menu was altered slightly as we just warmed up a can of the Chef for dinner on Thursday. I always seem to forget how tiring the first day out is – packing 17 laundry baskets of clothing and toys for TroubleMaker to the MH will do that, I suppose… I made potato salad while we were out camping too and I’m a little less than impressed that the silly fridge froze the remainder!

The other thing I must mention is my birthday. On Tuesday, I turned 36. I told Hubby “do nothing – we’ll warm pasta up for dinner” since we had a great trip planned for the weekend and money is tight… I got home shortly after 4pm and I walk into the house and am met with silence. Deafening silence. No dog barking, no kid trying to climb on me – nothing. Even the Cat was MIA. I wait for a minute and listen – nothing. Then I hear a door in the basement “ah… Here it comes.” And again nothing but my darling, sweet husband coming up the stairs. Alone. By himself. He explains that he arranged for my parents to take TroubleMaker and Max for the evening so we could go out to dinner!

Many thanks to my Dad & Step Mom who always help out and an endless supply of kisses and adoration for my Hubby. Just when I think I’ve got things all figured out, you always change the rules and keep me guessing… I love you and thank you for your love.

Here is this week’s menu! (I’ll update tonight and add a few recipe links, I left the actual menu pinned to the fridge and can’t remember it all)

July 19 to July 25
Monday Perogies & Sausage
Tuesday Slow cooker Swiss Steak (see below for recipe)
Wednesday Slow cooker sweet & sour turkey meatballs with rice
Thursday BBQ Pork Chops with grilled veggies
Friday Nachos
Saturday Slow cooker sweet & sour turkey meatballs with rice

Leftover pizza, cottage cheese, yogurt and granola bars

Homemade "Eggos", bagels & cream cheese, Banana muffins & cheese cubes, Toast, Bacon & Eggs

Hope you have a great week and for more Menu Plan Monday cooking and meal planning ideas, head over to Org Junkie!

Slow Cooker Swiss Steak
1 pound of steak, cut into 1/2 strips
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika

Combine flour & seasonings in large bag. Toss to combine. Add steak pieces and shake to coat all. Turn contents into a crock pot.

28 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 can mushrooms, drained & their juices
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup ketchup
3 tsp beef boullion

In a bowl, combine the above ingredients and pour over the dredged steak pieces. Turn crock pot on 'low' and cook 7 to 9 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.

1 cup sour cream

During last 1/2 hour of cooking, add one cup of sour cream. Stir to combine.

Serve over plain rice or egg noodles.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Pioneer Woman

Photo Courtesy of Blackstone Images

Last week, while perusing some of the great menus on Menu Plan Monday, I happened across The Pioneer Woman and I fell hopelessly and dearly in love with her and her life.

Since then, I've been reading her blog nearly every spare chance I get. It is amazing - I don't know it it's because I have my own man who reminds me of her Marlboro Man or because I've always wanted to live on a ranch or I love the Prairie or I love her house... She writes well, is interesting, captivating and keeps me coming back for more.

I spent a whole afternoon last week just reading her romantic tale of how she met her husband! I could see myself curled up in snugly PJ's (complete with fuzzy socks) in a big arm chair reading the book in actual print.

At the tail end of my lunch today, I popped back over and it was a full 15 minutes later before I landed back in reality (and that was because my sister called). I was completely enamoured with this post and it made me want to call my three best friends from junior high and get together!

If you have a spare afternoon, check her blog out!

Sunday, July 11, 2010


This weeks menu was well followed and SO yummy! I've made the Enchilada Casserole three or four times and I love it more each time. I've modified the recipe - I add chopped onions and peppers (red & green) as well as about 1/3 of the corn the original suggests to the meat when it's just about finished cooking (I drain it first). I find that this adds some good hidden veggies and enhances the flavour overall. I finally got all three layers to fit this week too! If you haven't tried it yet, you must!

I had "Saturday" last week listed as "surprise"! Well - I was being covert in the event my Dad happened upon my blog that week... My step Mom and I had planned a surprise retirement party! After 41 years in the same job, my Dad finally hung up his hat so we HAD to celebrate! It was a complete surprise to him (it's hard to surprise my Dad - he knows or finds out about everything) and he was so excited! We had the usual summer barbeque fair - steak, chicken baked potatoes, potato salad, Caesar salad... Lots of desserts - it was great and everyone had a fantastic time!

This week, we are heading out to Miquelon Lake Provincial Park camping for four days! I've never been out that way before but they (the Province) did a whole bunch of renovations to the park a couple of years ago so it's supposed to be a good family park now. Regardless, it'll be very nice to finally get away for a few days camping in our motorhome!

So here is our week at a glance!
July 12 to July 18
Monday Chicken Burgers, Salad, chips (We're having company for dinner - my MIL and quasi SIL are staying after they take TroubleMaker on his first zoo trip)
Tuesday Up in the air because someone *ahem* is turning 36 today!
Wednesday Tuna Sandwiches & salad
Thursday BBQ hamburgers & chips
Friday Steak & Caesar salad
Saturday Smokies cooked over the campfire!
Sunday leftovers?

Not much - TroubleMaker is at the zoo tomorrow and Wednesday is at the sitter's... I'm off the rest of the week and we're camping so it'll likely be snack-like food!

Homemade "Eggos", bagels & cream cheese, Banana muffins & cheese cubes, Toast, Bacon & Eggs

Hope you have a great week and check out more Menu Plan Monday cooking and meal planning ideas over at Org Junkie!

Friday, July 9, 2010

And Baby Made Three

Three years ago today, I found out I was pregnant. I was a day late and had no other inclination that we *might* be expecting. We were trying to conceive, of course, but our timing had been off and my cycle was all out of whack (due to work related stress).

At the time I was baby-crazy. Charting my cycle, recording everything and obsessing nightly (for hours) looking at charts, analyzing temperatures, playing with numbers. We’d miscarried our first baby seven months earlier and although I thought I’d never recover, I did and was anxious – too anxious – to be pregnant again. After this month, I was tossing all the thermometers and charts aside – I was going to forget trying to conceive and just get back to living.

The software (according to my haphazard attempt to stop taking my temperature each morning upon waking) put me at a day late. I tried to disregard the fact that not only had I ovulated (according to the software) on day 24 of that cycle but my Hubby and I had only ‘been together’ five days prior to said ovulation. I had decided that if my period had not started by the time I left work, I would stop and buy a home pregnancy test.

It didn’t come and so I stopped and dutifully bought a ‘double pack’ of home pregnancy tests – fully expecting to not need them. I got home and raced to the bathroom. My weary dog, tired from a full day at dog daycare and from the warm temperatures, followed me as always, wondering why I was dancing happily to go pee. I opened the box and read the instructions. I always read instructions but made extra sure that I read them carefully so that I wouldn’t make a mistake.

I peed. I immediately looked at the stick – in a surge of colour, both windows flushed pink. I screeched. I grabbed the dog and hugged him. I remember the moment – where and how I was standing, even what the little window looked like. I yelled “We’re PREGNANT!” and my breath was sucked out of my chest.

And then it all went away. It cleared – like nothing was ever there.

I put the test on the counter and said to the dog – “oh well, maybe next time.” And I took him for his usually 45 minute walk.

Like a dog with a bone, the instant we got back in the house, I ran back the small bathroom off our master bedroom and grabbed the test off the counter.

And I saw the first proof of my son. Edited note: I went to insert the picture of the Home pregnancy test I uploaded three years ago to show my online friends... However, there is NO pink line in the picture indicating a positive test. I know it was there, I know I was pregnant (I have the proof) - I'll have to check the master files at home and will reedit this post accordingly.

A strong, clear pink line was in the correct window on the test. I was pregnant. I double checked the instructions to make sure I was reading it correctly. I was pregnant. But was it real? I was outside the control time – but I saw the positive right away and then it went away… I made something to eat and raced to my laptop and the internet for answers.

I have to admit, I don’t remember anything else that evening except for the phone call from my husband. As we lived in separate cities, he called me every night at 9pm. And although I know I had resolved to not tell him until I could pee again the next morning on the second test in the box, I just couldn’t keep it a secret. The conversation went something like this…

“Hi... How are you?” he asked

“I’m well… How was your day? Guess WHAT!?” I said, very excitedly.


“I think I’m pregnant.”

How did that happen!?” he exclaimed. He was all too aware of my constant analysis of my cycle, our timing and my obsession.

“Well…” and I went on to explain the entire process. I finished by saying I would retest in the morning to confirm and to not get excited.

I don’t know how I slept that night – or more aptly, if I did. I remember waking frequently and often gawking at the clock, wondering if it was time to get up. Finally, it was!

And I peed. And I promised myself I would not look at the test until the three minute mark was up… After one minute, I had confirmation.

We were pregnant and the rest, as they say, is history!

TroubleMaker & me a few hours after his emergency arrival!
March 27, 2008

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Today's Top Stories (enter any online "news" network here)

Common cancer believe shattered in study
Style Winners and Losers
Province might lower auto insurance rates
Charlie Sheen heading back to jail
‘Survivor’ producer wanted for murder
The ultimate fat-burning outdoor workout

Seriously? Those are the top headlines in a world fraught with war, poverty and destruction. We are a sick, sick people who lead ourselves into our own extinction.

Or at least I hope we will.

I’m horrified at those headlines and I have to admit that for the most part, I gloss over the page the opens when my internet browser does. I don’t find it ‘local’ or ‘interesting’ so I just gloss over. But the first headline caught my attention this morning – breast cancer always is a headline grabber so I thought I should read the report. It wasn’t until I had that screen open that the other ‘headlines’ flashed up.

I’m ok with ‘entertainment’ news but of the six headlines, only one is a ‘serious’ news report. Are we that ignorant to the world around us that we can no longer digest the real world news? We’ve become enamored with Hollywood and Hollywood culture. Who doesn’t want to be a star these days?

I admit the fame and the fortune are incredibly appealing to me as well – I don’t want to trudge on the train and bus to work anymore than the other 50 people packed into the subway car headed to meager paying jobs that consume more of our life than any other activity but I’m enough of a realist to know that I will never be famous, I will never be a fashionista, I will never be anyone but the rapidly approaching middle age, married mother of one who has a nice house in an older part of town.

And that is why I don’t care what Angelina is wearing or what scandal some reality show contestant got themselves involved in. Whether this diet or that one will ‘melt fat from my middle’ and I really don’t care how to “copy” Lara’s style (who is this Lara and why should I care?).

What I do care about is the little kid who got run over yesterday and the new mom sitting alone at her tiny apartment trying to cope with a screaming newborn with no support. I care about the guy who picks bottles in my back alley early on Sunday morning and the people I see living on the concrete sidewalk as my train whizzes through the poorest part of my city. And perhaps – just maybe – if more of us actually took the time to care about what was happening in our own backyards instead of what is happening thousands of kilometers away in TomKat’s backyard, we could make a difference.

Or perhaps we’ll be extinct first.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


I was lucky enough to have four days off this past week... We celebrated Canada's 143 birthday without much fanfare but we did enjoy some delicious bar-be-que dinners! Kudos to my husband for manning the grill four nights in a row!

Check out this recipe for ribs - it is good - Hubby says it isn't quite as good as Chili's but pretty darn good and he's not much of a rib lover! Chili's Copy Cat Baby Back Pork Ribs

So here is our week at a glance!
July 5 to July 11
Monday Tuna Salad Sandwiches & Cucumber & Tomato Salad
Tuesday Enchilada Casserole
Wednesday BBQ Chicken Breasts w/ BBQ veggies
Thursday Meatloaf & Mashed potatoes
Friday Chicken Fingers & Fries
Saturday It's a surprise - I can't tell! ;)
Sunday Gramma's Macaroni & Cheese

Lunches Hubby asked for me to continue doing this as he needs just a bit of help keeping things interesting and nutritious for TroubleMaker... So here goes!

This week lunches include cottage cheese with green onions and cucumbers, homemade hummus & mini pitas, cheese cubes with raisins and hard boiled eggs.

Toast, Homemade "Eggos' (leftover, frozen Buttermilk pancakes), muffins & cheese, bagels & cream cheese.

Hope you have a great week and check out more Menu Plan Monday cooking and meal planning ideas over at Org Junkie!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Packing up the past

This entry was written months before I started blogging… I found it today while cleaning up the drive on the laptop and wanted to share it.

March 21, 2010

I spent part of today weeding through the endless piles of clothes in my son’s room. He’ll be two in six days. I don’t know where the past two years have gone, but I know today, I packed up a lot of memories.

Like the “Trouble shirt” – it was a simple blue and white stripe T-shirt his grandmother brought him from a trip to the States. It wasn’t anything special or fancy – oddly enough, as I packed it up, I realized that the matching pants were the ones he was wearing (or more likely not wearing, having abandoned them for yet another newly discovered pair of swimming trunks). The t-shirt just reminded me of him last summer – camping in our little RV up in the Mountains. His bum firmly planted on a rock at the side of a majestic mountain lake, refusing to move until we took his photo. I love that shirt and the silly grin he made for the camera phone pictures I took (as we’d not brought our real cameras).

Or his “Bean Boots” (like Robeez shoes). He has three pair – one for 0 to 6 months, one for 6 to 12 months and the third and final pair being 12 to 18 months – he outgrew the last size a while back. I remember sliding his tiny, helpless feet into them the first time – with his matching Bean jacket – my beautiful and perfect son – I was so proud.

Then there were the receiving blankets. Seven of them – his Gran made them all. Brightly (and all too often “girly”) coloured soft and well worn flannelette. Memories tumbled around me like socks in the dryer – wrapping him up late at night, covering him as we dashed from car to store, the late night nursing sessions on our living room sofa.

And now as he runs through the house screeching “go outside” covered in chocolate pudding and wearing a pair of too big dinosaur swimming trunks, I think I’m OK with putting those memories to bed – after all, I’ve got many, many years of memories yet to come.


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