Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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This and That

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Well, not “beginning”, so much, as I actually put up my tree at the end of November.

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Kitties checking out the pieces of the Christmas tree before I assemble it.

Christmas Tree

I like the way my windows surrounding the tree reflect the lights. Not shown in the picture, but my big TV also reflects the lights, so it kind of looks like I have a forest of Christmas trees in my living room, all from one tree. So efficient!

But I also added a few extra Christmas decorations to the mix – specifically, I made a wreath (item #83 on my 101 list)1 and I got stockings for the kitties, since the frogs have stockings and I didn’t want Watson & Crick to feel left out.

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Watson checking out all the pieces before I assembled my wreath. He ended up covered in glitter.

My first wreath

My wreath!

Stockings

Stockings! From Left to right: Crick’s, Watson’s, mine, Copernicus the Third’s, Timbit’s, Tyrion Froggister’s, and Raspberry’s stockings.

Speaking of the kitties, for some reason they thought that the tree was delicious, and spent the first week or so that I had it up trying to eat the branches. Watson also decided that most of the ornaments were toys that were to be swatted out of the tree. Happily, he got bored of this after about a week, so my patience at taking ornaments that I found in various locations around my apartment – he liked to carry the ornaments around for a tour of the place before dropping them off in, say, the bathroom – and returning them to their rightful place on the tree eventually won out.

My big goal for 2015

So, I’ve said many times that my goal is to break the 2 hour mark on a half marathon. And then just as many times I’ve half assed my training and not met my goal. So I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t believe me when I said that I’m planning to break the 2 hour mark on the half marathon at BMO Vancouver marathon in May. But this time I’m really, really going stick to it. I’m good at doing the long runs in training so I can go the distance, but this time I’m going to do the hill training and interval training that are required to ramp up my speed to break that elusive 2 hour finish time. I’m emboldened by setting a personal best at the 10 km in November and I’m well past the MBA hangover that still lingered during my training for the 2014 half marathons in April and June.

Groupon-Based Fitness Planning

A long, long time ago I got a Groupon for the West Coast Hot Yoga studio in South Surrey and I loved it. I went virtually every morning before work and I was so alert after starting my day with some deep stretching and core work and so much sweating. Sadly, regular priced hot yoga is too expensive for my blood and, besides, I moved too far away from that South Surrey studio to be practical anyway. Since then, I’ve tried two other yoga studios via Groupon (or one of those other deal sites – I can never remember which one I’ve bought which deal on), both in New West, neither of which I liked. The first one to Bamboo yoga, and I didn’t really love the studio itself (it felt like being in a warehouse) or the instructors, and the second was Bikram New West (which very soon after became Hot Yoga New West) and I hated having to do the exact. same. routine. every. single. time. Plus some of the instructors were really militant, which I understand is intentional with Bikram, but which is totally not my thing. I guess it has been long enough since that experience though, because I’ve gone back to the Groupon well and got a one month of unlimited hot yoga at Oxygen yoga studio in New West. I figured that I could spend a month de-tensifying my muscles and working on core strength and balance and then I’ll be in tip-top shape when I start my half marathon training in January.

Speaking of which, I just bought a Groupon for a half marathon training clinic run by FitFirst in Burnaby, the same place as I did the running study I was in. I really enjoyed the clinics they ran for that study – the group running atmosphere is lots of fun and it basically means that I’ll always have people to do my long runs with. Long runs get very boring when you have to do them by yourself, so despite the fact that this means I won’t get to sleep in on any Sundays (as it runs every Sunday morning) from Jan 18 until BMO race day, I think I’ll be happy on the whole that I signed up for the clinic.

And speaking of good deals…

When I left my old job, one of the things I left behind was unlimited massage therapy in my health benefits plan. Being a hockey player, a runner, and a person who sits hunched over a computer all day at work, I made good use of that particular benefit to deal with my various muscles tightness and such. My new job, while amazing in many ways, has a much more limited amount of massage therapy benefits and since my 2014 limit was all used up2, I’ve needed to seek out a more affordable option to meet my massage therapy needs. Enter: the West Coast College of Massage Therapy. This school, which trains aspiring registered massage therapists, runs a clinic where students get to practice, under supervision of a fully qualified RMT, and where clients can get a therapeutic massage for a fraction of the cost. The cost is $40 for an hour long appointment – though only 40 mins of that is massage, with the rest being taken up by assessment before the massage and teaching you stretches to do at home after the massage – compared to $100 for a 1 hr massage with a fully qualified RMT. And as an added bonus, during December if you donate 4 or mor items to the Food Bank at your visit, your massage only cost $20! Everybody wins!

  1. Where by “made” I mean I bought the green wreath and then attached sparkly things I bought at the craft store to said wreath. Notice the drum at the top – I picked that one because it made me think of The Little Drummer Boy, which was my Dad’s favourite Christmas song. []
  2. Since the benefits plans of my old and new employer, despite being different plans, are somehow linked up in Pacific Blue Cross’ system, so they actually counted the massages I claimed under my old plan in 2014 under my new plan, which meant that my small massage allotment in my new plan was all used before I even started my new job! []

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At The Airport

How does 2 weeks go by so fast? Seems like I only just got here and now I’m back at the airport waiting for my flight home. On Christmas Day, I said to my sister, “I can’t believe I’m still here for 6 more days!” That feels like 2 minutes ago! But I did see a bunch of family and friends and there was much catching up and laughter and all that good stuff. I haven’t spent Christmas with my family for three years, so I’m really happy I was able to this year!

Looks like it’s almost time to board the plane, so I better pack up. See y’all on the flip side.

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My Nephew Seems To Like His Christmas Present

For Christmas, I got my nephew a shark bath towel. It’s got a hood with shark teeth and a fin on the back, so you can dress up like a shark after your bath. I bought it even before I knew we were going to go to the Aquarium and so when we were there, I was quite happy to see that he loved the sharks. And he seemed to quite like the towel:

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Presents!

As we all know, the true meaning of Christmas is presents. And there sure were lots and lots of presents under the tree this morning! My niece and nephew got lots of nice toys – Madeline’s were dominated by Monster High dolls and Thomas’s included dinosaurs, trucks, and a few toys from Monsters University1. I gave a fair number of presents from Ireland – because Ireland.

As for me, I was spoiled, as always. Here are a few highlights:

A Christmas tree ornament with a picture of my niece and nephew:

Christmas ornament

This book about bears:

Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants

Not shown here: my mom gave me some money to buy two things on my Christmas list – money both because then I don’t have to worry about carrying these presents in my suitcase and because I need to pick the right size. First, a pannier for my bike (since I’m planning to start biking to work once the days get longer so that it is is daylight when I go to, and come home from, work). And second, a pair of minimalist running shoes (both because I tried a pair on once and I loved them and I have been reading Born to Run2 ).

And a molecular gastronomy starter kit and book (because I need new hobbies now that I’m done school3.):

Molecular Gastronomy

There were also countless others things: chocolates and mittens and scarves and jewelry and makeup, etc.

Spoiled!

  1. Specifically, Mike Wazowski, also known (to Thomas) as the Baby Eyeball Monster. []
  2. Also, as part of the running study that I’m in, I get 15% off at the Fit First store where we start all of our Sunday runs, so I’m totally buying them there! []
  3. Well, done except for that pesky industry project paper that I need to finish []

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The Stockings Were Hung On The Entertainment Centre With Care

Picture it – it’s Christmas Eve and everyone is hanging their stockings. Everyone, that is, except my two and a half year old nephew. Stockings

He was having none of it. He would hold his stocking, he would walk over to where the stocking holders were and then he would either run away from it or throw his stocking in that general direction. But he also wouldn’t let anyone else do it. “*I* want to do it!!” he would say.

We tried various tactics, like, “Santa won’t be able to find it to put presents in it for you!” His sister even tried bribery, offering him some of her Christmas chocolate if he hung up his stocking.

Finally, he decide he would hang up his stocking, but only in a totally different place:

Stocking

We were all very satisfied with this.

Stocking hanger

Then he walked over to his empty stocking hanger, pointed at it and said, “Uh oh!”

Happily, however, Santa was able to find everyone’s stocking and we all got lots of chocolate!

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Gravy Is My Moby Dick

Speaking of best laid plans, our Christmas plans got a little bit turned around this year. We were originally going to do a Christmas turkey dinner at my brother-in-common-law’s cousin’s place last Sunday and then have a light but fancy dinner today, but then, because the whole Greater Toronto Area iced over, we couldn’t go there. So instead we had to make our Christmas dinner here. My mom and sister, unlike me, are very experienced in the making of turkey with all the trimmings. Including my old nemesis: gravy1.

So I asked my sister to teach me her gravy making ways. And now I’m writing down her advice so that the next time I try to make gravy, I’ll remember what she said!

Christmas Eve dinner

Turkey gravy.

Gravy Making Tips

  • Save the drippings from the turkey.
  • Heat the turkey drippings in a pot.
  • Put a few spoonfuls of flour in a bowl and add a bit of turkey drippings to make a slurry.
  • Add the slurry to the pot of drippings and mix it very fast (apparently this helps you avoid lumps).
  • Voila – gravy!
Christmas Eve dinner

Mushroom gravy.

  1. Actually, when I said that gravy is my Moby Dick, my mom said, “me too!” I didn’t know that – I always remember her making gravy. []

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Best Laid Plans

So last night I wrote two scheduled posts for today and was just starting on the postings that I had planned for yesterday when my blog decided it wanted to take Christmas Eve off. Perhaps it was wrapping presents or drinking egg nog, but whatever it was doing, it was not working for me. Happily, it’s back now, so I’m going to finish them now, while the little ones are napping, having gotten up at 6 am to see what Santa had brought them and then tired themselves out after playing with the million and one toys they received.

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Another Favourite Christmas Tradition

As previously mentioned, my favourite Christmas tradition is Baking Day. But another tradition we had when we were little was getting a new nightgown or PJs for Christmas Eve. I was reminded of this today as my sister and brother-in-common-law braved the icy streets and the even more treacherous mall-two-days-before-Christmas to acquire new PJs for my niece and nephew.

Thinking about this tradition reminded me of one year that, for some reason that no one seems to remember, we didn’t have any new PJs on Christmas Eve. My sister and I were very upset when we discovered this, but my Dad came up with a solution. At the time, he worked from Mack Truck and played on their hockey team. And he just happened to have the team jerseys at our house at the time, so my sister and I wore hockey jerseys to bed that Christmas Eve! We both have very fond memories of that year’s PJs!

And on a bit of a tangent, here’s a picture of me on Christmas morning when I was about five years old wearing my new Christmas housecoat!

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Christmas Baking 2013

Christmas Baking 2013 was a success!

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The intrepid bakers: Beth, Madeline, Ann, Nancy, and Daniel.

We baked a grand total of 9 things:

  • Chinese almond cookies
  • Jan Hangel cookies
  • flaxseed crackers
  • gingerbread
  • marshmallow puff tartlets – which I renamed Hufflepuffs
  • mocha nut butterballs
  • shortbread
  • Turtle bars
  • white chocolate & macadamia nut cookies

Here’s Madeline, baking Turtle bars:

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Some chopped macadamia nuts:Untitled

Thomas and Grandma are baking cookies:

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Some dulce de leche truffles:

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These are from the new recipe I decided to try, except instead of putting jam inside with the marshmallow, I put dulce de leche:
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The recipe was called “Marshmallow Puff Tartlets”1, but I kept calling them Poofy Puffs, before finally deciding they should be called Hufflepuffs

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A bunch of baked goods (clockwise from top left: gingerbread, Chinese almond cookies, shortbread, Hufflepuffs):

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And now we are all very tired and filled with sugar. Like I said: success!

  1. Basically, they are Whippets, but homemade and, therefore, better []

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Next Recipe I’m Going to Tackle

One of the suggestions for blog postings was “the next recipe you are going to tackle”. And fortunately for me, this is an easy one because I just so happened to have picked a new recipe to try out tomorrow for Christmas Baking Day: Marshmallow Puff Tartlets.

Day 166

And just to be different, I’m going to make half of them with jam, as shown in that picture and half with caramel. Because it’s Christmas and therefore sugar and butter should be mixed together at every opportunity.

I’ll be sure to blog the results!