BRAD     |     EMILLIE

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer days

Victoria is FULL of things to do and see.  With Nikolai at home from summer camp these past two weeks, we have been enjoying everything there is to do an see in this beautiful city. 

This primarily involved going to the Buskers festival, as we caught a total of 5 different shows, and watched the Magician twice.  I HIGHLY recommend attending a Buskers fest.  It's much more than you expect... not just some beatnik travelers with a harmonica and guitar... but street performers who require an actual stage for their performance.  It is like attending a circus in small half-hour chunks.  We saw fire juggling, acrobatics, Cirque du Soleil style performers, clowns, contortionists and of course... the magician. 

We also have been going to the free Concerts in the Park (as photographed by Nikolai).
Having picnics in the park.
And playing in the waterparks (even when we forget our swim trunks).
We spent a morning at Dan's Farm feeding the goats with the goat-mobile.
And picking raspberries.
Lastly, we've also had some fun at home...
...and making sushi!
I'm not going to write this down as a recipe... since I'm certainly not very good at it!  But I would encourage you to try it at home, as it's especially fun for children.  There are many, many other websites offering "how-to's" for sushi.

We filled our rolls with thinly sliced carrot, spring onion, red pepper, cucumber, avocado, cream cheese, and steamed yam.  Brad does a weekly roll-your-own sushi lunch with his co-workers and they use canned salmon or tuna for their fish.
These were our first three rolls... not so professional... but tasty!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Listen to the music of the traffic in the city

I took the kids to Vancouver last week so that we could give Aisling and Layla a tour of the city at the end of their trip.  After 7 weeks of traveling the pair were quite exhausted and ready to get back to their life in Maynooth, so our time was mostly spent visiting various playgrounds around the city.

From my perspective, traveling without Brad was difficult.  Uliana did her usual number of refusing to sleep and clinging to her mother... which caused Nikolai to feel rather neglected without a parent to attend to his needs.  After our first day in the city I was ready to go home and cancel all our future vacation plans... when... Uliana decided that staying at Grammy's house wasn't so bad after all.  Phew!  We have two more weeks of traveling to do this summer and I certainly couldn't be dragging a reluctant orchid around the Province.

I do remember Nikolai being a great traveler, but he was over a year old his first summer of traveling.  By then he had some language skills and was walking.  In comparison, Uliana just twirls around in a circle on her tummy.  Her language skills are relegated to smiling and various decibels of screaming.  If something doesn't suit her, there is not much that she can do about it.
I am still not certain whether our grand travel plans fall into the category of "fun vacation", or "unpaid overtime".  Either way, an Espresso Brownie will surely help to keep a smile on my face.  This is a very rich recipe that could easily be made gluten free.

Espresso Brownies
Over medium heat melt 4 oz (1/2 cup) of butter, 4 oz unsweetened chocolate and 1.5 tbsp finely ground coffee beans.  Remove from heat and stir in 3/4 cup honey, then beat in 2 eggs, one at a time.  Stir in 1 tsp vanilla.  Finally stir in 1/4 cup flour and a pinch of salt

Grease a 8" square pan and line with parchment paper and spoon in batter.  Bake at 325 F (165 C) for 30-40 min.  They should be firmly set on the outside, but still gooey on the inside.

The portion in the photo above may seem small... but these brownies are SUPER RICH. Below is a photo of cowboy Nikolai.  He wore his cowboy outfit to a fancy dress party on Sunday and received so many compliments that he hasn't taken it off since!

Friday, July 12, 2013

The kaleidoscope

The picture of Uliana above was taken through Nikolai's kaleidoscope. Life is busy, but I failed to bring my camera to this week's exciting events.  Nikolai's in his second week of summer camp... and loving it!  We went to our first Harbour Cats baseball game!  Saw the Pride Parade!  Visited with Aunty Claire!  And didn't have my camera...

So instead I'll provide a picture of our typical after-dinner quite time, and a recipe for rice pudding.  Both of which are full of peace and zen.

Silk Road Rice Pudding
Combine 5 cups of milk, 2/3 cup honey, 3 1/2 cups cooked rice, 1/2 cup raisins and 1/8 tsp salt in a pot.  Stirring frequently, bring to a simmer and cook uncovered until mixture thickens (about 30 min).  Remove from heat, add in 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground fennel, 1 tsp lemon zest, 1 tsp orange zest and 1 tsp vanilla.

Toast 1/2 cup of chopped almonds in a skillet.  Sprinkle almonds over rice pudding when serving.

While I didn't remember to take a picture of the rice pudding until it was almost gone... I did manage to catch a picture of Uliana sitting in the shade of our very heavily laden cherry and apple trees.  She is only "slightly" interested in eating grass, so she can generally be trusted to sit on her own while I weed the garden.

Friday, July 05, 2013

A taste of nature

I wouldn't lie and say that camping with a 6 month old was easy... but it went much better than expected!  Uliana never did figure out how to sleep with the noise and brightness of the tent, but she was a trooper and made it through three days before deciding that enough was enough.  And her protest took the form of being permanently latched to her mother.  Every time I put her down or gave her to another set of hands she would start to call for me (currently a stream of nanana/mamama with an angry inflection).

Rathtrevor Beach is a great campground.  It was full with families, and there were kids to meet and play with EVERYWHERE.  Nikolai and Layla made lots of friends. 

The beach was on long and shallow sandy inlet.  So the normally chilly ocean was bathwater warm.  And it would have taken the kids quite a while to hike to anything deeper than a tea cup, which made it perfect for us.
There was also several playgrounds, a nature house, a bike track and ample opportunities for climbing.
However, as the weekend got progressively warmer, we decided to avoid the sun and heat of the sandy beach and went for a dip in the icy pools below Englishman River Falls.
So what did Uliana think everything?  Well... after a few handfuls of sand she learned that not everything was fun to put in your mouth.
Otherwise camping is pretty fun!
In the spirit of our continued heat wave, here are some recipes for homemade fizzy beverages.  The drink featured below is a ginger-plum lemonade.

Homemade sodas
My homemade sodas basically involve mixing juice and a flavour syrup with sparkling water.  They can be mixed to taste.

The standard recipe that we would serve to guests is equal parts of juice, syrup and fizzy water.  This is quite sweet.  On the other end of the spectrum is my preferred ratio is just a little bit of juice in a large glass of sparkling water.  No matter what ratio, a mix-it-yourself soda bar is sure to please everyone! 

Basic flavour syrups:

Ginger syrup: Mix in a sauce pan 3 1/2 cups of water, 1 1/4 cups of honey and 1 six inch piece of ginger peeled and thinly sliced.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes.  Strain out the ginger and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Mint syrup: Mix in a sauce pan 3 1/2 cups of water, 1 1/4 cups of honey and 2 packed cups of chopped mint.  Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes.  Strain out the mint and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to two months.


Store bought juice is fine, but sometimes homemade juice packs more strength (and is preservative free).  To make juice (if you don't have a juicer) just use a food processor to process fruit, then pass the puree through a fine strainer to discard the pulp.

Most juices combine well with the ginger syrup. For example lemon, plum, apple, pear, peach or melon

The mint syrup is just as versatile. I would recommend: lime, lemon, berries, watermelon or cucumber.