Monday, May 31, 2010

Crazy Busy

It's Monday already??? I can hardly believe it! I suppose I did do alot this weekend but it feels like it should only be Sunday. On Friday we went to Matt's brother's Grad reception. One of Matt's sisters and her husband stayed with Gabe while we went so I made sure they were well fed (I cooked up the duck drumsticks - roasted with earl grey tea - and made another fruit tart, not to mention all the leftover salads). It was a nice reception, the meal was decent (not as good as the duck though). Once we were done there we went home to relieve the babysitters and got invited out for the evening. Matt's brother wasn't attending any of the grad events that night so we all took him out to play some late night pool and Matt's parents watched Gabe for us. The first car load of us got home from pool at 2:30 a.m. - of which I was a part of - and Matt and his brother got back just after 3. We bundled Gabe up (he fortunately stayed asleep), took him home and Matt decided he was feeling a bit chatty so we didn't get to sleep until 4. Matt got up with the dog at 6:30, came back to bed for a bit, and then got up just before 8 so that he could meet a buddy for coffee. This was very unlike Matt and even more unlike him was the fact that when he got back from coffee at around 10 he wasn't feeling completely exhausted. So we spent all of Saturday hanging out with his family. We played board games, watched movies, watched more movies and played more games. It was fun :) Sunday we went to church and then back to Matt's parents' place for lunch and then we went swimming with everyone. Poor Gabe was either too hot or too cold. The place we went to didn't have a kid's pool (the place that did had an hour wait to get into the pool because it was so full) so we took him into the big pool and he was shivering like mad but the hot tub was too hot to do more than just splash on him. While Gabe was hanging out with his Gran and his aunty I got to play some pool volleyball, which I greatly enjoyed. That is, until the salt water from the pool (yep, it was salt water) started reacting with a burn I had got on my arm on Friday night. The burn had stopped hurting by Saturday morning but it started blistering up thanks to the salt and now it hurts more than ever. Anyway, after the swim we went to have dinner with my parents and my mom and I went for an hour walk with the dog afterwards. It was a really, really nice weekend. We got to hang out with Matt's sister and her husband from Edmonton, whom we really don't get to see enough of, and we didn't something as wild as going out at 11:30 at night and staying out til 3, which really never happens anymore since we had Gabe.
This week I will need to regroup from the past few fun-filled days and then prep for the next two weeks of funness (yep, I said it). Next weekend Matt has a Men's Conference in Calgary and I am getting to see a bunch of friends that I haven't seen in a while for which I am quite excited. The following weekend I am being part of an Alumni Choir Concert so I need to learn the 4 pieces for that, go to the rehearsals and then the concert is on the Saturday. As soon as the concert is over and I've said goodbye to all my old friends again we're packing up and going to Canmore for a week. So, before that point there are a number of things I need to do. For one, that weekend is also the weekend of a Ladies' Retreat, which, while I am not attending, I did agree to bake for. So I need to have 4 dozen of my Two-Bite Brownies made up and 3 dozen (or so) muffins made up. I'm also volunteering for some job for the Choir concert, we will clearly need to pack for a week away from home which will involve all sorts of activities so it will also clearly involve all sorts of luggage (we're talking golf clubs, swim gear, fishing gear, board games and a whole lot of baby stuff). While we are gone on vacation one of Matt's siblings will be house sitting for us so I need to make sure the house is spotless and that I have a few meals in the freezer for them - cause that's how I roll. Besides all that, I found out that an organization in town is look for event coordination volunteers so I'm going to throw my name in there for some pro bono. Sounds like a fun couple of weeks, eh? The anticipation of enjoyment will far outweigh any of the stress of preparation so I'm not dreading these next two weeks by any means. I just realize that it may be a bit hectic :)
I am super excited for Canmore though. We'll take the babies swimming every day, go for hikes, go shopping in Banff, take lots of pictures and play LOTS of cards. Matt and I are also planning on going for dinner at The Trough Dining Company again. Fantastic food, really. Family vacation in Canmore is definately one of the highlights of my year, every year. Even that year when I was pregnant and couldn't eat anything other than tortilla chips with nacho cheese sauce and root beer.
Well, Gabe might wake up soon so I should probably go eat breakfast while I still have the chance.

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Day of the Duck

Tonight was my "impromptu" dinner party featuring the infamous duck. I started getting dinner ready at about 10:00 this morning. First I needed to make the pastry cream. I love pastry cream because it isn't actually made with cream. It is slightly finnicky, but I'd always much rather make pastry cream than eclair cream. Basically you mix the dry ingredients (cornstarch, flour, sugar and salt) with eggs, then you heat up milk and sugar and mix that into the egg mixture. Then you heat that until it thickens, add butter and vanilla and put it in an ice water bath. Voila. I then did some cleaning and cut up most of the veggies I would need for my other dishes. I also defrosted the duck in cold water. I had pulled it from the freezer as soon as it was confirmed that the dinner party was a go yesterday, but it didn't defrost fast enough in the fridge. So it needed an hour in the cold water and it was good to go. I made up the Pesto Orzo Salad and then tackled the duck. Deboning a duck is considerably easier than deboning a chicken - except for the drumstick, but I'll get to that in a bit. Duck meat is much leaner than chicken meat and while ducks have a lot of fat on them, it is clumped together as a thick layer under the skin. When you are cutting up chickens the fat is marbled throughout - a little bit here, a little bit there. I did not, in fact, spatch-cock the duck as I said I would. The first thing I did was I carved the breasts off. This was remarkably easy since the meat was still partly frozen - much easier to cut. I found the center cartiledge between the breasts and carved down from there. I took the knife all the way from there to basically the drumsticks. There's very little "other" meat on a duck. You have wings, breasts, legs... and then fat. The breasts came off in one piece and that took care of the meat on the top of the duck. Next I tried to get the drumsticks off and I couldn't! That was the hardest part of the whole thing. Normally a little twist and the bone pops out and then you pull it right out but maybe it was the lack of fat, maybe it was the duck, maybe it was me, but it took me a long time and a lot of different tactics to get that drumstick apart. I finally got it loose from the carcass with an extra bone sticking out and managed to twist that one off. The wings came right off and I managed to get enough good meat off the back to put in the rice paper rolls. Once all the meat was off I put it in the fridge for the meanwhile and moved on to other things. I made the crust for the fruit tart - 4 sheets of phyllo folded into a large loaf pan, butter spread on each layer and sugar sprinkled on top. It baked great. My sister-in-law came over at around 4 and then the real fun started :) We threw together the Mango Slaw fairly quickly and then I put on the Prune Coffee Syrup. First you cook up some onions and then you add 12 prunes, 10 oz coffee, 3 tbsp honey and 2 cinnamon sticks. Man, my house smelled amazing! Once that was done we made up the Coconut Shrimp which were super tasty by the way. Then I finished off the tart by layering the pastry cream on the phyllo crust, then laying out kiwi, strawberries and blueberries on top. I also threw on a gel glaze - you buy the mix, add sugar and water and it's done in 2 minutes. That brought us to about 5:10 and the next half hour was a blur. I started with the duck breast. We had pulled it from the fridge about half an hour before (recommended so that it doesn't shrink when you cut it). I scored the skin and fat on top in a little checker design so that the fat could seep out. I then cooked it, skin side down, in a tiny bit of oil over medium-high for 5 minutes (no lid) then I turned down the heat to medium-low and cooked it on the same side for 5 more minutes. By the end of that time the skin was nice a crispy. I then flipped it and covered it (thankfully because the grease sure was flying) and cooked it for 5 more minutes and it was perfect. I let it sit a couple minutes before I sliced it, and when I did cut it the middle was perfectly pink and the outside was wonderfully crispy. In the meantime I also made up the balsamic reduction (3/4 c. balsamic vinegar and 1/2 tbsp honey) which was infinitely better than the last one I had made. I did not bother with the l'orange because, well, I didn't feel like it. I know, I know, I made duck and it wasn't l'orange but really, these sauces were much better in my opinion. I then plated the duck and made sure the table was set and moved the ready food out to there. Back in the kitchen I cooked up the duck meat for the rice paper rolls and the vermicelli rice noodles. Once those were ready we rolled them up and got them out of the table. I pulled the shrimp out from the oven (they baked a little long simply because company was late so dinner started late, but that was okay) and I mixed up some fruit puree sodas with sugared rims. Matt's buddy got here just after 6 and we sat down to eat - it was awesome. My sister-in-law preferred the Prune Coffee Syrup on the duck and while I really did like that, I preferred the Balsamic reduction, as did Matt. The Rice Paper Rolls were awesome, we used a teriyaki sauce in them and it went great with the duck. Once all of the duck and shrimp were gone I brought out dessert and that was great too. It's amazing how good something so simple tastes - granted the pastry cream is a bit harder than whipping up a cake mix but I got it all ready before Gabe woke up this morning and then it was just layering things really. My sister-in-law left right after dessert unfortunately, but our other guest stayed until about 9:30 so we got to see his pictures from France (there were a lot of pictures of doors and old men, it was actually quite interesting) and then we talked for a couple hours. It was a busy day, but a good one. And now, my kitchen is a mess (which it sure wasn't this morning), my body is tired (which it may have been this morning) and my duck is gone (which it definately wasn't this morning). I do have the drumsticks left and while I won't get to eat them for dinner tomorrow, I may make them up for Gabe's babysitters tomorrow night - his aunt and uncle from Edmonton. We'll see :) I did indeed preserve my duck fat, or liquid gold as it is referred to in the culinary world, and Matt thinks I'm crazy for keeping it.
I'm in a happy place right now. Gabe is in bed, I can hear the rain just starting to drizzle, I spent the evening enjoying good company and good conversation... oh, and I just polished off the leftover fruit tart! Today was a good day.

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dinner party!

Oh yay!! Impromptu dinner party!!! Well, demi-impromptu. It's tomorrow. So I have a whole day to prepare for it! And guess what... it's duck night!!! My sister-in-law swung by today for a visit and when I asked her about pictures from her trip in France she said she hadn't even seen them yet! So we're inviting her and one of the guys that was on the trip with her over for dinner tomorrow so that we can look at pictures - and so that I can cook my duck.
Oh, before I go any further, I finished off that business plan and all the financial spreadsheet templates that I was putting together for my brother - and I made some for my sister too! Oh, and it only took 5 hours!
Anyway, I planned my menu this evening and ran out for groceries so that I wouldn't have to do that tomorrow. The duck will be the appetizer primarily. Duck breast done in three different ways: with a prune and coffee syrup, with a cinnamon balsamic reduction (sweetened with honey!) and a l'orange - simply because I gotta. Then, once we're done our duck tasting we'll have the mango coleslaw (red cabbage, peppers, mango, limes, cilantro), Pesto Orzo Salad (tomatoes, peppers, cucumber), my homemade Panko Coconut Shrimp and finally Duck Meat Rice Paper Rolls with rice vermicelli, green onion, carrot, cucumber and red pepper. Oh yes, and for dessert we are indeed having my fresh fruit phyllo tart and for bevies we'll be having italian sodas and strawberry and mango puree sodas.
Now, I know I'm insane, but it's not as bad as it looks. My biggest challenge will be getting the duck defrosted in time and dissecting it. I do, however, have lots of experience working with whole chickens and really, a duck is very similar (no kidding, eh?). Since I'm not cooking the duck whole I'll simply spatch-cock it so that it's easier to access the breast. I'll remove those and the legs and then the rest of the duck shall be roasted (sorta). My second biggest challenge will be all of the sauces. My reduction I can make a little bit ahead but the l'orange and the prune coffee syrup should be served hot. I may have to play waitress a bit and serve the appetizers one at a time. Nearly everything else I can, and will, make ahead. The orzo salad I'll make in the morning, as well as the pastry cream. The whole fruit tart I can make in the early afternoon because it's best chilled. The Mango Coleslaw can be made about an hour ahead - not too much more because I don't want anything to discolor. The fruit purees - simple. The coconut shrimp I can make right after the coleslaw. Those involve a bit more effort than just chopping veggies so it'll have to be 100% attention on the shrimp when I shallow fry them, but after that I finish baking them in the oven so I can pretty much forget about them until we're ready for them. Duck breast cooks remarkably fast so I can cook those up independant of the sauces (except for the coffee syrup one - those are cooked in the sauce) and by that time my sister-in-law will be over to help so one of us will be on sauce duty and one of us will be on duck duty. The last item of concern will be the rice paper rolls. I'll use the random dark meat off the carcass for those. The vermicelli cooks super fast and I can cut everything up for them in advance so the only issue is rolling them. We'll have to do that between the appetizers and dinner. But that's okay, it'll be fun.
I'm so excited! And hungry all of a sudden... I'd best go clean and maybe chop some veggies for tomorrow.

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Finery and Flowers

I woke up at 6:30 this morning and it felt fantastic! The first thing I realized was that I felt really great. The second was that Gabe didn't wake me up in the night. I really love getting up early and when your baby still wakes up in the night it's hard to push yourself out of bed at 6, but we're working on getting him to sleep through the night consistently and hopefully it happens soon.
Matt and I did get out to the garden center last night and picked up a few more bedding plants. I got some pretty pink nicotiana, some red and white impatiens, some orange african daisies and Matt picked out a Red Heart Iresine (pretty red foliage). Those are all going into my front flower bed with the euphorbia and verbena that I picked up yesterday. So, the majority of the flowers in that front bed are going to be red/pink, orange and yellow. The only exceptions will be the goutweed I have in there already, the euphorbia I got which have little diamond white flowers and some little black flowers I planted which I can't for the life of me remember what they are :) In the backyard I have a bunch of mixed colors of celosia and coleus, then my delphiniums, bells of ireland and some lilies. We also have a couple wild flowers that pop up randomly back there and last year I planted some hostas, a solomon's seal and a toad lily... we'll have to see if any of those come back. So far it doesn't look too promising. In my small front flower bed I mentioned how those perennials have come back in. One is a candy-stripe cushion phlox and the other is a euphorbia wood spurge. I'll probably put my little white euphorbia in that flower bed next year.
Last night I told Matt that we needed to have people over for dinner this week since I really want to make a few dishes but either the size or the grandeur of them merit company. As far as the size aspect goes, I really want to make up that mango coleslaw, mostly because I have all the ingredients for it already. Not liking mango myself I'm not really sure why I want to make it so bad, but I do. I also want to make a fresh fruit phyllo tart with a pastry cream and gelatin glaze. They're super easy to make except for the pastry cream. I figure, if I'm putting in that much work to make an honest to goodness pastry cream, I'd better have more than just family eating it. Ah yes, and then we have the duck. Duck is not simply a family meal. Duck is a treat. A thing to be cherished and treated with a certain amount of ceremony and presentation. When Matt and I first got married he complained about doing dishes alot because I put everything into serving dishes instead of just putting the pots and pans on the table. I've since kicked that habit for the most part unless company is over (in which case dishes are a minor concern as opposed to presentation) but whenever I prepare this duck it will be plated, it will be pretty and it will, most definitely, have useless, beautiful garnishes.
In case you can't tell by my blog posts, I have a definite respect for finery. I also have a respect for regality and class, but on the off chance I sound too pompous by explaining that further, let's just say I'd have done well in the Victorian era. Back to the finery though. Now, I was raised to appreciate things like dirt and puddles and farms and working with your hands. And I definitely grasped the appreciation for getting dirty. But I've always harboured a desire to dress up and act proper every once in a while. I'm disappointed that the classiest restaurants in town don't have a dress code and that people feel that if they can eat there then their kids can eat there too. I really believe that there should be restaurants where little kids are not allowed because hey, even if your kid is really well behaved it still affects the atmosphere having strollers and chocolate milk in there. Growing up I was always a tomboy and in high school I was "affectionately" referred to as a "Suzy-Homemaker-Hick" by a couple friends but there's a time and a place for all of that. Even if you look at my house my rooms are divided by the finery vs. comfort battle. My living room on the main floor has my french provincial furniture, my huge mirror with a gilded frame, our china and fine art... the living room in the basement has Matt's model motorcycle collection, our hockey cards, the comfy chairs and the TV. There's a time to get dirty and I really do believe there's a time to clean up, sit up straight, drink tea and talk pretty.
Anyway. Today I'm planting the rest of my bedding plants and then I am reading and writing. My brother is starting a new business and so I'm going to write up a business plan for him and do what I do to get him set up. Hopefully it won't take too long to get all of that done. Then I need to catch up on some of my reading of Calvin's Institutes since I didn't get alot of that in last week. If that all doesn't take too long I also need to practice my music for my high school choir alumni concert. 4 pieces, 1 is very chromatic, 1 I've actually heard before and the other two, well, they're in flats. I learned music primarily by playing worship guitar so you play in the key of E, G or maybe A. I'm a sharp friendly sort of girl. I think in sharps. I write in sharps. Flats throw me off. I know, I know, how big of a deal can it be that it's in 3 flats rather than 3 sharps, but to me when I sight read music I make stupid mistakes in flats. That's why I need to practice in advance instead of just going in and reading it.
For now though, I'll just start by getting those flowers in. It's calling for rain this afternoon so I'd best do it now!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

So productive!

Yes! I did everything I needed to do today! Well, except picking up my prescription. And I still have some laundry and dishes to do tonight... but other than that I got it all done! I picked up tea, light bulbs for the fish tank, flowers, groceries... I feel great having got it all done!
I didn't pick up all the flowers I need for my front bed, but I did get a couple pretty annuals. Matt and I might go again tonight because I really want to get some berry bushes and a clematis as well as a few more annuals but it's really hard to shop for all that stuff when you're pushing a stroller. The garden center I normally go to only has a couple carts with baby seats and they were all taken - mostly by people who didn't need them. When I went to get my groceries I brought in my stickers! Co-op has been having a product give-away of sorts. For every $10 you spend you get a sticker. Save up your stickers and trade them in for pots and pans! The cheapest one was a 20 cm. frying pan for 50 stickers. I decided that this was probably going to be the most cost effective method for getting my dutch oven! That one cost 90 stickers. So the promotion has been on since February and I've had a couple people collecting the stickers for me. One more than most. My mom works for a senior gentleman (I use the term loosely) named Tom. I call him Thomas. He's pretty much my adopted grandpa and he thinks so as well. So he went over and above collecting these stickers for me. This weekend he gave me a full sheet of stickers - 110 of them. I had just filled up my own sheet with 90 stickers (a third of which he gave me, too) so now I had 200 stickers. Well, I didn't need another roasting pan (110 stickers), a saute pan (90 stickers), or a square grill pan (80 stickers) so I got my dutch oven and the 20 cm frying pan! I had enough stickers leftover to get the next size up of frying pan as well but they were out of stock, so the next time they have those in I'll get one of those too!
I'm testing out my dutch oven tonight too. I'm making roast beef but I didn't have any red wine so I threw on some tabasco spiked ketchup and some french beer. We'll see.
We haven't had working lights in our fish tank all week so now that they're in I'm getting to see some of the babies for the first time in a while. Just before the lights went out Matt and I pulled three more babies out of the hatchery and put them into the main tank. We already had three bigger ones out for a while so we were hoping they'd all be okay. The first three babies were from one of the first batches that were born in our tank; 2 females and one male and they're yellow and blue. So not very vibrant. At first we thought there was something wrong with the male because it didn't look like he had any color - until the light caught him and you could see that he was yellow. He's not very vibrant yet though. One of the females is blue and the other is yellowish. Well, these next three I was quite excited for. Again, 2 females and one male but this male is gorgeous. He's got a blue point at the base of his tail but the rest looks red. One of the females is quite pretty too - she's spotted! And she may be a he. I'm really not sure. I think it's a she, but it looks like she's got a different shaped tail, which would make her a he. But it could just be that part of it's been nipped off by a bigger fish. Oh, and one of our fish is having babies as I speak and I've caught 4 of those so far.
Well, Matt's home so I'd best get dinner finished. We're having roast beef sandwiches with green beans, an orzo salad and mango puree sodas. Yum!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)


What a great weekend! Well, aside from the fact that I was sick for most of it - but really, other than that it was great. I got to hang out with my family, played some cards, watched some movies and got some yard work done. Yesterday we job shared with my mom so I helped her plant her garden and she helped me with my flower beds. She gave me some strawberry plants for Mother's Day so we put those in and then we dug out my back flower bed and put in my celosia and bells of ireland there and then we went to the front and checked on my perennials which all came back! Matt cleaned up all the trash that Cash keeps pulling all over the yard and mowed and trimmed back the branches on some of our trees. Gabe got his first hands on dirt experience yesterday. While my mom and I were planting her garden he was leaning over the little fence she has around it and picking up clumps of dirt. He wouldn't put the dirt in his mouth, but if he saw a stick or a berry that was going in for sure. He grabbed a worm - and squished it. That was gross. And then he went over to the flower beds and sat right in the middle of them - and got ants all over him. But he really loved it. He spent probably 40 minutes just squishing dirt clumps.
Today I'm going to finish off my flower beds. I'm digging out some more in the back to put in some coleus and this afternoon I'm going to pick up some flowers for my front beds. Then this week we are building my raised garden for my vegetables! I'm putting in beets, yellow beans, lettuce, squash and peas. The squash is for Gabe :) It's one of his favorite foods. Oh! And my bells of ireland that I planted last year may actually be coming up. Last year I didn't get around to planting until June (yah, like I was going to have time to plant a garden with a one month old baby) so alot of what I planted never really came up, including my bells of ireland. Well, yesterday my mom and I were trying to identify some unknown things sprouting up in one of my back beds and I'm pretty sure they're my bells! Anyway, besides all of my flower beds and my veggie garden, I'm also going to put in fruit trees this year. I've already got raspberry and strawberry bushes in my yard but I think I'd like to have some blueberry bushes as well as some apple or cherry trees. I may also looking into getting a nut tree... I'll have to see about that though because Matt's already not too thrilled that I want fruit trees. He hates picking fruit (I love it personally).
Besides gardening today I also have a whole whack of errands to run - I've got to go pick up some new light bulbs for our fish tank, if I'm on that end of town I might as well pick up more loose-leaf Cream Earl Grey tea, I've got to pick up a prescription (stupid rash on my finger...) and I've got to get groceries. I had been waiting for the dryer to finish because it's got my clothes for the day in there, but that just buzzed. I guess I'd better get started because besides all those errands, I really wanted to bake today!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Millionaire's Shortbread

Well, I didn't make the sour cream cake. I changed my mind. I decided to make Dulce de Leche squares. Actually, not quite. I made Millionaire's Shortbread off of 5 Ingredient Fix. Shortbread crust, caramel type filling and chocolate on top!
Millionaire's Shortbread:
1 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
Mix the above ingredients and using a pastry blender cut in:
1/2 c. butter
Press mix in the bottom of a greased 8x8 pan and bake in a 350 oven for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden. Let cool completely.
While the crust is cooling mix:
1 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 tbsp butter
cook in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-low. Stir regularly until it comes to a boil - continue to cook (stir, stir, stir!) until it's thick and amber colored.
Pour over crust.
Melt 5 ounces semi-sweet or milk chocolate in a double boiler. Pour and spread over the top. Let cool completely before serving!

I also made chocolate dipped strawberries. I had a bit of extra melted chocolate and some chocolate melting wafers that I've been wanting to use up for a long time not to mention there was a sale on strawberries this week so I had a couple cartons in the fridge. Since the chocolate wasn't Grade A thanks to the melting wafers I coated a bunch of them in stuff. Half I coated in coconut and the other half I did in a caramel sprinkle topping thing from Pampered Chef. I made sample ones of each type to try - you know, just in case they weren't good enough. They were :)

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)


Last night Matt took me out for dinner! We went to a sushi place that sits on top of a hill overlooking the downtown core. I insisted we get a window seat :) We each got a "bento box" so you get to pick an appetizer and three main courses. I got the teriyaki chicken satays for the appetizer, assorted sushi and maki, assorted tempura and Korean BBQ ribs. We also got miso soup and a plate of their unagi maki. It was really good - although assorted tempura apparently means yams, squash, broccoli and zucchini. Also shrimp, which is why I ordered it, but the rest wasn't great. Then we went to Chapters - I bought a cookbook! Surprise! It's called "Verrines: starters and sweets in small glasses". Gorgeous, gorgeous presentation. I'm excited to make the Vanilla-Honey Pineapple confit with Marscapone Cream and the Delice du Cafe Noir with layers of chocolate-caramel mousse, white chocolate mousse and dark chocolate sauce. They also have a bunch of savoury items like stacked maki, layered dips and some sort of a coconut, avocado crab milkshake. My mom almost gagged looking through it.
After Chapters we went to pick up Gabe from my parents' place and we ended up watching a couple season finales: CSI and Bones. The CSI one freaked the heck out of me in the last scene (even though I knew it was coming) and even though I only watched one Bones episode all season the finale totally made me pumped to see what happens next season.
Tonight we're having dinner with my parents and my sister's family. My mom called this afternoon to see if I could make dessert. She recommended that I just whip up a cake mix but I really don't keep those in the house. So, I'm not sure what to make... I have strawberries in the house, and some whipping cream... Ooh! And sour cream! I think I'll make a strawberry sour cream pound cake. Well. That was actually quite easy.
Gabe is so adorable lately. He's picking up so many new words now. For instance, last night I was reading him a new book that Matt and I got for him at Chapters and when I closed it and said The End he said 'he en. Apparently he's been doing that for a while with my mom. He still thinks most every animal is a bear, except some dogs, and all cows and sheep. Oh and fish of course. He now does the actions to Itsy Bitsy Spider and Paddy Cake (somewhat, it's really cute because he just wants to get to the end so he skips some of the actions in between sometimes) and he prefers to pound it than to high five.
Anyway, I'd best get Gabe to sleep and go bake!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

No sleep.

Last night was awful sleepwise. First off, I wasn't tired when we went to bed so it took me over an hour to fall asleep. Then the thunder started. It wasn't super loud but our window was open. It actually sounded quite beautiful with the rain hitting the bag of popcans that we have on our deck. I looked at the clock and it was only 2... I was kinda hoping it would be 5 so I could justify getting up. I was just about asleep again when Matt jerked up and almost jumped completely out of bed. I thought he heard someone in the house but he apparently just heard water dripping... yah, I dunno. So now it's 3 and I'm just about asleep again... and Gabe wakes up. Ugh. I finally got him to go to sleep and I finally fell back asleep around 3:45. I had wanted to go running at 6 a.m. and was actually excited that it was going to be raining, but since I'd only had about 4 hours of sleep at the point I opted against it.
This morning I realized I was out of Gabe's favorite fruits so I fed him a quick breakfast and got us ready and then we went to the grocery store. I got lots of fruits and veggies but when I went to look for fish sauce, they didn't have any. I definately live in Alberta. I came home and it took me so long to get ready and to finally finish shopping that it was time for Gabe's lunch when we finally got in - and I still hadn't had breakfast. Well, I gave Gabe his lunch and finally settled down to eat some food myself - and he decided he wanted my lunch. He ate my banana! He'd just eaten a whole one himself! The little piggy.
While I was at the store I picked up some red cabbage and mango to make some mango slaw for this weekend. I'm not really a fan of mango but my sister is coming to town this weekend and I think she'd really like it.
I've been given a mission by my husband to make a lemon pie for him. Not lemon meringue... he wants it to be basically an apple pie but with a lemon filling. He really likes lemon apparently. And he really likes pie crust.
Well, this weather has me achy. I need tea.

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sambal Cream Sauce

So a couple years back I bought a cookbook at Chapters - mostly because it was dirt cheap, partly because it had a recipe with lychee nuts in it. The book's called "Try This and Marry Me" by Raphaele Vidaling. Here's a sampling of some of the recipe names: Sea urchins with basil mousse, Sesame seed and pistachio ice cream, and cucumber layered with mint-infused mousse. Well, I decided to check in there for some ducky goodness and I got two hits. The first one is Duck Breasts with Prunes and Coffee Sauce. The second is Breast Filet of Duck with Balsamic Caramel. Yummy eh? Well the first one I think I can swing quite easily. The second will be more difficult. One of the ingredients is creme fraiche which, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, is not carried normally by any of the major grocery chains in town. Sweet, eh? So, I have a few options. Either I luck out and find it in town, I check in Calgary the next time I'm there or I substitute with half sour cream and half whipping cream.
For dinner tonight I did what I said and made a cream sauce. I emulated one actually from The RedStone Grill. One of their appetizer items is a Sambal Cream sauce with pasta and shrimp. The cookbook that my sister-in-law gave me had Julia Child's Blanc Beurre recipe. I made it into a cream sauce (with a touch of garlic added) and then I added a bit of sambal. When I tasted it, it was fantastic. Way better than the RedStone recipe. Unfortunately I let it sit too long before I served it since I hadn't cooked the shrimp yet (stupid mistake). So it thickened and then all the wrong flavours came out.
Here's the recipe I used:
Sambal Cream Sauce
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
1 tbsp chives
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp dry white wine
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp salt
bit of pepper

Boil the above until there's about 1 1/2 tbsp of liquid left. Remove from heat. Add 1/2 c. half and half or heavy cream. Whisk! Put over medium-low heat and simmer (whisking all the while) until thickened. Whisk in 1/8 tsp. sambal oleak. Serve right away over shrimp and pasta.

Anyway, this is post 2 today so I'd better keep it short.

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Balsamic Reduction

Okay, I need advice. If anyone has made a balsamic reduction before I would like your input. As I may or may not have mentioned before my attempt at a reduction went horribly last week. I just wanted it to be really simple... A reduction, by definition is the process of thickening or intensifying flavour of a liquid mixture by boiling. Now, balsamic reductions should, in my opinion, be sweetened - and hence lies my issue. What should I sweeten with?? I've seen people recommend (I don't know how to spell that word so I mix it up every time I type it...) maple syrup, honey, sugar, etc... I don't buy high quality enough balsamic vinegar to get away with not sweetening it (I actually can't find any in town that are high quality enough). So, short of ordering some online for ridiculous amounts of money, I need to figure out the best sweetening agent for the reduction. And preferably in time for me to make my duck!! I've had people express an interest in coming and watching me attempt to debone it (not help, mind you, just watch - and laugh) The recipe is still up for grabs. Laura Calder has a Raspberry Duck, I could do a confit or try out a Julia Child original from the new cookbook my amazing sister-in-law just gave me! I may do multiple recipes at the same time however. Mostly just different sauces I suppose. I'd probably make the duck on a night that we're having company over or when my dad can try some (he's a duck fan).
Another thing I'd like to figure out: saffron rice. When Matt and I ate at the New Asian Village in Edmonton a couple of months ago we had their saffron rice and it was fantastic. Of course, then I'd have to find saffron... Again, I don't know of anywhere in town that carries it. I know my two regular grocery stores don't.
And I really ought to keep fish sauce in my fridge. I always want to make my own asian sauces but I never have the ingredients. Fish sauce would be a good one to start with.
This long weekend is unfortunately going to be quite rainy. Now, I can guarantee that my sister will want to play some Settlers of Catan and I'll of course want to play some hand and foot canasta, however, Matt and I also had a slew of plans that involved being outdoors. We'd talked about things like canoing, going to Ellis Bird Farm, going to the beach and golfing. And now we're not sure at all what we're going to do. Perhaps we'll take the kids to the pool, or maybe Matt and I will leave Gabe and home and we'll brave the rain out at Ellis Bird Farm, or maybe we'll hit up the museum.
Anyway, I'd best get going. I have a bunch of cream in the fridge that needs to be used up before Friday so it looks like I'm making a cream sauce for dinner.

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Eternal Treasures

Man I've been falling behind on my posts lately! I'd like to say it's because I'm so busy lately, but mostly it's because I'm so lazy lately. I just simply haven't got around to it. I guess I was kinda busy this weekend - on Saturday we had a barbque as a kind of welcome home for everyone who was out of the country. I made the salads and desserts for it: a Santa Fe salad, a mixed greens salad, Lemon Squares and Sex-in-a-pan! The Santa Fe salad had black beans, corn, dates, tortilla chips and lime vinagrette. The sex-in-a-pan is a layered pudding dessert with a graham wafer crust and a cheese cheese base. It's sooooo yummy.
Sunday we were doing infant care in church again and for some reason there were a lot of very grumpy babies in that day. Then we had another barbque with Matt's extended family that afternoon. Yesterday was a pretty good day save the nose bleeds. I woke up at 6 a.m. with my nose bleeding. It didn't bother me for the rest of the day - I got some yard work in and some reading time outside in the sun. Then for dinner I made some teriyaki shrimp rice paper rolls. I used a store bought teriyaki sauce, some rice vermicelli, grated carrot, green onions, red peppers, cucumber and, of course, shrimp. I wrapped that all up in the rice paper and they were really fantastic. We had Auxano last night so we went to drop Gabe off with Matt's parents. Just as we were getting in the car to leave I realized my nose was bleeding again - and it kept bleeding for almost half an hour. So we were definately late for the event but we made it in time to hear the whole message. Today I got in touch with a guy who was selling a book case on kijiji. Matt and I have a LOT of books and our tiny little bookcase in our office isn't cutting it. We still have about four boxes of books in storage. So we'd been looking at ones from Ikea but didn't want to have to drive to Calgary to get a bookcase so we resorted to kijiji and found the perfect one for pretty cheap. We're picking it up tonight. This afternoon Gabe and I went to the park! He loves the swings. And I love hearing him giggle and taking pictures of him while he's smiling so much.
I just remembered something that was talked about at Auxano. It's something that I had never really thought of before, sadly. The speaker was talking about in Matthew when it says "For where your treasure is, there also your heart will be," and how it talks about storing up your treasures in heaven. He then talked about how our life's work will be tested at the time of judgement and our works (our treasures) will be tested with fire. He said how it was so sad that there will be some people who have thought that they have been storing up a mass of treasures in heaven but when their treasures are tested by fire, because of their intentions for doing their good deeds and where their heart was when they did them, all of their treasures would be burned up. The speaker said, "And these poor people will have nothing left to lay at the feet of Jesus." That's what I had never thought about before. Our treasures that are stored up in heaven are not for our glory - to be adorned by us and to be paraded about - but are to be given in worship for the glory of God. And if our treasures are tested by fire and are all burned up and we have nothing left to lay at the feet of Jesus it will break our hearts. All of the worldly distractions that get in the way right now won't matter then. All that will matter to us is giving glory to God and worshiping His Son and if we have nothing to give Him we'll be shattered. Revelation even talks about the 24 elders who lay their crowns at the feet of the King. They're not just bowing before Him as an act of humility - they are offering up their crowns - their treasures - as an offering.
It was such a humbling thought and one that I wish I had thought on before. The more I study the bible the more I realize how little I know. Another humbling thought.
Well, it's time for me to go. My little boy is laying his head down on the arm of the couch and sucking on his fingers.

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Friday, May 14, 2010


I did it! I bought a duck! Of the frozen variety, not the living. I went to do some grocery shopping today and Matt asked if I would pick him up some of these monster cookies that he really loves and I really hate. Plus they're expensive because they're from the deli. Anyway. I told him I'd get them so he told me to pick up something for myself that I normally wouldn't buy. And that translated into a duck :) I've seen them at the store since Easter and have been wanting to buy one but couldn't justify the $17. There was one left in the freezer today and I just had to have it! I'm not sure what I'll do with it yet, but if anyone requires any liquid gold for cooking I can hook you up.
I was going to buy some gnocchi for Matt for dinner tonight but they didn't have any fresh stuff and the dried stuff was ridiculously overpriced. So anyway, I picked up some penne and decided to try out a Club House pasta sauce mix. I've got to admit, I love Club House. Some of their stuff is just fantastic! Actually, all of their stuff that I've ever bought. I really don't like using mixes - especially for something like a pasta sauce, but it was really nice. I got their rose and I did it up with the penne, some tiny tomato bits and bacon. I also use their gravy mix regularly and their Cajun Rub Marinade is really good too. So while I'd still rather make my own sauce normally, if for some reason I'm not feeling very creative one day, I'll definately use that Club House sauce again. Oh, and also if I don't have cream in the house since that mix only needs milk.
Matt and I have been taking walks around our subdivision for the last couple nights and it's been really nice. It calms the dog down and tuckers Gabe out. Last night we swung by a garage sale that was very sucky :) They had a very small selection and it was all overpriced. An old tshirt for $10. Yuck. Tomorrow Matt's going out of town for the morning so I'm going to take Gabe garage saleing with me. There's an estate sale in town with what looks to be a very promising selection: fishing gear, sheet music, antiques, china... I'm pumped. I'm also going with limited cash so that I don't make any rash purchases (something I'm not typically prone to except at garage sales... and on kijiji)
We're having a barbque tomorrow kind of as a family reunion since most of Matt's family was out of the country last week. I'm making the salads and the desserts! For the salads I'm going to do a Santa Fe salad with corn, black beans, avocado, dates and lime vinagrette and then a mixed greens salad with tomatoes and peppers. For dessert I'm making sex-in-a-pan - a layered dessert with vanilla, chocolate and pistachio pudding and a cream cheese layer in there too - and I'm also doing lemon bars. I'm mostly doing the lemon bars because lemons were on sale last week and both Matt and I picked some up at different times.
In light of that last paragraph I should probably go clean my kitchen so that I can get cooking.

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Panko Coconut Shrimp

So I wanted to let you all know how sushi went! First off, I changed the menu. I only did the crab maki and the panko shrimp - not the shrimp sushi. I didn't have any skewers and it was a lot of food already so I just left it. Secondly, the maki was awesome. Matt brought home an avocado, I had used my rice cooker to make the perfect sushi rice and everything else was ready to go so it was pretty quick to get done. One of the biggest keys to making good sushi is getting the rice right. First you need to buy the right rice. I buy rice that is specifically branded "Sushi Rice." Then you need to rinse the rice in cold water to get all the starch off. Keep rinsing until the water coming out the bottom is clear. Last time I made sushi I didn't rinse long enough and the sushi had a playdough taste to it. The last big thing about the rice is the rice vinegar mixture you add to it. There are a lot of variations of this part. The one I like to use is 4 tbsp rice vinegar, 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp salt per 2 cups of uncooked rice. You cook those three ingredients on the stove top until the sugar dissolves and then pour it over your already cooked rice and gently fold it in. It's a good idea to use a wooden spoon to stir the rice so that you don't break it up and to not put it in a metal bowl or it might react with the vinegar. Anyway, on to the shrimp! I decided to go halfway on my two ideas before. I did a Panko Coconut shrimp with the plum sauce. First I mixed about a cup of panko with about 1/4 c of unsweetened coconut, 2 tsp sugar and a bit of salt and pepper. I defrosted my shrimp and peeled them down to the tail while I had a frying pan on the stove heating up about a half inch of oil. When the oil was ready (throw a drop of water on it and it should sizzle) I coated the shrimp and threw them in. To coat them I first dipped them in flour, then egg and then in the panko mix, just to make sure they would really be coated well. I only cooked them in the oil long enough to get a little brown on each side and then I pulled them and put them back into the panko mix. Then I put them all on a pan and baked them in a 400 degree oven until they were golden and the shrimp was done. Man, they were yummy! That was my favorite part of the meal for sure. I don't like to deep fry because it's such a waste of oil but I definately am good to shallow fry and then bake. It's always a nice alternative. The biggest thing to remember is to keep your oil at the right temperature. If it's too hot then things burn before they cook through. If it's too cold, that's when you get greasy food. If you have hot oil the water in your food actually pushes the oil out so that your food doesn't absorb it and get all greasy. Anyway, I'd better go clean up so that I can convince Matt to take me for ice cream tonight!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Sushi and Scripture

A few weeks ago when the pastor came over to meet with Matt and I before Gabe's baby dedication he was asking us a bunch of questions about our marriage, our childhoods and our faith. One of the questions he asked was "how can you see God's presence in your life?" I actually had an answer ready! It had occurred to me a while ago that the amount of time I spent reading my bible, praying and spending time with God was directly related to my levels of productivity and positive attitude. The more I read my bible, the more likely it was for me to have a clean house. And the more I prayed, the nicer I was to be around! Even in the past few days I've noticed this. On Sunday I a) went to church and b) spent alot of time studying my bible and reading Calvin's Institutes. Monday morning I felt great getting up at 7 a.m. and making breakfast for Matt before he had to go to work. Yesterday I skipped reading my bible and this morning I slept in, felt groggy all morning and feel disappointed in how much I have(n't) done today. When I immerse myself in scripture and when I feel close to God I can see the effects of it in every aspect of my life, from things as small as having breakfast in the morning to things as big as being a loving wife. Even my physical fitness is directly linked to my time spent in worship - when I worship in church I can't help but bounce on the balls of my feet. I noticed when I was a worship leader for a youth group that my calves were awesome! It may be a small thing but it's a something. God is an awesome God, through and through, and if you let Him, He'll make your life incredible.
For dinner tonight I was craving sushi but not the crappy supermarket stuff and I don't want to spend a tonne of money so I'm making it tonight. I've never made sushi just for the heck of it. We've always organized sushi parties when I've made it before. But I do have everything except the avodaco so it will be quick and cheap and easy to make. Plus fun :) And yummy!! I've got some crab meat in the freezer from last time so I pulled that out and if I have any leftovers then I'll make a crab cream cheese topping for steaks tomorrow. I also have some raw shrimp in the freezer. To make those sushi ready you have to defrost them in a bowl of warm water and peel them down to the tail. Then you have to butterfly them and remove the vein and run a skewer through the body to keep it from curling. Then you cook the shrimp in boiling water until they are good an pink! We'll be making actual sushi out of the shrimp - which means we aren't rolling it, we'll just be making a bed of rice and laying the shrimp on top. We may tie it with a line of nori but maybe not. The crab we'll make maki rolls out of. I may make up some panko breaded shrimp too... I have two bags of panko sitting in my cupboard and some plum sauce in the fridge that I have been wanting to use for the past few weeks. I may make them coconut shrimp though and fortunately I have pina colada mix in my fridge just in case! Oh, and I've already informed Matt that we will be eating dinner outside. It's so nice out and we could all use a bit more time outside.
Well, I'd better go get some lunch (4 hours late)

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Monday, May 10, 2010


Oh what a day... For almost the entire morning Gabe screamed and fussed and wanted to be held but then wanted down and kept trying to kick the laptop keyboard and rip the pages of my books... It was awful. The morning actually started out nice. I woke up at 6 because of the sun coming in and decided that I could sleep in a bit more. I finally got up at 7 with the alarm and made french toast for Matt and I. Well that was about where the productivity ended because as soon as Matt and I finished eating Gabe woke up. Gabe had a nap at one point in the morning and I got a couple things done, but not much. This whole afternoon I spent in the basement watching TV with Gabe because that's all he'd let me do. When he went to sleep for his second nap I ran upstairs to make dinner. I browned some pork chops in a frying pan and threw in shallots, garlic, white wine, apple cider vinegar and rosemary. I decided to finally make up my balsamic reduction that I've been meaning to do forever. Well, Gabe woke up so I at least got the pork chops cooking but that was it. I had to wait for Matt to come home before I made the rest of dinner.
Matt finally got home after I watched a whole lot of Friends and then I ran upstairs to throw on some pasta, the balsamic reduction and some carrots for Gabe. Well, amid all the craziness of a crying baby, a barking dog and getting dinner ready I wrecked my reduction. Great, eh? That was an expensive mistake. Oh, and while I was tending to my reduction the carrots boiled dry. Fortunately I caught those right away and threw cold water on them so that they'd stop burning so they were still good enough for Gabe to eat. But the reduction was screwed.
I do have one cute Gabe store for the day however. Gabe just learned how to say "bear" this past week however he isn't really sure what the difference is between a bear and a dog. Well I googled "bear" and "dog" and pulled up some pictures. I clicked on the bear picture and got Gabe to say bear over and over. Oh, and apparently bears say roar - according to me, not Gabe. I didn't know what else to say! Anyway, I clicked on the dog picture - one of a german shepherd - and then I'd say "Dog" or "Puppy" or even "arf" and Gabe would just laugh and say "bear!" Everytime I'd say that the dog was a dog he'd just laugh more like he thought I was being ridiculous. Cute kid :) In his defence, the poor boy has 4 teeth coming in right now so he's hopped up on Tylenol and not sure why his mouth hurts so much.
We didn't get to go to Auxano again tonight but next week we definately need to go. I really enjoy it! Oh, and thanks to the page ripping Gabe was doing I didn't even bother trying to read Calvin's Institutes today.
Well, it's bedtime and my head hurts. I'm outie.

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Two-Bite Brownies

Yesterday was a nice day in spite of still feeling like crap. I got up early to get the house, baking and myself ready for a visit with a friend from high school. I hadn't had a chance to bake at all last week so I ended up making some of my two-bite brownies. They were a hit :) It was nice catching up with someone who I hadn't seen in years and had been very close with through high school. There was a lot of talk about choir and high school english and how crazy it is that things have changed so much. After our visit ended Matt and I didn't really do much. We did get our picture back from being framed and it looks fantastic. We also had some people come and check out our car. We're hoping to get someone to take over our payments on it so that we can go and buy a truck for Matt. So hopefully these guys decide to take it and then next weekend we can go down to Calgary and get our new truck! Then we just have to save up to buy a minivan so that Matt can use that truck for work!
Today Matt decided to take me to Phil's for a nice Mother's Day breakfast before church - unfortunately everyone else in town had the same idea. It took us 40 minutes to get a table. We ended up being 30 minutes late for church and had troubles finding a seat. We almost had to sit out in the lobby by a speaker. I understand now why the church is expanding their building already. After church Matt's brother came over since nearly everyone else in the family is globe-trotting right now. Some more than they had planned on too. Silly volcano. On that note, did you know that the last time this particular volcano erupted that it continued off and on for 2 years? If that were the case there'd be some very bad economic conditions in Europe due to a serious lack of tourism. In any event, we're hoping our friends in France have fun and don't have any trouble getting back home to us.
Again, we have cleared out those two bite brownies I made yesterday. Evidently, I need to post this recipe:
Two-Bite Brownies
2 large eggs
1/3 c. margarine, melted
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. cocoa
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chip cookies

Mix first three ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl mix together the next three ingredients (sift the cocoa if needed, but if you store your cocoa in a tin, just shake it really well and then mix the dry ingredients with a fork to get clumps out) Combine. Add chocolate chips and stir in. Put batter into a greased mini-muffin tin. Makes 24
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Men apparently love these - not to say it's limited to men, but they in particular can't seem to stop eating them. (no dig at any one man in particular because I can think of 4 or 5 who would think I was speaking specifically about them - if they ever read my blog that is)

My work here is done. I have imparted wisdom (of sorts). Now I'm going to read my five chapters of Calvin's Institutes for today before we go over to my parents' house for dinner. Ta Ta!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Friday, May 7, 2010


Oh what a day. It's almost 6 and it feels like it should only be noon. When I woke up this morning feeling very sick, little did I know that my husband was feeling even worse than I was. I didn't even get out of bed until 11. When I finally got up and finished feeding and dressing Gabe I called my hair dresser to see if I could get in for a perm today. I permed my hair once 3 years ago and I loved it. It was so easy to take care of. Well, my hair dresser couldn't do it so I tried one more place before I gave up. They had an opening. The reason I wanted to get it done today is because my mom was off work and was available to take Gabe. So I called her up, let her know I'd be over soon to drop him off and I rushed to get myself ready. I showed up for my hair appointment at 1:00 - and at 4:00 I finally left. 3 flipping hours for a perm! I mean, I know I have thick hair and all but REALLY. They had an apprentice do my hair so that was part of the reason it was slow. Also, they did a different perm than I asked for. I wanted a spiral and they gave me a wave. Fantastic. That was money well spent. Then I went to pick up Gabe from my mom's but he wasn't ready to go when I was. So now it's 6:00, I've only been home for about half an hour and I have gotten nothing done all day. What a waste. Plus I still feel like poop.
Tomorrow I have a friend from High School coming over for coffee so I really should clean the house tonight but all I really feel like doing is laying in bed, watching Friends on our portable DVD player. Of course, I still need to eat at some point but I guess I have leftover taco meat from last night that I could just whip up a salad with. Poor Matt is feeling so gross that all he wants is chicken noodle soup.
Overall I think this was one day that we could have done without. Yah it was nice to be able to get a perm, but even that didn't work out well. It's like when you go to get a massage and the masseuse sucks or is creepy.
Well, I think I need to go cuddle up with my hubby. Maybe my evening can be salvaged.

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I watched GLEE for the first time a couple nights ago and it was purely by accident. Every Tuesday Matt and I go over to my parents' house to watch some NCIS. We were really excited for this week's NCIS:LA episode but right after the original NCIS finished, GLEE came on and our show was nowhere to be found. Well, somehow my dad let the TV stay on that channel (I was amazed) and I finally got to see what GLEE was about. I'm gonna be honest, at first I wasn't very impressed - Not as much Sue Sylvester cattiness as I had heard about and Ice Ice Baby was pretty lame. Things got better though - hammer pants rocked and Total Eclipse of the Heart rocked my world. Although, thanks to programming suckiness the lats few seconds of the episode were cut off - thank goodness for YouTube. I'm sure it will be taken down by the end of the day, but someone managed to post the whole song (with video) on YouTube (in an oddly mirrored fashion might I add). And while I by no means condone pirating it was nice to see how it ended. Now, I don't know half of the drama that has occured on the series - clearly since this was my first episode - but if every relationship goes out with a bang like that, I'm sure I'd really love this show! I plan to buy the series on DVD when it gets released.
I was ticked that we didn't get to see who died in NCIS:LA but fortunately I have the internet and was able to find a review of the episode. It went down the way I thought it would.
When I took Gabe in for his immunizations yesterday they gave me a pamphlet on servings and serving sizes for kids. I realized that I'm typically really good about making sure Gabe gets all the right food groups and portions, but today I was trying to remember what he ate yesterday and I couldn't! So I've started a daily food diary for Gabe. That way, if someone else is feeding him dinner they can know what he's already had today and if I'm making him supper I can look at what food groups he needs a top up in. By the way, before you have kids, invest in a Magic Bullet! By far it is the fastest and easiest way to make up dinners for him - throw in some chickpeas and some cucumber, as a bit of water and puree. Then throw the cup in the dishwasher. So easy.
Yesterday I started reading John Calvin's Institutes of Christian Religion. I gotta admit, it's an easier read that I thought it would be. It helps that it's a fairly modern translation (think NIV, not The Message). Plus, there are lots of breaks in the writing which kinda provide a chance for your brain to regroup and take it all in. I'm going to be limiting myself to 5 Chapters a day because otherwise I might read to fast and miss some of the points being made. I'd rather take a year to read it and fully grasp what's being said than to read it in a week and miss most of it. (This rule only applies to non-fiction and theological texts - not novels. I need to read those quickly otherwise I lose interest too fast - save Jane Austens of course)
Ah yes, and now on to the Mormons. I had some delightful Mormon's come to my door today, and might I add that they were in no way dressed for the weather. I was kinda back and forth in my head about whether to let them talk or to head them off at the pass... I decided to head them off. They asked if I had ever read the book of Mormon and when I told them that I had read parts of it they got all excited - until I followed that statement with the fact that I disagreed with it. They said that they were encouraging people to not only read the book of Mormon but to pray about what they were reading and ask God to guide them on what to believe. I then informed them that I do that every day of my life and that it is because of that fact that I disagree with the book of Mormon. They were really, very nice guys so I didn't want to be mean to them, but I made it very clear to them that I didn't agree with them because of what I know to be true, not because I wasn't interested in religion. Then I told them to stay warm (I refrained from wishing them luck) and recommended they get a hot cup of coffee... whoops! I quickly back pedalled and said, "Oh wait! Mormons! Uhh, uhhh I mean..." and one of the guys said, "Hot chocolate." Ah well! My intentions were pure.
Well, I only have half an hour before I have to go make dinner (tacos tonight) so I'd better finish reading my five chapters of Institutes.

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Austen again, whoops!

Haha I was sitting here wondering what to write about today when I started browsing on Etsy a bit. I figured I'd search "Jane Austen" and see what came up. I love it! I found some cards that said "Congratulations - you found your Mr. Darcy", some mugs that have Mr. Darcy's original marriage proposal written on it and a bumper sticker that says "I'd rather be at Pemberley!" haha how awesome!! Ooh! Now I found a t-shirt with Mr. Darcy's proposal! Oh dear, poor Matt... he's going to be surrounded by Jane Austen.
When we had our friend over for dinner the other night he noticed that I had Pride and Prejudice sitting out. Matt's sister and I started talking about how much I like Jane Austen and I said, "I even decorate like her era!" My living room is done up with French Provincial couches, wingback chairs and ornate frames. Although, when I was watching Pride and Prejudice yesterday I noticed for the first time some beautiful panelling on the walls at "Netherfield" (which is, in actuality, Basildon Park - all of their homes in the movie were actual historical homes in the UK which are open to visitors) Anyway, this panelling is very interesting and I have no idea what it's called. It looks like wedgewood pottery but as a mural. It's almost an embossed effect with the wall being one color and the raised surface being white. It's a style of plasterwork but I'm sure it's got its own name. Ah well, I want it in any event. Maybe not in this house but Matt is fully aware that when we finally move into the house we plan to grow old in that I require a "Pride and Prejudice" room, complete with crown mouldings, Georgian era furniture and now this Wedgewood plasterwork. I've actually attached a picture of this plasterwork. If you look at the wall right above the lamp in this picture that's all plasterwork - actually the same stuff from the movie.
Well, now on to something other than Jane Austen I suppose.
I took Gabe in to get his one year immunizations today. He's never had a bad reaction to his immunizations so it's normally just a really easy trip. Well today I had to wait extra long while the nurse insisted on remeasuring his height because he apparently grew so little since his 6 month appointment. The thing is, Gabe was very tall for his age at 6 months and very underweight for how tall he was, so most of the growing he's been doing lately is out, not up. And it's good because he's still considered underweight (I don't know how - that kid eats non stop!) But the nurse wouldn't really listen to me and kept thinking that she had measured wrong even though I just went through all of this with his doctor last week - and no offense to nurses, I know and love a number of them personally and my nurses when I gave birth to Gabe were really the ones who did everything - but if a nurse whom I have never met before picks up my baby's file, doesn't even read it and tries to tell me what going on with my baby, and in the process contradicts my doctor who has been attending to Gabe since he was in my womb, I'm not going to pay alot of attention to you. I actually had a nurse when I was 8 1/2 months pregnant with Gabe ask me what position the baby was in and when I told her she said "No, that's wrong. He wouldn't be like that." You asked lady! I told you! It was really stupid too, because she was asking where his feet were and I could feel his feet through my stomach - there was no mistaking them and I had just come from my doctor's before I had gone up to the hospital where this nurse was and she confirmed it for me as well - but no, this nurse decided my doctor was an idiot and that I was making up stories about how my baby kicked at the top-left of my stomach. And she decided she needed to remeasure my fundal height even though my doctor had just done it because she said "Doctor's usually get it wrong" and then she came up with a totally different place to measure from than any other nurse or doctor I had ever met and a number 3 or 4 cm off. Apparently the student nurse knew more than my doctor (with 30 some years of experience) knew. Matt actually had to calm me down after talking to that nurse. Man I was mad at her.... Anyway.
Gabe's doing fine after his shots. He had to get some painful ones today too, but he stopped crying right away and started playing by the time we got out to the waiting room. He's actually napping right now, which is why I felt the need to write this now.
Yesterday I finished reading The Bravehearted Gospel by Eric Ludy. It really is a good book. It has a very strong message but it's a good message. It's kinda one of those things that just needs to be said. Matt's finishing it tonight hopefully and then it's going to France with our group of friends who are going and it will probably be passed around between them all while they are there. My next reading mission will be Calvin's Institutes of Christian Religion. I'm actually planning on starting the first Volume today. This is, by the way, more of a text book than not. Wish me luck.
I also did get around to knitting yesterday. Not a tonne however because my hands starting hurting very fast. I'm knitting a baby toque with a really thin yarn and I'm knitting in the round with four double ended needles. It's not much different than normal knitting with two needles, but it I do tend to knit it tighter which is what hurts my hands so much. Also, that thin yarn is hard to get a good grip on. But the hat will be cute. It's going to be green and white and depending on what gender of baby is bron to my friends next I may find a dusty rose felt flower to attach to it or I'll just leave it as is.
I should go and start reading my book before Gabe wakes up from his nap and wants lunch. The little piggy :)

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Snow day!

It's snowing! Alot! Actually blizzarding! What the heck?!?!
I knew that it was supposed to snow today but I just thought we'd see a couple of flakes and then it would rain some. Nope. White-out conditions, snow mounded in my yard and my car is completely white. At least Matt doesn't have to go out on the highway today. And fortunately everything that I needed to get done I can do in the house. Save grocery shopping that is, but I can do that tonight with Matt.
For the morning I plan to watch Pride and Prejudice (I haven't seen it in a month!), I'm going to knit a few baby presents and I'm going to drink alot of coffee. Then this afternoon I need to clean the kitchen from having company over last night and maybe bake something. Those two-bite brownies I made yesterday? Yah, they're gone already.
Matt asked me the other day what I'd like for a Mother's Day present. At first I had no idea, this being a relatively new idea to me to get a present on that day. I told him to just buy me some flowers or something and he recommend I think on it since he wanted to get me something a bit more... well, more. Today I decided what I want! Personalized stationary! I'm signed up on the Etsy newsletter. Each day they send you a list of some featured items from their site. Today I saw a gorgeous stationary pattern and decided I need something like that. I think that sending letters by mail is a lost art and ever since I got married I've been trying to do it more and more. I now mail people thank you notes, invitations, anniversary and birthday cards and some notes just because. I've bought cards and note pads from different stores and the design is always different, but I think having my own personalized stationary would be neat. So I think I'll order some off of Etsy and have Matt consider that my present. If that's not good enough for him, then I'll charge him with getting me a movie copy of Jane Austen's Persuasion. I'd love to see a good one that makes Captain Wentworth out to be everything he ought to be and shows all the beautiful scenery of The Cobb. There are two versions that I know of - one that was made in 1995 and one that was a made-for TV movie done in 2007. The company that made the 2007 one also has made film adaptations of the rest of Austen's novels. I saw their version of Northanger Abbey and I was happy with that one so hopefully they'll have done as good of a job of this one. Casting is of huge importance to me in Austen adaptations and when people drop the ball on that it kinda wrecks the movie a bit for me. The other thing that bothers me is when they miss huge parts about characters. For example, in Sense and Sensibility the older sister Elinor is actually the comic relief many times in the book. As good as Emma Thompson's version was back in '95 she totally missed that part of the character - which is weird since Emma Thompson is definately a comedienne (if you don't believe me watch her in her role as Sybil Trelawney in the Harry Potter series). And while they did good casting for a couple roles in that film - particularly Willoughby, Mrs. Jennings, Mrs. Dashwood and Fanny - some of the key characters were a bit different that what I would have liked. (I am in no way bashing Alan Rickman, FYI. I'd never do that!)
Anyway, I really branched off there, eh? I should get knitting because Gabe just finally fell asleep but I don't know how long he'll stay that way!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Monday, May 3, 2010

A break

Today was a pretty lax day - which was good because I needed one of those. Gabe and I hung out all morning and Matt got off work early so we got to have lunch together before he ran off to meet a friend for coffee. Since the house was still really clean from Gabe's baby dedication I hardly had a thing to do other than empty the dishwasher. I did get around to baking some two-bite brownies however. We were having a friend over for dinner and I was stressing a bit about what to serve for dessert but I figured everyone likes two-bite brownies, so that was a pretty safe one. Gabe was so adorable today. Usually after a busy weekend he's pretty grumpy but today he was just an angel! At one point he was pretty tired so I laid him down in his playpen to see what he'd do. He just laid on his back for 15 minutes, staring at the ceiling and kicking his feet. Then he stood up and leaned on the side of his playpen while he watched the fish in the tank for another 10 minutes. Finally I looked in on him and he had just laid down and gone to sleep without any fuss.
When Matt got home from his coffee date he helped me get ready for dinner. For a while we weren't sure our friend was going to be able to make it - there was a chance he was going to be stuck at work. Matt and I sat down to dinner and started without him and about 15 minutes later he came. Which was good, because I made a lot of food. I had done up some steaks (I tried out the Budweiser barbque sauce and it was pretty good - sweet, but good), some garlic shrimp, seasoned rice, garlic toast, green beans and a tossed salad with feta.
Matt's parents came and picked up Gabe and took him to the fish store and dropped off Matt's siblings who were catching a ride to Auxano tonight. I decided that I didn't really feel up to going so they all left about an hour ago and I've had a bit of time all to myself this evening. Now that our bench seat is finished I've got the perfect place to sit and read, drink a hot drink and watch the rain. I also got in a bit of guitar time which I haven't done in a long while. My poor puppy got drenched from being outside while we were eating so he's laying on a towel at my feet.
Tomorrow life kicks back in. While the house is clean it can still get cleaner and I haven't done any knitting in a long time.

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Baby dedication

What a crazy day! The last people just left from Gabe's baby dedication and I am totally bagged. I spent most of yesterday running around and doing errands to get ready for the dedication - I needed to pick up some groceries that my normal store didn't have and I needed to get some good coffee to serve from City Roast. Somewhere in there we had Gabe's 1 year doctors appointment. Everything checked out well with him, all the nurses kept telling me how gorgeous he is, and the doctor was happy with how large his vocabulary is. Well, I got home and realized that I didn't have my house keys. In all honesty, I kinda realized this when I left the house but we were in such a hurry to make the appointment on time that I hoped they were in the car and left. They weren't in the car :) Fortunately I had just enough battery power left in my cell to get a phone call out to Matt. While I was waiting for him to come let me into the house I decided to take down some of our Christmas lights. I climbed a tree for the first time in a very, very long time. It was kinda nice to do again. Really, there's something refreshing about climbing a tree. I got down as many lights as I could possibly reach and decided to dig some flower beds with my remaining time locked outside. Late last night Matt and I did some more cleaning and I finally got to bed around 3. ...And then I got up early this morning to keep cleaning and cooking. I had a bit of scone mix left on the counter and instead of finding a place to put it I decided to make scones for breakfast, as well as bacon since I needed to cook some of that up anyway for the BLT Bruschetta. I put on a pot of some really good coffee (Tanzanian Peaberry) and between Matt and I we drank to whole pot within a couple of hours. Once all of the rooms were fully cleaned I went back to cooking. I made up some Cinnamon-Sugar Tortilla Chips and prepped out the Black Bean Salsa. Then I quickly whipped up the BLT Bruschetta, for which I will post the recipe because it was quite good if I do say so myself. I was actually worried about it because I was improvising the recipe and I don't really eat bruschetta myself so I wasn't sure what to add - But I played it a little safe and it turned out well.
BLT Bruschetta:
1 Large tomato, diced
1/3 c. minced red onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Red wine vinegar
1 tsp minced basil leaves
1/4 c. bacon, broken up

If you're planning on making the bruschetta ahead, that's fine, but don't add the bacon until you're ready to serve it.
Well, Matt's sisters came over a bit ahead to help me out and I'm very glad they did. Together we made the Mini #5's (crostini, honey-mustard sauce, ham, cheese, tomato and lettuce) and the proscuitto wrapped apples. Because they were over helping with other things I was able to get the Black Bean Salsa done and get everything set out. Then people started coming. We got a full pound of the Tanzania coffee and I think we went through half of it. All of the apples, cinnamon chips and the mini #5's were gone by the time the cake was ready. I had to refill the black bean salsa and the bruschetta a couple times too. People at alot! Although, to be fair, there were alot of people. 28 I think. We went through a lot of cake too - the whole angel food is gone (I just ate the last piece!) there's only a tiny bit of ice cream cake left and the chocolate cake butterfly only has a portion of one wing left!
The service was really nice too. The pastor doing the service talked about how we want to raise Gabriel to walk in the ways of the Lord and how we need to make sure we take care of ourselves in order to really take care of our kids. Gabe spent most of the time sticking his tongue out at people.
The first people arrived at about 1:40 and the last people left at 6:30... Man I'm bagged. Actually, my head just started hurting and it wouldn't surprise me if it had been hurting all along and I was just too busy to notice. Fortunately I have nothing to do tonight except hang out with my husband and baby! I'm not sure that's what we're going to do, but that's all that we need to do.
I think I need more coffee...

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)