Thursday, July 30, 2015

Food, Glorious Food

Howdy Humble Readers,

(This post was meant to post on Wednesday night, but Blogger was being persnickety)

My Beloved and I had a great little trip to the Big-City-to-the-South. 

We really didn't do much.  The only things I had planned, other than my Beloved's mock interview (which was moderately helpful), was where we were going to stay and where we were going to eat.  And knowing my hobbit-ish nature, you have to know that the food was a big part of this little trip.  Please forgive me as I rhapsodise about the wonders we experienced over the last couple of days. 

When we do any travelling, even just down the highway, I have a rule about eating out.  We WILL NOT eat anywhere we could eat at home.  I will not go to a Timmies, or a chain restaurant (unless it's a chain we don't have in the Shire, but even that's a last resort).  I prefer to find locally owned and operated places. 

My Beloved trying to eat the
enormous Booker's Burger
A big help in this regard has been the Food Network Canada show "You Gotta Eat Here" (same format as 'Diners, Drive-ins & Dives' with Guy Fieri).  Over the last few years, we have discovered, with their assistance, some amazing restaurants.  This trip was no exception. 

After my Beloved's interview, we spent some time window shopping in the downtown core before we headed to Booker's BBQ Grill & Crabshack.  From the outside, it's not much.  In fact, I've driven right past it countless time when coming into the downtown area.  It's across the street from what appears to be a very seedy hotel but we are taught to not judge a book by it's cover, right?  Oh my, it was yummy food! 

My burnt ends & fries
with bbq mayo dipping sauce
My Beloved had the Booker's Burger... a burger with smoked brisket, smoked pulled pork, and crispy onion straws... with the yam fries.  It was huge, I wish I would have gotten a picture of it when arrived at the table.  He was moaning and groaning in happiness as he chowed down.  I had the appetizer order of burnt ends (brisket) and a side of fries.  I have to say, the burnt ends were little chunks of smoky, saucy heaven.  We both agreed we'd have to come back some Sunday for their all-you-can eat ribs and crab. 

After lunch we needed some exercise, so we decided on a whim to go to the science center.  It was a fun little jaunt, and I'm definitely looking forward to taking the wee-lings there when they are a bit older.  Later we checked into our hotel and both had a bit of a rest as we had been up extra early. 

The last time we were in Big-City-to-the-South for a getaway, two years ago, we went to Big T's BBQ & Smokehouse, and I fell in love.  I had been daydreaming about their dusty rib ends and deep fried pickles ever since.  I knew that even though we had just had BBQ for lunch there was no way I was going to miss a chance to go to Big T's. 
The dusty rib ends are hiding under the ribs.

I had the two-meat plate... a half-rack of St. Louis ribs, dusty rib ends, mashed taters, and fried green tomatoes.  A heart-attack on a plate, to be sure, but oh so good.  I especially enjoyed the tomatoes, crunchy and tart.  My Beloved had the smoked meatloaf with dirty rice and potato salad, and he dared to say that it was better than my meatloaf... lol.  Then I had a bite, and I whole-heartedly agreed.  As good as Booker's was, I have to confess that Big T's is my favourite. 

That is the biggest slice of meatloaf
I've ever seen!
The last of our food adventures came this morning, at a tiny little breakfast and lunch place called OEB.  The last time we were in Big-City-to-the-South, I had wanted to visit but they were closed.  I'm so glad I put it on our list for this trip.  Their eggs come from their own flock of free run chickens.  Their potatoes are all cooked in duck fat.  Yes, I said duck fat.  And they are AMAZING!  Seriously, if I lived any closer, I would have to eat there once a week.  At least.  And I would die in about 6 months. 
My Beloved had the Croque Madame.  Thick cut sourdough rye toast topped with rosemary ham, roasted tomatoes, some of the amazing potatoes, mozzarella, summer truffles, and brown butter hollandaise.  On top of all that, as if it needed more, were two eggs. They were supposed to be sunny side up, but my Beloved and I share a strong dislike for runny yolks, and the staff at OEB were more than happy to accommodate. 

My Beloved's Croque Madam

I had one of their 'box'd breakfasts'.  Imagine poutine... that wonderfully heart-stopping Canadian combination of French fries, cheese curds, and gravy.  Now, picture that done for breakfast, served up in a Chinese food take out box.  A healthy helping of those crispy-duck-fat-fried-potatoes, topped with cheese curd from Quebec, brown butter hollandaise sauce, crowned with poached eggs (I had scrambled... again, runny yolks make me shiver), micro greens, and I chose the lox and capers.  Oh good gravy, IT WAS THE BEST BREAKFAST I'VE EVER HAD!  I couldn't finish it.  I gave it my best shot, but I was defeated.  Oh, and while my Beloved was paying, they brought him a coffee in a to go cup.  I thought that was a great touch.  All in all, OEB was well worth the 2+ years wait, and we most certainly will go back the next time we are in the Big-City-to-the-South. 

My box'd A-Lott A-Lox
I'm not going to step on the scale for a few days after all that crazy food we ate.  But it was fun, and we have a couple of new go-to places for when we head south. 

The rest of our time away was filled with a lot of time hanging out in our hotel, and a bunch of time window shopping.  We did make a couple of purchases... Ginny's backpack/lunch kit for school, a couple of little treats for the wee-lings, and some 'fancy' tea (David's Tea, Forever Nuts)  for me.  We were going to stop at an antique mall that I've been wanting to check out for a while, but we were both wiped after all that food and walking, so we headed home a bit early.  It was a great chance for us to reconnect, hang out, and just be a couple. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Micro-Vacay

Hey Humble Readers...

For the first time in two years, my Beloved and I are heading out for a little getaway.  He has a mock interview, through the CPA program to help improve his interview skills, in the Big-City-to-the-South tomorrow morning.  We'll get to spend the rest of the day, and most of the day Wednesday, just being together without the wee-lings. 

I'm excited to get away, to do some window shopping, and to eat at my favourite restaurant in the Big-City.  Heck, even getting to stay in a hotel is a treat.  We are both leaving our computers and tablets at home, and are going to focus on just being 'us' for a couple of days. 

It's money we probably shouldn't spend, but I see nothing but good coming from a chance to recharge and reconnect. 

This was posted as a part of Mel's #MicroblogMondays.  Click here to learn more, to connect with other microbloggers, and to join in. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Pretty [Stormy] Prairie Weekend

Hey Humble Readers...

I hope you all had a good weekend.  Ours was busy, and definitely eventful.  Here are some views from this afternoon. 

We were at an Ent family reunion campout over the weekend, about a half hour to the south of the Shire.  Our little hobbit clan went out to the campground for the day yesterday, and then came home to sleep.  (In true hobbit fashion, I prefer the comfort of my bed to that of a tent or even a primo camper like my in-laws all have.  I also prefer being able to take a hot shower too.)  And then we went back out again this morning. 

Ginny bundled up in Gramma's
jacket around the campfire
It was great to see so much of my Beloved's family.  There are a lot of my Beloved's cousins, and I only see them once every couple of years, so it's hard to keep everyone straight.  The wee-lings had a great time playing with their cousins (actually their first cousins, once removed), and getting spoiled by all the aunties and uncles. 

Pip with one of his auntie-cousins
at the campfire.
The major excitement came in when a major storm hit on Saturday afternoon.  We were expecting a bit of rain, possibly even some hail if it worked up to a thunderstorm.  At about 3 o'clock, the wind started to howl and suddenly tarps, camper awnings, tablecloths, lawn chairs, food, everything went flying.  We were in full on frantic mode as we were all trying to save a much as we could and run for cover.  Turns out that we were under a tornado warning.  Lovely. 

Lovely rainbow on Saturday night.
When the storm hit hard, and everyone was dashing around lowering awnings, wrangling things that were blowing away, I grabbed the wee-lings and headed for our car.  I knew it was bad when the car was rocking back and forth in the wind, and I couldn't see the vehicles parked on either side of us, less than three feet away.  I kept the wee-lings distracted by playing their favourite song from my playlist (Little Red Wagon by Miranda Lambert) over and over. 

Thankfully, there was no major damage done to any of the campers (one awning took a hit), and even more thankfully no one was hurt.  After a very long 20 minutes, the wind eased a bit and the rain slowed enough for my Beloved to come out from his brother's camper to get us.  We spent another 15 minutes all crammed into the camper before we could head back out and clean up.  And man was it ever a mess.  There were a lot of jokes about finding chip bowls and playing cards two towns away. 

We were blessed with some great sunshine after the storm, and the rest of our time together was pretty tame.  We all got sunburned (me most of all), ate a lot of great food, and had a lot of fun.  The kids stayed up way past their bedtime, got immensely dirty, and had an awesome time.  And so did we. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Wee-lings

Hey Humble Readers,

First and foremost, thank you so much for your comments on yesterday's post.  It's lovely to know that you all are still out there. 

I've been pondering what to write next, but there is so much I'm not sure where to begin.  It's been a long time since you all have seen any pics of my beautiful wee-lings... so maybe we'll start there. 
Ginny and Pip at Vacation Bible School
Ginny is 4 now (4 and a half, Mummy!) and is eagerly anticipating the beginning of kindergarten in the fall.  She still has some of the beautiful curls she had as a baby, but most of her hair is straight now with just a bit of a wave.   She's still sucking her thumb (when she's bored or tired), which drives me batty, but she can also read pretty much anything at a first grade level, which makes me super proud.  Ginny did her first dance class this past spring and enjoyed herself immensely.  When I asked her if she wanted to do dance again or something different in the fall, she said "Sports, Mummy!" very emphatically.  I guess I'm going to be looking into soccer or something for her.  She loves board games (Trouble, Candyland, Reversi/Othello, and my Beloved is teaching her to play chess) and card games (Go Fish, Memory, and Old Maid).  Ginny is very much a Daddy's girl, counting down the days between weekends, when Daddy can spend the whole day with her. 

Wearing Daddy's shoes
 She and I went to her kindergarten orientation back in May and ever since she's been asking when she can go back.  The process of registering her for school was more stressful than I imagined it would be.  Which school district, public or Catholic, or would we go with the semi-private Christian school?  Which offers full day kindergarten?  Which offers bussing for the kindergarten students?  Because there are no schools within walking distance of the hobbit-hole, and because we only have the one vehicle, those last two questions were particularly important.  The big thing with all these questions was that we had to make our decision last December, because registration started the first day back after Christmas break, and it can be very difficult to get into the school of your choice here if you aren't one of the first in line.  Ultimately, we chose a Catholic school, because it does full day kindergarten with bussing (her bus stop will be just across the street from our condo) and she will get a bit of faith-based education. So, on the first Monday of January, there I was in a line outside her school with a bunch of other moms, bundled up to my eyeballs in the winter weather, at 7:00am.  She'll be going to school Wednesdays and Fridays, and alternating Mondays.  How is my wee, sweet honey bear big enough for this???
At the Zoo in May
Pippin turned 3 in May, and he's such a big boy now.  He's a couple of inches shorter than Ginny, but weighs almost the exact same.  Such a solid little guy.  He's doing moderately well with potty training, wearing big boy underwear during the day (when we're at home), and pull ups for naptime and bedtime, although he usually wakes up dry.  He still naps every day, usually 2 hours, but sometimes up to 3.5 hours.  His eczema has eased considerably, with only a few small spots on his wrists and elbows, but he has had horrible seasonal allergies this year. 
Lunch at the Zoo
Pip's speech difficulties linger, but they are much more age appropriate now.  He was in speech therapy for a little over 6 months, and made great improvements.  He talks non-stop now, and most adults can understand the majority of what he says.  His speech pathologist thinks that he'll have most of his letter sounds sorted out by the time he starts school.  And if an adult mimics his way of saying things, he will try to correct them, which is super cute.  Sadly, he has recently become a rather picky eater.  It began with mushrooms making him gag.  Now there isn't a dinnertime that isn't fraught with frustration, bribery, and wheedling.  He'll eat breakfast and lunch no problem, but dinner is always a challenge.  Meat is still hit or miss with him, but he does like most vegetables.  I really think he just gets bored with eating and doesn't want to take the time to finish, so instead says he's full or that he doesn't like it.  Hopefully, it's just a phase. 
Waiting for the parade to start
They do play well together, most of the time.  I have recently found that they do much better when I'm out of the room, which is tricky in our small home, but I am trying to figure out ways to be away from them and still get stuff done.  As much as I'm not sure that I'm ready for Ginny to start school in the fall, I am looking forward to having more one on one time with Pip. 

I was surprised by a surge of baby-fever a few weeks ago, and it struck me that my wee-lings are no longer babies.  I don't really want another child, and it's certainly too late now to be thinking that, but I do miss when they were small enough to be in my arms, when they weren't quite so independent.  Parenting really is a bittersweet thing. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pushing the Reset Button

Hello out there in the blogosphere...

I'm not sure if any of my Humble Readers are still around.  Not likely, given my absurdly long absence, but if you're here, I'd like to say hi and give a small update. 

2014 was not a very good year for this little hobbit clan.  Sadly, 2015 hasn't shown a whole lot of improvement. 

After being laid off in April of 2014, my Beloved is still working at his 'temporary' job with a former employer.  I am thankful that we have this income, but I continue to pray for the right job to open up for him.  He is getting more and more frustrated with his job every day... it only pays him 2/3 of what he should be making given his experience and education, no benefits, and worst of all he feels like he's sacrificing his professional reputation and personal integrity at an alarming regularity.  He's been continuing his CGA/CPA studies, but still has two years to go before he gets his designation.  He has applied and interviewed for a large number of positions, but nothing has panned out thus far.  It is getting harder and harder to believe that there will be something out there for him in the near future. 

I was working nights, for about 10 months, at my old bookstore.  It was only 9pm-1am, four or five days a week, but the toll it took on my health was pretty spectacular.  I have gained back almost all the weight I lost two years ago, my blood pressure was ridiculously high, and worst of all, I felt a serious disconnect from our wee-lings, as I was half asleep most days. 

I left the bookstore for a multitude of reasons, but primarily because I felt like I wasn't being the mummy I should be.  It was a hard decision, and financially it means that my Beloved has to work overtime every week, but my health is slowly improving and I feel like I'm finding my feet again with the wee-lings. 

I have struggled with a lot of things this past year, but in particular I felt that I have lost touch with two things that had been parts of how I defined myself all my life.  I am struggling to read... I've lost that easy ability to lose myself in the written word.  Books have been my solace throughout all the dark times of my life, but I don't have that comfort now.  At least not in the way that I used to.  And I have been struggling to write... anything.  Blog posts (obviously), journaling, and certainly anything resembling a creative outlet have dried up. 

And so, I am taking a tentative step... back into the blogosphere, back to the library, and back into my workout clothes.  I'm hoping I still have a voice (and maybe a reader or two), that I can find some willpower to pull my health off the back burner, and that I can find the courage to sit before a blank page and find the words to fill it. 

To that end, or at least to the end of getting back into the blogosphere, I am contemplating a platform change.  I have been on Blogger for a lot of years, but I am wondering if there is something out there that is user friendly, cheap (as in free, at least for now), and not a huge pain in the butt to transfer to.  Do you have any suggestions?  What has worked for you? 

Hoping to chat with you all again soon.