Tuesday, November 30, 2010

-- Dare to... Eat Cookies --

Though I missed last week, and am definitely a day behind for this week, I am still thinking about and trying to participate in Kim's Dare to Do It Yourself Challenge.

Dare to DIY

This week's challenge was (and lets just say, its one of my favorite :):

"As we begin to attend holiday parties, share your favorite cookie recipe for all to enjoy. It’s like a digital cookie swap. Share the recipe and a review of the cookie. If you can, add a picture. And don't worry about the extra calories. At Christmas, cookies are calorie-free."

For me, I feel you can't ever go wrong with a chocolate chip cookie and around our house, they are a favorite.  But, I do like them hot from the oven.  So, what I do is make a double batch, form all of the cookies and stick them in the freezer between strips of wax paper.  That way, when the mood for a cookie strikes, I can pull out as many as we are planning to eat that evening and stick them in the oven.  


We use a very simple chocolate chip recipe:

Blend: 1/2 cup shortening
            1/2 cup white sugar
            1/2 cup brown sugar

Add:    1 egg
            1 teas. vanilla

Incorporate:  1 1/4 cup flour (sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less)
                      1/2 teas. baking soda
                      1/2 teas. salt

Mix well and then incorporate 1/2 bag of dark chocolate, chocolate chips.

Bake at 325 for 14 minutes


I've got to admit though, my luck with cookies has not always been the greatest.  Usually they would burn on the bottom by the time I got them fully cooked in the middle.  But, that all stopped when I found these little babies:

These look just like a silpat liner, but they seem to do a different kind of job.  The cookies bake perfectly even and they are soft and chewy in the middle.  Its like magic!  Last year I bought one for every female in my family because I love them so much and now they also rave about them.  I got mine at Canadian Tire for less than $10.  Best cookie-related invention ever!

Next week's Dare is to give homemade gifts.  I have considered doing a little bit of a giveaway at the same time as next week's Dare post, but I'm not sure that there are that many people actually reading.  If I could guarantee that at least 10 people would be part of the giveaway, I could easily find myself giving a homemade, Clark Wood Creations gift to one lucky blog-friend :) Who wants to see a little CWC giveaway?

Monday, November 29, 2010

-- O Christmas Tree Farm --

Our day at Will's Christmas Tree Farm - in pictures.

A day of corny signs...

Family time...
Evelyn, Purdy and Jeff

Hey - do you like this one?

A unique method of marking our favorites... :)

My mother-in-law Nora

Jeff and Evelyn by their tree of choice.

Picking and choosing until we each found "The One"...
And then the massacre that followed :)

Tree baling and shaking...

Ornament shopping...

Loading the trees and heading home.

Loading ours up with 1200 lights.

Now - must find some time for the actual decorating.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

-- A Hint for Tomorrow --

Guess where we went today?

Here's a hint.

Full recap coming tomorrow :)  Hope you had a great weekend!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

-- Busy Day --

We've had a busy day today.

Lucas went to the Woodworking show in Toronto for the morning (and I suspect he did some Christmas shopping for me too since he is being really cryptic about why he was gone so long).  I got all of the Christmas presents we are sending to family via mail, boxed and ready for wrapping.  I then went out to do some shopping for my niece's birthday, and got groceries.  After, Lucas and I went out for some lunch/dinner and came home to do some Christmas decorating.

We also turned our outdoor lights on for the first time this year.  Its feeling quite festive around here!

How do you like to spend your weekends?  Do you like to be busy with lots of plans and commitments or would you rather spend lazy days in PJs at home?

Friday, November 26, 2010

-- Week One --

I'm just about to log off my computer which will mark the end of my first week as a PostDoc.  There have been ups and downs, that's for sure, but as it turns out, the things that I feared the most are actually going over quite well.  Here it is in a nutshell...

The Good:
-  Taking the GO bus is actually almost enjoyable.  The bus is spacious, the seats are like on an airplane, and so far, the bus has been empty enough that no one has even needed to sit beside me.  Much different than the GO train or the subway in Toronto!

- The walk from the GO bus station to my building isn't that bad at all.  Its about 10 to 15 minutes, which I'm sure will be less comfortable as the wind chill gets worse around here, but all in all, its good exercise.

- Getting up early has actually been tolerable.  In fact, going to sleep at the same time as Lucas has been really nice.  Waking up is tough, but honestly, its just as tough getting up at 7am as 5:30am.

- Work from home days are awesome! I worked from home yesterday and just having that one day of not having to travel, or dress in anything but PJs completely balanced my week!

The Bad:
- Monday sucked.  Bad.  It was a crazy long day and I crashed at the end.  I expect that Mondays will continue to be really difficult as I need be at work for over 9 hours.  Add to that 4 more hours of commuting-related travel and thats a LONG day.

The Ugly:
- I'm not going to share a picture, but suffice it to say, that going to bed with wet hair, does not make a pretty picture in the morning :)  I'm trying to make it so that I can get ready faster in the mornings, so I tried showering before bed last night.  It certainly saved some time, but I had good 10-15 minutes of flat-ironing to do this morning to tame the beast :)

** To top it off, I'm headed to the One of a Kind Show right now - a great end to the week!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

--Straight No Chaser --

We bought tickets!  And I am super excited!!

April, if you are a fan, you could always join us for the weekend ;)

In other news, we are heading to the One of a Kind show tomorrow night and are hoping to finish most of our Christmas shopping while there.  I'll be sure to take some pictures to share.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

-- Christmas Time is Coming --

Are you playing Christmas music around the house yet?  

We are and I'm loving it.

I downloaded Mariah Carey's new album Merry Christmas II You and while I don't love every song, there are some great ones that I'm definitely going to enjoy for years to come.  We've also been breaking out the Straight No Chaser tunes :)  This amazing a capella group will be performing in mid-December in London, ON and Lucas and I are considering making the trip.  The only thing holding us back is that the concert is at 8pm on a Sunday so we'd have to take Monday off.  

Check out their video:

We are also going to be finishing up some Christmas shopping this week that needs to be sent out to our family on the East Coast.  I'm really looking forward to breaking out the Christmas decorations, the wrapping paper and the hot chocolate this weekend!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

-- Day Two --

Ok. Day two is over and it went much better than yesterday. The drive through the city was more manageable and the actual day was much less frenetic!

I also finished my last lecture of the term this evening. It feels great to finally get my evenings back but I know I'll miss the teaching so it's kind of bittersweet.

Tomorrow I take the GO bus for the first time so I'm crossing my fingers that it goes smoothly!

In other news, the hospital where I'm working was having an event tonight so they were setting up tables and chairs when I was on my way out. Every dining chair was a 'wannabe' ghost chair which completely blew my mind. I took pics and will definitely share tomorrow :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

-- First Day --

My first day is over and now, even though it is only 9pm, I am headed to bed.

Tomorrow is another day.  Hopefully one that will allow me to get a few items checked off my To Do list.

Luckily, tomorrow night is my last Psych 101 lecture which means that I will soon get my Tuesday evenings back.  Even though I really love teaching, surprisingly, this makes me so very happy :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

-- Yikes! --

I start my Post Doctoral fellowship (real-world job) tomorrow morning.  I'm freaking out a little.  This means that the last thing on my mind is putting together a sensible blog post.

If you have some time though, my blog friend Kim at the NewlyWoodwards is hosting Week Two of the Dare to Do It Yourself challenge today/tomorrow and I'm sure she would be happy to have you drop by :)  Her tablescape looks amazing and I'm sure everyone else's does too.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

-- My Wicked Day --

It's Official - I'm addicted.

Not to drugs, or alcohol, or even coffee... Only to musicals!

I'm still on Cloud Nine after seeing Wicked earlier this week and I figure its about time I documented my feelings toward the experience.  Like I wrote a few days ago, despite my love of all things music and dancing, before Wednesday, I'd never been to a musical/Broadway show/play (other than high school versions)!   But as soon as I saw the advertisement on TV telling me that Wicked was going to be in Toronto - I immediately checked out their website to see about tickets.

Luckily, since Lucas wasn't very interested in going, my lovely, wonderful friend Lana (who is a pro at this musical attendance thing) was happy to accompany me to my first show!  And really, I don't know if there is anyone who would have been a better partner for the day.

We started out with a coffee stop on our way into the city, and once we arrived, we stopped for a bite of lunch before heading to the theatre.  * so kicking myself for not taking the time for pictures!*

As soon as I walked into the Canon Theatre I knew it was going to be awesome - the marble floors, the gold and crystal chandeliers... not to mention that the ticket guys were in full tuxedos!

And what to say about the show... lets just say that I smiled so much, my cheeks hurt at the end :)

"Whenever I see someone, less fortunate than I...
and lets face it - who isn't...
Less fortunate than I?
... And when someone needs a makeover, I simply have to take over...
Popular, you're gonna be, Pop-u-lar..."

All the things that I expected to be great, like the music and the singing, absolutely were.  The things that amazed me most though?  The dancing, the costumes and the set design!  It was phenomenal how the set changed so fluidly in a blink of an eye and how the characters eased into the scene from all directions.  Even Glinda's 'bubble' was great - and so smooth!  As for the costumes, the main characters's costumes weren't that amazing, but every person in the ensemble was decked out!

" I'm flying high... and defying gravity..."
"So if you want to find me, look to the western sky..."

Lana and I kept looking to each other during the show and just smiling!  Even though she is a seasoned musical attendee I think she was also floored by the performance.  It really was phenomenal - so much so that I've been YouTubing videos of the main songs and singing and dancing around the house for days!  I am definitely addicted.  

"I don't know if I've been changed for the better... but,
Because I knew you,  I have been changed for good."

Next up?  The Lion King in April - we are already looking forward to it :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

-- Loving --

Did you see Gwyneth on Glee?  We watched it on our DVR recently and I've been signing along ever since.  Between this and Wicked, I've been doing a lot of singing and dancing around lately :)

While I'm on the subject... check out her song "Country Strong" if you haven't already.  I didn't want to like it, but I can't hold out.  Its a likeable kind of country...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

-- Chicken Noodle --

Time for this week's Soup of the Week :)

Ok, so the reasons behind this week's soup are two-fold and rather complicated but comical.

One, we had a rotisserie chicken on the BBQ for dinner but somewhere along the cooking process we ran out of propane.. so after changing out the propane tank we realized that we'd be eating our dinner no earlier than 8:30pm unless we changed out plans.  Since we were both hungry, we decided to have pizza for dinner instead and to just let the chicken for the evening.  But, that left us with a chicken...

Two, Lucas was sick with the flu over the weekend and was craving some comfort food and beside Corn Chowder (which I hate by the way), Chicken Noodle Soup is a favorite of his.  So - chicken soup it is.

Now I had full intentions of removing the chicken from the carcass and then making homemade chicken broth by boiling the bones for a while on the stove.  But, after boiling and checking for several hours, one, the chicken bits weren't falling off the bones and two, I got bored and ended up letting it boil dry - Oops!  I didn't say I was good at this :)

Thank goodness for Campbell's though, I just pulled out a box of chicken broth and kept going.

Chicken Noodle Soup
           this made six, healthy-sized portions

Saute: 1 onion and 2 cloves of garlic in a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

Add: 1 900mL box of chicken broth and 2 cups of water, stir all the yummy bits of onion and garlic into the broth.

Peel, Chop then Add: 2 medium potatos, 3 carrots, 3 stalks of celery (yes, I peel celery)

Simmer: Until veggie chunks are soft (this took me about 30 mins).

Add: Chicken pieces (I used the tidbits removed from the carcass and one of the breasts) and two handfuls of the noodle-of-choice (I used a small farfalle pasta).

Simmer: For about 20 minutes or until pasta is cooked to your liking.


As much as I'm not really a chunky-soup kind of girl - this hit the spot and really, anything tastes good when its accompanied by a sick husband saying all kinds of nice things to you like... "wow, honey, this is perfect - you are perfect - thanks!!"  

Here is the thing though, we are starting to get a little stuck with our soup choices... So help me out... What is your favorite soup?  What would you add to a basic chicken soup to make it a little interesting?  Any awesome pureed soups that you love?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

-- WICKED --

While you read this, I am here:

And I can't begin to express how excited I am about it!  My first musical experience and I'm fortunate enough to be going with a great friend who just happens to share my love of all things musical inspired.  So PUMPED!!!

I'll leave with a YouTube teaser of the number I'm most excited to hear:

And the trailer because I can't help it :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

-- Some of My Favourite Things --

Ann recently wrote a post listing some of her favorite things and it inspired me to write one of my own.  Interestingly enough, I think it creates a little window into who I am.  Maybe there will even be a surprise or two for those who might know me in real life...

1) Candy - Skittles, Big Foot, Starbursts, Fuzzy Peaches, Swedish Berries, Twizzlers...

I'm an equal opportunity candy eater and I totally love it.  If I had to give up all formats of junk food, this would be the hardest for me.  I pick up a bag of something every single week!

2) Trips to Ikea

Though Lucas won't visit Ikea with me anymore (and so I go less frequently) nothing makes a day feel better than a walk around my favourite furniture superstore.  I rarely come home with much other than knick-knacks, but I still love me some hunting for napkins / serving ware / simple black frames etc... Please tell me there are other Ikea lovers out there.

3) Phone chats with Family
My niece Kaylee and my grandmother - we call her Mama
Since I live hours away from most of my family, I truly enjoy spending hours on the phone catching up with my sister and niece, my mom and dad or my grandparents.  My mom and I usually talk at least once a week and the conversations are rarely shorter than an hour (much to Lucas' chagrin after I say "... it'll only be a minute ;)"  It's also so amazing to hear my niece on the other side of the phone saying something heart-melting like, "oh, Amanda... I MISS YOU!" - So great!

4) Game nights with Lucas
The gameboard for Ticket to Ride
A night playing Ticket to Ride is a really great night in my book - especially if I win.  Spending time together without the TV on is a rare thing around here so its nice to break from the norm.

5) Lululemon tanks
These tanks never ride up which makes them easy to love!  I wear a tank almost every day and these are my favourites because no matter my activity level, I know I won't need to be constantly adjusting the hem of the tank to meet the top of my jeans.

6) Being Barefoot
Ok, this isn't exactly a thing, but the things that make this possible are awesome.  See, I hate socks, so in the summer I love my flip flops... in fact, I try not to wear much else from May to October.  In the fall and winter, I break out the lined boots.  I currently have a pair of Ugg wannabes and another pair of taller sherling lined boots from Aldo that are so cozy and easy to wear in bare feet they are like slippers.  I love them!

7) Homemade BBQ chicken pizza
No take-out pizza here.  When we are craving some comfort food we break out the pizza stone, flour and BBQ sauce.  Maybe I'll share the recipe later this week... its pretty easy - and awesome!

Monday, November 15, 2010

-- Dare to... Be Thankful --

The Dare to Do It Yourself Challenge is back this year (Thanks Kim from The NewlyWoodwards!) and there are so many more participants this year compared to last.

This week's challenge was:

"Take some time making your own DIY Thanksgiving project. It could be a fun Thanksgiving advent calendar, homemade thank-you cards, a banner or something completely unique."

Since Thanksgiving is long over in my neck of the woods I'm adopting this as more of a Fall-ish challenge and so I'm going to share my Fall wreath for this week.  All the materials are from Michael's and the whole project was maybe $10... just a grapevine wreath and a few different springs of leaves and other fall-like faux foliage.  This was a quick one as I didn't even hot glue any of the pieces in... I just made sure to stick the foliage sprigs in between the grapevine so they were secure.

Only bad part is that a while ago we were sitting in our living room watching TV and heard a ruckus toward the door.  The dog took off in a frenzy and I soon realized that the wreath is a great perch for the neighbourhood squirrels.  Uncool, especially when they leave their slice of 12 grain bread behind... gross!   

Can't wait to see what everyone else created...

Check out the Party

Sunday, November 14, 2010

-- Ape House --

I finished Ape House earlier this week and since I promised a quick review - here goes:

Written by Sara Gruen (the author of Water for Elephants) this story revolves around a family of bonobo primates who prove to a research community that primates are capable of understanding human language and also conversing with humans through sign language.  Unfortunately though, early in the book, the bonobo's home is attacked and they are taken into a "Big Brother-esque" reality TV show situation where the world is exposed, not just to their impressive language abilities but also their extremely human natures (craving cheeseburgers, watching trash TV and engaging in sexual behaviors).

In a quest to 1) rescue the bonobos from their reality TV show and 2) ensure that they remain far away from the research labs that engage in truly inhumane treatment of such animals, the main character Isabel crosses paths with many interesting characters.

In my opinion, this book was an enjoyable read, but not really as complex as I had expected it to be.  Maybe its my background that made me want more detail about the bonobos and their conversations with humans, but regardless, I felt that the focus of the book was a little too heavy on the sex-y stuff and too little on abilities and mistreatment of the animals.  Even so, this was a great book - not the best I've read this year, but definitely in the Top 10!  I think if you liked Water for Elephants, you'll like this book (maybe not love it - but definitely will like it)!


Saturday, November 13, 2010

-- In the Christmas Spirit --

After sleeping in a little this morning, Lucas and I headed out to take advantage of the amazing warm fall weather (we made it over 12 C this afternoon) to tidy up the garage and to get out the Christmas lights :)  I know, its only November and Christmas is several weeks away - but hanging outdoor Christmas lights is absolutely NO fun in the freezing cold.  So even though we got many stares and a neighbour who came over to say he will dig out his pellet gun if we light them before December 1... we got them situated...

Turns out you can't see the lights very well in pictures - but they are clipped into the  fascia of the overhang of our tiny porch.

A bunch more lights... spread out on our postage stamp of a front yard, waiting for placement :)

We also attach a string of old-style large bulb lights along the fence between our place and the neighbour's.

My pile of Christmas decorations, brought down from storage in the garage.  Its safe to say that if even I got every clothing item together that I own, I still wouldn't have enough to fill all of these bins!

I think I'll wait another week or so before bringing out the interior decorations or the wreaths etc... for outside, but it does feel nice to know that most of the outdoor decorating is complete (and I did it in my flipflops!)

Friday, November 12, 2010

-- Ouch --

Yesterday morning I had a dental cleaning scheduled.  When the dentist came in for a quick checkup he asked if I've been experiencing anything tooth-related recently.  I let him know that I couple weeks ago I had a sharp sensitivity to cold water in one of my molars, but that it had only happened that one time.  But, he decided that to be safe (and to hopefully ensure that it didn't happen again) I should get a little top-up to a filling I already have in that tooth.

So in I went this morning, not really expecting much other than a little bit of drilling and some filling.  I honestly didn't even expect to get any freezing since he was only adding to a previous filling.  But 25 minutes of drilling later (I KNOW! it didn't even take that long for me to have all 4 of my wisdom-teeth removed!) he still wasn't finished.  And now, almost 12 hours later, my tooth, and the ones surrounding it, are killing me!  The pain has been way worse all day compared to the couples seconds of sensitivity pain... not happy and really hoping there isn't something more serious going on...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

-- In Remembrance --

‎"Never... was so much owed by so many to so few"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

-- Christmas Cards --

Do you send Christmas cards?

For the last 2 years, I've bought them - fully planning to write to our friends and family and send them out, but they've never made it to their intended recipients.

Maybe if this year I went to the effort of selecting and creating a photo card I'd have better luck?  I just don't know... I completely understand all those people out there sending pics of their adorable kids to friends and family, but does anyone really want an amateur picture of me and the husband on their mantel?  I don't know... maybe the parents and grandparents would be game...

Anyway, here some options from Shutterfly...

They are all quite awesome - certainly making me tempted...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

-- Colour Inspiration --

Via Its Great to be Home

I've bee attracted to lots of colour lately.  This picture sums it up perfectly.  I could take or leave the orange bowl in the foreground but those raspberry lamps?  To die for...

Monday, November 08, 2010

-- "The Works" Potato Soup --

Lucas and I have been trying to make a habit of eating more at home over the past year.  During the summer it was quite easy because Lucas is an ace BBQ-er but more recently, with fall arriving (and feeling more like winter) we've been having difficulty figuring out menu ideas.

To this end, we've adopted a goal of eating soup at least once per week and usually on the weekends.

Toward this goal, we decided to try a potato/onion/bacon/cheese soup this week.  I found this recipe via the Rachael Ray Show and made some changes based on what I had on hand (didn't have an fresh bacon, or thyme, or paprika).

This is what I ended up with:

1 - Saute:
         bottom half of 3 leeks - washed and chopped thinly
         3 to 4 grated cloves of garlic
         2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 - When leeks are limp add:
         a small handful of parsley
         a small handful of chili powder and
         fresh pepper

         1 1/2 quarts of low-sodium chicken broth (1 1/2 boxes)
         6 or 8 medium to large potatos
         * (I also tossed in a handful of real bacon pieces when potatos were close to being done)

3 - Allow to boil gently until potatos are soft (this took mine about 15-20 minutes)

4 - Blend mixture in batches - Serve immediately.

Its also really tasty to add garnishes of cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, bacon pieces and sour cream.

I forgot to take a picture while this was steaming hot - but here's a pic of a leftover bowl that's all ready for Lucas's lunch :)

Sunday, November 07, 2010

-- New Clark Wood Creations Project --

So the CWC Workshop (aka the basement) has been in overdrive for the last few weekends as Lucas has been trying to check a few Christmas presents off the list, but this project is one he tried out that I wanted to share.  These are name plates that could be used for a variety of purposes I suppose but Lucas is planning to take his to work to replace his generic one that the company supplied when we got his first cubicle :)

See our neighbours are in the business of stamp making and have recently purchased a snazzy machine that does laser engraving!  To make these name plates Lucas started with a thin piece of light or dark coloured wood (maple or walnut in these examples) and applied a contrasting veneer.  Then he took them over the the neighbours for the engraving where they burned through the veneer to reveal the contrasting wood underneath.  After easing the edges to show a little more contrast and finishing them with oil I think they make a really unique statement for the office!

And just because I can't help myself - the handyman himself:

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