Wednesday, April 24, 2013

slice of life

For the first time in many months, we had our very first full week of school.  March Break, Easter, PA days and storm days have given us many short weeks.

Admittedly, I was starting to enjoy these short weeks.  They were like little less school lunch/homework/commute to prepare for.  And I love the days when my kids participate in the school's "hot lunch" program.  I almost feel like I'm on vacation the night before "hot lunch" day...not having to prepare a packed lunch gives me the feeling of freedom, like I've won the lottery!  (ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but it's a chore that's almost as mundane as laundry).

I guess doing mundane things is a good thing.  As much as it pains me to actually do it, it is a part of life that is predictable, regular and a normal part of every day routine.  And it is this predictability that makes me feel safe.  This past week, if there is any feeling that I (and many of us) wanted to feel, is safe.  Safe in knowing that we still live in a world of good people.  Knowing that we can still enjoy going to the  movies, going to school, cheering for friends in a marathon because this is part of our everyday life that we know.  The freedom to be able to do these things because we worked so hard for that freedom, working and doing all those "mundane" chores of life, so we can experience a slice of enjoyment.

So when I prepared my kids for their full week back at school, it felt like it was my first day back from a vacation.  Rested, grateful and ready to go back to the normal routine.  And I know that after a week of doing all those mundane chores, everything will feel normal again...and at the end of the week, my kids will kick off their shoes and enjoy the (hopefully) warm spring weather, and I will once again, feel a little slice of freedom on the weekend.  

Hasselback Potatoes
(serves 4-5 people)

The trick to slicing these potatoes almost right through, while still keeping them intact is using a pair of chopsticks.  It's an easy and quick way to slice the potatoes.

  • 5 large baking potatoes
  • 3 tbsp. Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp. parmesan
  • Salt, pepper to taste 
  • Chopped herbs to taste (dried is fine)
  • Shredded cheddar (optional)
  • Sour Cream with or without chives (optional)
  • Preheat the oven to 425F.
  • Place a potato between two chopsticks.

  • Thinly slice the potatoes (about 1 cm each slice), cutting almost all the way though, but leaving the whole potato intact.
  • Dizzle with olive oil and melted butter
  • Sprinkle with minced garlic, parmesan, seasonings and chopped herbs.
  • Place the sliced potatoes on a cast iron skillet.
  • Bake for approximately 1 hour to 90 minutes until the potato skin is brown and crisp, and the inside of the potato is tender.
Top with shredded cheddar or sour cream. Serve with any BBQ meal.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


As more details emerge from the Boston Marathon attack on Monday, I am constantly reminded that in all this darkness and evil, there is still light.  Stories of first responders, police officers, medical staff and the kindness of everyday citizens, who ran towards the smoke, not away from it to help those who were injured.

When my son heard (limited) details about what had happened on Monday, he looked visibly worried.  He couldn't understand that "if it won't happen to us" (this is what I keep telling my kids), then why does it even happen at all?  Why do these horrible things keep happening again and again?  He asked, "Didn't something horrific just happen to 20 kids...what is going on lately?"

And although I keep telling my kids that it won't happen to us, it's getting harder and harder to convince my precocious boy (and believe this myself) that we are completely safe.  Then I remembered this quote that circulated on twitter and the internet.

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 
‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." 
Fred Rogers {source

So I told this quote to my son, who immediately took comfort in the knowledge that there are good people in this world, and in almost any emergency or tragedy, there will always be someone there to help. And although we can't prevent, hide from, prepare for or even imagine such a tragic event, he felt assured that you can always find light in the dark.

Thank you Mr. Rogers.  I think this helped me too.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

winging it

Life works in mysterious ways.

This past week, we had an opportunity to get a puppy for the family, but unfortunately it was sold before I was able to visit.  It was a visit that I had to really prepare myself for, both mentally and logistically. If this puppy was the "right one", then I had to be ready to take it home right there and then.

I have to admit. Leading up to this visit, I complained a lot.  Mostly about the outrageous prices (and products) geared towards pet owners.  All the variations of size, style and quality of things like dog beds, crates and leashes.  Maybe I'm over-thinking about all the things we need for the dog.  And like having a baby, I started to look beyond just the function of the products, but also wanted all these "things" to be stylish as well.

So when I received the call that the puppy I was going to visit was sold to someone who got there faster, my heart sank.  It wasn't because I had already bought the stuff in anticipation for our puppy, but because I'd have to explain to my disappointed kids that I wasn't going to bring one home just yet.

I must have looked like I was about to burst into tears while I was looking at leashes at the pet store.  The sales associate assured me that another one will come.  And this time I will be ready.

Well, she was right.  After a few emails, another puppy has appeared.  I'll still get the basics ready for our new arrival, but this time I won't get our hopes up and worry too much about getting every little detail "just right".  We'll just go with our hearts to find the right puppy that suits our home...and then, just wing it.

Hot & Sweet Chicken Wings (2 ways)
Adapted from Allrecipes

  • 1 pound chicken wings, tips discarded
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper-optional (or 1/3 chili powder and 3/4 paprika mix)
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup of honey 
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted 
  • 1 clove minced. garlic
  • 1/4 cup homemade "hot sauce" (1 tablespoons cayenne/chilli-paprika mix, 2.5 tbsp vinegar, 1.5 tablespoons water, 1/8 teaspoon salt)
  • Note: 1 tsp chilli and 2 tsp. paprika can replace 1 tbsp of cayenne
1. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium heat and lightly oil grate or  preheat at 400* if baking.
2. Wash the wings well and pat dry with paper towel. Season the meat with cayenne (if wish), salt, and pepper.

If on the BBQ:

  • Cook the chicken wings on preheated grill until cooked through and juices run clear, 20 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the wings. 
  • Brush the wings liberally using 2 tbsp. honey while they are cooking. (
  • Melt the butter, pour into a large bowl and mix in the remaining 2 tbsp. of honey, minced garlic and hot sauce. 
  • Remove the wings from the grill and immediately toss them in the hot honey butter sauce to coat. 
  • Serve the wings 'wet' or return them to the grill for 1 minute per side to set the sauce.

If baking:
  • Preheat oven to 400*
  • Sprinkle wings with salt, pepper and baste with honey for the first 20 minutes.
  • Then remove and toss with 1/2 of the "hot sauce" (mixed with butter, honey and minced garlic)
  • Baste with the hot sauce for last 20 minutes.
  • Broil to make crispy for 1 minute.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

april showers

We promised our daughter that we'd get a family dog.  Now that our March Break travels and Easter family gatherings are now behind us, and warm weather and budding flowers are ahead of us, we've re-ignited the search to find the right dog to join our family.

I'd often hear dog owners warn me about how puppies are just like babies.  Waking up in the middle of the night.  Potty training.  How travel and extra curricular activities are limited because of the dog's schedule.  To be honest, this has been our biggest deterrent.  But with our daughter's big brown eyes and perfectly curled pout, we have succumbed to her wishes and are edging much closer to getting a new four-pawed member of the family.

As I start browsing for dog necessities (dog beds, crates etc), I start to recollect the time when I was preparing for our two beautiful children.  Researching for all the "gear" to add to our baby shower gift registry.  However, when our babies were born, I soon realized that all the baby "stuff" doesn't really prepare you for journey that follows.

During my pregnancy, we'd also often wonder what our children would be like.  Would they have the eyes of Mom or the nose of Dad? Would they be athletic or academic?  Would they be happy and kind or obnoxious little bullies?  It is one of the many curiosities of being a parent....we'd look for little clues sometimes as signs of reassurance that our kids inherited our positive traits. That they'd be a reflection of the good in us, not the bad.

Now that we're in anticipation for a new dog, I finding myself now wondering the same thing again.  If a dog barks and runs like a maniac at the park, is that a reflection of the owner or is it a reflection of the individual personality (and breed) of the dog?  Would the dog adopt some of our personalities, or would it's carefree nature force us to be more playful? Will we then, become a reflection of our dog?

I guess time will tell, much like raising children.  When someone says they see "a lot of me" in my kids, although some of it may ring true, deep down I think it's the other way around.  With their determination, enthusiasm and charisma, I think my children have made me become more outgoing, more accepting, more loving (although maybe not as patient?)...and I have become a reflection of them.

We'll continue to research and plan as much as we can to prepare for our new furry arrival.  Then we'll  let nature take it's course and welcome our dog with open arms, and I'm positive our children will shower their "baby" dog with everlasting joy and love.

And with his/her loyal, unconditional love and happy-go-lucky-tail-wagging nature, I hope that our puppy too, will be a reflection of our family.

Baby Shower Cupcakes
I like making these simple cupcakes for baby showers.  It's not overwhelmingly sweet, and you don't need to be an expert to decorate them.  It fits most themes and is non-gender specific.

  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees 
  • Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
  • Cream the sugar and butter together.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. 
  • Add the baking powder, then add the flour until the well mixed.
  • Slowly stir in the milk until the batter is smooth. 
  • Soon approximately 1/3 of a cup of batter into each of the muffin liners. 
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. (done when it springs back).
  • Completely cool before frosting.

For the Buttercream Frosting & "Baby" icing design

  • 1/2 cup butter 
  • 1/2 cup shortening (I use Crisco)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Cocoa powder (for the eyes and mouth)
  • Mint Lifesavers

  • Cream the butter and shortening until light and fluffy. 
  • Add salt, vanilla, confectioners' sugar and milk. 
  • Beat well.
  • Reserve 1 cup of frosting, and add cocoa powder until the frosting is chocolate in colour.
  • Lightly frost the cupcakes

  • Using a piping bag (or a zip lock bag with cutting a small corner of the bag), place the chocolate frosting and add the semi circles for sleeping eyes and a smile.

  • Add the lifesaver as the baby soother.