happiness

Instant Pot

After years of humming and hawing about an instant pot, they came on sale at Costco a few weeks ago and I finally brought one home.

I’m still figuring it out (a process made more difficult by my apparent inability and refusal to read instructions), but it’s been used almost every day since I got it.

So far the family favourite is instant pot mashed potatoes. We’ve burned through all our garden potatoes, and now I’m buying massive bags at Costco almost weekly. We’ve got our Irish genetics to help, but I’m sure at some point we will need a break from the potato feast – but it’s not coming any time soon.

Cooking has always been a group activity with me and the kids, and it’s really cool to see how it’s evolved now that they are big kids. Part of the reason why I love Grandma’s kitchen so much is it’s kind of the heart of the house. This is where we gather to visit and share stories, it’s where we cook food for our loved ones to eat, it’s where we look outside at the mountains even on freezing cold days. It’s an oasis of love, and enjoying good food is one byproduct of that.

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happiness

Artichokes and mayo

Years ago when I was a teenager and we were all choking on our Aqua Net hairspray in the 80s, my aunt made artichokes at a family supper. I obviously didn’t get out much, because I had never heard of these weird looking things that I was told I would like, but I had my doubts.

Doubts and all I decided to trust her. I decided that in the worst case scenario I could drown it in mayo the same way that I’d had to drown the nasty liver my mom used to make me eat in ketchup.

I fell in love with a food that day. Artichokes are amazing, and I ate them non stop for years. Apparently it’s been at least 16 years since I cooked them though, because the girl had no idea what weird object I put on her plate last night.

But she decided to trust me the same way that I trusted my aunt, and like I did, she fell in love with a new food.

So now artichokes will become part of our meal rotation again and I’m pretty happy about that.

This year my goal is to try 50 new dishes in honour of my turning 50. This one doesn’t count since it wasn’t for me, but I do love that we are open to new experiences.

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happiness

The best part of waking up

Not coffee. It’s my teeny little puppy who is now about the size of our 100 lb gentle giant. Due to her puppy badness she sleeps in her kennel, and I get her up in the morning. Once in a while she will bark to wake me, but much more often I find her sound asleep on her back with her legs all over the place.

As soon as I let her out the loving begins. We have to stand just outside the kennel while I tell her how much I love her and she gets a little ear rub. Then she moves behind me and walks between my legs so I’m on her like she’s a horse (not too far fetched- goodness she has grown). We walk a few steps and she sits and lifts her face up to me and I give her a bunch of chin scratches before I walk/ride her to the door. Then she does a few weird jumps around while I try and get the old door unlocked and off she goes to check her yard for predators (or birds).

It has completely changed how I feel when I start my day. Instead of lying there waiting to see if I really need to commit to the day, I bolt out of bed to make sure I’m the first one up to get the morning love. She is pure love (and farts) and she radiates that towards us (love and farts – goodness I hope she grows out of the gas stage). It’s really something to see my boy pick up this giant dog and her just go totally limp while she pretends to be a little purse dog he’s carrying around.

It’s an odd balance to the fierce guard dog that she is, but that part provides comfort too. No one is getting in here without me knowing about it. And I’m pretty sure if they have ill intentions, they aren’t getting anywhere near me. That’s part of what love is too though, we protect each other.

Sometimes she likes to just chill on the couch. My guardian doggie with her heart shaped angel wings.
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happiness

The Next 50 years

Yesterday I marked a half century on this planet. Incredible to me since I’m still trying to figure out how to be an adult, but there you have it.

Seriously though, I am so grateful to be here, to be healthy, and to be finally figuring myself out and learning to let crap go and enjoy life. I’m actually very happy to be 50.

I was reminded of how loved I am yesterday. Birthdays are the best day to be on Facebook for all the wonderful messages. My sister levelled it up one and had friends and family send her letters for me to read which melted my heart (and made me cry a little bit). She and her family also gave me a little robot, and once I figure out how to get it running (old age problems haha), I will be terrorizing my pets with it.

The girl made me a beautiful pendant out of rose quartz. The boy made me his (getting) famous Beef Wellington. A cousin stopped by with “holy crap you’re 50” signs and a present and some flowers. I had a lovely text chat with an aunt, and one today with a “lifer” friend (as she puts it).

I am so grateful for this life. I’ve promised myself that in this next chapter I will be the author of my own story. And I’m excited to write it.

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happiness

The Good Ship Kangaroo

I was texting with my sister this morning and we were reminiscing about childhood and cousins and grandparents, brought on by talk of how our kids love seeing each other (even if now it’s only through FaceTime). She brought up a memory of my son taking her son to watch a Star Wars movie had how even though he was very young, he still holds that memory.

Memories are funny things, some of them are dark and gloomy, but some of them are like little rays of sunshine that show up to brighten our days. My children hold dearly to the memories they have of time spent with their grandparents, and whenever I sit in this kitchen in Grandma’s house I’m filled with the same sort of memories.

I was 7 when my grandpa died, and my sister was only 3 yet we still have memories of Grandpa doing things with us. Some of these are clear as day for me – I remember riding from an uncle’s place to Scott Lake (which was a fair ride considering I was 5 or 6) with my Pony Club. Grandpa came along as one of the chaperones and I remember riding along beside him feeling so small – me on my tiny (but incredibly stubborn) Shetland pony from hell Tango, and him on his giant (maybe 16’3 hh) mare, Toots. I had my little English saddle and he had his Western one with his ropes attached. I remember asking him why he had a rope attached to his saddle, and without missing a beat he said it was to pull me out of a gopher hole if I ever fell in. This seemed reasonable to me (although I kind of knew he was kidding), and we carried on.

I hold many memories of bouncing in the truck beside him while he checked cows or did various jobs on the ranch. But both my sister and I remember sitting in the living room here, her on his lap, while he sang The Good Ship Kangaroo. Actually, all I really remember is him singing the title of the song and kind of howling out the Kangarooooooo part. But I do remember singing and laughter. We were remembering this memory today and I had to go searching to see if it was in fact a real song (it is).

We have told that story so many times, it’s helped keep our memory of Grandpa alive. And I think it’s a good thing to keep the good memories of those we love alive. It reminds us of where and who we come from, the values they instilled in us, and the love they shared.

And I’ve also realized that pretty much all of the lullabies my mom sang to me as a child were Irish Sea shanties.

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happiness

50 new dishes

While we close the door on 2020 and officially walk into 2021, I soon will enter a decade change of my own. Although I still feel like I’m totally faking it as an adult, apparently I’m turning 50 this year.

If you know me, there was no way I was going to run a marathon, jump out of a plane, or climb a mountain. Instead I’ve decided to honour my love of good food by trying 50 new (to me) dishes.

And having a chef at home is really starting to pay off. It’s wonderful to see him be able to showcase his talents.

We started the year off with a dish I’ve always wanted to try but knew I’d never make – Beef Wellington. The ingredients were actually much less than I’d anticipated (sigh of relief) and the meal was fantastic. This will definitely be a meal I’ll ask my boy to make again!

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2021 and time spent with loved ones (fingers crossed).

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happiness

Christmas Eve 2020

This afternoon I had a lovely chat with an old family friend. For as long as I can remember our families spent Christmas together, and the season doesn’t feel right unless we touch base even though we’ve not been able to spend the day together for a couple of years.

At the end of our talk I told her how glad I was that she’d called and how it didn’t feel like Christmas unless we’d made contact. She agreed with me and said that was one of the beautiful things about this time of the year – we spend time with the people who we truly know and love and it grounds us and reminds us of who we really are and of what‘s important. I couldn’t agree more.

The monsters and I enjoyed our Christmas Eve tradition (without the church part) by having a fondue pig out and watching their favourite Christmas Movie – Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.

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Skating with Brian Pockar

When I was a kid, I spent a few years as a figure skater. My parents wanted me to grow up as well rounded as possible, and they put me in tons of different activities so that I could figure out what I truly enjoyed (horses, mom… it was always the horses).

Anyway, I enjoyed skating at the Winter Club, but mostly because I really loved our skating instructor Mrs. Silverthorn. She was strict and precise, but also someone who made you want to work your ass off to impress.

I found a write up on her on Wikipedia. There was one way I knew she was “famous”, but I didn’t realize she had competed in the olympics.

Winifred Ellen “Winnie” Silverthorne (3 March 1925 – 7 March 1998) was a British pair skater who competed with her brother Dennis Silverthorne. The pair won the silver medal at the 1947 European Figure Skating Championships and finished fourth at that year’s World Figure Skating Championships. They then finished fifth at the 1948 Winter Olympics and sixth at that year’s World Championships. She was born in Brighton, England. (From Wikipedia)

So, how did I know she was famous? Well, along with us regular students, she had a student who had become quite famous. Brian Pockar was not only a talented figure skater, but many of us young girls were quite giggly about his good looks.

One day we showed up for our lesson, and there was someone skating solo in the rink with Mrs. Silverthorn. We stood there and watched as we realized it was her prior student, now an Olympic level skater. And as he finished his skate, we were allowed to start our warmup in the corner while we watched.

I love watching people who are good at their sport, or really good at anything they do. The grace and ease with which he moved on the ice was quite fantastic. And we watched his coach (who was also our coach) beam with pride, I realized how talented this instructor was that I’d lucked into getting.

Sometimes it’s inspiring just being around greatness, and there was a lot of it at that rink.

Now I’m a non skater, one level down from being an awful skater. Whatever talent I had seems to have vanished with the years, but I do have fond memories of the rink.

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happiness

Gingerbread Houses 2020

Gingerbread houses have always been a big deal in our house, which is not to be confused with us being good at decorating them. When the kids were little I found a great kit at the Whole Foods in RI that we’d bake and decorate, then later they made ready baked ones which made things easier. Those kits would get packed in our suitcase and travel home to Alberta with us so we could build with cousins and grandparents.

This year the boy had the Millennium Falcon, the girl had an Oreo cookie house, and I had a Troll Doll village. Just in case anyone is wondering, the Troll Doll village is the lowest quality crap house I’ve ever bought.

So, as I was struggling with my house, discovering none of the walls and roofs lined up, that some of them were missing from the box, and that the whole thing was made of such poor quality cookie it kept crumbling, the kids started laughing at my village. At one point I got so frustrated with a house that I may have punched it out (which felt great), and it ended up in the trash. When I was done, the kids announced that it looked like Santa’s crack village.

And that’s when things became fun. The girl made Christmas Trees that looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy had diarrhea, the boy laid out Santas along the path, unable to get themselves home. Then the girl decided she didn’t want her Oreo house next to Santa’s crack house, so she started building a wall… out of Santas… to protect her home.

By the time we were done, the houses still looked like crap, but we were laughing, covered in icing, and quite pleased with ourselves. For me, this is the magic of the gingerbread house. We have very little skill, and rely on having good quality houses (not this year), and a ton of extra candy to create yards for our houses. But no matter how bad we are, or how bad the houses are, we laugh and truly enjoy the moment.

While the Falcon was easy, it was pretty plain
The crack village and the wall
Apparently this Santa is breaking in looking for candy

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I’ll be home for Christmas

The announcement of our lockdown has confirmed what I was trying to deny, which is that we will be having a quiet Christmas at home this year.

For years, I would look forward for months (sometimes the whole year) until I could come home for Christmas and see my family, spend time at the ranch, and chill in Grandma’s kitchen. A few years we had our trip extended by bad weather, and the kids and I would spend anywhere from 10 days to 3 weeks without leaving the property. Never once did that feel like we were trapped at home, instead we had the luxury of spending quality time at the place we loved (and where we were loved) most.

So, as I sit and look out the window at the snow, thinking about how we need to get a tree and decorate soon, I’m reminded of how much I love this place, how being home for Christmas was often the only Christmas wish I had, and how grateful that now this is home all of the days of the year.

And, having a quieter Christmas has blessings too. Although we love the sledding and visits with family, and we will miss that part, there is a certain kind of peace one can find in the quiet moments. One of the best (and most emotionally difficult) Christmases was the one the three of us had with mom right before she died. We all stopped and really lived in that moment because we knew there weren’t going to be a lot more of them. Like we learned in Inside Out, joy and sadness need each other, they compliment each other, and we can tolerate them when we are open and present in the moment.

I’ll be home for Christmas
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