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 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 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

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

Weeeeeeeeeeee

Yesterday the boy and I made a trip to Costco to mass buy water so that when it gets to be -30 I don’t have to drag the big bottles through the parking lot. It’s an issue when we don’t have water that is safe to drink to make sure that we never run out, so usually around this time of year I stock up. A lesson I clearly learned from my mom, as it was a good 6 months after she died before we ran out of either water or toilet paper here.

I did feel a bit like an “end of the world” person at Costco since my trip came the day after the announcement of our upcoming lockdown, but we can’t always help timing. And I did add in a couple (yes, more than one) of containers of those raspberry crumble cookies to kind of even it out.

On the way to the car, the boy showed me why it’s a great idea to fill the carts full of those giant water bottles. We were walking, each pushing our cart full of water, when suddenly he grabbed his cart, did a couple of running steps and then jumped on the back of the cart and went for a ride.

Not knowing what else to do, I did a couple of running steps myself and followed suit.

While others in the lot probably thought we’d lost our minds, I really needed that moment of simple joy. As we climbed into the car, the boy expressed a similar statement. Sometimes you just need to let go, jump on the cart, and yell “weeeeeeee”.

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happiness

Oh My Lord

I waited a full extra day this year before starting the nonstop Christmas music, but it’s now going strong. Really, Christmas is just a time when I can play my favourite song of all time over and over and over and over….

I kid myself that when I put Mary’s Boy Child on repeat that the kids are singing along, but I’m pretty sure it’s just the “Oh My Lord” part, and I don’t think they’re singing. They’re good sports until they get tired of it and then I have daily limits.

It’s been a rough couple of days – no real reason – but spending some time this afternoon on self-care has recharged me. It’s the little moments, like a good song, a cup of tea, time with loved ones.

And of course, this nutbar

Apparently this is how she sleeps now.

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happiness

A beautiful night

This feels like it’s been a long week. School has been challenging for all of us, we are on top of each other, and to top it off the doggies decided to visit the skunk today.

And yet, no matter what goes on in our human lives, the world carries on. One benefit of life being quieter is that there is more time to notice the beauty that God put out in our world.

Tonight the girl and I were making pizza when we had to drop everything and run outside. Not only is it a balmy 9C, but there was a beautiful sunset lighting up the mountains. I am so grateful this is where we call home, I am grateful I love the people I live with, and I’m grateful we are all healthy and safe.

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