happiness

In Grandma’s Words part 16 (FGK 78)

And finally we have the story of how Grandma’s kitchen came to be in her own words. I absolutely love this description. I have to say I smile every time I look at the photo of Grandma in front of the fireplace as she’s accompanied by the best dog of all time, my old friend Kayla. I don’t know how Kayla managed to get into Grandma’s memory book but I love that she’s there. I miss that dog.

I have so many memories of lying on that old red leather couch, surrounded by the overpowering smell of geraniums and reading old Archie comics. It was one of my all time favourite places to hang out when I was a kid. Although the geranium smell made me swear I would never ever have those flowers in my house, I religiously plant them in the flowerbed in the verandah just off the kitchen because that’s what was always there and anything else seems wrong. They just fit.

We decided then to tear off and build a new kitchen, level with the rest of the house. And build up the earth to be level with the back door and widen all our doors so that a wheelchair could get around easily.

At this age in my life I had enough experience to really know what I wanted in a kitchen, and I got it. Small kitchens were the style then but to me and our way of life the kitchen always seemed to be the heart of the home. I compare a good kitchen in a home to a good woman. And in my way of thinking a good woman is the most important person in the world. Like a good woman, a kitchen should be efficient and beautiful and always have a pleasant fragrance surrounding it. What is more alluring than the aroma of fresh baked bread, hot pies, and a roast in the oven?

One wall of my new kitchen is of knotted pine and has a fireplace with built in china cupboards on each side. The cooking area has knotted pine cupboards. Natural wood adds warmth to a room. The south west corner is all windows which look out on a panoramic view of the Jumping Pound valley up to the wide range of Rockies. This area is an indoor garden of flowers because we seem to have 9 months of winter in this country. It also holds our old red leather covered chesterfield. My range is a beautiful old fashioned one Percy bought me many years ago and I wouldn’t have it for any modern one even an Ultra Ray. There was one small window, about 3ft by 2 ft off the south wall which I didn’t like so I designed a stained glass one which portrayed our wildflowers and friendly wild birds and of course our source of existence – a cow and calf on pasture. This adds colour and conversation to the room.

I spend time every day looking at this stained glass window, it has always brought me a feeling of peace. I was told that Grandpa informed Grandma that the window was missing a bluebird and so he drew one in the top left hand corner. You can kind of see how the artwork of the bluebird is different from the rest of the window and that’s why.

My kitchen table seats twelve comfortably but of course often more. Adjoining is a very efficient mud room and extra bathroom. I worked hard for that kitchen.

The summer we built it I cooked for 18 men all summer in just a make shift kitchen. At the same time I gave Margie her physiotherapy which consisted of 38 exercises with resistance and each one 15 times. This I did twice a day. Margie also caught the mumps that summer.

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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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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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Kick sugar 

I spent part of the day going over menues with the girl today. She is on board with me and we are kicking sugar to the curb for the next month as we make better food choices. 

It’s perfect because it comes right before she and I were going to begin the 90 day wellness transformation that is part of my course. While we usually had pretty whole, healthy food; things got kind of siderailed when we moved back and then things got really bad when I broke myself and couldn’t cook. Well, except for the awesome meals that family and friends brought over. 

So we are inspired to get back to our roots and make better food choices. We both realize they make us feel better – we are happier when we eat pure foods. There is an amazing difference between how we feel on real food vs how we feel on processed crap. 

So we planned, shopped, and cooked. And now meals are planned out full of good choices. That is happiness 

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I’ve been training for this 

I took the boy into the Italian Centre this afternoon to get some of what have become our house staples. How did we ever survive without having this as a semi-regular stop?

We were leaving the freezer section where entirely too much time had been spent deciding exactly what kind of gelato was needed when I turned around and Jacob was gone. A quick glance around and I saw him leading a father and his daughter towards the cheese section. I fell in behind them and listened to him telling them about his favourite kinds of cheese (there’s a reason we call him cheese boy). He described in great detail the tastes of several different options and managed to convince them to try his current fave – Oka . They thanked him for his suggestions, grabbed a thing of Oka and Jacob left them to the rest of their shopping.

As we were heading for the till he told me that he’d heard them standing by the deli section trying to decide what kind of cheese they wanted to try for supper. He said I knew I could help them because I’ve been training for this moment my whole life. He’s totally right – he has. The kid takes his cheese seriously.

Watching him be so excited about sharing his knowledge about a food he loves so dearly was my happiness moment.

 

eating this cake was also a happiness moment…. so good.

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Adopting a better food routine while on vacation

Last week we had our fantastic beach vacation and we were lucky enough to get a really good rate at the Residence Inn Virginia Beach Oceanfront (thanks in part to the millions of points my husband gets from staying at a Marriott). A huge bonus to staying here was that the rooms come with small kitchens – so we could bring and make our own food! This may sound like kind of a pffffft thing to do on a vacation, but we don’t eat fast food, we all try to eat whole and natural foods that remember where they came from, I’m a vegetarian and I try to follow an Ayurvedic diet as much as possible. So, this was going to be a huge deal for us. Not only did it mean that our tummies  would be a whole bunch happier, but we would keep a lot of extra money in our pockets from not eating out every single meal.

We live in a small, remote city so the excitement that not only I but the kids had about getting to shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s was almost equal to the excitement of going to the beach. Actually we did half our drive to the beach and ended up in Charlottesville where we went into vacation mode by having lunch at the Whole Foods there. I got to dance through their buffet and the kids gorged on sushi and pizza. When we got to the beach the first stop we made was at the Whole Foods there. Normally I prefer to buy fruits and vegetables whole and then cut and prepare them right before we eat. But this time I took advantage of their wonderful selection of prepared produce. This way we could still eat fresh food, but I didn’t have to spend the time to prep everything (plus I wasn’t sure what we would have in our kitchen – found out when we got there that they had a stove but no oven which could have made some things interesting to say the least!)

I love Marriott Hotels – I’ve always had good experiences at every one I’ve stayed at. This one was no exception. Every single room is ocean front. It’s a relatively small hotel, offers free breakfast (which made the kids unbelievably happy and I had my stewed apple and buckwheat in my room), was very clean and the staff was incredibly friendly. Add to that the fact that we could do our eating there and it made for 3 very happy vacationers.

The kids had fun helping choose what they wanted to eat.

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Fresh berries, guacamole, and OMG –  have you tried the mango-pineapple salsa? It’s to die for! I make mango salsa at home and this stuff is awesome!

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A huge selection of pre-cut veggies and I also bought a veggie platter. I’d just put it out every time we came back into the room and the kids crashed in front of the TV. I was really impressed with how much they ate, and I had to refill it a few times.

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Even pre-sliced cheese for their afternoon cheese and crackers.

 

 

 

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We saved HUNDREDS of dollars by doing this, had really happy tummies, and it was really not much work at all. The kids were really happy about the food they were eating and never once asked to eat out. We were there 6 days with all the signs for food around and every time they were hungry they asked to go back to the room to eat the food we had brought. It totally changed the way I vacation with them.

It also allowed us to go out for dessert feeling guilt free (because we were on vacation after all)

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Actually, Whole Foods helped with one of our desserts as well:

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Strawberries and whipped cream – oh yeah!!!

In case you can’t tell, Whole Foods is my absolute favourite place to shop. I always liken it to skipping through a Disney movie – I always expect the woodland creatures to dance out and join me in a song. It is a happy place! My kids share my love for this place, so the three of us got a lot of enjoyment out of being able to  make such good food choices!

 

 

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