Getting Ready for Christmas

I love Christmas ~ it’s my favourite time of year! Christmas is almost here now and I think I’m just about ‘ready’.

We cut the Christmas tree on the weekend and decorated it – it’s the most beautiful tree yet! I say that every year, hehehe. My son Darin and his family (Amanda, Kalia, and Livi), son Taylor, son Melvin and his girlfriend Cass, daughter Nellie, daughter Kristi and family (Mike, Jasmine, Josh, and Benji), and I drove out to our favourite Christmas tree farm (support local farmers!) to cut our trees. The weather was unexpectedly mild, about +2C, after a day of freezing rain ……. which meant that the farm ‘roads’ through the fields were sheer muck! I almost got stuck going uphill a few times but my trusty 27 year old Honda Civic just fish-tailed her way through the mud until I drove along the side on the grass. The extra weight in the back a.k.a. Melvin, Cass, and Taylor helped. We found a really nice perfect tree within 10 minutes! After we loaded the trees onto our vehicles, we went back to Darin and Amanda’s for hot chocolate/tea and chili. Of course a family gathering wouldn’t be complete without some Board games – this time it was Codenames and Catan, of course! The next day, Taylor, Nellie and I decorated our tree in the living room. We bought a fake tree after Christmas last year for downstairs – it’s pretty nice…… for a fake tree.


Family Christmas Tree Cutting

Last week, Nellie and I went shopping for all the baking supplies and stocking stuffers. This year, I’ll have four children home for Christmas morning: Nellie, Taylor, Melvin, and Marty. You’d think they would be too big for stockings now that they are in there 20s and 30s, but, oh no, they still need to wake up Christmas morning to find that Santa had remembered to leave their stockings full of goodies! Tradition.


Decorating our Christmas tree

I still haven’t baked all my Christmas goodies yet because it’s too early. I bought a second-hand little freezer last week for the extra stuff but we’ve already filled it with meat, bread, butter, etc and there’s no room now for tins of baked goods! I’ll need something to do on Sunday anyway…..

Marty is coming home for Christmas this year!! He arrives tomorrow and we couldn’t be more excited! We’ve been busy setting up the downstairs for a better video gaming spot. We also managed to clean off the Red Maple table for Board games or Melvin’s desk top he’s planning on bringing. Taylor bought Nellie a PS4 for Christmas and thought he’d better give it to her early so they could ‘try it out’. Nellie plans to paint the entire room downstairs next spring to freshen it up a bit. We were planning to get a larger TV for there next spring but I made my very first (and probably last) Black Friday purchase of a new 50″ TV when I saw this incredible price. Of course I couldn’t hide such a huge box until Christmas, so I just told them ‘Merry Christmas’ when I asked for help picking up the box at the store. Now I anticipate I’ll have a nice quiet space to myself in the livingroom while everyone else is downstairs playing video games!


Three generations searching for the perfect trees

We started watching all the Christmas movies weeks ago and we’re almost through most of them. When Kristi was down last, we watched the movies I taped off TV from the 1980s (commercials and all – the best part!) – “Disney Christmas” with Hughy, Louie, and Douie, “Chip and Dale”, Goofy and Micky and the best one – “Muppet Family Christmas”, my favourite! I put them from VHS onto DVD and my external hard drive a few years ago (all by myself, I might add). Nellie and I have also been watching the Hallmark movies on W network too. But I’ll save the best for last and watch “Christmas Comes To Willow Creek” on Christmas Eve, a tradition I’ve upheld – Chris and I used to watch it after the kids went to bed and I feel that he is still here with me in spirit

The presents are all wrapped and under the trees! The red poinsettia is on the dining room table. The special Christmas toys are out for the kids to play with. My Christmas village is set up in my bedroom on my fireplace mantle – away for the cats who think it’s a great bed!


Christmas Village

Tomorrow is also Melvin’s 24th birthday! My baby!! We’re all gathering here for supper tomorrow to celebrate Melvin’s birthday and Marty’s arrival. That will be dinner for 14, a pretty normal family supper around here! Have a Happy Birthday Melvin!




Banana Bread


A few days ago, I bought a large bag of very ripe bananas at the insanely reduced price of $1 at my local store. There were TEN ripe, medium sized bananas in the bag! Wow, I thought, it looks like I’ll be making some banana bread!

When I peeled the bananas this morning, all but two were perfect inside – no bruises. Amazing that they’d want to get ride of a perfect product just because it ‘looks’ bad on the outside. I guess this is my commentary of how the world is in general: just because someone or something appears less than perfect on the outside doesn’t mean that they are imperfect on the inside. And so what if someone or something isn’t perfect anyway! My sweet Mother used to always say “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover” – a mantra I’ve always embraced.


Mashing Ripe Bananas

Back to banana bread.

So first thing this morning, after my breakfast, I got busy making banana bread. I got out my loaf pans and prepared them by oiling all the inside and lightly dusting the bottom with flour.

I assembled all my bowls, measuring cups (one for dry ingredients and one for wet), measuring spoons, and ingredients. Then I began mashing the bananas one at a time on a plate with a fork – it’s really quite easy. I added each banana to the measuring cup after mashing it but I know from past experience that I’ll need 5-6 bananas for this recipe. This recipe is for 2 loaves – which freeze nicely if you want to save one for later. With the rest of the leftover bananas, I mashed up another 2 cups of banana to store in the freezer for later use. You can also simply put a very overripe whole banana in the freezer to use later.

Once baked, this banana bread should cool on a wire rack in their pans for about a half an hour. Then it’s ready for taste-testing. A slice of warm banana bread, with butter spread generously on top, and a cup of tea is to die for.



Banana Bread Recipe (2 loaves)

2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 5-6 bananas)
2/3 cup oil or melted butter (please don’t use margarine)
1 cup honey or brown sugar
4 eggs (I use local free-run eggs where the chickens aren’t caged)
3 1/2 cups of flour, preferably whole wheat
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup hot water

Beat the oil and honey/sugar together. I like to use as few dishes as possible so I crack the eggs, one at a time, in the measuring cup I just used for the oil. I beat each egg, then add it to the mixture before going on to the next egg. Mix well after all the eggs have been added. Add the mashed bananas. Mix all the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda) together. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the hot water, to the banana mixture and mix until smooth. Pour equally into 2 greased loaf pans.
Bake at 325F degrees for 55 – 60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for half an hour. Slice and enjoy!


from my family cookbook Mom’s Recipes


Candied Squash

I love squash. My favourites are the winter types like Acorn, Butternut, and Buttercup but my overall, hands-down best is Butternut. During the summer, I like to BBQ sliced Zucchini squash brushed with my homemade Italian salad dressing.
I’ve roasted Butternut squash halves in my oven while I cook dinner. I’ve also made a yummy Curried Squash Soup (recipe here) that my DIL Jeanette introduced me to. Lately though, I’ve been craving for squash nearly every day – it’s probably due to my body’s need for more squash-specific nutrition. Afterall, squash is the new Superfood. It contains a huge amount of vitamins A, C, E, B6, B2, B3, K, niacin, thiamin, manganese, copper, potassium, pantothenic acid, folate, omega 3 fats, magnesium, and fiber.

homegrown squash

Organic Homegrown Squash

I grow squash in my garden or purchase locally grown produce in the fall – one of the best things about squash is that it’s locally grown and available all winter long. It’s not suprising why North American Natives grew “the three sisters”, corn, squash, and beans as a dietary staple. I store it every fall in my mudroom in a basket on the floor. It’s pretty cool in there all winter and I know squash probably doesn’t like it THAT cool (45F degrees/7C) but they seem to be just fine. It’s easy to cut off a hunk from the neck or half a squash and cook it randomly inside the oven of my wood cookstove.
I decided to add a little zest to my squash and now this has become my favourite! I call it Candied Squash.  It’s not really candy but it might as well be to me!   Here’s the recipe:


Candied Squash Recipe

1/2 butternut squash or the neck of a butternut squash
Butter – please, please do NOT use margarine (a bucket of chemicals)
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
Scoop out any seeds inside the squash half you are using. I cover the open end of the other piece with a leftover plastic bag and put it back in storage with the rest.
Slice into one inch pieces. Peel off the outer skin. Cut into one inch cubes.


Butter lightly a baking dish or piece of tin foil. Put in the squash. Add 4-5 small pieces of butter on top. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Cover or wrap the tinfoil to completely cover it.


Bake for at least an hour at 325F degrees. I left mine in the cookstove yesterday for 4 hours because I forgot about it and it was deliciously ‘well-done’!
I usually simply pour it into a bowl and eat. Sometimes, if I’ve planned ahead, I add it as a side to my dinner meal.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and discover that squash tastes as good as it looks.


Visiting Vancouver Island

I spent last week on the west coast visiting my sister Betty, my son Robin/D-I-L Nici, and other family.  I love it when I have the opportunity to share time with my family in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.  Betty and I had a week full of adventures – and a pot of barley soup to eat – after I arrived late Sunday night!

We started off by visiting my cousin Jacklyn, her daughter Melody, and her mom Kathy.  It had been a long time since I’d seen Kathy so it was a real treat.   My niece Brodie, a talented singer, also dropped in for a quick hello too.

Robin and I Beachcombing @ Powell River, B.C.

Robin and I Beachcombing @ Powell River, B.C.

The next day Betty and I were off on the ferry to go across the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia.  Waiting for us was my son Robin and later my daughter-in-law Nici and their german sheppard puppy Gerda, who was actually the size of a miniature pony!   We had an awesome time!  Robin drove us up to the little town of Lund which is SO picturesque – it’s actually Mile One of a highway that will take you all the way down the west coast to South America’s Chile, 15,202 kms.  We had lunch on the patio at Nancy’s Bakery overlooking the small harbour and the ocean dotted with gulf islands.  Afterwards we went back to the farm to check on the goats and chickens.  I even learned to milk a goat!

I milked a goat!

I milked a goat!

Robin spoiled us with delicious homemade dinners and desserts using veggies from their own garden and milk from their goats.  I’m proud to say he’s an awesome cook!  In the evenings, we enjoyed watching videos on the computer of our Family Frolics – 20 years of videotaping of family life now stored on my external hard drive.  We also spent hours beachcombing, looking for beach glass and unique shells which I’ll make into Christmas tree decorations for our tree this year.  Finally, all too soon, it was time to catch the ferry back to the Island and leave Powell River behind.   A small pod of Orca whales graced us with their presence as if they were bidding us goodbye.

Rob's pumpkin pie made with fresh goat's milk, fresh eggs, and garden pumpkins

Rob’s pumpkin pie made with fresh goat’s milk, fresh eggs, and garden pumpkins

Next, we drove down to Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, picking up Betty’s granddaughter along the way to bring her down to her daddy Curt for halloween.  Betty and I stayed at our favourite hotel, The Mayfair, where the rooms are clean and affordable.   We spent a relaxing evening on our computers, each one of us propped up in our individual beds, watching more Family Frolics videos and laughing hysterically until the wee hours of the morning.  We leisurely drove back up Island, stopping along the way at a few new thrift stores and lunch in Ladysmith.  Once back at Betty’s ‘cave’ a few hours later, we got in our comfy clothes and ‘chillaxed’ for the evening since I was leaving very early the next morning.  A week sure flies by way too fast and now I was on my way back to Vancouver to catch another flight to the Yukon/Northern B.C., the land of the midnight sun.

Linda and Betty

Linda and Betty

Grandkids and Pizza

The best combination!

Last weekend my 2 oldest granddaughters Kalia and Livi came over for the day.  I always love when they visit.  I also know that a 12 and 10 year old would probably rather be playing with their friends than spending the day with their ol’ gramma so I really cherish these times.

Kids today are so busy.  There are sports and studying after school and a whole slew of activities on the weekends.  It makes my head spin!  Vegging out is a luxury.  I was going to take them into town the day they came here but it was so windy and cold outside that we just stayed home.  Livi made a valiant attempt to go outside to play on her rope swing but the wind was just too much for her.


Kneading the dough

Soon after the girls arrived, I started the pizza dough using my daughter-in-law Jeanette’s recipe (below).  I figured that maybe it would be fun for the girls to do some cooking and make their own pizzas for lunch.  I mixed together all the ingredients and let it rise while we watched a Disney movie (they still love Disney movies – heck, we all still love to watch Disney movies).  After an hour, I called the girls to the kitchen.  It was time to knead the dough!  I divided it into 3 pieces and dumped a bit of flour on the center island for each one.  I showed them how to knead the dough, sprinkling a little flour if it got sticky.  Livi had a great time adding lots of flour until I mentioned that the dough needs to ‘rise’ and double in size so if she added too much flour, it might get too heavy to rise.  She eased off adding more flour.  After 10 minutes of kneading and chatting, we put our balls of dough back into the bowl and covered it with a linen tea towel.  I explained why I use a linen towel – so the dough doesn’t stick to it.  We left it rise again until double in size while we watched another Disney movie.

Making our individual pizzas

Making our individual pizzas

After an hour or so, we took one of the balls and divided it into three separate pieces that would become our individual pizzas.   Each one of us rolled out our dough to fit the pans – a LITTLE bit more flour was used on the center island.  Then we cut up some tomatoes fresh from the garden, onions, and shredded some mozzarella cheese.  I almost forgot about the lone green pepper from my garden until Livi reminded me!  I also had some olives in the fridge.  Each one of us spread some pizza sauce on our dough then loaded them with our individual favourite toppings while the oven heated up.  I baked them all at the same time for 12 minutes and they were ready to eat.

They were pretty big pieces!  Livi was only able to eat half of hers while Kalia devoured all of her’s – she’s growing fast and is now taller than me.  We went back to watching more movies, tummies full.

I love spending these precious times with my grandchildren.  All too soon they’ll be all grown up.

Mmmm, 3 individual pizzas ready to eat!

Mmmm, 3 individual pizzas ready to eat!

Jeanette’s Pizza Dough

Mix together:

2 teaspoons dry yeast

3/4 cup lukewarm water

2/3 cup flour

Let sit for 30 minutes, then add:

1 cup flour

Let sit for 30 minutes, then add:

2+ cups flour (add 1/2 cup at a time)

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup olive oil

Add flour until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Knead for 10 minutes and let it sit until doubled in size.

Cinnamon Buns

One of my favourite memories of visiting my grandparent’s farm on the Gaspé is my Grandmother’s (‘Mom’ as we affectionately called her) cinnamon buns.  The smell of them baking was heavenly!  As a young woman, I never even attempted to bake these delicious rolls because I knew I’d never match those of Moms.  I’ve now accepted the fact that I cannot reproduce those specific buns or that smell of cinnamon mixed with the farm scents of manure and the ocean’s salty air in my grandmother’s kitchen.


About 15 years ago, I got a bread making machine for Christmas.  I use it these days to make my own cinnamon roll dough.  The Basic Sweet Dough recipe calls for the ingredients to be added to the bread maker and the setting set on ‘Dough’.  After 90 minutes, the dough is ready to be rolled out on a floured countertop.  Last time I made these, I was outside during the machine-making phase and was so busy in the garden that I forgot about it until 2 hours past the time it was done.  When I got inside, the dough  completely  filled the entire bread machine right to the top!  It was the best dough ever!  I gently rolled it out being careful to maintain all the air bubble which make it rise.


Once the dough is rolled out to approximately 12 inches by 18 inches, I butter it generously over the entire surface.  Then I spoon or shake on LOTS of cinnamon all over which I cover completely with brown sugar.  I roll it up into a long ‘log’ and cut one inch ‘rolls’ – about 12-15 of them.  Sometimes I put them in a glass pan but usually I bake them on a large cookie sheet.  I move my oven rack up one level so it’s not too close to the heat.  Preheat the oven to 325F degrees   and bake for 12-15 minutes.  I have a ‘hot’ oven so I usually take them out after about 14 minutes when they are just starting to brown.  We usually can’t wait for them to cool, so I carefully pull one apart to ‘taste-test’ it…….. well that’s my excuse anyway.

rolled out WM

Here’s the Cinnamon Buns recipe:

Basic Sweet Dough

Put all these ingredients into your bread-maker in order:

1 Cup Water

2 large eggs

¼ cup Butter, softened

2 teaspoons salt

4 cups flour

½ cup sugar

3 tablespoons Skim Milk Powder

2 teaspoons quick-rise Yeast

As I mentioned, select the ‘Dough’ setting on your bread-maker and start.


Once the dough is done, in 90 minutes (like I said, I’m letting mine sit in the bread-maker for another 2 hours from now on), lightly flour a countertop.  Dump the dough onto the flour.  Use a floured rolling pin to roll it out.  Check to see if it’s sticking to the counter and if it is, add more flour to the counter.  Completely butter it, add the cinnamon and sprinkle on the brown sugar with your hand, roll up, and cut into pieces.  Grease the baking pan with butter and ‘very lightly’ sprinkle a little bit of flour.  Place the round buns on your pan and cover with a linen cloth, waxed paper, or plastic wrap.  Put in the oven and turn the light on (which will add a bit of heat).  Let rise for one hour.  Remove from the oven after an hour, preheat to 325F and then bake for 12-15 minutes.


You can add icing if you want – I don’t usually.  Mix icing sugar with a wee bit of milk so it’s thick enough to gently spread.  AFTER the buns have cooled completely, drizzle with icing.

Store at room temperature in a container with a tight fitting lid.  I use a cookie tin.  It takes the two of us about 3 days to eat 15 cinnamon buns and the last one is as fresh as the first one.


For my cousin Bruce, in honour of Andrea

Great Gifts


I love Christmastime!  I want to share with you some of the great gifts we’ve shared. Around here, many gifts have been long-lasting and fun, and hopefully a learning opportunity. Many of these gifts are inexpensive and affordable for anyone. Here are a few of my favourites:

Board games have always been a favourite, notably Scrabble, where everyone has spelled the most creative word at one time or another and where ‘house rules’ apply.


Puzzles of all sizes have been hits around here for decades. We have large-size 48 piece childrens’ puzzles, 300 piece 2X3 ‘floor’ puzzles, as well as 500-1000 piece puzzles which take days to complete. I’m very glad that I saved these puzzles over the years because now my grandchildren enjoy making puzzles with me.


My children have always loved to receive sketch pads, doodle pads, construction paper, markers, sketching pencils, and the like. They’ve never been big fans of ‘colouring books’ because they seem too restrictive to stay in the lines……. and heaven knows my kids don’t enjoy ‘staying in the lines of life’.


At various times, most of my children have received binoculars. I usually have given them smaller, children’s binoculars – the first pair of binoculars I gave my babies were from Fisher-Price and I still have them around here somewhere. As they grew older, I gave them inexpensive ones from the Dollarama – they could always use the good binoculars which have sat on the kitchen counter by the back window, at the ready.


A magnifying glass has been a popular gift around here. It’s always fun to look at something up close. Eventually most of my kids graduated to using the microscope. One year, my son Marty received two microscopes for Christmas to add to our collection. At that time he had jars of dead things (shells, crabs, etc. – thanks Fred) in his ‘lab’ which was my desk in the corner of the basement.


We love to play cards around here. Whenever there’s a bunch of us together, we play Euchre or hearts or A-hole/President/or whatever name it happens to have at that time, or cribbage. For many years, every Friday night Chris and I played Euchre with our neighbours. When I was growing up, my mother wouldn’t allow us to play cards on Sunday…..


When my children grow up, I love to give them a copy of my recipe book, Mom’s Recipes, so they will be able to make all the foods that they grew up with. Maybe some day, they’ll pass down these recipes to their children.


Some years, when I’ve been more ambitious or had the time, I’ve painted pictures for my children. A dozen years ago, my son Taylor was living in Vancouver, far from home at Christmas. I wanted to give him something that would remind him every day of his home so I painted him a picture of our house in the wintertime. It was one of my first paintings of the new millenium. I think I’ve just reminded myself that I’d better start painting again.

Home - Taylor

My daughter Nellie is a crochet artist and has created many unique, hand-crafted toys as well as scarves, hats, mitts, etc. This year, I commissioned her to create some well-loved toys through her online shop, The Black Lory (here). I’m very pleased that I will be giving one-of-a-kind gifts to some of my favourite people.



And of course, there’s always my Christmastime baking – coconut macaroons, hello dollies, chocolate chow mien clusters, cherry cheesecake, etc

Cherry Cheesecake

Cherry Cheesecake




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