Summer’s Here

Copyright 2013 - Aaron Pellerin
Copyright 2013 – Aaron Pellerin

I’ve spent some time away from this blog.  I’ve been journaling a bit lately, but that’s it.  There’s lots of stuff going on, but at the same time I feel like I don’t have anything to write, and I don’t want to put stuff out there unless it means something – at least to me.  

So summer is here.  Beach and pool season is upon us.  Time ticks on…it literally seems like yesterday that it was Christmas, and a week ago that my son started school.  Now we’re into July, his first year of school is over, and he’ll be entering Senior Kindergarten in September.  Full days, every day.  It’ll be a big adjustment for him, and for us.  I think we’ll all do fine though.

Summer is my official favourite time of year.  I always used to say that Fall was my favourite season, and it is definitely up there, but in the last few years, my family and I have started frequenting the beach, and I have to say – summer has stolen my heart.

The beach never used to be a big deal for me.  I hated the sand caught in everything, the having to walk and carry everything from your car parked a mile away down to the water, the semi-clean lake, the buff bikini bods prancing around everywhere making you wish you had brought more towels to cover yourself with.  Also, most of the beaches we went to got deep fairly quick so I spent the majority of the time listening to my mother shout: “Bring it in Danielle!  A little closer to shore!!”  I’m quite a strong swimmer, but she is not, so it definitely worried her when I was too far out of her reach.  Even as I got older.

All that has changed in the last couple of years.  Nicholas was born in May, so honestly, he didn’t get out into the pool too much during his first year.  Since you’re not supposed to put sunscreen on kids less than 6 months old, I spent the majority of that first summer in the shade, making sure his sensitive baby skin wasn’t overexposed to the suns rays.  His second summer was a little better, we spent some time in my parents’ pool, but again, he was so little, that the majority of the time in the water was spent with me holding him and the rest of the time was spent with me worrying that he would fall in the water.  Very nerve wracking. I was identifying with my Mother and how worried she always was about me.

The last couple of years though, we have discovered the beach.  One Saturday we just packed up the car, and took a drive out to Kettle Point to spend the day.  Now let me tell you a little about Kettle Point that makes it perfect, and how it gets past some of the crappy beach stuff that I listed above.  First of all – the sand thing – well, it’s a beach, so there’s no really getting rid of that.  But it’s harder packed sand, so it does cut down a bit on the sand getting into everything.

Another nice thing about this beach is that you drive right up to the water.  A totally new concept for me, you just simply drive your vehicle across the sand, and up to the water.  Pop open your trunk or hatch filled with all your beach stuff, and badda bing, badda boom, you’re done!  No carting all your stuff for miles before you get to the water.  It’s great.  It’s also filled with lots of families, not just the young, buff, “look at me” crowd.

The best thing though, and the reason why I love to take my son there, is that it stays shallow forever.  There is no sudden drop, and you can walk out quite a while before the water even hits your waist.  This is awesome for kids, and I can sit comfortably by the water’s edge and let my son play (luckily he doesn’t venture too far on his own yet) without worrying that he is going to fall into the pool.  I still make him wear his PFD and I along with whoever is with me watch him like a hawk, but he is perfectly content to play in the shallow water and play with the waves as they come in.

The beach has become a source of great joy for me and for my family.  I can literally sit for hours in the non-humid climate, letting the breeze hit me and soak up vitamin D.  The sound of the water is so soothing for me, it is truly my happy place.  Last year I took a vacation day from work, and I spent the entire afternoon at Kettle Point, all by myself.  I sat and read, listened to music, watched the water, swam a bit, probably nodded off a bit.  It was awesome for me and I totally plan to do it again this year.

We’ve made it to the beach once so far this year, and have several plans to go again.  Nothing beats that first breath of air that hits you when you first step out of the car onto the sand.

Do you love summer?  Are you a beach or pool person?  Or would you rather be snowshoeing? Please feel free to hit up the comments.

Have a great summer – and don’t forget your sunscreen.  The sun is awesome, but we must respect it the same way we do the water.

Trifle – Tiramisu Style

TiramisuI love this recipe.  It’s beautiful to look at, and as Paula Deen always says – “we eat with our eyes first.”  It’s also delicious, which helps as well.  It’s slightly adapted from a Kraft Canada recipe.  I love the Kraft website and magazine.  It’s filled with recipes that are quick, tasty, and have ingredients that are accessible.

This is more of a trifle than actual tiramisu – as the traditional tiramisu has mascarpone and lady fingers, etc.  This is quicker, cheaper, and a little milder than the traditional recipe.

I made and served this on Saturday night.  It was a perfect compliment to my Chicken Marsala, and was quick to whip up on Saturday afternoon.  Highly recommend.

Ingredients

1 block cream cheese, softened

2 pkg of instant vanilla pudding powder

3 cups cold milk

2 cups cool whip

1 pkg – Mr. Christie Nilla biscuits – you won’t use the whole box, but they’re great for snacking.

1/2 cup strong brewed coffee. I brewed a Tassimo disc of espresso and then just topped up to the 1/2 cup with hot water.

2 squares semi-sweet chocolate – coarsely grated.

raspberries for garnish

Directions

Whip cream cheese with a hand mixer in a large bowl until smooth.  Add the powdered instant pudding mixes and cold milk.  Continue beating until thickened and smooth.  Add cool whip and fold in by hand.

Line the bottom of your trifle bowl with the Nilla wafers, and stand them up around the edge of the bowl too, so you can see them from the outside.  Drizzle half of the coffee over them.  Add half of the pudding mixture and spread out evenly.  Sprinkle the top with half the chocolate.  Do another layer of biscuits, coffee, pudding mixture, chocolate.  Garnish the top with whole raspberries.  The recipe on the website calls for more cool whip on the top, but I leave it off.  I find it overkill and don’t think it’s needed.  Without it you can see how beautiful the chocolate and raspberries are.

Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

I hope you enjoy, it’s a favourite in our house.  Great to take to a potluck, and a good recipe to have on hand at this time of year with all the entertaining that we do.

Countdown to Christmas

ChristmasAh, Christmas.  Truly one of my most favourite times of year.  Growing up, Christmas was always big in our family.  Pepere loved Christmas.  He really got the true spirit of what it is supposed to be about.  I am so grateful that he passed this on to us.  I know that it is because of him, and in turn my Mom, that Christmas is such a special time and that it means so much to me.  I hope that I can pass this on to my son and someday to my grandchildren, so that the spirit of Christmas stays alive in our family.

I know that some people don’t like Christmas because of how commercial it has become.  I agree that for some it has become more about what you need to buy, and what you have to do.  I also think that Christmas – like most everything else – is about what you make it.  Yes, it’s commercial, but in my home, it’s still about the same old thing:  getting together with your family, eating and drinking lots, listening to some Christmas music, and exchanging a few gifts.  The commercial part of it only gets to us and bothers us if we let it.  The spirit of Christmas is alive and well in our home as we sit by the tree and enjoy a glass of eggnog.

I also know that Christmas can be a very tough time of year for some people.  Those that have lost a loved one, those that have loved ones that they can’t be with.  Those that don’t have the money for gifts that wish they could buy tons of things for their loved ones but can’t.  I remember the Christmas of 1996.  Our first Christmas without Pepere.  That was the hardest Christmas ever.  The thought of sitting around the tree celebrating when the focal point of Christmases past was no longer with us – seemed like a crazy thought to us all.  I’m sure my mother would have taken a sleeping pill and slept through the whole thing.  None of us were ready.  So the whole family up and went to the Dominican Republic for a week that year.  And two weeks the following year.  Was it nice?  Of course.  Did we have fun?  You bet.  Was it Christmas?  Well…..kinda, but not really.  It was great, but when Christmas came around the following year, I think we all knew it was time to face reality, and to have Christmas continue on.  I wasn’t married yet, but I had started seeing Joe, and I knew that I would want my children when I had them to experience Christmas as I had growing up – and not decorating a palm tree with lights.  Not that palm trees and sandy beaches aren’t great for some, but it wasn’t Christmas to me.  I knew that if I wanted my child(ren) to experience the wonderful type of Christmas I grew up with, it was up to me to give it, just as my parents and grandparents had given it to me.

So here we are, December 2012.  Some of my shopping done (much of it online now – thank God).  I have plans to do my baking this week, I’m doing a craft with a friend this weekend and having folks over for dinner and doing a family Christmas too.  We’ve written and mailed Nicholas’ letter to Santa and the decorations are up.  I’m excited.  I’m excited to watch my little guy get excited about Christmas, and talk to him about the Advent wreath and light a candle with him each week.  I love the lights, and the smells, and the feeling that comes with finding that perfect gift for someone that you love.

I hope you all have an amazing Christmas season.  If for some reason you’re not loving it, or you’re hurting at this time of year, or missing someone, or bah-humbuging about something, I’m sorry.  I hope that you will find joy in your own way.  Be thankful for what you do have, for the people in your life, for the joy in Christmases from the past.  I learned a very important lesson back in the Christmases of 1996, 1997 and 1998:  we all have in mind what Christmas is supposed to be.  Sometimes things happen in life that just don’t make it possible.  In order to be happy, I think we have to try to work with what we have, and be willing to accept that things change, and we need to change with them.  I know that I will never, ever have the Christmas that I had growing up again.  But that’s okay, because I’m not supposed to.  As a wife and a mommy, it’s now my job to make it the best it can be for my family.  That may not be exactly what I had growing up, but aspects of it will be there, along with special touches of our own.

Love to all this Christmas season.

Peace.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Book and Movie Review

When I first picked up The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, I had heard that it was very good.  I didn’t expect that it would be in the format that it is – a series of letters written by the main character Charlie, to an unknown entity simply referred to as “Friend.”

Charlie is a teenage boy, and where we pick up on his life, he is just getting ready to start high school.  He really isn’t looking forward to it.  He at that point is trying to come to terms with the suicide of his best friend Michael, who shot himself without leaving a note a few months earlier, as well as the death of his Aunt Helen, who was his favourite person in the world.

It’s hard to describe Charlie exactly.  In reading these letters, there is a innocence about him, and to be honest, there are times when I wondered if he was a bit developmentally challenged.

We follow Charlie as he finds his way through his first year of high school, where a short way in he is discovered and befriended by a very interesting duo – half brother and sister Patrick and Sam.  A couple of seniors who seem to see something in Charlie and take him under their wing.  Charlie is introduced to many new things and new people.  He is accepted right away by their friends, and though it is pretty obvious from early on that he is smitten by Sam, he dates one of the other friends, Mary Elizabeth for a time during the story.  He is introduced to things such as drugs and parties – as well as the complex relationships between people and the fact that as much as you seem to think you know someone, that they are never all that they seem.

Charlie also becomes very close to his English teacher Bill, who also seems to see things and potential in him.  He gives Charlie several extra books to read throughout the year, and has him write reports on each one.  He is a positive figure in Charlie’s life, and he encourages him to his full potential.

This is a book about the coming of age of a teenage boy, discovering love, coming to terms with events of the past, and hope in moving forward.  It is funny at times, usually in the brutally honest way and unfiltered way that Charlie looks at everything, especially his own family and friends.  It is heartbreaking, as we find out the events that turned him into the person that he is, and it is heartwarming to read about the relationships that he develops in the book.  It is thought of by some as a modern day Catcher in the Rye.

So our book club read this book and then decided that we would go see the movie, which we did just a few nights ago.  It stars Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller in the principal roles.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, or how they would translate the format of the book, being the letters – into a movie.

I was not disappointed.  This was really a very good movie.  Perhaps the fact that Stephen Chobosky wrote the screenplay helps, though that is not always the case as in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, where Seth Grahame-Smith managed to completely screw up his own book while turning it into a movie.

This was a very good interpretation of the novel.  There were minor differences, mostly for the sake of continuity, a few things left out, mostly I believe for the same reason.  What they were able to do in the movie that was hard to do in the book was clearly define Charlie.  Because of the way the book was written, I said above that there were times when I actually thought that Charlie was mentally underdeveloped.  The movie does not depict him this way.  Though he has struggles socially, mostly due to events and things that have happened to him in his life, he really is mostly just a sweet, generous, vulnerable young boy with some issues.  Major issues.  The movie, being a visual tool, clearly depicts him in the situations in a way that the book does not.  It actually made me want to go back and read the book again, just to see it through eyes that have seen it on the big screen.

Overall, I was very impressed, both with the book and the movie.  If you haven’t read the book, read it.  Then go see the movie.  I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

All that Thanksgiving crap…

Booze? Yeah, I'm thankful for booze. But I'm more thankful for what this bottle represents.

Ah, Thanksgiving. One of my favourite holidays of the year. I know, you're thinking – this is going to be one of those sappy Thanksgiving posts where she shares all the things in life she's thankful for. Alas, you are correct.

So where do I start? Because seriously, the list is long. I'm pretty sure it would exhaust any polite reading threshold you may have and have you clicking on to find that perfect pumpkin pie recipe, which I happened to make the other day. Try this, it was very good.

Obviously the list starts with family for me. Family of course is multi-faceted, with a few branches. The first provides my foundation, my parents, grandparents, and everyone else that comes with them. I have been very fortunate to come from a very loving, supportive family. Each and every one of them made me who I am today. My parents are the most amazing people I know. They have been there with me every step of the way throughout my life supporting me and being their awesome, amazing, generous selves.

Of course family for me has branched out to my amazing husband with whom I just celebrated 10 years of wedded bliss with last week. (See champagne, above). It hasn't all been roses, there have been times where mutual neck wringing has been considered. But I wouldn't change a thing. Every single moment of our marriage has brought us to where we are right now. Solid, happy, and possibly more in love with each other than we were 10 years ago. He is my other half, and I am so thankful for him, and the extended family he has brought into my life. Every day I wake up and make a conscious decision to work with him. To work on us. For us, and for the family we've built together.

Speaking of what we've built together, no list like this would be complete without the one thing I am most thankful in the world for: my son. Nicholas has brought so much joy and so much light into my life. I love that child so much that it doesn't seem like I could possibly love him any more. Then, remarkably, I wake up the next day, and I do love him more. He is an amazing kid, and it has been such a gift to watch him grow, and I can't believe how lucky I feel every single time that child calls me Mommy.

In addition to family, I am also blessed to have several good friends. If you're reading this, you know who you are. Some I've literally known forever, and some just a few years, and various amounts of time in between. However long I've known them, I have an amazing support system. I have no blood sisters, but I have several women who I could not love more if they were my sisters. I've learned a lot about friendship over the last few years, and incredibly lucky I am to have each and every one of them love me for who I am, no matter what.

I have several other things to be thankful for. My health, I realize how important that is. Employment for Joe and myself. In today's economy, we are both fortunate to have jobs that put a roof over our head and food on the table. I'm thankful for all the pleasures I enjoy in life, and that I'm physically able to enjoy them – cooking, reading, music, technology – all those little things that shape my life. I'm thankful for them all.

I hope you all are able to come up with a good long list of all the things you're thankful for. And if you've read this far, I'm thankful for you too.

Gobble Gobble.

;

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! 😉

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. 🙂

 

‘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 🙂