Monday, June 17, 2013

father's day weekend 2013

This Father’s Day weekend was all about celebrating Nuno and indulging him in things he loves. We started by going to see Book of Mormon at Shea’s Theatre in Buffalo. Nuno was dying to see this show and we managed to get tickets for the Friday night performance. We started the evening with dinner at a cute little restaurant behind the theatre called Bambino where we both had the most amazing wood oven pizzas. This was our first time inside Shea’s and it really is a marvel of its time.

Gorgeous mouldings, chandeliers and architecture which seems to be pretty well maintained since it was first built. Of course, the show was hilarious and I’d totally recommend seeing it if you ever get the chance.

Sunday, Father’s Day began with Owen waking at 5am and my valiant attempt at keeping him sequestered so Nuno could sleep in. That morning I managed to make BBQ sauce, clean the kitchen and prep for what was the most incredible breakfast we’ve had in ages – Bacon Pancakes. This recipe came from the Everyday Food blog and since we had everything already in the house they were super easy to whip up. Now, I expected these to be delicious because we all know how maple syrup goes well with bacon and pancakes, but these were just so beyond expectation. I’m thinking the 2 reasons were because the pancakes are cooked in the same pan as the bacon (adding flavour) and the pancake recipe itself is so great. They were some of the nicest homemade pancakes we’ve ever had; light, bouncy and slightly chewy. Really nice!

Another Father’s Day treat I made were these Strawberry Shortcakes. We drove past a farm stand selling fresh strawberries (they were being unloaded from the truck right as we arrived and were still warm from the sun). I really enjoy this particular recipe for shortcakes because they are rich and slightly crumbly which is a wonderful contrast to the berries and whipped cream. They were as delicious as they look.

Our Father’s Day came to a close with a dinner at my Dad’s golf club, Cherry Hill. The restaurant offered a fantastic buffet but I can't stop dreaming about their sticky toffee pudding. After dinner my dad took Owen out to the club’s practice putting green for a little play.

We really treated Nuno this past weekend because he deserves it. He’s been working long hours (sometimes 12+) during the week and needed a day of showering and pampering from the two of us. But moreover, he’s an awesome dad to Owen and husband to myself. We are seriously so lucky to have him in our lives.

Friday, June 14, 2013

jamie oliver's koh samui salad

I once again caught an episode of Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Minute Meals where he made the most delicious looking Thai street food inspired salad he calls Koh Samui Salad. I quickly jotted notes on how much of what he used and felt like this was definitely something we would all really enjoy trying. The plan was to initially have this as a weeknight dinner, but since most of the ingredients have longevity in the fridge, I had to keep putting it back - eventually until this past Sunday.

In order to make this salad I had to stop around the local Asian grocery for dried kaffir lime leaves and also picked up the basil and mint here as well (since they sell huge bunches for a buck). I also decided that I needed to give Jamie another chance on his claim of being able to make these meals in fifteen minutes. My last attempt at making his 15 Minute Chicken Fajitas found me in the kitchen for 3 times that amount of time. This time I decided to get everything mise en place, the way Jamie begins each episode. I noticed Jamie just whacks all his produce into his recipes (stems and all), and I can't really cook like that. I need to wash and scrub all my produce thoroughly and prep ingredients till I'm satisfied. I eventually had everything together in the kitchen for this meal in half an hour. Once the kettle came to a boil I started the 15 minute timer and got to work.

Things were looking really promising, I got as far as finishing the noodles, the dressing and the sliced veggies when the clock sounded. One snag that delayed the time limit was that there was just too much food to find a proper platter to mix everything. I ended up finding a huge catering platter which fit the bill, but be forewarned, this recipe yields a ton of food. I'd say this feeds 6 people - not 4.

Because we were going to eat this dinner for a picnic I mixed the dressing over the noodles and sliced carrots, cucumber and radishes and left it to marinade in the fridge. I kept the cabbage and fennel
in a separate container. Then in a third container I had the tofu and cold shrimp marinating in the chili sauce. And in a small zip top baggie I had the crunchy topping of sesame seeds and peanuts. This dinner was quite ideal for dining outdoors/picnicking because we found it was best made ahead to be served cool or room temperature.

Now, I used one very tiny Thai red chilli (thin & 1 inch long) and upon tasting the dressing it had some real heat. Honestly, this dinner was way too spicy for Owen. The flavours did mellow over time but we opted to pick up a slice of Hawaiian pizza for Owen just in case.

Once complete this salad was delicious. Every little detail and element of this salad was just perfect together. Of course, any time you cook a Jamie Oliver recipe you can expect to use more ingredients than usual and spend more time in the kitchen than you may be used to. To be honest, this meal took 2 hours from start to finish (from prep to complete clean-up). But the big pay off is in the flavour, just like all his other recipes, this one is just fantastic and we enjoyed the rest of the evening satisfied.

After dinner we walked to the park and then walked along the beach. I love evenings like these! 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

niagara falls comic con

I’m not sure I’ve ever shared Owen’s love for superheroes on here, but the kid’s crazy about them. It’s through Owen’s interest and Nuno’s knowledge I’m also learning (at a much slower pace) about all the heroes and villains in the Marvel & DC universe. As simple as it is for Owen, I’ll tell ya, I’m constantly struggling to get them all straight (there’s just so many). Of course, the fact that Owen’s such a natural comic fan suits Nuno perfectly, and you can imagine how easy it was for him to convince me that we all needed to attend the Niagara Falls Comic Con this past weekend. Yes, this visit was just for Owen, right!

Along with superheroes Owen’s also been intrigued by Star Wars. He is familiar with the current Lego animated version of Star Wars and has seen bits and pieces of the movies from the 70’s. I can clearly remember being totally freighted by so many of the characters and situations in Star Wars, but Owen’s never been a skidish kid. No nightmares, no nightlights, nothing about Halloween scares him. He’s just a guy who finds fantasy and sci-fi pretty fun. I guess that’s why this Comic Con was such a hit. Before we even entered the convention Owen was personally greeted by R2D2 and I’ll just let this series of photos illustrate the scenario.

Once we made it into the convention everyone in costume were so great about meeting Owen and posing for photos. I’m sure some of the fans who made their own costumes couldn’t have been more flattered that a 3 year old was convinced they were the real deal.

This convention was just the right size. They managed to host some real icons including Cory Feldman (!), Adam West (complete with Batmobile), Lee Meriwether, Lou Ferrigno and Pat Mastroianni (Joey Jeremiah from Degrassi – who’s a huge celebrity for me at least).

I was definitely part of a visible minority not in costume or wearing a fan shirt... um, what was I thinking?! But the Comic Con was busy, fun and probably some of the best people watching, as you can well imagine. We'll totally go again next year.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

my father's retirement

Today is my father’s final day at work. He’s retiring after 29 years at the District School Board of Niagara where he was the Manager of Projects and Maintenance. He had a retirement party on Tuesday night with over 200 guests. It’s hard to know what to give someone for retirement, especially since my dad (as echoed in many of the speeches at the event) is very unassuming and understated. He always said when he retires he plans on playing golf and spending time with Owen & the family. Nuno suggested we bake a cake for the occasion as our gift for the event, naturally, I was thrilled. When he proposed the idea he had already drawn up the blueprints. So much of these sculpted cake rely heavily on Nuno’s talents and his idea was to make a perfectly square cake of the DSBN logo with gum paste sculpted figures of my father and Owen. 
The job began with a 7 hour cake baking blitz. I used this Versatile Vanilla Cake recipe (my go-to for sculpted cakes) and baked 7 10” square slabs.

From there Nuno made the magic happen, surprisingly quickly with no snags or glitches along the way. We’re getting to be veteran cake builders learning with every cake we produce. The final cake weighed close to 50 lbs. This is the largest group one of our cakes ever had to feed and luckily it tasted great.

As you can tell by the figures, someone is going to Disney World. As a retirement gift my parents, sister and her boyfriend and our family are all spending a week together at Disney World in September. We wish my dad, mother (a teacher who is retiring at the end of this school year) and father-in-law happy retirements filled with relaxing and fulfilling years ahead.

Monday, June 3, 2013

buffalo zoo trip

Is everyone back on track with action-packed weekends? I find there is almost too much to blog about come spring into summer. This weekend was Owen’s first soccer practice of the year. He’s on team ‘Squirrels’ and is really pumped up about being part of a team sport. He took part in soccer last year, but I would never recommend signing a 2 year old for a team sport like soccer unless you’re looking for loads of comical stories to fill your child’s scrapbooks. Some of Owen’s antics included running off in the middle of the game to play in the playground, laying down and pretending to fall asleep in the goalie net, not listening to the coach pretty much all the time unless he calls “Snack Time” and repeatedly running off to see mom & dad through the entire practice. This year is a total turnaround in mindset. He’s actively listening, participating and trying hard. And as a parent, the best part of signing your kids up for extracurricular activities is seeing the sense of accomplishment and happiness on their faces. We’re really pleased with his efforts in soccer and swim classes.

We also took some time this weekend to visit the Buffalo Zoo – for the first time ever! As a Buffa-lover I was pleasantly surprised with how inexpensive it is to visit. I also loved the size of this zoo, it’s easily walk-able that you can make at least 2 rounds with little effort.

However, I felt like this zoo has probably seen better days. Unless it’s a conscious effort to make the grounds look as wild as they are, they could probably use a few more people on their grounds crew taming the overgrown areas. My grandmother told me that the Buffalo Zoo was one of the best in the nation back when she had small kids. It definelty has parts that are maintained but do not seem to have haven’t been renovated since its heyday. But there are quite a few sponsored areas that are extremely well maintained, notably a wonderful playground built by Fisher Price. Owen played for at least 45 minutes straight with all the other kids leaving Nuno and I nothing to do but sit back on a shaded park bench enjoying the gorgeous weather.

 But what’s most important about this zoo are the animals and the selection was incredible!

The zoo has just started to display it’s new polar bear cub, who was the star attraction of the day.

Owen, Nuno and I marveled at the silverback gorilla family and the rhinos.

I packed a picnic of Toasted Turkey Sandwich and Quick Pickles we enjoyed in Delaware Park before the projected thunderstorm arrived. We made it to the car just in time to avoid the torrential downpour. Talk about luck!