Sunday, December 30, 2012

holiday baking: a user's guide to gaining 5lbs in one week

{Crack Pie}

{creme fraiche quiche}
Holiday eating is exhausting. Everywhere I go deliciousness abounds. Rich desserts, salted meats, creamy cheeses, crunchy nuts, warm drinks, cold drinks...what is a girl to do? Eat. Eat without pause. I think I can safely say that I haven't actually felt hungry since the middle of December, possibly earlier. How gross it that? How lucky is that? I'm not sure.

I really shouldn't throw stones considering that I live in a giant dessert filled glass house. I too am guilty of contributing to the gluttony that comes with the season. I made some of my old favourites (date loaf and chocolate shortbreads) and Jeff's new favouite (gooey chocolate stack), but I also tried a few new recipes as part of a new project with Cilatro The Cooks Shop. Mum is the word on the project for now, but I wanted to share a few pictures with you and endorse each of the recipes I tried. In particular, I want to recommend that you make the crack pie. A) It is called crack pie -- so cheeky, B) it is better than crack, I am almost sure of it.

I think I'll be looking for healthier fare in the new year so if you have any delicious light recipes you want to pass along my family and my arteries will thank you. Until then (how many hours of indulgence do I have left?) I will feast on butter and brown sugar because really, why stop now!



Friday, December 28, 2012

holiday photo dump

{early morning artwork}
{somewhere between awake and asleep}
I thought I better share a quick post to let you know we are alive and well over here on Newton Ave. It would appear I have inadvertently taken a little bloggy break, I hope you don't mind. I'm sure you've been too busy stuffing your face with peanut butter balls and nursing eggnog hangovers to notice. Not that I have been doing the same over here...

So how was your holiday? Did you get what you asked for? Did you cuddle with all your favourite family members and manage to tolerate those you could do without!? 

Jeff went back to work on Thursday, poor soul, but Vi and I have been relaxing at home all week. It is so nice to have a little break to end the year. Christmas never feels like a vacation in the same way a summer holiday does -- I think it because of everything we all try to squeeze into such a few days. I've seen more of my family in the last few days than I have in the last few months! 

Violet had a great time on Christmas morning, she got the suitcase she asked for:

The first words out of her mouth were, "can we go to the airport?". We have no trips planned! Such an odd request, such a cute suitcase.

I took a few pictures over the last week, so if you'll indulge me I'd love to share them here.

I plan on getting back to regular posting in the next few days -- I missed you guys!



Sunday, December 23, 2012

two more sleeps

{I might literally burst with excitement}
 Anyone else's home running on a candy cane high these days?

We've been gift wrapping, brunch eating, warm afternoon running, last minute shopping, elf of the shelf hiding and absolutely stuffing our faces with holiday cheer over here at the Pond household. I have a few fun projects to share with you over the holidays, but in case time gets away from me, as it does this time of year, I want to wish you all the very merriest of Christmases.

As much joy as the Christmas season brings I can't shake the image of twenty empty little beds, twenty stockings already stuffed by loving mums and dads that won't be opened. What can we do to make it better? I think there is something we each can do. I so hope there is something I can do.

My Christmas wish for you is that you are safe and warm and surrounded by the ones that you love. We are so so lucky. Merry Christmas friends.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

cold rain, warm spices

{thank you Martha}
Today was the worst. I walked to work in a veritable rain storm. I know I am prone to exaggeration so I will note there were actual rainfall warnings. I almost cried. (I did cry.)

After being absolutely pelted with cold December rain I arrived at my office looking like I had been in the shower with my clothes on. An umbrella and wellies were no match for the weather in Halifax today. To add insult to injury my new boss saw me in this state -- my hair was wild(er than usual), my umbrella looked like it had gone through a lawn mower and, perhaps most embarassingly, mascarra was cascading down my cheeks. He was kind enough not to say anything, but I can only imagine his shock. Not a great start to the day. I was soaked to the bone. My lunch bag was full of water, my briefcase was full of water, even my coffee cup (which was closed for the duration of my journey) was full of water. I dried off around 3:00 and headed home at 4:00.

The walk home was marginally better than the morning but still terrible.

To try to save the day from being a complete write off Violet and I made molasses cookies when we got home. The smell of the warm spices and the little hands helping me downgraded my mood from rage to slightly annoyed. When I took a bite of a warm cookie, happy thoughts began to filter into my mind again. How can you stay mad when your eating a fresh cookie?

Riddle me that.



Monday, December 17, 2012

Sunday School Christmas Concert

Cute right? Sunday was the Christmas concert at our church. Even the littlest kids got to participate this year. Vi was a star literally and figuratively (total bias recognized). As you can imagine the whole show was about the cutest thing you have ever seen. The little little kids were dressed up as barnyard animals and stars and they were all so well behaved. I spoke with a few dubious mothers before the performance began. It could go either way, seemed to be most people's prediction, but it turned out that any worry was for naught because all the kids stood up and screamed sang Away in a Manger like their little lives depending on it.

Apparently Violet had been telling people that she was going to be performing "Shoo fly don't bother me". I'm not sure where that came from, but I suppose she thought it was as good a song as any for a Christmas concert.

Violet looked so cute (total bias recognized), but I really didn't want to focus on that. After the show I told her that her performance was wonderful and that I was really impressed. I asked if it felt great to be on stage. She paused and looked right in my eyes, I felt something profound coming, my heart was bursting with pride. "Mum, I actually felt really sweaty."


Not wonderful.


Merry Christmas to all.



Sunday, December 16, 2012

gooey chocolate stack

One of the greatest things about having Jeff "back" is that we can entertain again. We had friends over last night and I wanted to make something special for the occasion. Enter the gooey chocolate stack. I've been eyeing the recipe for years in my beloved How to be a Domestic Goddess cookbook, but I had a bad run in with a pavlova a few years ago and I was a little afraid of attempting another meringue. I shouldn't have worried, the stack was almost as easy to make as a regular old chocolate cake and it definitely had more wow factor. 

Jeff sweetly remembered that yesterday was the third anniversary of our first date. After trying the gooey chocolate stack he told me that if I had made it for him on our first date he would have proposed then and there. If that is not a ringing endorsement for a dessert I don't know what is!



{mise en place}
{action shot}

{whisk until firm, yes m'am} 

{the before}

{creme patissiere}

{it was this good!}

Friday, December 14, 2012

clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose

My heart feels heavy as I write this post. Hug the ones you love extra tight tonight. When I heard about the tragedy in Connecticut I told Jeff I want to put Violet in a box and sit on it until she is thirty. (A warm cozy box of love -- you know what I mean).

I feel particularly grateful sitting here tonight with my cranky kiddo and tired husband right beside me.
{first batch of Christmas cookies}

I made these cookies last night with my little elf helper. I have a girl crush on Nigella Lawson (if you hadn't picked up on that) and  so I bestowed the honour of our first Christmas cookies on her. Wait, that makes it sound like I gave them to her -- I didn't. I used her recipe though! It is dark when I leave for work and when I get home so this shot is pretty brutal (plus I think I messed up the settings on my camera last night), but I assure you chocolate shortbread and cold glasses of milk were enjoyed by all after supper tonight.

{Christmas Traditions}
When I was little we had a lot of traditions. We always ate by candle light, we sang grace before supper and the only tv show we were allowed to watch was Road to Avonlea. If you ever wondered how I became so cool, now you know! One Christmas tradition we had was to burn an advent candle. Now Jeff and I do it with Violet. The candles haven't changed at all and I love that about them. Vi seems to be pretty into the idea and I am up for anything that builds anticipation for Christmas.
{Winter Fare}

I made bangers and mash for Jeff last week. Well, I made it for everyone but I did it because I thought he would like it. I didn't look at a recipe and I think I missed the mark a little. All I made were bangers and mash -- literally. Well, I fried up some onions. What am I missing? (I know this is a "let me google that for you moment", but if you have bangers and mash expertise I'd love to hear about it). Oh -- I did add celeriac to the mash -- so yummy.


this seems like a new low

until you read this...

I'll take one of each please (especially the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook if you're listening Jeff Santa)

I haven't seen any of these movies, we've been so out of the loop this year. Time to catch up before awards season!

We're having friends over tomorrow and I am going to make this or this for dessert. I can't wait.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

oh tannenbaum

Everyday when I get home from work I turn on our Christmas tree lights. I love how the little lights sparkle against the colorful bulbs. We don’t have a working fireplace, but the lit Christmas tree warms our living room in a similar way. It  makes our little house feel so cozy. Somehow the dark evenings don’t feel as depressing when those lights come on.

But have you ever tried to take a picture of your tree? Wow is it hard to capture the warmth of the twinkling light on film (I know no one uses film, but you know what I mean).

I literally spent an hour tonight googling how to use my camera to take a picture of a Christmas tree. Jeff bought me a nice camera a few years ago and I have been so brutal about learning how to use it to its full potential. Tonight was my first time trying the manual mode. From what I learned online the key is to adjust the ISO (I have no idea what that is, but I adjusted mine to 400 – fancy huh?), and make sure the aperture is wide open (that might be the same thing as ISO, not sure). There was something in there about shutter speed too. I'm not very detail oriented, so you might not want to quote me on this technique.

The end result is not an award winning photo, but it is a lot better than what I could have done this morning. 

I learned two things tonight. First, there really is a lot I can do with my camera that I am not currently doing. I would like to change that. There are a million and three youtube tutorials and websites out there teaching amateurs the basics about photography. There really is no excuse. Second, I need a tripod. It seems like an intense piece of equipment for a novice, but I really found it hard to stabilize my camera with such a slow shutter speed. I had to rearrange my coffee table and use a pile of books -- it worked, but I don't think the photo is totally in focus, plus I made a pretty big mess.

If you really want to experience the warmth of my tree you'll have to pop over. I made cookies tonight so it is a good time to come and visit, although you have about 15 minutes before I am in bed. You can't say you weren't warned.



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

adjust your default

{a hypothetical bad habit: feeding your child a lunch of pure sodium (a rarity in my house I swear)}
Did you know that every hour of tv you watch takes 22 minutes off your life?

Some shows are so worth 22 minutes (Miranda, Homeland, Girls), but most are not (no offence TLC, but pretty much everything on TLC).

Anyway, I didn't come here to talk to you about TV (not tonight anyhow). I want to talk about bad habits, not that you have any of course. I read an article earlier this evening that talked about a strategy for breaking those pesky tendencies we have that are either bad for us, bad for those around us, or just downright bad (tv watching was just one example). The article also cites excessive time spent online as a no no. Research suggests that if you can reprogram yourself to think that time spent online is something you actively do, as opposed to your natural state, if you can "reset your default",  you can break your bad habit.

Clear as mud?

After I read the article I tried to think of my worst habit. I thought and thought and thought and thought and thought and thought -- it is so hard to come up with something when you are so perfect...and then it came to me, maybe I have one teeny-tiny bad habit.

When it comes to the man I love, my default is to assume that I am right every time we argue. (I should preface this confession by saying that 99% of the time I actually am right.) The problem with this default or bad habit is that when we disagree I have a tendency to try to persuade dear Jeffrey of my point of view (aka help him see the light) as opposed to actually listening to what he has to say. My raison d'etre during any dispute is to prove my point. Learning something or seeing something from another point of view seems like a total waste of time when you are so confident in your own position - holy limiting for me (and holy annoying for him I'm sure).

So how do I reset my default? The article doesn't suggest this will be easy, but framing seems important. Maybe if I tell myself that when Jeff and I disagree there isn't always a right and a wrong answer that may help. Easier said than done, I'm sure, especially for someone who is so often right.



Saturday, December 8, 2012

clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose

Thanks for "bearing with" (have you been watching Miranda as instructed?)

Here is an truncated version of my weekly thankful post:

{Jacob Pinocchio Strawberry Shortcake Frances Mae Pond Blueberry Bingo}
After some initial trepidation Jacob has become integrated into our morning routine. I have yet to be late for work, but I see it coming! Here he is perched on Vi's piano. I  briefly considered replicating the famous Pretty Woman grand piano scene, but then, being the responsible mum I am I decided against it (read: I had no Barbie to make the scene feel real and I would never want to do Pretty Woman an injustice).

{Christmas cards}
Last year my friend designed the cutest Christmas cards for us. Since she went ahead and had a very cute baby this year she didn't set up the Etsy store I requested (the nerve!). After receiving a very darling birth annoucement we turned to a local favourite. I am so happy with them. Sending Christmas cards feels so grown up. (Anytime I do something by a prescribed date I feel pretty smug. Set the bar low and you'll have lots to feel good about!).

...I am grateful for lots more, but my husband will not be grateful if I keep typing. He wants to watch a movie...twenty-five minutes ago.

Better run!



links for your amusement:

Now if they could engineer a tree that would last from Canadian Thanksgiving until Christmas, that would be impressive

Goodnight Moon 2.0

My Grampy Hope (my mum's dad) lived in Halifax during the Explosion. True to Hope form there are some gruesome stories to accompany the experience, although this time no one can accuse them of embellishing. I only remember a little bit about my Grampy, but I hope he'd be proud my sweet little girl is named after him (his name was Francis, not Violet. Don't be silly)

So you think you want to own a restaurant (sigh)

I wrestled with my umbrella this week. I wonder if this would work?

A house for Eddie is an opportunity -- I love this

Friday, December 7, 2012

sneak peek

Tonight is our first "family night fun night" to include our whole family in a long time, so if it is all the same to you I will bring you my usual Friday post tomorrow. That's fine? Okay, thanks for being so flexible. Until then here is a sneak peek of some family pictures we had taken about a month ago. They were taken by the supremely talented and oh so sweet Charlotte Griffiths. There are so many more that I love, but I can't show you until after Christmas ;) They just may be an integral part of the second annual Pond Christmas card, you'll have to wait and see!

I'm off to cuddle the girl to my right and the man to my left. Heaven.

Until tomorrow,



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

and then there were three

{when do I get to hang out with my dad? seriously?}

Jeff is back! Marking is done! The Christmas tree is up! The Christmas tree will go up this weekend!

I am so excited to get our little place ready for Christmas. I have recipes I want to try, old favourites I can't wait to make again and special treats I love picking up this time of year. We don't go crazy with decorations, but I love trimming our tree and bringing out all our favourite little trinkets. Vi is so good not to touch anything. Jeff should take a page out of her book, he has already smashed an ornament!

Do you do Elf on the Shelf with your kids? There seems to be some controversy surrounding the little guy. Apparently some people don't want to lie to their kids (hello Santa). Anyhow, my sweet in-laws sent Violet one this week. You are asked to name the Elf as soon as you get it. Violet christened hers Jacob Pinocchio Strawberry Shortcake Blueberry Bingo, middle name -- Frances Mae Pond. Anyhow she is totally petrified of it. I think it makes her feel guilty or something, she is afraid of a bad report. Tonight she told me she didn't like how he was looking at her. What a character!

Here are a few pictures I snapped this weekend. Just odds and sods, keep in mind I spent almost the entire time strapped to my desk up to my neck in assignments



{tip: the best eggs come from the Mennonites in the back corner}

{it is going to be a long winter}

{Christmas came early for my carnivorous husband}

{welcome home cookies for Jeff}

{oh those lashes} 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

come home

{feeling blue? might I suggest marzipan?}

I've always fancied myself an independent lady. I've lived on my own and I quite liked it, but my life is set up for two people right now and maintaining a two person life alone is hard. For instance, every Saturday at the crack of dawn my family heads to the market. Would I be this keen on my own? Maybe, but probably not. Why not? Because it totally stinks standing in line in the freezing cold to pay for parking, carrying a bag of root vegetables that matches your weight and buying milk that costs four times what you'd pay at Sobeys. Cold, heavy and expensive. Not fun. Yet somehow with Jeff market mornings seem magical, they are one of the highlights of my week. And what about watching movies? I love a good movie, but if I lived alone I would not have the tv in the scary/cold basement. I like retreating down there with Jeff, it is out of the way and cozy, but by myself it feels far away from Violet and a little creepy. Finally, if I lived alone I wouldn't look forward to Sunday runs because I would know I couldn't go. It wouldn't be part of my routine. As much as I love hanging out with Vi in the morning I look forward to my one run outside these days. Without Jeff at home whipping up waffles and watching cartoons I wouldn't look forward to it.

I am having a woe is me moment. Just indulge me.

So obviously I can't wait for Jeff to get home. Until then I'll eat some more stollen and go to bed with the lights on.



ps -- yes I always have holly berries in the background when I eat holiday treats. Who doesn't?