WVS Gift Guide for the Big Kid at Heart

I am fortunate enough to have someone that I find it incredibly easy to choose gifts for. Not only is it because we’ve been together like a bajillion years so I know him pretty well, but also because it’s so much fun to buy things for him.

Michael, is my big kid at heart. Not only does it make the gift buying process enjoyable, but also the giving – his sincere gratitude and love for my thoughtfulness is pretty rewarding in itself. I’m always so excited for the day he opens his gift that I almost burst with anticipation – and that’s if I don’t slip and tell him what it is weeks before I’m supposed to give it to him.

Much like Julia, I too already have Michael’s gift for Christmas,  (seriously, this should be noted, then re-read, because this is a miracle of Christmas in itself – Hallelujah!) however, if I hadn’t completed the first Christmas miracle of 2014, here are a few things I might have gone with instead, for the big kid at heart:

1. Toys: in our house, toys means an entirely different thing than traditional children’s play things. And get your mind out of the gutter (JQ, I’m looking at you…), it doesn’t mean what the other half of you are thinking now. Toys for Michael and I mean parts/upgrades/additions to our trucks or the boat.

Anything from new seats for the boat which range from $20 – $ridiculous.

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These Sport Master Blue and Grey centric style fishing boat seats go for roughly $100/seat

Or a light rack for his new project, the 4Runner:

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This 10″ Baha Rack Lightbar sells for roughly $200-250 – don’t forget the lights!

2. Video Games: depending on your budget, a video game or even console is perfect for the guy that enjoys his down time by kicking a little ass. Make sure you know which ‘type’ of gamer they are as I have learned they are usually faithful to or desire a certain brand of system.

If I wasn’t so freaked out about the voice, movement, placement, pretty much spy camera and microphone features, I might be one to upgrade Michael to the new XBox One…might.

Sells for $399 at most retailers

Sells for $399 at most retailers

For now he’s just going to have to settle for one or two of the games on his wish list.

NHL 2015 sells for $69 at most retailers

NHL 15 sells for $69 at most retailers

3. The Coolest Book in the World: I knew instantly that Michael would go crazy for this book the moment I laid eyes on it. It was just SO cool!

What book you ask? This book:

Sells for $30-50 at most retailers

Sells for $30-50 at most retailers

Filled with facts, trivia, and a ton of how-tos – like all of the information you could ever want about famous battles in history and even step by step instructions for building  a go-kart – The Dangerous Book for Boys is a must have.

Even how to do a coin trick

Even how to do a coin trick

See? So cool.

4. Pellet Gun: I don’t know very many people (don’t worry, I know they exist!) that don’t enjoy setting up a target or two and taking aim with a pellet gun.

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Pure joy while gazing at his Red Ryder Air Riffle

And I know for sure that my big kid at heart looked just like Ralphie on Christmas morning when he opened his.

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Crossman Optimus Air Riffle with Scope sells at Cabela’s for $180

Whoever you’re buying for this Christmas, I hope above all you are spoiled with love, laughter, and sweet memories galore.

~ Toni

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Baking adventures with Andreah

I am not a great baker.

I once wanted to be a chef, but I never liked baking all that much. That, and whenever I think about baking I think of the mess I have to clean up after…not pretty.

But I do have a few choice recipes in my repertoire that I like, and a good, simple applesauce cake is one of the best things I can bake.

This one has no eggs and I also made a lot of it as a quick breakfast for Joe, because apparently he doesn’t like cooking in the morning (silly man).

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I made my own applesauce out of a jar of homemade pie filling my Elena gave me. But any applesauce can be used.

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Really simply done, you just boil it down and mash it/blend it.

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Mix together the butter and sugar and applesauce.

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Flour!

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It looks more like dough than a batter; strange, but at least you can see it will be spongy!

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See? Spongy!

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After 40 minutes you have deliciousness.

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So yummy and moist!

I’m a basic baker, but this one has minimal cleaning, so it’s one I don’t mind.

I hope, dear readers, you get to eat cake!

~ Andreah

Simple Applesauce Cake

  • Servings: however many pieces you'd like!
  • Difficulty: easy-peasy
  • Print

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 and 1/2 cups chilled applesauce
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 /2 tsp of allspice
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Grease and flour a 6×13 inch or 8×8 in pan. Cream butter and sugar together. Add applesauce and mix well. Stir in flour, baking soda and spices. If you’re using nuts, fold them in gently. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Enjoy hot or cold!

Adapted from Joanna’s Applesauce Cake I 

Crazy, amazing, insane

This past Friday was the start of something crazy beautiful – our wedding party got together to start planning the first event of Cody’s and my nuptials (ever notice how that word sounds kinda… sassy… nuptials), and let me tell you, getting all 14 of our wedding party plus more into our kitchen was INSANE! Amazing insane chaos! Loud, insane, crazy, beautiful CHAOS! I am so excited!!!!

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CRAZY right!?!

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Caught ya!

Caught ya!

It was the first time our family and friends came together to meet one another. There was food, wine, laughter, wrestling (don’t ask), beer, and a bonfire.

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Oh, and baby snuggles.

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She is getting WAY t0o big WAY too fast!

The goal of the evening was to plan our Buck and Doe, which maybe some of you have never heard of – as I tell more and more people about it, I am finding that this is pretty much a Southern Ontario tradition. It is an event held by the wedding party for the bride and groom to raise money and celebrate their up and coming wedding.

It’s an Ayr tradition – our friends who were married before us had one, and the ones who will be married after I am sure will follow suit. Pretty much it’s a large party, where games, raffles, prizes, booze, food and dancing is to be had and we are having one and it’s going to be FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!!!!! All thanks to our amazing ladies and gents.

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See these faces – these faces are some of the reasons stuff will get done! Sassy eyes!

Cody and I were a little worried at first as this is really an odd bunch of characters – each one of my ladies has their own personality and mixed with Cody’s men, it could go either way. It’s not to say that I was surprised – people took charge and were helpful, they had opinions and ideas, and they were all SOOOO wonderful, beyond wonderful – amazing. Seriously how did we get so lucky?

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Some super amazing His and Hers Christmas ornaments from my Kimmie and her HUSBAND Greg

Games were planned, tasks were given, everyone volunteered. Seriously, we feel like the luckiest people in the WORLD!!!!!!! ❤  From Cody and I, thank you to everyone who came out, we love each and every one of you!

And for the rest of you! Stay tuned – I am sure there will be more posts of the many wedding festivities to come!

~ Jacqui

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My handsome man in his younger years – we are going to have the best looking kids! 🙂

Let it snow!

I love snow.

LOVE it.

I love how it looks. I love the season it kicks off (Christmas!!). I love how it sounds at night. I love how it makes everything perfect again, white and blanketed, mud and other flaws covered (at least until the plows and boots and dogs get to it). I LOVE SNOW.

And in my opinion, snowflakes are by far the prettiest element in holiday decorating. They’re sparkly. They can be formal. They can be hand-scrawled. They can be blue, white, red, green, or any other colour up there on that rainbow. They can be ornaments, they can make a wreath, they can be part of an outdoor scene, they can frost up  your indoor decor. They are fun to make and glitter just makes them better. And guys? Each one is different. Or, that’s what we’re believing. You are like a snowflake – unique until proven otherwise. 😉

I'm not the only one enamored by snowflakes. Sophie has been cutting them out and hanging them up around the house to "get ready for Christmas." How can I argue with that?

I’m not the only one enamored by snowflakes. Sophie has been cutting them out and hanging them up around the house to “get ready for Christmas.” How can I argue with that?

I also love crafting. I used to be a Sunday School teacher and one of my favourite parts was the craft – the glue, the glitter, the cutting, the creating, the colouring (remember colouring? Oh, the good old days.). I have a ton of craft stuff at home and most of it the babies can play with. But some of it? Some of it is all mine. ALL MINE. 

I’m a good sharer, but when it comes to Mommy’s grown-up craft stuff, back off. 

I have lots of fun things to make cards with – cardstock, stamps, ink, paper punches, markers, hole punches, adhesives (FANCY GLUE!!) – and I rarely have time to play with it.

But lately, I’ve been sneaking in time when I should be folding laundry to make a card. Or two. But usually just one because one card takes me so long. I want to get it right, get it perfect, get it so that it will look more like I made it and less like Sophie or Lillian made it. You know, like a grown-up made it. And that means I get muddled and mired and stuck.

This weekend, however, I found the time and space and inspiration to sit down and make four Christmas/winter cards, all featuring my favourite, the snowflake.

By space and time, I mean I found some stamps and markers for the girls so that they could have their own stamping/crafting fun.

"What are you doing, Mommy?" (Read: I'm completely innocent and purely curious...I won't get into anything...promise).

“What are you doing, Mommy?” (Read: I’m completely innocent and purely curious…I won’t get into anything…promise).

She might be a teeny, tiny bit excited by the new craft supplies - stamps and markers that aren't completely dried out?! HEAVEN.

She might be a teeny, tiny bit excited by the new craft supplies – stamps and markers that aren’t completely dried out?! HEAVEN.

And by inspiration, I mean I went on Pinterest and scoured other people’s genius for ideas so that I didn’t have to sit and muddle for hours…I got to craft for hours. It was dreamy.

The first card I wanted to attempt was something simple and streamlined. Something easy-peasy. Something elegant, like this one:

Here’s what I came up with, using a nice dark blue cardstock for the card, a snowflake stamp dipped in ink of the same colour, and accents drawn on with a silver marker:

My simple snowflake card

My simple snowflake card

My favourite part about this card, other than the fact that it’s so easy (just some cutting, gluing, and a stamp!), is that it is winter-themed, not necessarily Christmas-themed. You could give this to a Muslim or a Jew or a Buddhist or someone who loves the phrase “Happy Holidays” and is offended by “Merry Christmas.” It’s perfect for the awkward card-giving, where you want to give something, but you don’t want to put your foot in your mouth. (Note: I LOVE this chart for how to handle these uncomfortable social situations…it’s brilliant and simple like this card!)

The second one was going to be a bit more complicated. I saw this patchwork card and LOVED it. I wanted to recreate the same feeling and I’m excited to make other cards (non-Christmas ones, of course!) with paper scraps that I have lying around. I also love the idea of mixing patterns – I’m not brave enough to do it in my outfits, but darn it, I’m a freaking renegade with paper!

Created by the mastermind behind the Kifli és levendula Blog

Created by the mastermind behind the Kifli és levendula Blog

Here’s my version:

My take on the patchwork

My take on the patchwork style

I love how all of the patterns have some sort of snowflake element to them and that they’re all of the same colour families. This cardstock came in a pad of four different designs from Stampin’ Up, so I didn’t have to work too hard to make them co-ordinate. Regardless, I’m a pattern-mixing daredevil!

My third inspiration was a bit more complicated – repeat one shape to make another shape. In this case, I took my cue from this pretty card that used snowflakes to create a wreath:  

Created by Carol Longacre

Created by Carol Longacre

I don’t have a snowflake punch, but I do have a snowflake stamp. I also wanted to put the snowflakes in a different colour family – the traditional reds and greens of Christmas. Here is my snowflake wreath:

Voila! A little lopsided, but still the effect I wanted.

Voila! A little lopsided, but still the effect I wanted.

I used green and red ink to make the wreath, and used two different sizes of snowflake stamps – the bigger one for the greenery, and the smaller one for the berries. I added a line of washi tape along the left side and I put a stamped and punched element in the middle of the wreath because I felt it looked a little empty. I don’t know if I love the I ❤ Santa stamp with the wreath (I feel they are different pieces of the Christmas pie), but all in all it’s sweet and I do like the effect of the wreath. I also love that I had the forethought to draw a circle in light pencil before stamping so I was able to stamp a pretty-close-to-round shape. 😉 A light erase afterwards and y’all thought I was magic. (Note: I am.) (Second note: Clearly not infallibly magic – I still managed to put a dent in the top right of the circle…whatever.)

Sophie was so impressed by this, she made her own versions:

Created by my stamping prodigy, Sophie

Created by my stamping prodigy, Sophie

The final card that I was inspired by had snowflakes of a more rainbow variety:

Created by Karen Day

Created by Karen Day

I really like the snowflakes and the stark white background in this card. The effect is really lovely. This is what I came up with:

My snowflake rainbow

My snowflake rainbow

I LOVE how this card turned out and it is by far my favourite of the four. It’s hard to see here, but the card is a bright pink colour with a green outline. The snowflakes are pink, green, blue and yellow. The message is pink and blue. It’s so bright and cheery and I’m in love. It wasn’t hard to create at all. The trickiest piece was drawing a line from the left to the right edge on an angle so that I could control my snowflake fall. I knew without that guide, I’d be stamping all over the place. Again, I made the line in light pencil and erased it when I was done.

I had so much fun grown-up crafting during daylight hours with my girls. They seemed to love it as well, with both of them churning out some pretty impressive stamping for their first time.

Sophie was rather proud of this one.

Sophie was rather proud of this one.

This is what Lillian came up with once she stopped stamping on the stamp cleaning cloths...

This is what Lillian came up with once she stopped stamping on the stamp cleaning cloths…

We had Christmas music playing, all three of us took turns distracting and wrangling Isaac, and Ben was playing a video game. The perfect end to a busy weekend. Now, if we can just get the rain to stop here and bring back the snow, we’d be set for Christmas!

~ Julia

Wintery wonderland photo tips

My sisters gave me an assignment for this week’s blog post.

I love them and their ways of guiding me to my goals that I set for myself, although sometimes I hate to admit it.

Anyways so I was given a task…
Task

Then I thought about my teachers in college preparing us for every situation, especially snow. In fact, when my three friends and I decided to do our winterscape assignment, we decided to go out in a blizzard and some of us *cough* *Kate* *cough* decided it was a good idea to go into a field with two and a half feet of snow and get stuck!

For this post, I wrote out my list of stuff I was told to remember, and asked my friend Hanna to model for me. Because she loves me, she said yes!

Without further ado, here is my list of do’s and don’ts for this wintery wonderland we call home!

1. DRESS WARM!
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Yes, you may look a little silly, and your subject may want to have their coats off at times, but it is cold, and we don’t want to be blue in photos, even if that parka hides your figure, and makes you look boxy! Bring it anyways! Between shots, bundle up, drink some warm beverage and take it easy.

2. Remember COLOUR!!!
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Do not wear white in winter for photos. Cream is not bad. But, if you want your photos to look amazing, try for at least a pop of colour. Hanna had her red coat on and it was perfect against the stark background.

3. Keep an eye on backgrounds.
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Now this one is a year round one, but it has two meanings in winter for me. Be aware of what is in the background! You may think the photo looks amazing, but after when you are inside perusing your photos and see that you have trash cans in the background, you might be kicking yourself. I also bring up background because they can help you! Not just by adding to your subject matter, but also as a windbreaker! Use that wall to shield you from the wind! See that big maple over there? Yeah that tree! Have them lean against it and ta-da! Cuts out that snow glare and helps them see you instead of squinting at you! Which brings me to my next point…

4. Ah! Snow glare! Over exposure!
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The snow is white. I don’t think I have to tell you that, but I feel the need to remind you of it. Photographers use these things called reflectors – they come in gold, silver, white, and a couple other ways, but those three are my favourites. Taking photos in the snow is like stepping out into one big reflector! Just be aware your subject can look a little too ethereal with the help of all that snow! You are then over exposing your photo, which is not good. You can usually change the settings on a simple point and shoot camera, which are set for a bunch of different surroundings. Let them help you. Just remember that sometimes standing on the snow looks like you are standing on the sun, so use your presets or a light meter for your DSLR (Digital Single Lens Relex). They actually have light meters you can download for your phone if you don’t want to spring for the $100+ ones! Amazing, I know!

5. SUN POSITION
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It is so not fun getting your photo taken and having to squint through the sun at the photographer. Keep an eye on the sun position and change it up. Even moving three feet to your left (or right) can help you and your person. Hanna couldn’t stop laughing when I told her I had to blind her with the sun for a ‘what not to do’ photo.

We live in Canada, where we get snow for about 50% of our year, and I hope these tips can help you out with all your picture taking needs!

A huge thank you to Hanna for being my model – you were lovely! Even with the blinding light.

See! Nice photo, and I followed my tips!

See? Nice photo and I followed my tips. I love how you can see the snow falling!

~ Andreah

P.S. If you want more tutorials or have photography questions, leave a comment on this blog, and I’ll do my best to answer!

Salt cod and potatoes or Bacalhau à Gomes De Sà – WVS style

The youngest of the sisters had a recent birthday, and, for said birthday, requested a family favourite – salt cod and potatoes. Now, I have only known this recipe to be made the way that it was passed down from our Dad – and it seems he put his own twist on a Portuguese tradition.

We the sisters whose birthday it was not, decided to make a night out of making it – and a blog post. Please be warned we were all tired and on a sugar high. We do not suggest you do the same. Maybe make the dinner while sipping a gorgeous glass of wine – that would be what Maria would want!

Ingredients:

Salt cod   Salt cod is cod that has been preserved by drying and salting. We purchased it from a local grocery store that had a seafood department. The cod was sitting in a basket in front of the seafood counter. 

Potatoes – You can use any kind; we used the yellow fleshed potatoes. These just give it a nicer colour as you shove the delicious meal into your mouth.

Onions – Regular cooking onions will do. Be careful, though – your eyes will BURN for a lifetime afterwards.  

Paprika, Salt, Pepper, Garlic, EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)

We were making this recipe for an army – literally – so I am going to ask you to use your own discretion in regards to how much of each you use.

Step 1 – Salt cod needs to be soaked and drained in water in order to remove the salting process. Seems kinda silly since you are going to be adding salt back into the recipe, but trust me, you NEED to drain it. We suggest 24-48 hours, draining 3-4 times within that time frame, just depending on how salty you like it!

Salt Cod after it has been drained - YUMMMM

Salt cod after it has been drained – YUMMMM

TWO DAYS LATER  – I know I know, it seems like such a long time, but it is SOOOO worth it!

Step 2 – Prepare your ingredients by slicing the onions and the potatoes into rounds. We used a mandolin – not the small guitar-like instrument, but the vegetable slicer – there is a difference. I suggest you not go to Target like we did and run around the store making comments about the ridiculous price of some mandolins and the difference between the slicers and the guitars. Actually, scratch that. Don’t go to Target with two deliriously tired sisters while you yourself are tired and try to purchase anything. You will buy candy, pizza…and make friends with mean ladies in Echos…but I digress…back to the cod!

Mandolin - another tool on the list of tools Julia is not allowed to use.... oye

Mandolin – another tool on the list of tools Julia is not allowed to use…oy.

Our onions and potatoes

Our onions and potatoes…pay no attention to the large amount of candy…focus on the potatoes and onions.

FUN FACT – Onions make you cry. I know it’s not that fun and you all probably know about it, but what I bet you didn’t know is that those damn onions and their potent stench and burn TRAVEL!!! YEAH, that’s right, TRAVEL! Travel between rooms and across tables…seriously.

Tears... not happy ones, even though we look happy!

Tears…not happy ones, even though we look happy!

delirious...  they BURN people!!!

Delirious…they BURN people!!!

When you are cutting up all of your ingredients, you should probably have some kind of muscle around. We had Ben 🙂 He attacked our garlic, helped with the onion, listened to our insane midnight babble and tried to ignore the fact that he is stuck in this family and willingly married into it. MWAHAHAHAHAHA!

Ben - our muscle..

Ben – our resident muscle

Step 3 – Now that you have all your ingredients, it’s time to put them in the pan. You can use a glass casserole dish, which we would normally use, but since we were cooking for three families, we used a large portable oven. At this point you should probably preheat your oven to 350 F.

Now to create the deliciousness!!! Drizzle some EVOO on the bottom of the pan in order to try and stop any potatoes from burning.

EVOO - Extra virgin olive oil

EVOO – Extra virgin olive oil

Next take some potatoes and line the dish with the sliced potatoes standing up, then adding some onion, then a hunk of cod. Once you get in the groove, it gets easier. Just repeat the pattern. Try to put one side of the salt cod against onion, so that the flavours infuse…oooo I’m getting fancy!

Cod, onion, potato, cod, onion potato, cod, onion, potato.... and so on

Cod, onion, potato, cod, onion potato, cod, onion, potato…and so on

Continue the pattern until you have no more room! YUM YUM YUM!!!!!

Chop up your garlic. We used a whole head, but you only need about three to four cloves. Sprinkle them over the dish, trying to spread them out as much as possible.

Garlic - another Laurentino favorite

Garlic – another Laurentino favourite

Drizzle more of the golden juice from the olive gods all over pretty liberally. However, if you are using a glass dish, make sure you have some kind of drip tray under the dish when you put in into the oven, or else your oven will start to smoke, and you will have to explain to Cody that it was an accident, and it’s being taken care of as smoke billows out of the oven behind you. You will have to open up all the windows, and at this time of year, it’s not ideal!

MORRRREEE More EVOO

MORRRREEE more EVOO

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President’s Choice Smoked Paprika

Now, to season this dish! We used sea salt and pepper. Shake and sprinkle and season to your own liking. We also used smoked paprika, President’s Choice brand! Again, use it liberally, but to your own taste!

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Cover your dish in tin foil – this will help make the onions and the potatoes go soft and melt together. Throw it in the oven…okay, don’t actually throw it…place it in the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour. Check after an hour with a fork and push it into the potatoes – you want them to just fall apart. If there is any tension while poking them, cook them another 15 minutes.

Serve with a sprinkle of vinegar and you are good to ENJOY! Seriously soooo good!

Try it and let us know how you like it! From our kitchen to yours with love – Happy cooking!

Happy cooking, ladies!

Happy cooking, ladies!

~ Jacqui

Salt cod and potatoes (Bacalhau à Gomes De Sà) - WVS Style

  • Servings: 1 glass 9x13 casserole dish, or 1 roaster oven, your choice!
  • Difficulty: worth the effort
  • Print

Ingredients

salt cod
potatoes
onions
garlic
salt and pepper to taste
EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
smoked paprika

Directions

Soak salt cod in cold water in a bowl in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours, changing out water 3 to 4 times. Drain and set aside in a bowl. Wash and peel potatoes, then slice using a mandolin to make rounds. Set aside in another bowl. Peel onions, then slice using a mandolin to make rounds. Set aside in another bowl. Chop garlic and place into a fourth bowl. Cut salt cod into chunks about the same size as the potato pieces. Put back in its bowl. Preheat oven to 350°F. Drizzle EVOO over the bottom of the cooking dish. Arrange potatoes, onions, and cod pieces into dish, standing them up on one end, creating rows of a repeating pattern. If possible, put onion pieces on either side of potatoes and cod. Sprinkle garlic pieces all over the casserole. Drizzle with more EVOO. Season with salt, pepper and smoked paprika, to taste. Cover with foil and put in oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Casserole is finished when potatoes are fork tender. Serve with a bit of vinegar, if you’d like. Enjoy!

Craving silence

I have to chuckle at the irony of my choice in topic for this post as it seems there has been a lot of silence from me lately here on the blog.

I refuse to complain and wallow, so I will not rehash the current, lasting WAY longer than I wished difficult patch I have hit in life. I will get through, as I always do.

Missing my blogging outlet got me thinking of the other fundamental activity that I have so dearly missed – silence.

Or rather, the act of sitting, reveling and centering myself in silence.

Tews Falls, Ontario

Tews Falls, Ontario

Some people wrestle with it, just can’t stop themselves from filling the gaps, the blanks, the pauses. They crave the noise, the distractions, the interruptions. It is as though they struggle with a subconscious fear of facing the quiet. I find that as I grow, mature and evolve, this is where I have began to thrive. I’ve realized there is a certain level of self-awareness that comes from being able to be absolutely still, quiet, in the moment, right where you are, without worrying about finding something to keep busy or become consumed by.

Being at peace with the quiet is even more rewarding when you are able to do so with another person. I had a hyper aware moment of this recently – driving down the 401, returning from a trip to Windsor, I could not help but note just how at ease I was with the silence between myself and my travel companion. I did not for one minute of that almost three hour trek home worry about what to say next to make the moments seem full, or feel the pressure to entertain someone else with banter. It was just them and me, the whir of the tires on the pavement and the shared love of the albums rolling through the iPod set on shuffle.

The trick that my generation – well the majority of North Americans in general, really – just cannot get right is that the quiet is where the fullness is found. The stillness is where the relief is found. Much like the rest in a piece of music that hits you at just the right moment, the pauses hold the golden moments.

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It has been easy for me to notice the  importance of silence recently. With my insane-o schedule, overwhelming, constant connection through technology, constantly being on and stress levels through the roof, the ache and nostalgia for the quiet has been sneaking up on me and getting stronger as these weeks carry and continue to pile on. The desire to spend time alone, or at least to enjoy simplistic moments together with those I consciously choose to spend my limited time with, has only gotten stronger.

It has recently had me forcing Michael to get in the car and drive over an hour to Grimsby so I could sit in silence at the edge of the escarpment for an hour. It has recently had me sounding like my father, complaining of the noise of the world blaring through the ‘idiot box’ when Michael instinctively flicks it on a minute after he walks in the door, while I have been home for over two hours alone, taking in the silence. It has recently had me crawling out of my skin, itching for my centre, wishing the warmer weather hadn’t gone so quickly, taking the beauty of the summer and fall with it.

Grimsby, Ontario overlooking Lake Ontario

Grimsby, Ontario overlooking Lake Ontario

I find I am better able to work through problems that are plaguing me when I am able to turn off, shut down and disconnect. I don’t even necessarily have to spend a moment thinking about the issue directly, and when I return to the somewhat unsettling state of modern ‘reality’ I am better prepared to deal with the conundrum because I took pause. I am better prepared to take on the every day hustle and bustle with a little more patience than normal.

I guess you could count this practice as a form of meditation, a time to spend with just myself. My desire to unplug I feel can only be explained by my rural upbringing, however it could also be chalked up to my ever growing distaste for our society’s ever so “evolved” lifestyle – limiting the time we spend completing and participating in the truly important things in life, and maximizing the time we spend at the office, or on our devices or staring at the TV. Even as I write this now, Michael is plugged into his iPhone, playing a game, with the television on in the background while I am curled up with a dog on my lap and laptop on my dog, trying to get this post out, before I a) lose the idea all together or b) get caught with my proverbial blog post-pants around my ankles and not have anything written come Tuesday morning.

IMG_0346-0

As the incredibly talented (read: sexy), incredibly enlightened (read: great voice), incredibly wise (read: very handsome) Tim McGraw once crooned, “what I wouldn’t give for a slow down, don’t ya know?

~Toni

*Update: Since the writing of this post my prayers have been answered and what I am trusting to be the new and correct direction for me has been revealed, allowing for plenty of stillness and silence.  I’ll fill you in more in the coming weeks; however, in the meantime, if you’re looking for someone to complete some freelance marketing work, I’m your girl! Contact me here via the comments and I will be sure to email you shortly. ~ Toni

WVS Gift Guide for the Geek

Oh, it’s coming.

Can you feel it?

The Christmas season is ramping up. And that means that Christmas shopping is beginning…or, if you’re one of those people, it’s over already and you’re sitting under your cozy blanket, sipping your cocoa, watching Christmas movies smugly while the rest of us are still in brainstorming mode.

Here at the Sisterhood, we’re in full Christmas mode. Some of the sisters and babies went to the local Santa Claus parade this past weekend, we’ve made plans to decorate a tree together, as has been the tradition for the past few years, and sugarplum visions are definitely dancing.

Lillian and Sophie with their boosters

Lillian and Sophie with their boosters

So, what to get the loved ones in your life? The hard-to-buy-for? The have-everythings? We’re here to help! For the next few weeks, each sister will give you a gift guide to help cross people off your list or add stocking stuffers you might not have thought of.

My gift guide is for the geek in your life, the kid that never grew up, the adult who loves their toys – a.k.a. Ben.

It’s tough buying for a geek when you are not a geek yourself. If you don’t speak Warhammer or Game of Thrones or Star Wars, what the heck do you do, short of asking for a detailed, specific list, including where to buy such things?

And Ben is like most geeks: he’s particular. He likes what he likes and nothing else. This can be a blessing or a curse. On the one hand, you can’t just go to Google, type in ‘gifts for geeks’ and pick something willy-nilly. You’ve got to know your stuff. In fact, when I was coming up with this gift guide, I had to ask him clarifying questions about which games he played and what systems he subscribed to. Geeks are TOUGH. But, it also means they have likes – there’s nothing worse than trying to buy for someone who just doesn’t care. My biggest tip? Before purchasing anything, double check what you should be buying. You don’t want to get a Star Trek hoodie just to discover your geek likes Star Wars. TRUST ME.

For my geek, I wanted to get things that could be useful and fun – we have kids and limited funds, so purchasing hundreds of dollars worth of miniature-painting items make no sense. He has no time, our babies would eat everything, and I want more bang for my buck.

Ben likes to build things. If Isaac were older, we’d totally have Lego building parties, but since we’re still in Lego-can-kill-the-baby stage, we are firmly in Mega Bloks land. But, saying we were in the tiny building block stage, I would totally get Ben some Lego.

Like this Lego Minecraft set. I asked him which one and he said The Forest. And then he started to hum and ha about it. So, I’d get him a couple. And then maybe a gift card for more. Because what do I know?!

Lego Minecraft - The Forest

Lego Minecraft – The Forest

Something I do know about is coffee. This Build-On Brick Mug is perfect for the block lover on your list. It’s practical (CAFFEINE) and fun! It also works with whatever block set you have, so you don’t have to buy new blocks to work with your new mug. Win-win.

Build-On Brick Mug

Build-On Brick Mug

Beyond Lego, I can see Ben and our babies (after they’re all done swallowing screws and small parts) building other things together, like this catapult. I’m not saying I would condone such projects, but I think they’d have an absolute blast putting something like this together and then shooting things across the house. At me. Maybe this shouldn’t be on the gift list.

Catapult Kit

Catapult Kit

My geek LOVES t-shirts. Would wear them all day, every day, if his job didn’t require a collar. This t-shirt is totally him – it’s graphic, doesn’t have a crazy saying on it that he couldn’t wear everywhere, and it’s from The Big Bang Theory, one of his favourite shows.

Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock, anyone?

Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock, anyone?

He also likes to cook. And he’s in charge of all the knives in our house (read: I can’t be trusted). I saw this knife set and knew it was over the top. And expensive. But, if money were no object and I didn’t care about our home decor (I legitimately don’t – my design ethic is ‘won’t kill yourself walking around’), this would be the knife block I would get him. Note that it’s Star Wars and NOT Star Trek.

Star Wars X-Wing Knife Block

Star Wars X-Wing Knife Block

Maybe he could whip up a fitting lunch to go in this geeky lunch bag. Chemistry, anyone?

Periodic Lunch Bag

Periodic Lunch Bag

To go with his super nerdy lunch, Ben could also take this scientist-fueled calendar, based on the popular Mythbusters show, and put it on his desk at work. A myth busted every day? With scientific explanations? GEEK-HEAVEN. Maybe not great for productivity, though…

Mythbusters Page-A-Day Calendar

Mythbusters Page-A-Day Calendar

Ben and his family love playing board games together. It’s a little daunting playing with them since they have been doing it for so long and have this secret language and code, especially when playing Clue (I’m SO out of my league!). Ben and I have been having weekly date nights and for some of them we play a game or two. The last game we played was chess, whereby Ben whooped my butt a hundred times. The board we used is mine from high school and it’s missing a pawn, the felt is wearing, and the board is starting to fall apart. I love the look of this board, it folds up nice and small, and would be a welcome upgrade to the ghetto one we have.

Vintage Chess Set  - so Ben can kick  my ass in style!

Vintage Chess Set – so Ben can kick my ass in style!

His love and skill for chess stems from his number-minded brain. I work in words, he works in digits, sums, and math (gross). This numbers puzzle would be right up his alley. Not mine.

Aristotle's Number Puzzle

Aristotle’s Number Puzzle

My geek also has the weird addition of being a jock. And that piece of his nerdom can’t be ignored. He’s an avid football (NFL, not European) fan, and specifically LOVES the Baltimore Ravens (something about defenses and his high school football career and other stuff). He also likes biking, as in, bicycling to work. This backpack would be perfect – branded with his team and big enough to carry all of his work clothes so he’s not sweaty and gross all day.

Baltimore Ravens Black Trooper Backpack

Baltimore Ravens Black Trooper Backpack

I almost wish that I hadn’t already bought Ben his Christmas present this year (Toni, Jacqui and I are taking our football-loving boys to a Baltimore Ravens game in December!), because I would definitely be getting him items off of this list. Ah well, there’s always next year!

~ Julia

Gratitude

Canada is a pretty amazing place to live.

We have diverse and beautiful lands, cultures and communities. We are all incredibly free here, and the entire reason for that is because it was fought for.

Remembrance Day should be a year-round thing. Yes, it is wonderful that we have a specific day to commemorate all our troops past and present, and what they have done for us, what they always do for us. I just know, that for me, it is not just once year – it is, and should be, an everyday thankfulness for everything we have.

We are lucky.

And I want to say thank you.

Thank you for letting our religious beliefs be so diverse in this country and that every one of us has the right to practice our faith and celebrate our religions.

Thank you for letting us have the ability to marry whomever we want and love whomever we choose. That is a truly amazing gift and acceptance that we have fought for and won.

Thank you for letting our different backgrounds and cultures be celebrated. We are so blessed that we can keep traditions given to us from our families and that we are able to continue to pass them down to our future generations.

Thank you.

Thank you for fighting for our right to be different and our right to celebrate our differences.

Without our troops, our soldiers, we couldn’t be where we are, we would not have the acceptance we have today, and we wouldn’t and couldn’t have such an amazing country.

Thank you.

Let us never forget what they have done and always keep this day in our hearts throughout the year and show our gratitude for our soldiers.

And thank you from the bottom of my heart for your amazing service. I just hope we can show that to you constantly.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields

~ Andreah

For today, tomorrow and yesterday – thank you!

Yesterday, just as every day, was a day to remember: to look at our past and think of those who died and fought for our future. And although yesterday was officially marked as Remembrance Day, we should still hold all those men and women who have died for our freedom in our hearts and thoughts.

To forget them would mean that we have forgotten how free we are in Canada. It is because of them that we are privileged to live in the beautiful country we call Canada.

Poppy's

In elementary school, it was never properly explained what Remembrance Day was. There was a moment of silence – a staple on November 11th – and a possible movie or video shown in the gym, but the magnitude of what the soldiers have done for us never fully hit me.

Every year, the week leading up to Remembrance Day the History channel screens small documentaries on WWI, WWII, and the Vietnam War. Suddenly I get a second chance to learn my country’s history, and learn of the men and women who served for Canada.

There is no old and out dated book in front of me to write an essay out of, there is no teacher grading my knowledge of the occurrences, but just simply me and those veterans who are brave enough to tell their story for anyone who will listen, so we can remember and never forget.

On the left is Cody's Grandfather, he fought in the second World War - and never spoke of what he saw, or experienced. We remember for all the veterans.  This is the only picture we have of him.

On the left is Cody’s Grandfather. He fought in WWII and never spoke of what he saw, or experienced. We remember for all the veterans.
This is the only picture we have of him.

Remembering is all they ask for – remembering, and never forgetting. It seems so simple, and yet there are many soldiers’ stories who will never be heard, there are those whose names have been forgotten, whose faces are distant.

For all those who have lost parents, grandparents, cousins, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends – thank you.

For those currently serving – thank you.

For those who will serve – thank you.

You have fought for and will fight for Canada, for our freedom!

Lest we forget.

~ Jacqui