I’m a bad bad blogger…

The customary (and very yummy) ice cream Birthday cake.

Life has been busy.  Very busy it seems.  The boy has been in school for a month now, and after a somewhat rocky start, he now hops on the bus with a “Bye!  Have a good day!” I now breathe while he is at school instead of watching the clock all day wondering how he is doing with a constant pain in my chest.  So we’re doing good.

I turned 35.  That was interesting.  I actually had a wonderful Birthday weekend.  I am extremely lucky to have amazing family and friends.  The number of Facebook posts, e-mails, e-cards, texts and phone calls that I received on the day was awesome.  I felt very loved.  I was able to have brunch with my dearest friend and hang out with her for a little while, which is always wonderful.  We had dinner with friends the night before and dinner with family the night of.  I’m very fortunate.

So between life, school, work, eating Birthday cake and premiere week of all my Shondaland shows, I’ve been pretty busy.  Which also means I’ve been a bad blogger.  I’ve not been a blogger at all.  I have a couple of book reviews to do, some recipes to post, and I’m sure a rant or two to share.

Life doesn’t look like it’s slowing down too much.  I’ve got a busy weekend ahead and then it’s off to Niagara Falls next week to celebrate 10 years of wedded bliss.  October always seems to be a busy month for us, and this one doesn’t look like it’s going to be much different.  Busy, but in a good way, with lots of good stuff going on.

I hope everyone is having a great fall, one of my favourite seasons.  Hey! It’s only 12 or so weeks till Christmas! 😉

Music is Life

Truer words have never been spoken. Music is life, and it frames our lives. At least it does mine.

It is part of almost everything I do. Driving from one place to another, doing housework, sitting at my desk at work, any form of exercise I can squeak out, mowing the lawn, having dinner with friends, it's there. Be it faintly in the background, or blaring in my ears, it's there. It carries me along through my tasks.

It is in the framework of my life. It sparks memories. There are songs associated with every person and place and time in my life. I have many fond, wonderful memories of my Pepere, but when the song “He'll Have to Go” by Jim Reeves comes up on my shuffle list, I can literally see him sitting back in his chair, smoking his pipe and enjoying the song. Any Fats Domino comes on and I immediately think of my Dad. Glen Miller “In the Mood,” and I can see Memere and Pepere cutting a rug like no other. There are so many songs that remind me of my Mom as well. Anything by Hank Williams Sr. or Charlie Pride, The Twist, and she's taken a recent liking to “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.” Oh my…

I literally have a song associated with every relationship/love interest/infatuation I've ever had in my life. I turn on “Ray of Light” by Madonna, and I am literally back in the summer of 1998. 20 years old, the first summer of my relationship with Joe. Happy, not a care in the world, zipping around London with the top down and loving life.

I love all kinds of music. If I put a full shuffle on my playlist, you will hear quite a mixture of different genres. You'll hear some oldies, old style country, new style country, 60's, 70's – thanks Auntie Colette, lots from the 80's 90's, and current. You'll come across lots of show tunes, some gospel music, hip hop, etc, etc.

Spice Girls, Ozzy Osbourne, Roy Orbison, Guns N' Roses, Dolly Parton, Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, Metallica, New Kids on the Block, ZZ Top, Patsy Cline, the list goes on. Then of course you're bound to stumble across a Backyardigans tune and a Mugglenet podcast here and there. Several Broadway musicals, and TONS of Glee – you can imagine that show is right up my alley. 🙂

Few things spark emotions in me the way music does. A well placed song will spark tears (good ones or bad ones) – thinking about parts in movies that made me cry when I watched them will not make me cry again. Hearing the music that was played during that part of the movie – almost sure to make me cry again.

Music connects people. It runs through every culture in every part of the world. It is played at gatherings, weddings, funerals, celebrations, things that bring people together. It is woven throughout society everywhere.

You'll know if you read this post from a while ago, that I had been away from going to church for quite a while. When Joe and I were dating and around the time of our marriage, we used to attend chruch in London and I loved it. The choir there was great, and they often used to sing a particular hymn called “You are the Voice.” It is a wonderful hymn, and when the choir there used to sing it, I felt like I could rise up through the rafters. We got married in that church and I made sure it was played during our wedding mass. The book that it was in was not at our local parish and I had never heard it before going there and did not expect to hear it again unless we went back to the London parish. Sitting in the pew with my Mom and Nicholas waiting for mass to start on my first Sunday back and the choir was singing a few songs. You can probably guess what I'm going to say next: if they didn't break into “You are the Voice.” I sat there in astonishment for a few seconds before my eyes filled – gosh I'm a crybaby. To me, that felt like God himself was reaching down from Heaven and using the best way He could with me to say: “Hey kid, welcome back.”

I'm seeing this love that I have being passed on to my son. He of course has been exposed to music since before he was born, kicks increasing drastically whenever “Alberta” by Eric Clapton would come on in the car. When he was very little, singing to him was the only way to get him to fall asleep. Now that he's older, he loves to sing – though he needs to work on his pitch a little 😉 and dance. His favourite show since he was 6 months old is the Backyardigans, and I'm sure that is because along with being very bright and colourful, it is full of singing and dancing. I try to encourage this in him, hoping that someday maybe he'll even take up an instrument, something that I have always wished I had done, but never had the opportunity.

So many songs have made an impact on my life, but I thought I would share a few here.

One of my favourites – Mama I'm Coming Home by Ozzy Osbourne. I never get tired of hearing it, playing it loud, belting it out. It always astonished me how he could go from being well, Ozzy – to having the most amazing voice when he sang.

Another one that brings back memories, for me and I'm sure for my Mother, because she had to hear it on repeat 50,000 times when I was in High School when I was pining over someone or another, was November Rain by Guns N' Roses. I'm sure she would still recognize it and roll her eyes after just the first few bars.

The Phantom of the Opera was the first piece of musical theatre I was ever exposed to. I was in Grade 6, and our music teacher taught us about the musical. I became slightly obsessed. It remains one of my favourites to this day. I saw it nine times in Toronto before it closed. It also introduced me to the voice of Michael Crawford, the original Phantom, who I still worship and would probably pay a very large sum of money to see live if I ever had the opportunity. It led to a deep love and appreciation for musical theatre, and I have seen many shows since.

 

There are so many more that have impacted me, that have made me into the person I am today, and I'm sure that there will be many more in the years to come. As Darren Criss, an extremely talented individual from Glee says above: “The cool thing about music is that no one can take it away from you.” This is so true. Music is so widespread, yet it is such an individual thing, a personal thing. A truly wonderful, magical, inspiring thing.

I would love to hear about how music has shaped you, helped you, formed you. Please feel free to hit the comments with your experiences.

Chicken Mushroom Alfredo Bake

I was in the mood for some creamy comfort food yesterday, so I wandered around the grocery store throwing things in my basket with a general idea in mind. I came home and made this. It's a keeper for sure.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 bag Penne – cooked
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 – 2 lb mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 jars Classico roasted garlic Alfredo sauce or similar
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1 – 2 tbsp margarine or butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Directions:

Clean chicken, and pound out slightly between plastic wrap to make thinner. Season with salt and pepper and brown each side in hot olive oil over medium high heat. Remove to a small plate and set aside. Add mushrooms to pan and sauté until slightly tender. Cube chicken and add it and whatever juices have rendered back to the pan.

Add sauce, cheese, and cooked pasta. Stir until all pasta is evenly coated. Pour into 9×13 baking dish.

Combine margarine, garlic and breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over pasta mixture.

Bake in a preheated 400° oven for about 20 minutes, until breadcrumbs have browned nicely.

This is quick, easy, and great warmed up as leftovers too.

 

Tired. Very very tired.

I could just totally nod off.

I’ll admit, since the end of August, I’ve been going through quite a few emotions. I had an amazing vacation, though it was very busy, and I spent much of it worrying about Nicholas starting school. September has been all over the place, we’ve been busy with friends and family, celebrating Birthdays, getting Nicholas off to school. He has been three days now (he still goes every other day) and seems to be doing okay. Considering how he normally is, the fact that he’s getting on the bus and going to school at all is a huge thing for him.

So it’s been busy, emotional, and I haven’t been sleeping well. I have no problems falling asleep, just staying that way. I’m very restless. So because of that I spend half my time yawning.

Partially, I think it’s because this has been such a huge change for Nicholas – cutting out the afternoon nap, starting school, he’s been tired and very cranky sometimes. I think being overwhelmed with this whole thing has been part of what has been causing some of the constant meltdowns that we’ve been dealing with for the last couple of weeks.

Things should improve though. Nicholas is getting a little better every day with school, I’ve got some time booked off in October for a little mini-vacay to Niagara Falls for Joe and I to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. 10 years! Wow. I see a blog post in the making there.

Not much else to pass on, just providing a little update on how things are going because I know I haven’t checked in for a while. I have to start making some amazing food or reading some fabulous books so I have more to talk about than my boring old life. 😉

Hope you’re having an amazing Friday, and have a wonderful weekend. I’ll leave you with an amazing video that I first saw this morning. It’s from the X-Factor UK, and it’s a guy named Christopher Maloney, who is so nervous he can hardly audition. His story, and his audition make me want to give him a big hug. He’s so talented, and so humble. What a wonderful story.

Well that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do

My big strong brave boy

Well, the first day of school has come and gone.  I had done a really good job of blocking the whole thing out of my mind, pushing aside the emotional part of it out of my head until the last possible minute.

We got up yesterday morning, he had his breakfast, brushed his teeth, washed his face, and got dressed.  He threw on his backpack and we took off down the street.

I really worried that him getting on the bus would be a problem.  I didn’t need to worry about that, he got on without a problem and sat down next to his friend.  The bus door closed and off it went.

So this was the last possible minute.  At this point, I couldn’t hold it in any longer.  I literally sobbed off all my makeup all the way home.  I was so happy that he got on the bus without a problem, but watching him through the bus window made my heart break to see my baby without me.  He was fine, but I know him well enough to know that he was stressing.  He’s an only child that has never been to daycare.  He is shy, and often has separation anxiety.  The boy was stressing.  But he was brave and did wonderful.

I talked to the teacher, and he did have some anxiety through the day and tended to attach himself to the teacher all day long.  His behaviour was typical of him, and I wasn’t surprised to hear any of it.  Overall, considering how overwhelming it must have felt to him, he did great.  Time will help, and the more comfortable he gets with the environment and the people, the better he will do.

We met him at the bus stop and he got off the bus and gave me a big hug.  If I hadn’t talked to the teacher, I never would have known that he had any anxiety at all.  He proclaimed how much he LOVED school as we made our way home.

This Mommyhood thing sure is an emotional roller coaster.  I feel like we’ve just left the gate.  Lots more to come. 🙂

 

Steve Jobs – Book Review – and a Little More

This man was a genius. He was also an asshole. Eccentric to the max.

Never have I felt so compelled to really not like someone, yet have an unprecedented amount of respect for them.

You know if you read this post that I am a tech geek. I love all things tech and have been having a love affair with Apple for years now.  I have had several iPods, am working on my second iPhone, and am a huge fan of the iPad.  For the time being, it has taken the place of a personal computer in my house.  I have Mac envy, and especially with the release of the latest generation Macbook Pro, I am saving my pennies more than ever.  I NEED one of these machines.

I love Apple, their products, their philosophies, and have sat captivated watching many keynotes from product launches, WWDCs, etc. watching them work their magic.  I like Tim Cook, and all the folks at Apple, for their passion and dedication to their products, but watching Steve Jobs take the stage at so many of these events, and watching his charisma take over the entire room, led me to develop a huge respect for him and a real desire to learn more about his story.

On October 5th 2011, we were at a party at a friends house, and I had the rare opportunity to chat with a few folks about techie things.  This was amazing.  We talked quite a bit about about Apple, their  products, and the announcement about the iPhone 4S the previous day.  We discussed Steve Jobs, his resignation from the position of CEO due to health reasons, and the impact he had made on the company.  When Joe and I got in the car to go home, I pulled out my phone to check Twitter, and was devastated to see that my stream was clogged with the news that Jobs had died.  I found it so ironic and yet fitting that we should be sitting and having a conversation about Apple and its products at the very time that his death was being announced to the world.  Many people will always remember where they were when Kennedy was shot, when Elvis died, when Princess Diana died.  I add to my list Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Steve Jobs.

Naturally, when it was announced that his biography would be published, it went to the top of my to-read list.  I don’t usually go out and buy hardcover, so I was delighted to find it under the Christmas tree last year.  I was very excited to read it, but it is 571 pages, plus notes, acknowledgments and index, so I wanted to read it at a time where I would be able to dedicate large chunks of time to reading it.  What better time then when I have a weeks vacation??  So it sat unopened until last week when I hardly had any time to read.  I was determined to finish it though and spent quite a bit of time reading over the long weekend to finish it.

What an amazing read.  Walter Issacson, a known biographer, shows a no-holds-barred account of Jobs’ life.  There is no sugar coating here, and from what the book says, Jobs and his family wanted it that way.  Jobs encouraged him to interview people, and encouraged those people to be open and honest with him.  That I think is why this book was so good.  It was honest.

All geniuses are eccentric.  All you have to do is look back through history to see that the most brilliant minds are all a little “off” to a certain extent.  Steve Jobs was no different.  He was an LSD dropping hippie type dropout that didn’t shower much, had bizarre eating habits, tended to cry a lot, and had quite a knack for ignoring things that he didn’t want to deal with.  He basically abandoned his eldest daughter, denying responsibility for her for years.  He would walk up to something that someone had been working on for weeks, months, etc., and declare it “a piece of shit.”  He worked his people to the point of exhaustion to get a product launched within a time frame that he thought was acceptable, and was definitely not above losing it on a regular basis – sometimes for no apparent reason.

What he also possessed though, was an uncanny knack for knowing what worked.  He took one look at what Steve Wozniak was developing and knew that it was the start of something great.  A true minimalist, he appreciated beauty and simplicity in devices.  As most people who know about Apple know, he believed in a “closed” system, where the software and hardware are tightly linked.  In other words, Apple does not license it’s software to other companies like others (Microsoft, for example) do.  So if you want Apple’s software, you’re buying an Apple machine.  You’ll never see Apple’s software running on “some other company’s crappy machine.”  Personally, I prefer this, and believe that Apple makes beautiful devices.  Open platforms are advancing and many say that the gap between Apple and Android has been officially closed with the release of Android’s latest – Jellybean.  I’ve never had the opportunity to play with a device running Jellybean, so I can’t weigh in honestly.  Jobs though, had the idea that in order for the user to fully enjoy each device to its full capacity, Apple must have full control over the experience, from the software to the hardware, to the apps, etc.

It was so interesting to read about Jobs.  How his erratic behaviour and disagreements with various individuals got him ousted from Apple, and his journey back, his experiences with Pixar and Disney, and how he took a company that was basically 90 days from insolvency to being the most valuable company on the planet.  It is an amazing story, and from someone who owns these devices, such a wonderful opportunity to see the thought processes and the development that went into them.  It’s unbelievable to me that they were getting ready to launch the iPhone when they suddenly decided that it wasn’t right, and scrapped the whole design to start over.  Or that the iPad was actually already in the works before they launched the iPhone.

If you’re even remotely interested in tech and the life of Steve Jobs, I highly recommend this book.  It is a truly honest look at the man, the father, the husband, the friend.  It’s also a huge insight into the company that was the true love of his life – Apple.

I first saw the video below after Jobs had passed away.  It is from 2005, and it is a commencement address that Jobs gave for Stanford University.  The story behind how this speech got written is very cool and outlined in this book.  It is truly one of the most inspiring speeches I have ever heard and if you’ve never watched it before, I urge you to take the time to do so.

One of the most brilliant things Steve Jobs ever said was that he never did any market research. “The consumer doesn’t know what they want until we show it to them.  Henry Ford once said – ‘If I had asked the people what they wanted, they would have told me they wanted faster horses.’ ”  True innovation – that’s what he was all about.

‘Twas the Night Before Vacation Ended…

Summer lovin

Here we are. Summer is over. Okay, summer is not officially over, but come on, everyone looks at Labour Day weekend as the last long weekend of the summer. The kids start back to school tomorrow (mine starts Thursday), the nights are getting cooler, the mornings are getting cooler. When you drive down the road, you see the odd tree with the leaves turning already.

Not to say that's it's going to snow tomorrow. Heck, I can even see myself getting to the beach a couple more times in September. But the feeling is there. It's in the air. Fall is coming. I'm not complaining. Of all the seasons, fall is probably my favourite. I love walking outside with jeans and a sweatshirt on. I love the feeling of the crispness in the air. The leaves turning is inspiring and beautiful to me.

It's back to work for me tomorrow. I've had an amazing 10 days off. It's been full, but not to the point where I feel like I haven't had a vacation. We've spent plenty of time out and about, with a few veg days thrown in for good measure. Actually, the last couple of days we've been home, and I have to say….between the kid, and the dog…and the husband, if I wasn't going back to work tomorrow, I may have already said a few things that I would regret later. They are all starting to get on my nerves.

I got some stuff done. Some school shopping – I think we're pretty much ready – got the dog a haircut – I started and finished the biography of Steve Jobs. I got this book for Christmas and said that I wanted to read it on my vacation, when I would have time to dedicate to it. I totally didn't have much time at all to dedicate to it, but I finished it anyway today, and for sure in the very near future, I will be posting a review on it.

My kid starts school on Thursday. I have no idea how this is going to go, and though I'm thinking about it quite a bit, I'm trying not to dwell on it too much. If I really try to wrap my head around it, the waterworks will start. I'm thinking about it, but trying to block out the emotion of it until the day. It's hard, but so far I'm doing okay.

So back to work tomorrow to put in my vacation request for the first week of October. I hope I don't have a problem getting it – we will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary that week and I really want to be able to go away. Since our 5th we haven't done much more than go out for dinner, which has been fine, but for 10 years, I think we should do something to mark it. It should be special.

I hope everyone has had an amazing long weekend. Labour Day is definitely one of my favourite long weekends of the year. I hope that it marks the end of an amazing summer for everyone, and the start of a wonderful fall.

Till later 🙂