28 November 2011

[talk: A Very Happy Thirteeth.]

As many of my readers know, the grey winter days can really drag me down.  And I find that I feel poorly about myself, about my role as a wife and mother ... I get more overwhelmed and tend to feel disconnected.

My hubby's and my 13th wedding anniversary was on November 21st ... and the week prior, I decided that I really needed to make it a priority to reconnect with him and sort-of "reboot" before the hectic Christmas season.  He was in total agreement.

Now, like most women, I love it when HE plans something.  But, if I'm honest, it's not really my hubby's strength ... it's mine.  So, without feeling like he didn't really care, or whatever, I put matters into my own hands and booked a hotel, made dinner reservations and bought movie tickets online.

So on this past Thursday afternoon, my hubby and I drove into Vancouver and headed straight to the St. Regis hotel in the heart of downtown.  

It was a perfect location - we didn't have to worry about  in the Vancouver rain because the mall was right across the street.  And my hubby and I wanted to get some of our Christmas shopping done together ... 

So we did some shopping and then headed back to our hotel to get ready for dinner ...

I had made reservations at a brand new restaurant called "Black and Blue" from the Global Group of restaurants.  My hubby and I LOVE these restaurants ... Society, Glowbal, The Italian Kitchen - just to name a few -  ... and they are all excellent.  Black and Blue was their latest addition on Alberni Street and let me say - it did NOT disappoint.

It was lavish, had high quality service and the food was absolutely divine.  DEEE-VINE.

It's a steakhouse - which I thought my hubby would love - but it was trendy and sophisticated.    The atmosphere was buzzing with toe tapping music (can't go wrong with Michael Jackson remixes ...) and the menu?  You can see it HERE.  Now, this is not a place that you would hang out on a weekly basis ... this was a special occasion and it was an expensive meal.  But my hubby and I enjoyed our conversation and the food so much ... 

Did I mention the cure-house located in the centre of the restaurant?  Yup ... the meat is THAT fresh ... 

We ordered salads to start - my hubby's caesar was prepared side-table - then we ordered steak *duh* and shared the broccoli side and fried macaroni (oh my WORD ... I only ate one but it was crazy-good).  For dessert, my hubby had a sundae and I chose the Bananas Foster - again, made side-table.  Butter, brown sugar, bananas, bourbon ... and a match.

We were feeling so much better already ... you couldn't wipe the smiles off of our faces.  And we pretty much needed a wheelbarrow to carry us out ... 

After dinner, we headed back to our hotel to get into more comfy clothes and discovered that the elevator was broken. And we were on floor 5.  Ah well ... we needed to burn off a little of our dinner *smile* ... 

Then made our way to the movie theatre, to which I had purchased tickets for online.  But when we got there, they informed us that the movie wasn't playing anymore due to a glitch in the system.


There wasn't anything else we wanted to watch ... so we headed back to the hotel - thinking we could maybe buy an in-room movie.  But alas, there was nothing we wanted to watch there either.  So we watched "The Mentalist" on tv (which we've never seen before, and kinda liked) and enjoyed the luxury of an early bedtime.

I slept like a rock.

We woke up the next morning at 8:30am (oh, WOW) and made our way to the hotel's complimentary breakfast ... which was SO good.  Plated food ... fresh omelettes, bacon, potato hash-browns ... we filled up and, packed up, and then made our way into the glorious sunshine for a morning of Christmas shopping.

WIth my very first Skinny Decaf Eggnog Latte from Starbucks in hand, we walked down Robson and stopped and tried things on, and bought gifts for family members.  It was heaven.

We headed home after lunch and even though we were only gone 24hrs, we were so excited to see our kids - and our moods were totally rejuvenated ... I am so, so thankful that we were able to do this.

During our pre-marital counselling, I remember something that Chuck Swindoll had written that we read ... He said, "... the average family has 2 weeks of vacation per year.  One week needs to be with the family, the other - just with your spouse."  He talked of the importance to regroup and  reconnect ... 

Obviously, there are many reasons why some are unable to do a full week alone ... finances, work schedules, child-care.  But one night - just one - is doable for most.  And my hubby and I realized the importance of this, more than ever.  I believe it has totally redirected our home before the frantic Christmas season, and will allow us to be a better team ... together.

So.  Yeah.  That was our anniversary. *grin*

And I wish you and yours a GREAT one today!

24 November 2011

[cool products: Oh Boy. Polyvore.]

So.  I've discovered the addiction that is Pinterest ... you can follow me by clicking the "pinterest link" on the right side of this blog ...

It's addicting and fabulous ... it lets you basically see the very best of the best, and use "boards" to save and organize images (that are usually linked to the webpages they're from) ... like having a million magazine subscriptions and pulling out and filing the pages that you want.

There are recipes, style and fashion ideas, home ideas, organization tips, "do it yourself" ideas ... and a bucket-load of "why didn't I think of that??" stuff.

Confused?  Don't be ... try it out ... I dare you *grin*.

And - my friend Shawna just told me about Polyvore.  Yee gads.  Its a place where you can create a group of images ... with links ... of things that you like or whatever.  Like this one I quickly put together just to show you.  There are hundreds of different templates ... I just quickly chose this.  You can hover over the images, and they link to where I found them ... 

This one's a grouping of some of the fun things I found on Pinterest ... 

I'm still just figuring things out ... so I'm sure I'm not doing everything quite the way it should be done ... but whatever.  You get the idea *grin*.

Have a great one!

Why I Love Polyvore

Inside My Dream Home

Style ...

23 November 2011

[talk: Trader Joes.]

Yesterday I had my first "official" trip to the States for a grocery shop.  Dozens of my friends do this every month - but I do not.  I had a miserable experience once at the border, where the border guard made me return my purchases to Costso (with proof of receipt) - with an emphasis on the fact that I had 18 eggs, instead of the 12-egg-limit.


Needless-to-say, I haven't gone back.

But yesterday the kid's school was closed due to a power outage, and I thought it would be a "day out" for all of us.  I headed south with a van-full of kids and made my way to Trader Joes.

I've been to Trader Joes in Phoenix, but never in Bellingham.  I picked up organic milk, free-range eggs, the best kettle-corn popcorn (100 calories a bag, YUM), two boxes of peppermint green tea (oh.my ... it's THAT good), a brie cheese log ... and some other nifties.

I also headed to Costco and bought various cheese, a big bag of chocolate chips, a quinioa/rice blend ... some bread.  And a bag of white-chocolate-candy-cane-covered pretzels.  

Yeah.  I'm a sucker for peppermint ... mmmmm.

Even the smell of peppermint gum makes me giddy.

*drifting of ... *

ANYways ...

I headed back home and was nervous about the $190+ I spent on groceries, even with the four of us being in the van.  I approached the border guard and she asked the same-old questions ... "no booze, no tobacco" ... she asked how much I spent.

When I answered, she started jotting something down.

Oh no.  Flashbacks to my miserable experience ... 

She looked at me and said, "So ... do you think you'll do this often?"

To which I replied, "You know - I'm not sure.  It took me a lot of time - and I could've gotten some work done at home.  And I found myself buying things that I normally wouldn't spend money on.  It's a lot of work coming down with three kids ... (blah blah blah ...)"

Her posture changed with her, "You're the FIRST person to ever say that!!" She laughed. "I don't get why people come from North Vancouver, give up an entire day to sit 3 hours at the border to save $50.00.  It's not worth it to me ... "

I was home free.

SO ... will I do it again?  Oh probably ... when the kids are IN SCHOOL and Katia and I can have a date *grin*.  Next time I'll definitely bring a list as apposed to shopping with my eyes.  I, for certain, saved a lot of money - specifically on cheese ... which I'm not eating anyways.  Still doing no-dairy, no-wheat, no sugar as much as I can ... down 5.5lbs - but that's another blogpost ... 

AND it cost me $60.00 to fill up my van, which was 3/4 empty.  A full tank costs me about $120.00 so THAT was worth it ... may just do a gas/milk/eggs run every week.    We'll see.

And that's my post on Trader Joes.

Thank you. *grin*

Have a great one!

14 November 2011

[talk: So Much Talent.]

Ok.   I have a little secret.

Well - it's not REALLY a secret - but it's out of my comfort zone and I've only told a couple of people.  But since this is my blog, and I create annual "books" of my entries, I figured it's time to  spill it on something that I've just kinda started doing ... 

Well ... let me fast forward here a bit to Sunday night ... If any of you are my FB friend, you'll know that I was at a concert that evening.  A friend of mine and I (my hubby's not too interested in concerts for some reason ...) went and saw "The Civil Wars" at the Vogue Theatre downtown.  

It was incredible.

The opening band was a group called "Milo Greene" and they killed it.  Every song the band members swapped instruments (nothing cooler than a chick playing bass, no?) ... 4 voices, harmonies, a tambourine ... it was spectacular.

Then The Civil Wars took stage ... just a guy, a girl and his guitar.  That's it.  And their voices were supernatural ... their own instruments.  The control, the melodies, the chemistry ... the song writing.

My friend and I sat in row three.  Close enough to see spit droplets when consonants were sung *grin* ... 

It was all just too much - in a good way.

And as I sat there, I looked over and saw my new friend and his wife grinning from ear to ear.  He was, after all, the reason my friend and I were there in the first place.  He had invited us.

See ... I've started songwriting him - a guy from my church.  He approached me a couple of months back and said, "so - whatcha doing with your music - outside of church?"  To which I said, "um.  nothing?"  He thought that we should hang and see if we were compatible to song-write together.

We've gotten together only twice ... he's written a bucketload, I've written one - and we've started doing some co-writing.  Really fun ... really nerve-wracking ... something I've never done before.

Back to Sunday night ... 

As I sat there, I found it so hard to feel confident in my own talents when they were obviously so much less than what I was witnessing.  Please understand - this is not an insult to myself *smile*.  It's just reality.  There is always someone better than you ... it's just the way it is.

I found myself going back in my mind to the reason why I joined up with my new friend in the first place.  I don't want to be a rock star.  Ha!  I'm not a rockstar ... I'm just a 37year old stay-at-home-mom-of-three who plays at church once a month and is thankful to take photos for others when they ask ... 

But I want to write, just ... because.  And I want to sing just ... because it's what I need to do.  I have no unrealistic dreams of what my songwriting/co-writing/singing will become.  I just know that I want to create music.

So.  For today ... I'm going to try and not feel overwhelmed with all that I cannot do ... like the supernatural vocal gymnastics that I heard that night by The Civil Wars.  Instead, I'm going to try and feel inspired - to do new things - different things - challenge myself ... 

Um.  That's all.


Have a good one *smile*.

04 November 2011

[fave things: Grown Up Christmas List ... ]

Ok ... I've gotten a lot of response about doing more "fave things" posts ... so here's the Big One for the year ... my "Grown Up Christmas List".

Every year, each family member in our family is asked for a Christmas list that they share with others - just as a guideline.  I know that some families really dislike this idea - so please don't hate on us because it's what we choose to do *wink* ...

I like to give a vast aray of ideas, as maybe it'll spark something in someone else of something that would bring them joy .., and I'm like most girls - the element of a little surprise is always nice *smile*.

This list is extravagant, but keep in mind that it's more of a "things I'm loving" post as apposed to anything else.   Here are a few things that would be lovely ... 

1. Kindle: It was on my "list" last year - but my hubby got an ipad for work, and thought that it would be like "doubling up".  But whenever I see someone on the skytrain, the airport, the coffee shop, with one - I think that it would be super cool to have.  I love to read, and think that this would be a welcome addition to my purse while I wait for Mattias' 1.5hr animation class to finish *grin*.

2. Amazon Gift Cards:  ... to buy digital books for my new kindle, of course.

3. Glass Teapot with Infuser:  A girlfriend of mine told me about David's Tea, here in Vancouver.  I have yet to try it - but I am ITCHING to start trying loose leaf tea.  Plus, I need a new teapot - a larger one - for when there are 3 or 4 ladies sharing in the yumminess.  This teapot holds six cups (1.5litres) and strains the loose tea leaves as it pours.  I think that's pretty fantastic. 

4.  Loose Leaf Tea from David's Tea:  This month's tea feature flavour is "carrot cake".  YUM.  And with teas like "Chocolate Mint Rooibos" and "Mango Madness" white tea ... can you really go wrong?  The only requirement for me is for it to be caffeine-free ... Caffeine is my enemy.

... and on a side-note, if someone you love is a tea-maniac like me - there are tea sample packages and other great gifts for under $30.00 at David's Tea, located in Guildford Mall or in Whistler, BC.   You can see more HERE.

5.  Tea Travel Mug:  If I'm going to be spoilt with fantastic tea - how great would it be to be able to take it with me ...  complete with built-in infuser.  I like the white one - and again, at David's tea in Guildford Mall and Whistler, BC.

6.  Individual Infuser Mug:  Oh ... are you seeing a pattern?  Yup.  So ... the teapot would be for many people ... and this would be just for me on those cozy nights while my hubby is out playing hockey, kids are all tucked in, and I'm watching some chick-flick while editing photos ... sounds perfect.  I love it in bright red.  David's Tea.  Guildford Mall ... and Whistler, BC.

7.  Dutch Oven:  I've seen these at Costco and HomeSense.  I love one-dish meals, but I don't have anything to really cook them in ... this would be lovely.  They are expensive - but hey - it's a list, right?  They run at about $99.00 - $199.00, depending on size and brand.

8. "Zoe Chicco" Necklace: I saw Hannah from the Biggest Loser wear this necklace all last season ... Now, I'm not 5'9 and 125lbs ... but I think I could rock it just the same *grin*.  I love how dainty it is (the large circle is 3/4" in diameter).  Obviously - I just love this style.  Finding it at the Winners jewelry counter is just fine with me *big grin*.
9: "Zoe Chicco" 4 Circle Bracelet:  ... well.  I wouldn't want the necklace to be lonely, now, would I?  *grin*
10. Wedge Boots:   These $99.99 boots are from "Spring" - a shoe store in my local Langley mall.  They're in "cognac" and I'd love 'em in a size 7.  I don't own any wedges  ... I think they're fun, feminine ... and might make me look a little bit taller.  Hopefully.

11.  Olive Canvas Classics by TOMS: ... yellow, red, chocolate, colour splattered, wedges,  ... they even have purple hounds-tooth.  I don't own a pair ... which is really sad because I think this company is super-cool with their "buy one, give one" policy.  I guess I just haven't thought I was ... cool? enough.  Well ... I still may not be ... but I'm ready to give it a try *grin*.  In the colour  "Olive", size 6.5/7.  LOVE them.

12. Oversized "Hobo" Satchel Purse:  A grey purse that holds everything ... I LOVE this purse.  I found this online ... and it's less than $30.00.

13.  "Run for Your Life Tank" by Lulu Lemon: ... truly, anything at Lulu is a treat, no?  This tank is long and a little loose, with a built-in, built in.  I love the "heathered royalty" colour as shown.  It's pricey ... $64.00.

14. "Inspire Jacket" by Lulu Lemon:  It's ridiculously expensive at $168.00, but ridiculously nice ... and hey - this is a list, just a list *grin*.  Size 4/6 for me ... *grin*

15. "Nature Bright SunTouch Lamp":  I haven't been actually diagnosed - but I know that I get SAD (seasonal affective disorder) during the winter months.  I'm sure a lot of people do - especially here on the west coast where the grey goes on for days and weeks ... This lamp helps with such an issue - and allows your body to make the necessary chemical changes to promote a happy winter.  It's so expensive, at $199.00.  I don't know where else to look, but I found this one on the London Drugs website ...

16. "Laura Mercier Almond Coconut Milk Souffle Body Cream":  When a Christmas list has luxury in it, this is it.  Ok.  I don't own it ... never have.  It's pricy - but how yummy does it sound??  And it's Kelly Clarkson's favourite *wink* ... $50.00

17.  "The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl" :  I reeeeeaaally would like this cookbook.  Ree Drummond is pretty great about posting recipes and such - but I'm a bit of a sucker for a great cookbook.  A kindle book for a cookbook just isn't my thing ... I love getting pages worn and dirty from tried and true recipes.  I hope to get a chance to dirty up my own book ... *grin*

18.  Loungewear:   New pjs.  Who doesn't like new pjs for Christmas?  Found these on the Sears website for under $30.00.  Now, I'm a bit funny about the material and style for pyjamas.  I don't like flannel, or stiff cotton.  I like "jersey" fabric - loose and forgiving *grin*.  I like elastic waists, rather than a drawstring.  And I prefer the tops to be "collar-less" and not button-up. I like dark pajamas too .. navy, black, dark grey.  How precise is THAT?  *wink*.  I'm a size small, mom *grin*.

19.  The gift of shopping:  Gift cards are always an exciting gift for any woman.  The idea of heading out for some "alone" time with some extra cash ... perfection.  Our local mall offers gift cards that can be used at ANY store in their mall.  How great is that?? Le Chateau,  Sakura and Aldila Boutique are all some of my faves there.

20.  Spa Utopia:  Our city has one of the best spa facilities in all of Vancouver.  It's expensive - but if you're into atmosphere and calm, this is the place.  And Costco actually offers giftcards that save you $50.00 when you spend $200.00.  Now, that is a lot of money, but you get 5 cards worth $50.00 each ... and you can be done your shopping for all the women in your life *grin*.  I know what some are going to say, "giving a gift that doesn't cover the entire expense is a waste."  True enough ... but I'm willing to put a bit some of my own money in if there's a gift card to help out ...


I'm out of ideas ... 20.  Not bad.  I hope I've given you as many ideas as possible ... I've been preparing this blogpost for over a week and I am happy to be done *grin*.

I hope you saw something you hadn't thought of that might bring joy to someone you know ... and here's to a fantastic Christmas season!!

Have a great one!

03 November 2011

[redhandedphotography: Brian & Oksana.]

Ok ... I have just finished preparing the most MASSIVE post ever, with Christmas gift ideas.  But first ... I wanted to show you what's happening at my RedHanded Photography site HERE.

Here's a preview.

Would love to have you stop by ... leave a comment, would love to know you were there *grin*.  And stay tuned - the "Grown Up Christmas List" is a-comin' ... 

Have a great one!!

01 November 2011

[talk: Our Hallowe'en Family Night.]

As a Christian, there is always some controversy over the Halloween holiday.  Some of our friends forbid it - some celebrate, well, celebrate is a strong word ... how about "participate" in it.  Some neighbouring churches offer alternatives, while other churches wouldn't dream of it.

Again, this is my blog *grin* - and I'm not going to debate the reasons behind why some do and some don't.  I'm just posting on what our family has chosen to do ... and that is, take back what the enemy has planned for bad and use it for good.  Period.  For us, Halloween is a family evening - a time to be together, have people over, dress up and enjoy the goodness that God has given us.  Kinda like a "dress-up-thanksgiving" *grin*.

Speaking of dress up ... 

Josiah was a "transformer", Mattias was "Darth Vader", and Katia was "Snow White".  All of the costumes were purchased at my BIL and SIL's store Party On in Langley ... best store around!

... did you notice the "cross" pumpkin?  ... yeah, I need to put our pumpking-carving post up soon and explain *grin* ... soon.

Ah yes ... and I was "Snow White" as well.  I was last year too ... and strange - as I've never really dressed up before, but for some reason I really have a lot of fun with it.  And my kids LOVE it *grin*.  For now, anyways *wink* ... 

OH.  And before I type another word ... a bit of a disclaimer for the shoddy camera work.  My Nikon is in the shop getting some maintenance done - so I only have my point-and-shoot.  It shoots only in jpeg format and is pretty miserable in low-light.  I know, I know ... but hey - photography is my thing - and these images kinda make me cringe a bit.  There.  I said it.

Moving on.

Our family, every year, gathers with friends and goes door to door ... la la la la la la.   This year, my hubby and I decided to invite a few more - and had planned to have a large potluck party.  I prayed a lot about it - asking the Lord to help me with who to invite and all of that.  And after sending out invitations, most were actually unable to join us.

Instead, we had 4 families (well .. 3.5, right RS?) - each not knowing each other, in fact, meeting each other for the first time.  That was a bit nerve-wracking for me *grin*.   I wasn't sure how the group would be ... but it worked out just fine.

I made perrogies with onions and sausage, and the other wives brought various salads, buns and dessert.   I also made mini chocolate cupcakes with gummy spiders ... and Josiah was so afraid of them, he would run away every time I made the spiders "talk" *grin*.

After dinner, we headed out up the street ... towing our littlest ones in a bright red wagon.

The evening was clear and crisp, and I loved watching my different friends mingle with each other, and essentially, making new friends.  So great.

My hubby was with the two boys at the front of the pack ... I stayed with Katia and it sure didn't take her long to get the idea.  Within the first 3 houses, she turned to me and said, "you stay here," and went to the door by herself.  She waved goodbye to each home owner with a chipmunk-sounding "thank you" ... it was priceless.


After the trick or treating, we came back to our place for lattes and dessert, while the kids dumped their candy out onto the family-room floor and began the 'trading' process.  

It was SUCH a great family night. 

I hope you and your family, however you chose to spend October 31st, enjoyed your time together.  

Have a great one!