It’s My Party!

PARTY

Today is June 30th, 2018.

We are at a friend’s house in Newcastle, Ontario. TJ, and his wife, Steph, have graciously opened up their home to us to let us celebrate our vow renewal in honour of our 20th wedding anniversary which was actually in December, 2017. We had a winter wedding, so we decided to do our renewal in the summer months.

The weather is warm, sunny, with a smidge of humidity (which is normal for southern Ontario). The breeze takes the edge off. The kids just finished school this week, and Tyler will be heading off to Kingston for a full 8 weeks of cadet camp at the military college. He really, really wanted to be a part of this special day. He wants to give a speech in honour of our day.

The house is in the middle of a farmer’s field, there is literally no one for miles. It’s a big, country house, a sizeable property with a woodshed and fire pit in the back. They’ve recently redone the deck to make it bigger, not at our request, it’s something they wanted to do anyway. Over the fire is a partially cooked pig on a spit, turning slowly and continuing to cook slowly for pork sandwiches later.

The local Hamilton band that my husband and I have known since we began living together in 1994 is starting to trickle in, with their gear and coolers. We consider them to be friends, we make a point to see them whenever we know they’re playing in town. We love their music… they play everything from Sass Jordan to Lynyrd Skynyrd to Greenday and so much in between. We technically grew up with them.

There are many folding lawn chairs placed around the firepit, and the surrounding trees have white Christmas lights hung on them, for when the festivities really get under way later. A few tents have been set up for guests who are staying the night, so they don’t have to drive the distance to get back home.

I busy myself in the kitchen, helping to organize and prepare salads and crockpots full of chicken and beef. Devin’s shucked the corn and is putting them into a clean cooler. Later, he’ll pour boiling water into it, and the corn will cook itself. Buns are stockpiled for sandwiches as the buffet is starting to come together.

The pastor who married us, Todd, joins the crowd in the backyard, sees Devin and I, and immediately heads over to catch up. He will be saying a few words for us, to us, about us. It’s his first vow renewal. We’re the only couple he’s married who are still together. This makes us proud… I think it makes Todd even more proud.

Portable washrooms have been set up along the side of the yard so that we can cut down on traffic in the house. We’re not sure who is more pumped about this; us or TJ. This party has been in the making for two years, but Devin and I have been talking about it for much longer.

I can hear the band doing their sound checks, as more people join us with coolers and chairs in hand. A couple of people, who are what I lovingly call, 5-star campers, will be heading into town to stay the night at a local hotel. I’m just thrilled that they could come out for this.

My friend Beth-Anne is busy arranging and organizing, insisting that I sit and relax, but I can’t. I feel bad. Friends of ours shouldn’t be doing all of the work… especially since the entire thing was our idea. The thing I love about Beth-Anne is that she thinks about all of the tiny, little details that I never even thought of, but it justs adds to the specialness of the day. She is amazing, and I am so glad I asked her to be a part of this. She is literally my right-hand lady.

The band is now all set up, and they are making their rounds, meeting friends and family. Country music is playing in the background and the roasted pig is smelling amazing. I cannot wait to eat.. I’ve been so nervous all morning, I didn’t eat a lot… and snacking on veggies here and there has done nothing to tame this hunger!

I take a seat, half-listening to the conversation going on around me, but not directed at me. I see TJ and Devin over at the woodshed, as TJ shows Devin the gigantic pile of firewood he’s been storing for the evening… and then promptly drags out three skids from behind the shed. I think we’ll be lighting up the entire field.

For years, we’ve talked about this. This is the only way we wanted to celebrate. Our closest family and friends, good food, guitars and our favourite band playing as we dance the night away. I finally let my breath out and relax. It’s all about enjoying it now… with the love of my life.

Here’s to another 20 years!

Itโ€™s My Party

Promises

Promises

I make too many promises to my kids.

Seriously.

And if you know kids, they won’t let you forget any of them.

Our youngest boy has two major interests. Minecraft, and eating. There isn’t a whole lot he doesn’t like to eat, thankfully. But he certainly has his favourites.

When Devin and I were first married, I was making homemade bread, by hand, a couple of times per week. It was a lot of work, for sure, but it was a labour of love. I liked seeing my husband enjoy something I made for him. Then he bought me a breadmaker for Christmas. Ladies, I know getting an electrical appliance is not every woman’s dream gift, but I LOVED it. I was so excited, and couldn’t wait to start using it.

So, I went through the recipe book that came with the machine, and made several kinds of bread. French bread, white bread, cinnamon bread, garlic bread, herbed bread… wow. Our house smelled awesome! Then I made cinnamon rolls.

It’s a bit of a process, but the end result was so worth it. Making the dough is one thing, but then you have to roll it out by hand, make the cinnamon mixture and spread it on, roll it all up, cut the loaf into rolls and fit all of them into a pan and set it in the fridge overnight (I refuse to do all that work upon waking in the morning – ain’t nobody got time for that!). Then, once baked, the icing needs to be made and drizzled on.

Maybe a trip to Cinnabon might be easier.

I’m really not complaining about the work involved… I love seeing how happy he gets when these are placed in front of him. I got to see that look this morning ๐Ÿ™‚

So, how Caleb’s appetite and my cinnamon rolls are related is that he has been harassing me for weeks to make them. Along with a meatball casserole I recently discovered on Pinterest. He loves his bread products, and has definitely noticed that we haven’t been eating as many carbs (hence my post “2016 Resolution” and beginning the 21DF). I was doing so well! This kid is sabotaging my plans!

Ah.. it’s just one day… I’m back on plan tomorrow.

What are your favourite comfort foods for winter?

Guitars on Fire in Vineland!

Guitars on Fire in Vineland!

There was pandemonium on Saturday, as folks gathered in Vineland, Ontario to celebrate a young woman’s “29th” birthday with friends and family.

It began as a surprise, as the guest of honour answered the door to several, unexpected guests. She was force-fed a delicious, gourmet meal, and coerced into drinking several adult beverages, under the pretense of celebrating.

A hoe-down occurred outside, around the campfire, with the onslaught of several guitars and much merriment, with singing and dancing. Hits such as “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Simple Man” were strummed and sung along to. Indoors, “S.O.B.” was blasted on repeat over the home theater speakers. YouTube videos may or may not have been posted on social media.

A homemade, chocolate cake was later introduced to the crowd of party-goers, to infuse them all with further energy to withstand the fun-filled evening.

The evening was full of laughter and good times, as people eventually made their way home or to bed, in the large, beautiful house. However, the party didn’t end there. Four inebriated people stumbled their way to the host’s hot tub outside. Water was consumed at this point, to offset the results for the following day, as the hot tub light show carried on, invoking relaxation and a sense of peacefulness. Perfect for slumber.

The following morning, or perhaps, later the same morning, the opening song for Gone in 60 Seconds, “Bring Sally Up” by Moby, could be heard blaring over the home theater in the living room, welcoming any guests who spent the night to enjoy a movie accompanied by a big pot of strong coffee and more laughter, as reactions on social media from the previous evening’s shenanigans came to light.

”It was a phenomenal time… the entire evening was a blast. Good people, great food. Couldn’t have asked for a better night, or better friends.”, one party-goer stated.

Stay tuned to this breaking story… this reporter has a feeling that there may be a repeat performance.


Ripped Into the Headline

3 Things I Enjoy About Winter

3 Things I Enjoy About

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I’m a spring/summer gal, hands down. What about you?

Unfortunately, winter seems to last FoReVeR… so we have to make the best of it.

My three favourite things about the season are:

1. Ice-skating with my family.

It’s harder for myself, and my family, to stay active in the winter. In the summer, we are outside ALL the time. So, we try to make it a weekly or biweekly event and go ice-skating at a local arena. I’m not really a big fan of outdoor rinks, mostly because the surface is uneven, and the weather/wind are unpredictable.

iceskatingdd

iceskatingtc

2. Comfort Foods and baked goods. YUM!

Casseroles and all kinds of baked goodies to add some warmth to the house while baking, and to my bones after coming in from the cold. That’s the BEST feeling, isn’t it?

Here is one of my favourite casseroles… so simple and soooo yummy:

meatballsubbake
meatballsubbakedownload

3. Netflix.

Is there really anything better than snuggling with your honey under a blanket and binge-watching your favourite shows? Well, maybe… ย ๐Ÿ˜‰

What are three of YOUR favourite things about winter?

Feeling Festive

FeelingFestive

It’s been a crazy busy week here… with our anniversary on the 7th, a little boy suffering from the flu and missing a couple of days of school… laundry, more laundry and disinfecting the house, setting up the Christmas tree and decorating our home. It might be why I slept for 10 hours last night!My favourite thing about the holiday season is getting together with our friends and family, and enjoying their company over some great food and a few drinks. I love catching up with their lives and sharing what’s going on with us.

I love the warm feelings of friendship and laughing together, with music in the background.

We had some great friends over last night, andย enjoyed aย nice meal together (that our son helped prepare). We played Cards Against Humanity (what IS it about that game? I just love it!) A little (or a lot) of wine and friendship go a long way to soothe the soul.

It reminds me that there is more to life than work and paying bills, and “getting through the day”. It reminds me that there is so much more to life and we are meant to enjoy it. Fully. With full hearts and good friends. It reminds me of how blessed we are to have these people in our lives.

So in the busy-ness of the season, don’t forget to make time for your friends, and your family, and enjoy what the season is all about: Love. Friendship. Happiness. Joy.

What is your favourite thing about the Christmas season?

No crockpot? No camp??? NO WAY!

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It’s the crock addict again…

In a previous post, I mentioned that I’d give ideas for non-crockpot meals you can take on your camping trip, because I realize, A. not every campground or site offers electricity, and B. not everyone has or uses a crockpot. There are all kinds of meals you can bring with you that don’t require a crockpot or electricity.

We’ll start with the obvious: canned goods. We bring stew, soups and ravioli, and we just heat them up over the propane stove. It can be a bit messy but quick and easy trumps the cleanup. We also bring boxed macaroni and cheese (hence why I’ve mentioned a small strainer in a previous post). Very simple to do this over your propane stove.

Next up is your classic hot dogs over the fire. Just poke ’em with a roasting stick and hold ’em over the fire. Going one step beyond that is hamburgers over the fire. Now, I LOVE a good grilled burger… BBQed burgers are my favourite, but mark my words, there is nothing that tastes as good as a burger grilled right over a campfire.

I’m a planner, and hot dogs and hamburgers are no different. I save myself the work at the campsite, and I precut toppings to put on our hot dogs and hamburgers. Lettuce and tomatoes, unfortunately, just don’t survive the trip well. But, using small, zipper-topped bags to bag some diced onions, sliced pickles, hot pepper rings… it makes a big difference in meal enjoyment.

Roasted potatoes are another favourite of ours, along with corn on the cob. Corn can be roasted on the grate above the campfire, just be sure to turn them often so that they cook evenly, and don’t burn. Potatoes, for my family, get washed, pierced with a fork to keep them from bursting, and wrapped in foil, and I do this ahead of time at home. These can go right into the fire, just leave them on the outer edges of the fire, and turn these often as well. Check one for doneness before removing them all from the fire. Some pre-cut chopped green onion and a small container of sour cream dress these up nicely. And if you have any bacon leftover from breakfast… Wow is all I can say!

This year, I made an attempt at something similar to McDonald’s Egg McMuffin. I used one package of 6 English muffins, about 5-6 eggs, whisked with milk and S&P, processed cheese slices (no judgement please!) and some deli cooked ham. I cooked the eggs until done, and without toasting the English muffins, I laid one out on a sheet of foil, spooned some scrambled egg onto one side, topped it with ham and cheese before putting the other half of the English muffin on top. I wrapped it up in the foil, and went on with the rest until they were all done. These were frozen until it was time to leave for our trip. When we got up the next morning, we started a small campfire, and heated these up over the campfire grate, just flipping them back and forth until heated through. We had to test one first, but when it was fully heated, the cheese was gooey and delicious. Just add ketchup and a cup of coffee!

Premade & frozen, scrambled egg, cheese and ham on an English muffin

Premade & frozen, scrambled egg, cheese and ham on an English muffin

Muffins, cookies and breads, like banana bread, are all great ideas for snacks to be made and frozen ahead of time, pre-made sandwiches containing deli meats and cheeses all freeze surprisingly well.

What easy food items have you brought that has made your trip so much easier?

Setting up Your Camp Kitchen

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This is probably my favourite part of setting up… I love getting everything organized for our meals together. The more organized your kitchen area is, the easier and quicker your meals with come together!As a big Pinterest fan, I’m always on the lookout for ways to streamline this important part of camp set-up, and for new and cheap ideas to make it home-y, keeping in mind, we’re trying to get away from it all ๐Ÿ˜‰

I came across this blog page on Pinterest, and wow. The inspiration is incredible!

http://echoesoflaughter.ca/2013/08/organizing-camping-kitchen.html

Ideas I took away from this are the table solar light, a pretty basket for napkins and small things like S&P. I bought some pretty, coordinating oven mitts and dish towels, the S-hooks (a.k.a. “lifesavers”). The only problem I had with the solar light is making sure it was charged during the day. We camp in a campground that is fairly shaded and even sitting the solar light in the sunniest of areas, we had to keep moving it because five minutes later, the sunny spot was shaded too! But so handy to have this on at night!

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You don’t need to buy a camp kitchen (Coleman sells them) to incorporate these ideas into your own camp set-up. However, if you want to MAKE your own, out of PVC pipe, and a shelving unit, if you are creative and have some time on your hands. Even just looking at this, I’m excited and want to jump right into this project!

http://thewhoot.com.au/whoot-news/diy/diy-camping-kitchen

Of course, there is the hanging shoe organizer I mentioned in a previous post. It was so helpful to have this nearby, it truly felt like an extra set of helping hands, because it made everything so accessible.

kitchentent

Here are some important kitchen items to have while camping, that you may not even think about:

Can opener

Scissors
S&P
Foil, cling-wrap, zipper-topped bags, food storage containers
BBQ tongs and/or spatula if you intend to grill food
Table cloth
Disinfectant wipes
Dishsoap or camper’s soap
Paper towels

Mosquito coils (when those little critters find a way in, if you have one of these burning on the ground, it keeps them at bay)

We used to have a traditional kitchen tent, with the green and white stripes and the long, awkward poles… wow. That thing was such a pain in the butt to set up. You truly needed a TEAM of people to set it up properly. Since then, we have purchased A First-Up gazebo. You know, the ones that you can set up in about ten minutes, with maybe one other person? It reminds me of an accordion, the way the metal structure is, two people pull on opposite ends to expand the structure. Then you attach the top, secure it with the velcro loops, and raise it up to the height you want (there are three selections on ours). Lastly, you put up the screen walls, to “keep the bugs out”, but somehow they always find a way in… We also purchased a privacy screen for our gazebo. We put both up on the gazebo, and leave one or two sides open for ventilation, depending on how warm it is.

A kitchen “tent” is not necessary. I have seen many people simply put a tarp up, tying the corners to trees nearby, tilted on a slant so that if it rains, the slope will keep the water from collecting and pulling the tarp down. We prefer an actual tent because we like a little bit of privacy with our (my) bedhead while sipping coffee or cooking bacon. Plus it’s nice to hang stuff up and out of the way, and keep it there during the duration of your stay!

What helps you keep your camp kitchen area organized?