Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How to be happy

I like this post about insecurity that my friend Debbie linked to on fb recently. The other day I noticed the tag line on Debbie's blog is a quote by Theodore Roosevelt, 'Comparison is the thief of joy.' True dat Teddy.

Living in central London where wealth and poverty sit, often uncomfortably, side by side has repeatedly taught me that comparing my lot to that of others is fruitless. There will always be people with so much more (materially) and many many with so much less. Like, without a home kind of less. Following American Thanksgiving I am continuing to mull over the many status updates and blog posts reflecting on gratitude and the importance of being grateful for what we have from week to week. It's a good and worthy exercise, especially when I start to let myself feel grumpy that our flat is small or my dishes are chipped (it is and they are but that's okay!) I am trying to focus on the big and little (often free!) things that bring me abundant joy every day - smiles from the boys, hot cups of tea, walking in the park, good library books, sleep . . . okay so I know I'm not quite at the heart of the matter on this one but it's a start. Lots more to say and think about here . . .

Happy happy joy joy

This made me feel all happy like. Enjoy!

Go tell it on the mountain

Feeling all wintry and - dare I say it - Christmasy all of a sudden! I am definitely feeling the vibe. Little wonder considering that this week I've eaten (a couple) mince pies, been listening to Over the Rhine Christmas album (download it for free here - you won't be sorry!), reading The Snow Child (amazing so far) and Christmas shopping (if clicking away online counts.) Oh, and tonight boy one was singing 'Go tell it on the mountain' as learned at nursery school. Love that! Only a little over two weeks until we are Canada bound and the festivities commence in earnest . . . :)

Soup night

It's been pretty rainy and grey in London during these past few weeks. Pretty typical for the end of November, and today it felt positively wintry (by UK standards) with woolly hat and gloves required! We're wearing our wellies and still smiling most of the time.

On these dark evenings there are few things better than a lovely bowl of homemade soup with some fresh bread. This morning I made a massive pot of this potato soup (any version of which will forever happily remind me of Pioneer Camp where potato and corn chowder was a lunch mainstay!) And I made this minestrone soup the other night which got the dinner table thumbs up - even boy two, who is a newbie on the eating front, sucked on the pasta and supped the broth! Boy one said, 'Mom, this is so good. Did you see Daddy making homemade soup and think that you could do it too?' Ha! I guess I'm a culinary copycat in his books. The recipe is my take on the version in the Hairy Bikers diet book that I recently got from the library. It makes a big pot with plenty extra for the freezer which is a must in my world. Serve with Stu's fresh crusty bread spread liberally with soft butter.

Minestrone Soup

6 ripe tomatoes
1 tin chopped tomatoes
3 tsp olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves
2 celery sticks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 litres stock - chicken or veg, I like Marigold salt free bouillon
200 grams fusilli pasta
1 tbsp tomato puree
200 grams frozen peas
handful of fresh green beans (optional)
1 tsp pesto
salt and pepper

Fry the onion and garlic gently in oil until softened. Add carrot and celery and continue to saute for a few more minutes. Add chopped fresh and tinned tomatoes, pour in stock and bring to a boil. drop in the pasta, add the tomato puree and bring to the boil, then cook for 8 minutes. Add frozen peas and beans and cook for another 5 minutes or until the pasta is just tender. Stir in pesto. Season to taste. Stay warm and wear your slippers.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A history of violence

'This dvd is lovely. It's so sweet. There's no violence.' Boy one said this a few days ago about the Winnie the Pooh movie that he got out of the library. (It is actually very sweet - great soundtrack.) I was happy to hear that in his own way he had figured out why we have been saying no to spiderman cartoons despite his undying love for all things superhero. It is my non-expert opinion that *kapow* style fighting on screen makes my already energetic boy unusually aggressive and hard to manage.

Violence. Death. Hurt. Loss. Not really ideal topics for discussion with a three and a half year old. But they do come up. On Friday we went to the Imperial War Museum and tomorrow after church we are going to the National Army Museum for a soft play session - timely visits as tomorrow is Remembrance Sunday.
We actually go to the War Museum fairly often as it's a short walk from our flat. Boy one especially enjoys the old airplanes suspended from the high ceilings. Up until now we have not actually talked about what war is. He thinks the missiles in the museum are 'rockets' and doesn't know what the 'cool' big tanks are for. He sometimes makes up adventures for his little 'army men' plastic figurines that he knows from Toy Story. But this week as we stood looking at a field of paper poppies we had a short conversation about remembering soldiers that have died. At one point he interjected with concern, 'But no soldiers were in London.' I didn't tell him about my grandmother's younger brother Steele who was killed in a collision with a bus while riding his motorcycle during a blackout in London in 1941. And I didn't tell him about fighting in Afghanistan that continues to claim lives on all sides daily. Our talk ended with boy one thoughtfully asking, 'But everybody's happy now though right?'

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sleigh bells ring

The Christmas baubles are up in Covent Garden and last night the lights were lit on Oxford Street! I really love this season in London. The decorations took me by surprise today since Halloween has only just passed, but the weather feels sufficiently chilly and we are happy to be counting down to our trip home to Canada. This pic of boy one looking little next to the very big bow on the even bigger tree cracks me up! Time to make some gift lists (we keep it pretty simple thankfully but it requires some thought and some dosh even so) and peruse some recipes! Off to bed for me now with visions of Christmas baking dancing in my head . . .

Profundity escapes me

There's many a blog post floating around in my head. I draft them while pushing the buggy or washing dishes but when I finally get to sit down at the computer in peace at the end of the day, alas, the profundity escapes me. This afternoon I was mulling over various possible themes for my blog ranging from politics (dear knows there's plenty to talk about from the serious to the surreal, but I think I'll leave that to Guido) to parenting (despite my hippy dippy attachment leanings I am not really looking to take up a side in any Mommy/Mummy wars.) After much debate (with myself) I decided in the main to stick to telling you what we had for dinner (like this divine autumn on a plate lentils with sausages recipe) and recommending things to eat with a cup of tea (like these Northern Irish classic fifteens - yum.) After all, when all's said and done it's hard to cause offense when talking about marshmallows. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sew inspired

I don't get Pinterest. To be fair, I haven't really tried. In truth, I don't really have any more free time to spend on the internet than I already do. But every now and again Facebookers tells me that a friend has 'pinned' something and from time to time I have clicked through out of curiosity. Most recently I found that my ever creative and crafty sister-in-law had pinned this amazing tutorial (in Finnish) for a stuffed whale made from old jeans. Like whoa. I have old jeans! I have a child who loves stuffed toys! And best of all, I have a friend who is from Finland who just happens to be an amazing seamstress! It's a sign.

And then today I stumbled upon this tutorial on how to make a skirt from an old jumper. I really love these and, I'm probably being naive here, but the instructions sound pretty simple. Definitely time to dust off the old sewing machine . . .

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Who doesn't love a good birthday? Stu's birthday is today so we have been enjoying a #birthdayweekend in our world (is it weird that I think in hashtags? Don't answer that.) We recently watched a Modern Family (love) episode which revealed that Claire is hilariously bad at giving gifts to Phil ('Feel') who is hilariously good. Let's face it, I was aware that this year, factoring in sleep deprivation and needs of two smalls to attend to, 'pulling a Dunphy' was a possibility so I ended up making a bit of an extra effort to ensure we had sufficient birthday accoutrements including balloons, sparkly packages and a sugar high from dang good cake. Pleasingly the trappings were appreciated by lads young and old, with boy one engaging in the revelry as if it was his own b-day. 

Weekend highlights were many. Saturday afternoon we all enjoyed walking/scooting in the crisp autumn air. Lots of baking was done by both Stu and me (soda bread, cob loaf, Paul Hollywood's scones and chocolate cupcakes and lemon cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery book - you might be starting to get the idea that this is my go-to for special baking recipes at the minute.) And today we gained an extra hour with the clocks falling back (ever so confusing for the Saskatchewanian abroad) so we had lots of time for church this morning and a lovely afternoon with a few dear friends for Stu's birthday tea party. Please forgive the food table picture. I just can't help myself.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday night lights

A wet and cold Friday night here in London town, but we are warm and toasty, tucked up on the sofa with some Green and Blacks and a cuppa and ready to watch an episode of The Killing II. We watched the first series (the Danish one) in the summer and mercy me, it is so very good. (Disclaimer: It's pretty graphic/scary and haunting, like it says on the tin.) But oh the suspense and intrigue! Very edge of your seat. And great characters. Those Danes are flippin' geniuses. Next up will be Borgen if I can get my mitts on it.

The only other things we're watching at the moment, now that GBBO is over *sigh* - are series three of Downton and series two of Homeland. And I have happily heard rumors that a new series of Call the Midwife is coming sometime soon. Any other recommendations?

I have to say, we really love our AppleTV which stops us from mindlessly channel surfing as everything's on demand. Anyhow, let's face it, by the time we do bedtime/dishes/laundry/tidy we *just about* have time for one episode before bedtime. Rock 'n' roll!!! I keep contemplating doing something crafty of an evening like this or this but so far it's all in the mind.