happiness

Back to back pizza nights

We decided to have make your own pizza night on Saturday, then because of a surplus of supplies did the same thing again on Sunday.

Make your own pizza, or at least homemade pizza has been a thing in our house since the kids were little. I’d make the dough, we’d decide what toppings went on (usually just cheese, sometimes pepperoni and cheese, but once in a while we’d clear out the fridge and put whatever we found on).

Lately I haven’t been as into making dough as I used to (I need to find some better yeast) and out pizza nights have been lacking.

However, I made an awesome discovery last year. Some of our Italian shops sell ready to go pizza dough, and it’s ridiculously cheap. Top that with the fact that Costco now carries Rao’s sauce – and quite good fresh mozzarella – and we’ve got the easiest homemade pizza going.

Pizza nights are fun. Watching movies while devouring the pizza is even more fun. They’re a really easy way to bond and spend some time together and I love that (and it’s fun). I’m so grateful that we have the kind of family where even though we’ve been trapped together at home for most of the last year, we still enjoy each other’s company.

I consider my relationship with my kids my greatest blessing, and moments like family pizza night help celebrate that!

I was going to take a photo, but both nights the pizza got devoured before I thought of it. Really, they don’t look that special, but although they may not be works of art, they are works of love and that is just fine by me.

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happiness

The ability to adjust

It’s been 11 days since we lost our beautiful soul that is Aladdin. After our Dotted Dog died last summer, the girl and I had a conversation about how each animal was connected to the others. We realized that the only one who had a relationship with all of us in the house was Aladdin. So when we lost him, all of us lost a companion and I can see all of the animals grieving in their own way.

Grief is interesting, and we all do it differently, no grieving process is the same in my experience.

I miss the honest and easy love that I shared with him. You know how usually when you have a relationship with a person or animal they have some weird trait that drives you insane, but you deal with it anyway because you love them? Aladdin didn’t have anything weird or annoying. In fact, when one of us was being weird or annoying, he would come to us and share our space until we felt better.

Abu misses her brother, they were together from birth and shared some pretty traumatic times before coming here. Poor Ella, our highly neurotic Southern Belle misses the only animal that she ever let into her world, her constant companion, and napping buddy. Jasmine misses the cat who taught her to be a cat, and Killer misses the weird bromance they had going on. Even the dogs seem sad.

When Aladdin would walk through the house, he’d stop at each of us as he passed and say hi, share some love, and carry on.

The interesting thing is now, we are all doing that. Not just the humans, but I see the cats pausing and greeting each other the way he used to when they never did before.

Abu, who I thought would be completely devastated has shown some mad survival skills. In the last couple of months our little ‘fraidy cat has decided to become best friends with both 100lb dogs. Last night I found her in the kitchen all cuddled up beside Bear having a nap.

I think the best way to honour the life of someone you miss is to tune into their best traits and share them with the world in whatever way is appropriate.

It’s easy to identify the less desirable traits of someone we know and decide “I’m never going to be like that” (sometimes less easy to actually not be like that). It’s a real challenge to see the light in someone else and decide that because their light shines so brightly that it’s safe to shine our own light too.

But we all need to shine our lights and share them with the world. The only way to get rid of the darkness is to turn on the light.

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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

Aladdin

I can barely stand to write this, we lost the beautiful soul that is Aladdin over the weekend.

Within days of dad dying, the kids and I went into Pet Valu in Cochrane to grab food for our dog and cat. The girl saw this beautiful bonded pair waiting to be adopted and immediately asked me if we could adopt them. I said no, partly because we would then have three cats which seemed like too many (haha I had no idea what was coming down the line), and secondly because I didn’t want to make any major decisions while I was grieving.

For the next three months, at least once a week, the girl found one reason or another to take me into the store and look at her cats. I even put her in a camp at the SPCA and told her if she found ONE cat that she liked we would adopt it.

Instead I would pick her up from camp and go see Aladdin and Abu at Pet Valu.

One day, as the weather was changing, a mouse ran across the floor of our old house. On that day I agreed to pick up the duo and our lives changed for the better.

When Aladdin came to live with us, he didn’t know really how to “cat”. They’d been left in an abandoned house with their mother for God knows how long before they were rescued. He didn’t know how to cuddle, he didn’t really know how to accept love.

But he knew how to give love. And he gave it in spades. And as time went on, he learned how to cuddle, found his purr box, and learned to accept the love that we showered on him, in the same way that he loved us.

I had a strict “no cats in my bed” policy. But as soon as Aladdin came to live with us, he decided his spot was on the bed, right between my feet. That is where he’s slept for the last 5.5 years and now there’s a big empty space where he is supposed to be.

If the other cats got into spats with each other, he was the one who came running to make them stop. If one of us was sad, he would come and sit on our lap until we felt better. Wherever he went he radiated love.

Aladdin means “nobility of faith” or “servant of Allah” and so his name is fitting for the soul that he was.

I feel like none of the words I use to describe him do even the littlest bit of justice to celebrate who he was. I am absolutely gutted and devastated by the loss of this gentle fur ball of love.

Aladdin (in front) with his sister Abu
To say they were a bonded pair would be an understatement
He even taught prickly old Ella to love
And they quickly became friends
We had a whole “Aladdin crew” with Abu and Jasmine

I hope he knows how much he was loved.

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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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happiness

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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