Friday, December 30, 2011
The Christmas tree and decorations are packed away for another year. Rob has returned to work, I'm back to work on Monday and things are getting back to normal at our house.
I always go through a bit of "After Christmas Blues" at this time every year. I love the season so much, all the anticipation, the shopping, baking, and getting the cards and parcels mailed off, and then "Bam", it's over.
I'm trying some new things this year to help fend off the sadness that arrives every year. I've made a lot of plans for January with friends, and instead on focusing on what's over, I'm concentrating on what's coming up, and that does seem to be helping.
New years eve is tomorrow, and though Rob and I aren't 100% sure what we're doing yet, I know whatever we decide to go with, we're going to enjoy.
Christmas will be back again next year, and it's never to early for me to start thinking about that!
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
For the past few years Boxing Day has meant "pajama day" around here, but not this year.
Rob and I decided to go birding. With all the Christmas preparations I haven't been able to get out birding much, and really missed it.
We went looking for a Snowy Owl and found a Snowy Owl and it was totally worth getting dressed for!!
I believe a new Boxing Day tradition for us was born yesterday, "Boxing Day Birding"!
If you are lucky enough to see an Owl in the wild, please keep a respectable distance, don't force him to fly and don't linger, they need their rest.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
I wasn't going to do another blog until after Christmas, but here I sit Christmas Eve morning while it's still dark outside and Rob still snuggled in bed, with a whirl-wind of thoughts going on in my brain that I just need to write down.
Christmas is an emotional time of year in the best of years, there is always the family drama, the Christmas stress and the memories of Christmases' past that you long for.
This year is even a little more emotional then others for me, with my Mom being so ill with terminal cancer. And I can't help but think of how strange tomorrow morning is going to be for my Dad when he wakes up in the house alone Christmas morning for the first time in over 40 years.
I love Christmas, always have, my Mother made them truly special for the family. But as I age, amidst all the joy, there is always a little sadness too, and that's ok. Christmas changes as we age, that's just the way it is. People move away from home, have families of their own and lose loved ones. I think we will always be homesick for memories that we can't return too.
This year I am so grateful that my Mom is still with us and I had that time with her in October. I am so looking forward to having Christmas with Rob and being able to spend time together on the days he's off, it's what I'm looking forward to most. I spent time yesterday with my brother and his family on Skype and watched my nieces open the gifts I sent. I will also spend time talking to my parents and other loved ones over the next couple days as well.
Time with loved ones truly is the greatest gift, not just at Christmas time, but all year through, don't waste it.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Every December for the past few years, my friend Jen hosts an afternoon Tea at the lovely Victorian Garden Tea Room. I enjoy it every year as it's a great way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holidays and enjoy some down-time with friends.
Friday, December 16, 2011
Below is a recipe I cut out of a Chatelaine magazine in February, 2006 called Cheddar, pepper and potato bake. Rob and I now call it "Christmas Casserole".
It's the perfect dish to make Christmas morning, as it's easy to prepare and it cooks for an hour and fifteen minutes. I put it in the oven to cook while we unwrap gifts. I only make this dish Christmas morning, hence the name we've given it. I revised the dish after the first time I made it, and put my changes in brackets.
1 Can undiluted cream of mushroom or potato soup (I use mushroom)
1 Cup sour cream
1/2 Cup butter melted. (I only use a couple tablespoons)
1 TBSP paprika (If I bother with this, I just sprinkle it on top before baking)
1Kg Bag of frozen hash browns
1 each red and green pepper finely chopped (I only use half of each or sometimes none at all)
1 Large onion chopped ( I use a container of pre-chopped onion with celery for convenience)
1 Seeded jalapeno, finely chopped (optional, and I've never used one)
1 Cup chopped ham (I now use chopped bacon instead of ham)
2 Cups grated cheddar cheese (I like to use marble or old cheddar)
Salt & Pepper to taste
I suggest sauteing the vegetables in the butter for 3 to 5 minutes, though the recipe doesn't say this.
In a very large bowl stir the soup with the sour cream,butter,paprika,salt and pepper. Mixture will be lumpy. Stir in frozen hash browns until evenly mixed. Prepare and stir in vegetables, ham and 1 and a half cups cheese. Spoon into a 9x13" baking dish, smooth top and sprinkle with remaining cheddar. Cover dish tightly with foil.
Bake in a 400F preheated oven for an hour, remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes.
Good with scrambled eggs and sliced tomato.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Nearly every year since moving to Toronto over 20 years ago I've had a few friends over at Christmas time. When I moved in with Rob he was kinda of nervous about this annual tradition of mine, not being the social guy, and worried he wouldn't be a good host. Now I think he looks forward to it as much as I do, and he actually pushed me to hold it this year when I had I decided I wasn't going too.
It's been a rough year for me emotionally, with my Mother's illness. These people have been a great support system for me. I'm truly blessed to have such wonderful friends in my life and enjoyed sharing some time with them to celebrate the holiday season.
I have been perfecting the recipe for this drink for the last four years, and this year I think I nailed it!
Angie's Christmas Cheer:
3 Cups Cranberry Cocktail
1 Cup Pineapple Juice
1 Cup 7Up or Sprite
1 Cup Vodka
Pour all ingredients into a pitcher, stir and refrigerate. Serve over ice.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
December is one of my favorite months of the year, and I love turning the calendar page every December 1st. I can actually feel the energy in the air change when the energetic holiday season arrives.
I aim every year to have all my gifts bought, and parcels and cards mailed by this date, so I can relax and enjoy all the festivities of the season.
Oh, I know there are a lot of people who complain about the "commercialism" of Christmas, but my take on that is, you don't have to get caught up in that if you don't choose too, and I don't. I don't buy gifts because I feel I have too, I do so because I want too. The same goes for mailing cards, I want too.
For me Christmas isn't just a day, but it's the whole holiday season. I know about the birth of Jesus on Christmas day, but that isn't why I celebrate, and most of the traditions celebrated at this time of year have nothing to do with that famous birth, and date back to Pagan times, including Christmas trees, lights, etc. Not to mention all the other holidays celebrated by other cultures this time of year. But this post isn't about why you choose to celebrate or not, it's about why I love the season, so back to that.
I love all the socializing, pretty lights and Christmas traditions that I carry on from my childhood and the new ones Rob and I have started together.
Really, when it comes down to it, the season for me is about love.
It really is the one time of the year that people make the effort to spend time with friends, and family that they love, especially those that they may not see often enough.
Whether your sharing the season with your friends and family or donating time or money to the less fortunate. Love, tis the season, and I think Jesus would be just fine with that.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
This past Sunday I met up with a few of my girlfriends for brunch at Milestones on the Queensway. It was really nice getting together with everyone, as I hadn't seen some of them since April! The food was really good, and even though the wait for it to arrive was a little longer then normal, we didn't mind as the conversation and company were great.
This is going to be another "lazy blog" as I am still without a desktop and the laptop we have is very slow for uploading pictures. Teena did a blog about our brunch with lots of pictures, please enjoy her post here.
I enjoyed myself so much with the girls, I'm thinking of maybe organizing monthly get-togethers in the new year, like I used too.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Last Saturday I took my 4th trip with Authentic Canadian Tours. This time to a tiny island in Lake Ontario, Amherst Island. It was a long, but fun-filled day. The highlight of the trip for us, besides meeting some great people, was seeing our first Northern Saw-whet Owl in the wild. I was so glad we got to experience another owl "lifer" together. I was so touched by seeing this adorable little owl in his natural habitat I burst into tears. It was truly a wonderful sight to see.
I was going to blog about our whole day, but the organizer, Murray, wrote such a wonderful blog about our day, I thought I'd just link his blog here.
And one of the great people we met on the trip captured some wonderful shots, that can be seen on her blog here.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Rob and I had a week off last week. Though we didn't go away, we kept pretty busy, here's the rundown.
Friday night I met a girlfriend after work and we checked out a new restaurant in Bloor West Village, Earth. I have to go back a second time to give an honest opinion, as some of it was really good, and some not so much. I believe in second chances, and this place will get one.
Saturday we did some local birding and I finally got to see a bird that Rob had seen last Fall for the first time, a Hooded Merganser. Saturday night we met our friends Jim and Lynda for dinner at Lucy's to celebrate Lynda's birthday.
Sunday we drove over towards Bellville to check out Presqu'ile Provincial Park. We had never been there before and enjoyed our visit. We will return there during migration and maybe during the winter, when owls are known to be there.
Monday was Halloween and we stayed home for the day. Halloween is always a good time on our street, for the kids as well as the adults. If the weather is good, and it was, it turns into a bit of a street party. It was great to have friends Juantia and Carrie join us too.
Tuesday was a day of rest, much needed rest, from the Halloween festivities.
Wednesday we drove over bright and early to spend the day at The Ruthven Bird Banding station. Rob was thrilled when he got to band and release an Eastern Bluebird.
Thursday we went to the Kortright Centre, where the Canadian Peregrine Foundation's barn for their educational birds reside. We had a good visit with Frank, who we hadn't seen in a while and were also treated to a visit from a Northern Shrike.
The highlight of Friday for me was trying a great new oyster restuarant!! Jake's Grill and Oyster House is in Burlington, and we went on our way back from birding in Hamilton. A co-worker of Rob's told him about it. We really enjoyed it, and already made plans to return.
Saturday was a lazy day at home for me, while Rob did yard work, followed by an evening of laughs at Brian and Amanda's.
Sunday we enjoyed the "Raptor Encounter" at Mountsberg Conservation Area for the 4th time. Even though we enjoyed it very much, our hearts were a little heavy at learning the news the day before, that "Teddy", a Barred Owl there had passed away in September. She had been a favorite of ours.
All in all it was a pretty good and much needed week off.
Friday, October 21, 2011
Seems I will be taking a bit of an impromptu blogging break for the next little while. Our computer hasn't been acting quite right the last few weeks and is in need of repair.
I'm doing this post from work, after hours, but that won't be happening again, I like to go home when my work day is done.
We hope to have it up and running again soon. Luckily we have a couple close friends who are good with these computer issues.
Til I write again....
Thursday, October 20, 2011
I spent the week of Thanksgiving in Nova Scotia dividing my time between staying with my Dad at the house, and with my Mom, close to the nursing home in New Glasgow. It was a bitter sweet trip, but I made the most of it. My Mom's brain cancer will eventually rob her or her memories, so I was just grateful that she knew who I was.
I stayed at a motel within walking distance to the manor so I was able to spend all day with my Mom, and slip out now and again to give her time to rest.
The day I left the manor for the last time to go back to the house and spend more time with my Dad before flying back to Toronto was the hardest. I fell into one of the nurse's arms crying as I was leaving. I have a memory of looking back and seeing my Dad behind me, and my Mother following behind him in her wheelchair that I will never forget, ever.
My Dad, not one to show emotion, took the old highway home and talked the whole way about the old days, comforting me in his own way.
I spent the afternoon with Dad at the house and then went out for a late supper with friends. It was a much needed distraction.
These girls were as great as the King Lam egg rolls we all chowed down on. They listened to me ramble on about everything from Mom to my great love of Harry Potter. I hope they are there for me again, when I make "that" trip back.
I made my Mom laugh, a lot, and that will stay with me always.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Yesterday Rob and I went to see "The Big Year", a birding movie we had been anticipating since we first heard about it months ago.
It's based on a book of the same title and is about The Big Year birding competition, which is basically who can see the highest amount of species in one year. The movie story revolves around the lives of 3 men all out for a "big year".
I haven't read the book yet, but will, I actually wanted to see the movie first.
We enjoyed the movie immensely! I liked it more then I thought I would. I was worried there wouldn't be enough "birding", but I was wrong. There is a great balance between the birding and the stories of the men involved in the competition, all of them dealing with something different, that even non-birders would enjoy it.
Two "Feathers Up" from me!
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Rob and I decided to go on a little road trip this morning as the weather was so nice. By afternoon it sure didn't feel like Fall, but Mother Nature was putting on a gorgeous Fall show with the changing leaves.
We headed over to the University of Guelph to check out their Arboretum for the first time. It's quite large and we did a few different trails. We saw quite a few birds, some returning winter visitors, like Dark-eyed Juncos reminded us that winter really is on it's way.
After leaving the Arboretum we went in search of a country market I found out about from a Facebook ad. Knapp's Country Market has a bakery, groceries, gifts, and a restaurant that over-looks a pond that hosts a family of Mute Swans.
We had a lovely lunch there. I had a turkey sandwich and pumpkin soup, while Rob tried the potato and leek soup and a turkey sandwich as well. I picked up a few things in the bakery and the grocery section. It's a great place to head out to for a day trip.
We had a wonderful Fall outing and will visit both places again.