Saturday, August 28, 2010

Letterboxing in London



We kidnapped our youngest grandson last Monday and went letterboxing.  It was a really beautiful day.  Our first stop was to pick up Whomping Willow.  I didn't even know that entrance to the park existed.  The clues were great!


Next stop:  Harry Potter's Staunch Supporters.  Excellent hike.  Cam got a little nervous at one point.  The trail definitely comes close to the edge in spots!  Hal and I are planning on visiting the museum some time soon with all 3 grandsons.  Maybe we'll attend this event.  

Native Harvest Festival &  Pow Wow

September 17, 18 & 19, 2010 
Celebrate a weekend of First Nations Culture - Music, Art, Pow Wow Dances and Drums, and First Nations Craft and food vendors. Join us for a Friday night outdoor concert in the village featuring jazz musician Robbie Antone and Hip Hop artist James Blood. Gates open at 6:00 PM. Saturday and Sunday doors open at 10:00 AM. Click here for more information


Our last stop was We All Scream for Ice Cream 2010 - London Ice Cream Shoppe.   Looks like the boys are enjoying chocolate ice cream cones, doesn't it?  This is actually the next level of choclateyness -- Aw! Chocolate.  I had the Moose Tracks Ice Cream . . . amazing.  They make all their ice creams on site and sell in bulk as well as individual cones. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Gourmet Dinner for Grandma

I spent some time selecting recipes that I felt would be simple enough for a cooking lesson for the grandsons.  They wanted to cook dinner.  Now, like usual with kids, things didn't always go as planned but here goes . . .


Baked Chicken Superb

1/2 cup instant potato flakes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup melter butter
1 frying chicken (3-1/2 lb), cut up

On a piece of waxed paper, combine potato flakes and grated cheese.  Melt butter in large shallow baking pan.  Roll each piece of chicken in butter and then in potato flake-cheese mixture.  Place chicken pieces in pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake in 350F oven for about 1 hour.  Serves 4

So I didn't want to buy instant potato flakes, mostly because I don't like them; we used breadcrumbs.  And chickens were expensive, but chicken thighs were on sale at a good price.  Needless to say we bought the chicken thighs.  I skinned the chicken thighs when we got home because I'm not a big fan of chicken skin either.  So, while I think we tried to stay true to the original recipe, we actually may have improved upon it.  Taylor really enjoyed measuring and breading and chatting with me.  I enjoyed it too.

We were originally going to make Orange Carrots.  Maybe another day.  I wanted to make sure they ate the carrots, so I made Candied Carrots instead.  And I knew at least the older two liked cheesy broccoli so that was our second veg.  Candied Carrots are so easy to make, as Austin found out.  He peeled 6 carrots and then used my crinkle-cutter (I don't know what its really called but it makes a wavy cut through the veg which I like and so do the boys) to slice the carrots.  When they were cooked we added a couple of spoonfuls of butter and a couple of spoonfuls of brown sugar and tossed.  Simple.  I decided to keep the cheese sauce simple so opted to buy a packaged mix.  I think the reason Austin chose to do the veggies is because he likes using the peeling knife and crinkle-cutter.

The Basmatti rice was cooked in my rice steamer.


Cameron made the brownies from a mix.  He stirred it well and then we poured it into a cake pan to bake.  I think Cameron chose to make the dessert so he could lick the spoon.  To finish up the brownie sundaes we placed a brownie in each dish, added a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, a big scoop of marshmallow creme and, of course, topped it all with chocolate sprinkles.

The entire meal was delicious.  I will definitely be using this chicken recipe again.  The chicken was crispy outside and so tender inside!  The veggies were very colourful and tasty.  And the dessert was the crowning glory of the meal.

I have to admit that I just made another sundae to eat with my tea tonight . . . LOL

A Day Out With The Grandsons . . .

. . . or How To Pack As Much Fun As Possible Into One Day Without Losing Your Mind . . .

Last night was the first time I had my grandsons for a sleepover without Grandpa.  Hal usually does all the entertaining and goofing around and my job is cooking and cleaning up after them.  It was kind of fun being the one entertaining and goofing around . . . the cleaning can wait until tomorrow . . .

I went to the movies last night to see Eat, Pray, Love.  An amazing movie . . . and now I want to read the book again.  It is also a long movie so it was 9:30 pm by the time I picked up the boys for a sleepover.  As soon as we were in the apartment we pulled out snacks and made up the sofa bed and then spent some time chatting with Grandpa online.  It made for a late night but that also meant sleeping in a little this morning, which was nice.  After breakfast, the boys went to work sorting out their craft box and photo box.  The lid fits on again.  Next stop was a little letterboxing trip and a visit to Jumbo.  The contractor that refurbished Jumbo this time around really did a lovely job.  Love his new colours!!







Our adventures continued at the library.  It is so nice to see how much the boys enjoy books.  They spent quite a bit of time looking through the shelves and carefully selecting books to take home.

We enjoyed lunch and an exciting game of bingo at Zellers in the afternoon.  Didn't win a thing but we sure had a good time trying.  Next stop, groceries so the boys could cook me a gourmet dinner . . .

Baked Chicken Superb
Candied Carrots
Cheesy Broccoli
Basmati Rice
Brownie Sundaes

I'll share the recipes in my next post.  Austin made the veggies, Taylor made the chicken . . .


. . . and Cameron made dessert.



After a fabulous supper the boys played cards for a bit and then we started playing with origami paper.  That was a lot of fun, especially the jumping frogs and the monkey climbing the mountain.


It was so funny when Greg came to pick up the boys.  All three of them started talking at once, each wanting to tell their dad about their favourite adventures of the day.  I'm not sure if Greg was able to understand more than a few words but I'm glad they were excited with all our adventures.

I'm in my jammies, sipping a cup of tea and thinking that I don't really care that the apartment is a disaster.  If the cleaning fairies don't show up tonight, I'll take care of it tomorrow.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Working with random photos

Yeah, scrapbooking came up on my list so I pulled out some photos.  As I'm looking through them I realize only a few are connected in any way.  I set them aside.  What to do with the rest?  They were lovely photos of some of my favourite people but they really didn't connect and they weren't spectacular shots each deserving their own page.  I started pulling out papers and trimmed all the photos and began to play with them.  I wasn't sure about the finished layout, but it really has grown on me and I'm really happy with it now.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Letterboxing in Pinafore Park

I like to keep up the maintenance on our letterbox plants but sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day.  I aim for early spring, mid-summer, and early fall to check them out.


Pinafore Park, on the south side of St. Thomas, offers a wildlife sanctuary, baseball and tennis facilities, flower gardens, picnic shelters, play areas and more. The park also offers a small lake and splash pad. The park hosts many events and live music throughout the year.  It is a fabulous place to take a picnic and spend some time.  We have four series of boxes planted in or near this park.  


We took a friend along with us while we checked out the boxes in Pinafore Park.  Most were in great shape but 2 have gone missing.  Don't know how we lost the one box but the other probably fell victim to park staff when they were trimming bushes.  We've decided to retire one; but Memory Garden #1 - by the Sea will be re-carved and planted in a safer location as soon as I can.


Memory Garden #2 - To the Sea


Stormy Weather - We have slightly modified the clues to make them a little clearer.  This box contains a store bought stamp but it is a very special one -- the first one our youngest grandson picked when we began letterboxing.


Walk in the Woods #1 - The Lass


Walk in the Woods #2 - At the Opera


Walk in the Woods #3 - The Sailor has gone missing so we are going to retire it.  The log it was hidden in has completely deteriorated.


Walk in the Woods #4 - Peace Tree


Walk in the Woods #5 - The Hand Reaching Out


Walk in the Woods #6 - On the Stage


Walk in the Woods #7 - Saturday in the Park


Heritage Trees:  Cemetery Series - Sunday Brunch, London Plane Tree, Black Maple, White Oak, and Siberian Elm  Black Maple has gone missing, probably a victim of recent heavy rainfalls.  We will be re-carving and re-planting as soon as possible.  Because of the rain we have noticed that some of our clues have been obscured so we've added an extra hint to Sunday Brunch and alternate clues for Siberian Elm.


We have not checked out Heritage Trees:  Parkview Series yet.  We'll let you know how they are doing as soon as we do.


See ya on the trail,
     Pam

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Two Letterboxing Vikings Invade St. Thomas and are surprised that no one else is surprised . . . LOL

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Chickpea and Pasta Soup



1-1/3 cup chickpeas or Garbanzo beans (dried), soaked in water overnight, then drained
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
2-1/2 slices bacon, chopped
1 potato, peeled, whole
3 cups Swiss Chard or spinach, cut into 2-3 pieces
4 tsp olive oil
2-1/2 cups water to cook chickpeas
1 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups water to cook the pasta
1/2 cup mezzi tubetti (pasta for soups)
6 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated

Prepare the vegetables : coarsely chop the onion; peel the potatoes, leaving them whole; cut the Swiss chard into 2 or 3 pieces (if using spinach, leave them whole). Set aside.
Heat the oil in a pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion and bacon, then sauté 3-4 min, with occasional stirring. Add the chickpeas and potatoes, then cook 1-2 min with stirring. Pour in the water, broth, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, about 45 min, until the chickpeas are softened, but al dente (if overcooked, the chickpeas do not fall apart as other legumes, but become "pasty"). If using a pressure cooker, the cooking time is reduced to 12-15 min.
Take the potatoes and about 2 ladles of chickpeas out of the pot and put them in a blender or in a food-mill. Purée the mixture, then put it back into the pot with the soup.
While the chickpeas are cooking, blanch the Swiss chard 4-5 min in a pot of salted boiling water. If using spinach, cook them 3-4 min without adding any water: the water trapped in the leaves after washing them is enough to cook the spinach. Drain the Swiss chard or spinach using a colander, press to remove excess water, then chop them and add them to the chickpea pot.
Cook an additional 2-3 min over medium-high heat, with occasional stirring: the chickpea soup is ready and may be set aside in the refrigerator or freezer for later use.
When ready to serve, pour the soup into a saucepan or pot, add about ¼ cup (65 ml) of water per serving and bring to a boil. Add about 1½ tablespoons (10 g) of pasta per serving, cover, and cook about 6-7 min, over low heat. Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.
Makes 6 servings.


Hal & I REALLY enjoyed this soup.  It was similar to a bean and bacon soup only not nearly as heavy tasting.  Lots of flavour.


www.soscuisine.com

Look what I bought . . .

I received a gift card to Michael's for my birthday.  And of course I had a couple of 40% off coupons.  Look what I bought . . .

Sunday Dinner Menu

Lettuce and Tomato Salad
Pasta with Sausage and Cauliflower
Strawberry Ice Cream

Strawberry Ice Cream


1-2/3 cups strawberries
1/2 cup strawberry jam
1 cup whipping cream 35%


Prepare the mold (I used a loaf pan) by lining it with aluminum foil. Let some foil protrude over the edge to help unmold the ice cream «block» when ready.


Hull the strawberries, halve them lengthwise, then put them in a blender.  Add the strawberry jam and mix at maximum speed until a smooth consistency is obtained. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and set aside.  


In another bowl, using an electric mixer, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Add the whipped cream to the large bowl and fold it into the strawberry mixture using a spatula.  


Pour the cream-strawberry mixture into the prepared mould. Wrap it with aluminum foil and freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight.


About 20-30 min before you are ready to serve, unmold the whole ice cream onto a plate and let it sit for a while at room temperature to allow the ice cream to be softer and tastier when serving. Alternatively, cut out the slices and put them onto individual plates. Return any unused part back into the freezer and let the individual slices sit in the refrigerator for a while (not at room temperature since they will melt faster than the whole block). If desired, you may garnish the ice cream with a few berries.


Makes 10 servings

This very simple dessert was definitely enjoyed.  I added some fresh sugared strawberries and chocolate sprinkles to each serving.

Out with the Little Blues . . .

We had the two youngest grandsons for a sleepover this past week and they jumped at the chance to do some letterboxing.  We had FINALLY solved Les Miserables and were looking forward to the find.  When we found the location in Paris the box was gone.  It looks like there has been some flooding in the area.  Perhaps that is how it got lost.  If anyone has an image of the stamp, I would really appreciate a copy as a keepsake.  I'm not too bright at solving clues apparently and it took hours to solve the clue . . . sigh . . .


The boys are used to the occasional attempt and don't get upset about it.  They understand it is all part of letterboxing.  Of course lunch at the Cobblestone Public House in Paris cheered them up.  Good food and service.  The kids menu is excellent.  I saw the waitress serving salads at another table and talked Taylor into splitting a salad with me -- a "Cobb"lestone Salad . . . LOL.  Hal couldn't finish his hamburg.


We always like to make sure to have at least one find on the rare occasions we can letterbox with the grandsons so we headed to Cambridge to find The Troll Bridge.  We tiptoed carefully over the bridge so we didn't wake up the troll.  A nice hike and easy find.  And to add to the fun we found 50 is Nifty Hitchhiker #11.  We could see a storm coming in so we headed for home.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

How I got my mojo back . . .

MOJO:  a slang word for self-confidenceself-esteem or self-efficacy (Wikipedia)


Scrapbooking seems to have an ebb and flow in my life . . . trying to fit in my life no matter what else is going on.  In fact, I've noticed that when I can't find time to scrapbook it has an effect on my mood and self-esteem.  Life has been crazy, finances have been brutally tight and I've had to learn to scrapbook in a whole new way.  In the store I could SEE everything.  The different colours and patterns inspired me every day and creating a new and exciting layout seemed so easy most of the time.  In my little space here at home everything has to be in bins and boxes and the inspiration just isn't there.  And because I scrap alone most of the time, I don't have the enthusiasm and guidance of other scrappers to inspire me either.  So for quite a while I rarely scrapbooked.  And I missed scrapbooking.  So I added it to my to do list.  That made it a chore that I rushed through in order to accomplish something.  And my creativity suffered.  I knew I was having problems when even friends commented on my recent layouts that they didn't seem to be mine.


A few weeks ago we had a 12-hour crop and I brought a ton of paper and embellishments and photos with me, determined to conquer my layout drought.  And I was thrilled with the pages I created.  My stash was spread out more, I had the stimulus of other crafters around me.  I think I have my mojo back.  So at home this week I have changed the way I scrapbook.  I actually pull out bins of paper and embellishments and sketches and play with them until I have found the look that will make me happy.  And I don't care if it takes 15 minutes or a few hours.  I don't stop until I'm happy with what I've created.  I haven't really changed my style at all -- I still prefer lots of layers of papers and patterns and minimal embellishments.  But I am really happy with what I'm doing again.  It will never be a chore again.  When "scrapbooking" comes up on my to do list now, it is permission for me to forget about the housework and errands and whatever else is on my plate for the day . . . and take some "me" time to create; not quitting until I am happy with the result.


Here are the layouts I did this week:






Top Movies of All Time according to IMDB ~ The Matrix (1999)

You know I don't like scary movies but I have to say I thought The Matrix was pretty cool.  Of course I like the stars of this movi...