Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Balloons and Puddles

Jake has a great grandfather, which is something very unique in and of itself, since most of us are lucky enough just to have grandparents in our lives. 

But our boy is double lucky with this one because this particular great grandpa is someone truly special and amazing. He is funny, and kind.  He is sensitive and loving. He is active and fun, Essentially this particular gramp's is a 20 year old in a great grandpa's body. And Jake is a very very lucky boy to have his GG in his life.

And this last weekend we headed off to celebrate GG's annual birthday bash.

There was cake, presents, family, and.... balloons. 
The balloon tree seconds before Jake got his hands into it.

And moments later...

 Have I ever mentioned how much our boy loves balloons?  I felt very bad for GG, here he went to all the trouble to organize a very beautiful decorative balloon tree, only to have his over zealous great grandson get his little paws into it. 

Birthday Bocce (Happy birthday also to cousin Jeff who shares this big day with our GG)

In any case, it was a great family gathering. And a wonderful celebration of a life well lived and still going very strong.

In other news, it's been raining here.  Well not today. Today was a perfectly spectacular Fall day in our city. Blue skies, crisp winds, and dry playgrounds.  Not that Jake minds wet playgrounds. Or puddles.

Puddles come in second only to balloons.

Off to Victoria for the weekend!


Monday, 26 September 2011

Muffin Mondays: loafing around

Lately, as you may have noticed from my other recent posts, I have been feeling the joy of Fall in my life.  So this week I decided to celebrate the start of the season by making a pumpkin loaf.  The smells of cinnamon and cloves that filled my home while this was baking were just what I was craving, and this recipe was the perfect match for my mood.

The recipe is something I randomly searched for online a few years ago. It looked good and easy so I scribbled it carelessly into my recipe book and forgot about it for a while.  Who knew it would become a family favorite.

The recipe:
1 cup margarine
3 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
4 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
2/3 cup water
2 cups canned pumpkin

1. Cream together margarine, sugar, and eggs.
2. Combine all dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture, alternating between the water and pumpkin.
3. Beat well.
4. Pour into 2 well greased loaf pans (I poured one into a loaf pan and the rest of the mix into muffin tins)
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 - 60 minutes, or 25 - 30 minutes for the muffins.

You can of course cut it in half to make just one loaf, but I tell you, this thing is so yummy you'll need the double recipe. 

Not muffins I know, but still the perfect side kick to stormy days and a cup of hot chocolate.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The slower days

Summer is more or less gone in our fine town.  The long hot days at the beach, with sand shovels and cold drinks have been traded in for long sleeves, rain coats and thicker blankets.  It is amazing how quickly Fall descends on our city.  One weekend you are layering on sunscreen until you skin has a white glow, and the next your rummaging through the closet searching for rubber boots.

But I don't mind autumn. In fact, I love autumn.  I love the earthy colours, the crispness of the air, the cozy early evenings at home.  Things slow down, we pay more attention to home, everything and everyone seems sleepier, calmer, quieter. Even Jake has been spending more time playing by himself, snuggling in to read books, and falling asleep at night much faster. It's a subtle change, but I've certainly noticed it.

The other day, after the morning downpour had subsided and Jake was up from his afternoon nap rearing to go, I bundled us up and headed us off to the park.  Autumn or not, I still need to get outside every day.  Our apartment is only so big and our boy only has so many books. So off we went, and for the first time in as long as I can remember we arrived to an empty playground.  

There wasn't even a duck around to share the puddles with, and Jake was in heaven because I let him play anywhere he wanted.  In the gaping mouth of the big kid slide? Sure, no problem.

With the odd trek down to the lonely playground aside, our busy outdoor adventures and weekend getaways are mostly being traded in for calmer afternoons at home and visits with family and friends. 


Meaning more family dinners at my parents' place, which is always one of my favorite things to do. Everyone brings a dinner contribution and we meet at our original family home for a feast. 

With our families expanding and moving all over town it is sometimes all a matter of luck to get together this way.  But when we manage it is always a special time. Like Christmas or Easter, but on a random Sunday. 

 Welcome back Fall!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Muffin Mondays

It's been busy around here. Lots of running around, visiting, cooking, having company, being company, and catching up with the very best of friends.  All good stuff, but still its been busy.  And to top it off, the dreaded end-of-summer cold has found its way into this Boyd residence.  Combined all of these things and I consider it a small miracle that I got this weeks muffin baking done. 

Mostly my pride wouldn't let me not make these babies.  I mean, it is only the second week of my Fall baking challenge, and there was just no way that I was copping out of my challenge two weeks in.

This week I went with carrot muffins.  There is just so much goodness about them: importantly for me it's an easy and delicious way to get my boy to eat veggies, then there is the cinnamon in them make them smell Fall-like, and the variations are endless.

Here is the recipe I used from a great muffin baking book my mom gave me years ago:

4 large eggs
1 cup canola or walnut oil
2 cups sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour (I did 2 cups all-purpose, 1 cup whole wheat)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground all spice
3 or 4 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 1/2 cups walnuts (I used raisins)

In a large bowl mix eggs, oil, and sugar with an electrical mixer until smooth and thickened.
In another bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and all spice. Add to egg mixure and mix together with electric mixer on low.
Using a spatula, fold in carrots and nuts, scrape down sides and stir again.
Spoon into greased muffin cups, bake until golden and springy to touch. 20-25 minutes.  Cool on racks.

It is supposed to make 24, but it was late when I made these and I was so tired that I filled the cups to the max and ended up with 12 big juicy over sized muffins.

Mmmmm.  This is an awesome recipe, moist and delicious. I've had three already....

Happy Monday everyone!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

A brave new world

It's been a busy week so I am not going to go on for too long this time, I just wanted to share a few photos from our trip to a very cool local country fair last weekend.

What the hay is this stuff?!

As much as we try to expose Jake to new and different places, people and things, our boy is basically a city slicker.  He's used to the sounds of busy streets, delivery trucks backing into nearby loading docks at all hours of the night, fashionable people dressed in trendy sporty clothes, and sharing the sidewalks with dogs smaller than kittens being carted around in strollers that are waaaayyy cooler than ours.

So when we arrived to the smell of fresh hay and manure, and entered the world of horse jumping, pony rides, hay lofts, overalls and chicken races, all less than a 15 minute drive from his normal urban scene, Jake was more than a little stunned. 

Until he spotted the mini tractors, and decided this place couldn't be that bad after all.

Maybe there is a little rural in him after all.

Hee haw!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Muffin Mondays

I love Fall. The colors, the fashions, the food, the holidays, all inspire me.  So today when I could finally feel its cool crisp fingers reaching out and tapping summer on the back to say "okay hot stuff, time to go", I got so excited I decided to celebrate by digging out an old favorite muffin recipe and baking.

Coincidentally, I've also been feeling like I needed a new challenge lately, so one thing led to another and before I knew it one spontaneous baking session morphed into my very first Fall Baking Challenge post.

So here it is.

The recipe:
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 walnuts coarsely chopped (I had none so they didn't make it into these muffins)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1 large egg
2 or 3 medium to large very ripe bananas, mashed
3 tablespoons buttermilk

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, walnuts, baking soda and salt. In another bowl whisk oil, egg, mashed bananas, and buttermilk until blended.  Add the dry ingredients and beat well until evenly combined and creamy.
Spoon the batter into each muffin cup up to the rim.
Bake until golden, dry and springy to touch or until a tooth pick comes out clean (20-25 minutes).
Cool on a wire rack.
Eat, enjoy, smile.

And here are the muffins:

Seriously, less than 2 hours after they came out of the oven and this is all that remained.

To be honest I chose to make these muffins because I noticed that our bananas were starting to speckle, so I thought it was probably best to kick off my challenge with these babies.  I added a handful of raspberries on a whim because I had them, and they looked delicious, and my muffin dough was looking sad and lonely without them, so in they went. 

There you have it, week one of my Fall baking challenge.  Hopefully, I can keep it going every Monday all season long...

Thursday, 8 September 2011

End of summer holidays: Part 2

We've spent these last few days just easing back into our usual routine.  There is always something nice in coming home after a longer stretch away.  The comfort of your own bed, familiar smells of home, the old toys made new again with time away, getting back to the normal comforting day to day tasks and activities.  For some reason I always come home from a vacation with a fresh burst of motivation to get things done around our home, like organizing the junk drawer,  or cooking a series of fabulous meals, or starting Halloween crafts early this year. It's the renewed sense of appreciation for our home that comes every time I have been away from it for more than just a long weekend.

This is not to say that our vacation was too long, or dull.  No way!  In fact, after our stint on Bowen Island things only got better and better.  We followed Nana and Grandpa home to Victoria (a place I would love to call home one day), where we continued on our daily adventures, and celebrated the Labour Day long weekend by doing anything but labour.

Some Victorian highlights included the mini train at Galey Farms, that completed Jake's happiness in life.  I am pretty sure the choo choo ride around the farm was the best 20 minutes of his life so far.

'Twas here Jake first learned how to say "Goats!"

Three generations of train adoration

Then there was the day trip up to Shawnigan lake, were we spent yet another day in the water, eating yet another delicious barbecue, and yet again soaking up too much sun until we were all so pooped half of us napped almost the entire car ride home.

I've never been to Shawnigan, and let me just say for the record that I think it is one of the most luxurious local get away spots I have ever seen.  The lawns are manicured, the water is fresh and warm, the people are welcoming, and it was a kids paradise... an adult's paradise too for that matter.

Yes, there were also trips to the petting zoo, a zillion nearby parks, and the local pizza parlor, but the very best time spent all week had to be relaxing on Grandpa's front lawn under the umbrella, soaking our feet in the cool waters of "Boyd beach" (aka: water from a hose poured into a large washing basin), playing street hockey with favored uncles, and gawking at garbage trucks rumbling down the street.

It was close, but in the end Jake had it 3-2

My husband always tells me that I describe every weekend as being amazing, but to be honest recently they have been. These Boyd's have been very lucky this summer. Not only have we had some spectacular weekend adventures, day trips, and finally at long last some divine weather, but we also got to end it with these ten days.

And yes, husband, they were amazing.  Try to deny it.  

Monday, 5 September 2011

End of summer holidays: Part 1

We Boyds decided to pay tribute to the end of summer by hitting the road for one more vacation to two of our most favorite local getaways on the West Coast.  Our ten days away were so action packed I think I am going to need two posts to get it all out.

A couple of weeks ago my husband came home and announced he had taken the upcoming Friday, and the entire next following week off.  Combined with the upcoming Labour Day this was to be quite the stretch of spontaneous holidays, which we hadn't had in quite sometime and were long over due for.  So that Friday we headed off to Bowen Island to kick off our end of summer-cation!

Bowen Island did not fail to deliver.  This little oasis tucked in behind our sprawling city is one of our favorite local haunts.

It was sunny. It was hot. It was bliss.

 The ocean was warm enough to swim in, and Jake spent most of his days sitting on the shoreline, waves lapping over his legs, as he tossed in one stone after another in a sore attempt to empty the beach of all its rocks.

Just hanging around makin' hamburgers with my father-in-law

Dad look I think I see a fire truck!

Yep, I was right!
My boy had many new adventures during those hot carefree days on our special island. He had his first ride in a speed boat. He went to his first Parade, and licked his first lollipop. He discovered, explored, and got messy. 

It couldn't get any better.... or so we thought.  But alas more goodness was to come.