Wednesday, July 31, 2013

dog days

There's something about the sounds of summer that only the bright sunshine can match in terms of light and happiness.  I can almost hear how crystal clear the water is, as it gently splashes along the shore, soft waves in the glistening sun.

I can also hear how our family has embraced its newest furry family member this summer, when I hear giggling and laughter along with the sounds of excited barking.

Although owning a dog is a lot of work, and it's true when experts say it's like having one more child that will never really grow up (but will forever unconditionally love you), it's been quite a learning experience, and an adjustment to our "we-now-need-to-plan-and-not-just-leave-on-a-whim" nature.

We learned that our pup really can tell when one of us is feeling sad...and comes right up to us with lots of kisses.  We learned that even if we have to leave him for a few hours to do other summer activities...when we return he shows us just how much he misses us.  We also learned that he knows which one of us will give in to his whims and give him treats (*ahem* the biggest "kid" in the family)...and can smell chicken a mile away, sitting next to the stove with smiles and perfect manners.

And our unconditional love to him is no different.  No matter how naughty he's been, chewing on things or pulling table cloths so all that's on top tumbles to the floor...he seeks our forgiveness and his smile tells us he wants to just join us in the moment. Join this crazy loving family with whatever we're doing or playing.

And we can't forget that we mere humans act the the same way too.  We often make a fuss, bark at each other or just push each other's buttons...just so we can feel included too.  For attention.  For love.

And with the various distractions we've had in our home with renovations, dog training, day trips, and keeping our sanity, we need to sometimes look at all those distractions, and maybe remove just one.  Be a little lazy, even if it's for just one day, and lay around giving each other attention, so we don't have to seek it.

So here's a recipe that is child and dog friendly (although only the skinless roasted chicken bits for the dog!) that I love to use time and time again. It's easy to make...

...and gives us a little extra time to enjoy those dog days of summer.

Greek Inspired Chicken Salad
adapted from Allrecipes 

Sometimes in the heat of summer, it's too difficult (or I'm too lazy) to cook.  I like this recipe since it uses pre-roasted chicken.

  • 3 cups diced cooked chicken (I used roasted chicken, skin removed and diced)
  • 2 large stalks celery, diced (optional)
  • 1/2 red onion, diced (I didn't have red on hand, so I used regular onions.  It would be fantastic with red)
  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 6 tablespoons greek yogurt
  • 1 (4 ounce) package feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill weed
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. rosemary (optional)
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper to taste
  • In a serving bowl, mix together the chicken, celery, and red onion. 
  • In a separate bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, yogurt, feta cheese, and dill. 
  • Pour over the chicken mixture, and stir to blend. 
  • Taste, and season with dill, thyme and rosemary.  
  • Add salt and pepper as needed. 
  • Serve immediately, or refrigerate until serving.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

toying with the new

When we had to clear out our basement to renovate, some of the old toys had to go.  And as each toy was removed, I had a distinct memory with each of felt like just yesterday my kids were playing with those preschool toys. Each toy carefully chosen to stimulate imagination and transport my children to a fantasy world where they can become someone else for a moment in time.  Discover their wishes, fulfill their dreams.

It was a kid's dream come true this past weekend, when we were recently invited to  Walmart's "Great Big Toy Testing Event", to test new toys for the annual "Top Toy List" for the upcoming holiday season. It was a needed break from paint and building dust from our renovations as we were able to transport ourselves to (what seemed like) The Land of Candyland, but with the latest and coolest toys that haven't even arrived on the store shelves yet.

Each child was able to play and give feedback on what they liked and didn't like.  It reminded me of that scene in the movie, "Big" when Tom Hanks was hired to play with toys and give feedback on what he thinks will sell or not.  My kids felt like mini moguls...deciding on the fate of each toy that may (or may not) appear on the shelves.  They were also filmed playing with some of the fun is that?

With each toy, I could see my children slowly transform themselves...getting lost in the world of play.  Of course, there were they kept coming back to over and over again.

My son became a Star Wars Jedi and was very eager to play with the lightsaber (and take on any Jedi challengers).

And he became an engineer, building the latest Star Wars ship out of Lego.

Although we already have a dog, my daughter was fascinated with this robot version, and wanted to "give it a nice home". I have a funny feeling she'll be rescuing many animals someday...

...or designing the latest fashion outfit.

While my husband and I were "toying" with new tiles, carpet and furniture, our kids had the chance to toy with!  As we remove the old, we'll be making room for the new (and I now know what to put on our holiday wish list!).  With this new fresh start, we'll be transported once again...

...and we'll have fun like kids in a toy store...enjoying our new ride.

{A great big thank you to Susie for inviting us to take a break from our renos, and giving the kids the opportunity to play with new and exciting toys.}

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

contain me

One of the best things about a summer schedule is that there is no schedule.  Random late nights, sleeping in and spur-of-the-moment picnics at the beach gives us summer relief from all the rigid demands of class assignments, school fundraisers and other activities throughout the school year.

But now that our house flood has instigated an unplanned renovation schedule, we're trying to contain our daily activities to limited areas of the house (with limited access to dishes, party bowls and other summer needs that are packed in storage) while trying to maneuver the ebb and flow of contractors and building materials...all while maintaining the summer enjoyment of "non-scheduled" family activities.  Understandably, this has presented a new list of demands that has stalled our "non-scheduled-schedule". 

I guess this summer we really have to take "go with the flow" to heart and more than ever I will need to balance my children's need to go out and explore, while preparing a house and being accessible to renovators who need decisions on material choices.

We'll just go with the flow and use paper plates instead of my pretty summer patio dishes. We'll just have go to the ice cream parlour for lunch when there's too many people in the house to cook.   In between choosing flooring and paint colours, we'll try not to be too contained and just hop in the car or bikes and go....

...and just let the sunshine lead us to the end of the dock so we can dive right into summer.

 Fruit Containers
One of the easiest things to add a little "umph" to a party table setting or picnic, is to create one special display item. If you don't own party bowls (or like me, have little access to them),  these fruit "containers" helps set the tone for casual entertainment or makes the perfect hostess dish to bring for a summer soiree.  They're easy to make (usually you just have to hollow out the fruit), and there's less dishes to do (bonus!).

Above picture: My kids loved making the little dragon fruit ice cream bowls (just cut in half, then hollow out by eating the contents!).  Below picture: For a recent party, I had to bring a fruit salad and used the watermelon as a "basket".  I took a paring knife and just created "v" shapes, to make a pretty edge.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

standing in the dark

Mom, what's that "swooshy gushy" sound?

While we were eating dinner, we watched out of our window as the water gushed at us like a runaway garden hose, our big old maple tree sway back and forth in the torrential rain storm.  It survived the hurricane-like storm last November, but we wondered if we'd have the same lucky fate again this time around, and have only a few fallen branches to contend with.

After each bite, we'd peek out the window to look at that tree.  That wonderful 20yr+ old tree.  The tree that has provided us so much shade and refuge from the heat in the summer.  But all of a sudden, after a thunderous clap and a bright lightening flash, the fury of the rain started to worry us towards the basement to seek a different refuge.

That's when we saw it.  A miniature lake that filled half of our basement.  And more of that "swooshy gushy" water sound.   As soon as we took one more step, the house went completely dark.

We decided to head back up and hunker down in the kitchen.  Luckily just before the rain turned for the worse, I remembered the tip I learned from the last storm and brought in my solar garden lights, lit one soothing candle,  poured some wine and wondered how we'll start all over again in that basement.

Our basement.  A little family retreat that we took for granted...a place where we'd venture down to hang out and watch movies together as a family, popcorn all over the floor, slight dents in the wall from where the kids threw balls and toys when they were little.  So many memories of when they were little.

While the kids had fun tracking the weather radar on the laptop, I followed more important news on Twitter and started my reluctant, unplanned renovation journey on Pinterest to find inspiration to create a space for this new chapter of childhood memories.

As the rain started to slow down, the power came back on.  We felt confident that the worst was over, (at least the worst of the storm) and we started our bedtime routine.  After the kids went to sleep, I looked outside our window one more time, and was reminded that we could have suffered a very different fate.  There stood that strong, amazing maple tree, defiant with whatever storm decided to challenge it, and it still remained tall and stoic.

I blew out our candle and said a thankful prayer.  We were fortunate that we didn't lose everything, like those who suffered in the Calgary Floods. And although we now begin the cost inhibiting, time consuming, distracting journey of repairing our basement...just like our tree, we will be defiant to the challenge...

...and remain tall, stoic and strong.

Monday, July 01, 2013

red and white

I think I've always been fascinated with home design, and I recollect an early time when my parents were looking to move from their starter home (where my brother and I were born) to a little larger place.

There was one house in particular, that we dubbed "the black and white house", that really appealed to me for some reason.  Every time we drove by it, I always said I wanted to move into that "black and white house".  And although it was on the market for a short period of time, for logistical reasons, we never bought that house.


I think that sentiment has stuck with me for most of my life.  When my husband and I first looked for a home, we would tour "those neighbourhoods" know, the ones in affluent communities with picket white fences, beautiful grown trees and children playing happily in the neighbourhood.

Every house that we'd admire were always this particular style... georgian, colonial, neoclassical, adam, or federal designed exterior with clean lines and strong bones.  And although it was rare to actually find a black and white one, when we did see one, we'd sigh in anticipation for "one day" to own something similar.


There is something very particular, I think that speaks to us.  It could be the centre hall plan.   I think for me though, it brought me back to a time when I was a little girl, dreaming of that picket white fence and the black and white house. A stately, symmetrical and conservative structure with graceful and elegant details.  Maybe I sensed, even at a young age, with it's structured rooms that it was a solid home, but with the beautiful classic details, there was a sense of pride in making a house a beautiful home. It harkens back to a time when quality meant something.  That patience and pride went into building homes to withstand the cruelty of weather and time.

And now as a home owner, looking for a house for us means more than just four walls.  These four walls are a home that can comfort us, give us the feeling that no matter how cruel,  stormy or strange it is "out there" home, we are safe.  Comforted.  Strong.

I'm glad that we can live in a country where we have options.  A sense of community.  A peaceful nation that is strong enough to weather the storm, but gentle enough to embrace those who don't have the strength to weather it with us.

Home is where the heart is.  This weekend we'll be celebrating the "red and white", the flag of our nation...our home.  

Happy Canada Day!