Christmas Letter 2018

December9

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The Christmas season is upon us. As I speak Doug is roasting his 4th or 5th turkey for an event that he caters each year at this time. Our first Christmas of 2018 was in November celebrating with Doug’s co-workers at Petals West. He loves the hustle and bustle of his work and is already sourcing roses for Valentine’s Day!

My second Christmas was with my precious sisters earlier this week. We celebrated early because Kimberley and Michael are leaving soon for a six week visit in Australia to visit Danielle, Dylan and Dylan’s family. Our third Christmas will be Monday evening with the dinner that Doug is preparing for. At the end of the evening we light white tapers and sing Silent Night with the dinner guests.

We started the new year of 2018 in a flurry, taking down the Christmas tree on Boxing Day because we flew to Mesa, Arizona a day later. I went with Jer, Jen and the girls, Bekah and Seb and Grandma Jean. Doug and Kate arrived on the weekend.

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Doug found us a great condo where a Christmas tree was still up when we arrived. The occasion was the wedding of Doug’s nephew Justin.  All the Grisims were together for a rehearsal dinner on Friday Dec 28th and then the beautiful wedding the following day. The venue reminded me of a Tuscan villa and not surprisingly the food was fabulous. The next evening Doug, his Mom and siblings with a couple of nephews and nieces thrown in for good measure celebrated New Year’s Eve together, an event that has not occurred in a very long time.

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I arrived back home in enough time to throw a load of laundry in the washing machine and repack my suitcase because Doug and I were off to Portugal with good friends. Unfortunately the good friends did not make the trip due to unforeseen circumstances. In spite of missing them and feeling sheepish about it all, Doug and I had a wonderful time staying right on a beach in the Algarve.

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We took an overnight trip to Seville, Spain but otherwise stayed along the southern coast.

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The weather wasn’t tropical but it was pleasant and I am happy whenever I can walk along a beach.

We celebrated Doug’s birthday in late January and then Sebastian’s and Josie’s second birthday in February. Bekah’s May date came next with Jen and I following close behind. July brought Kate’s celebration as well as Isabelle’s, who turned five. Jeremy takes up the rear with a September birth date.

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In May there will be another milestone to celebrate as Jer and Jen are rounding off their beautiful family with another baby at that time. We never tire of our role as grandparents. We adore the Wee Ones and find joy again in every little thing when we are with them.

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Late February and early March was our annual sojurn to Isla Mujeres.

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Along with lots of family and good friends we reconnect with each year, long-time friends Melinda and Richard spent most of a week with us and it was a special time.

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When our traveling days were curtailed for the early spring, we focused on another wonderful blessing to our family. Doug and I drove back and forth to the lake meeting with a cottage renovator and hauling bead board and flooring in the back of Doug’s truck. By May long weekend we were able to set beds up and even though it is not yet finished, we felt luxurious with all the space and rooms and beds for everyone! I was also able to ask some girlfriends out for the occasional weekend.

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We attended four wonderful weddings in the summer-two of them in the same family!

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The first three were young members at our church and the fourth was that of our nephew Bronson.

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Since I had been so sick the summer before, Doug gifted me with a summer do-over and I spent a couple of weeks all by myself out there. I cannot adequately express, how drawn I am to our special piece of heaven.

In August Kate and Doug flew to Toronto so that they could attend the Rogers Cup together. Kate’s fav tennis player didn’t make the finals but Doug’s Nadal did.

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Come September, we had the traveling bug again and taking advantage of cheap flights out east, we visited Charlottetown PEI for our first time. Both the hospitality of a friend we met on Isla and the quaintness of the island ensures that we will visit again in the future.

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Another trip to Toronto for the Food Bloggers Canada conference and extended stay with Richard and Melinda rounded out the fall. Thanksgiving was once again at the beautiful lake home of Kim and Michael.

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The first weekend of November Bekah, Seb, Doug and I took a road trip to Minneapolis. Doug found us an Air BnB in a neighbourhood we loved and we explored many of the breweries and restaurants. Doug’s brother Jim and fam met us for breakfast and then Jim again that evening at Surly, a favourite Minneapolis Brewery. Bekah and I went to a Idina Menzel and Josh Groban concert and Doug and I took in a Vikings game. We not only had “nose bleed” seats, we were in the very top section in the very last row! Since then, it seems like Christmas preparations began soon after, which brings me full circle.

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Going backwards for a moment, Kate graduated with her Masters Degree this spring and we used it as an excuse for a family party. Little Brown Jug where both Bekah and Jeremy are employed allowed us to throw the party there and it was a wonderful celebration.

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Jeremy is head brewer at LBJ and acknowledges the blessing of being employed in a career which he loves. Wife Jen has launched her own business and is a certified pre- and post-natal fitness instructor. In some classes the participants carry their babies in a front carrier, soon Jen will look just like them! They love their little house in Wolseley where Belle’s school is a short walk away and the park where I used to take the kids when they were toddlers is just down their street. Isabelle is a beautiful, sensitive and kind wee one who adores her little sister. Josie is a character who loves to tell long animated stories and always goes for the big laugh just like her Daddy.

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Bekah too loves her work as the General Manager of Little Brown Jug. Having gone to school for International Development Studies, she is surprised that she loves business the way she does. Sebastian’s workplace is in the same neighbourhood, he is on the front lines of Siloam Mission and has signed up for the Reserves! They too have a home in the west end and it is big enough for all of us and additional guests to stretch along one long table for this year’s Christmas dinner.

Kate is carefully considering her options for her career but is leaning towards a not-for-profit where she can serve the minority communities that she is so passionate about. The gang collects together at Life is Good (the name of our beach house) all summer and for Sunday suppers the rest of the year.

I am chugging along with my small business, always delighted when a new client approaches me. Each day holds a different set of tasks and I amazingly still absolutely love what I do.

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Doug and I are still devoted to our neighbourhood church and we host a small group in our home, a couple of times a month. They too make up our family.

If you are reading this, you are important and loved by Doug and I and we can never adequately express the gratitude that we have for our many friends and enormous families. Peace and Christmas blessings to you all.

Kath’s quote: “God bless us everyone!“- Charles Dickens

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What are you doing New Year’s Eve?

December4

Do you find that you are so preoccupied with preparations for Christmas, that you don’t give any thought to how you will spend New Years Eve?

There was a year when D had access to tickets for the formal New Year’s Eve bash at the Winnipeg Convention Centre featuring Ron Paley’s Big Band. We asked good friends to join us and had a really special time together. It was an opportunity to dress up as if we lived in a city not quite as informal as Winnipeg; she in an exquisite floor length gown and white gloves past the elbow and he in a dashing tuxedo and black bow tie.

The dinner was superb and the music and dancing a fine distraction until midnight. If you have never had a chance to attend this elegant tradition, book now before the event is sold out newyears@wcc.mb.ca.

Today that same friend and I had the opportunity to attend a preview event of this year’s New Year’s Eve Celebration. We met the RBC Convention Centre’s new President and CEO Drew Fisher. He explained that what the special evening is known for is the elegant ambience with superb food and libations and so the theme of this year’s party is just that…A Tradition of Elegance.

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True to the name, the noon kick off event was a lovely and delicious way to start a week. I was the designated driver so did not partake but my sidekick was delighted with the champagne selection.

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On New Year’s Eve the party will commence with a pre-dinner reception with a number of gourmet food stations. Two of them were set up for the event preview and we enjoyed a selection from the Parisian Charcuterie and Fondue Station.

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We enjoyed the European meats but were so glad that they featured local Bothwell Cheeses.  My favourite black truffle cheese went well with the marinated artichokes and especially the handmade yam and beet chips!

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As we ascended the stairs to the event we were struck with the wonderful aroma of sauteing garlic. The source was the Moroccan Shrimp Station where shrimp were flambeed with either a creamy harissa (chile sauce) or chermoula (like a pesto but with the inclusion of warmer spices). Both complemented the shrimp perfectly!

When the dinner event commences a Amuse Bouche trio will be served first.

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We sampled the house made tuna tartare topped with an avocado salsa,

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and smoked pheasant breast topped with a harvest apple compote.

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The third element of the trio was my personal favourite- an Asian grilled scallop on a bed of okame seaweed. In both the case of the shrimp and the scallops, they met with heat sources just briefly, producing succulent morsels of seafood.

The MC for the upcoming evening was on hand for the preview event describing the five course menu in store for the guests. His description of the soup course: a roasted fennel and garlic bisque drizzled with truffle olive oil and a carrot crisp had my mouth watering!

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Before we were done the preview of tastes we enjoyed champagne gelato with fresh berries.  And so a lovely Monday lunch was shared with anticipation of the festive season ahead.

Kath’s quote: “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Little Goat Food & Drink, Winnipeg

November28

A group of wonderful women who do the same vocational training work that I do have also become my good friends. We didn’t want to leave our Christmas lunch until December when we are all so busy with festivities and have a tendency (or at least I do) to get “lunched” out. That is why a recent get together was just the thing. I was appointed to pick a spot and I have been wanting an excuse to visit the Little Goat on west Portage Ave.

Our server Milaine with her gorgeous green eyes and delightful demeanor made us feel right at home. When I couldn’t determine what I was going to order, she helped me out by suggesting her favourites-a small dish of Mac & Cheese with a Verger salad.

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Tucking into the roasted pears, candied pecans and crumbled goat cheese (Milaine’s suggestion when she heard that I didn’t love Blue Cheese), I would trust her advice at any time.

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My lunch mates all started with cups of the soup of the day- a yellow squash and wild rice concoction that was divine.

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I had been tempted by the French Fried Chicken and was so relieved when someone at the table ordered it so that I could taste and photograph it. The dish was petite but rich and satisfying and the little drizzle of balsamic vinegar added just a dash of acid so that every subtle ingredient was enhanced.

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Restaurant owner and Chef Alex puts out a new Tartine (open faced sandwich) each and every day. On this day it started with wild rice topped with a mixture of garlicky kale and quinoa, a beautifully poached egg and a lemon sauce on top of it all. The portion was enormous and not a surprise when more than half of it was boxed up for later.

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Another friend loved her French salad and I was more than content with my French Onion Soup bowl full of Mac & Cheese. The luxurious sauce of gruyere and mozzarella, crowned with grated old cheddar and toasted bread crumbs was scrumptious and just my cuppa tea.

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I had decided to order Melaine’s favourite dessert-bundt cake with apple slices, caramel, nuts and whipped cream.

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I thought that I could share it with my lunch mates but they ordered their own desserts. An enormous bowl came with not one but two wedges of bundt cake and we truly could have shared it four ways. Even though my mates obliged me with bites I was left to devour the rest on my own. And I did, savouring each and every gooey bite.

Kath’s quote: “There will always be ladies who lunch. Always. And apparently they live a long time”.-Elaine Stritch

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Love never fails.

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Minneapolis

November19

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We picked up Boo and the Frenchman right on schedule at 7 am. The early start time meant that if we got lost or ran into bad weather we could still be in the Twin Cities in plenty of time to make the concert we had secured tickets for way back in April. The sun wasn’t yet up but as we looked to the west and back from whence we came ie the north, we could see dark clouds and wondered if it were raining back home. Our second hint that there was bad weather up north was when a snow covered car pulled up along side of us. We didn’t know until later that day that the snow had fallen quite steadily back home in Winnipeg.

As I said though, the sun shone beautifully for us on our drive. We stopped for gas and D’s favourite Nut Goodies that aren’t terribly popular in Canada as well as a couple of rest stops for a pee break. I had packed sandwiches for the road so we didn’t need to stop for lunch. As a result we made amazing time and even had time to kill for our 3 pm check in time at our Air BnB. Boo had ordered some gifts for the Frenchman from the Duluth Trading Company for their recent anniversary. Her order was cancelled and so we decided to find the real deal and discovered one of their retail stores along our route in north Minneapolis.

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We knew we would be quite comfortable in our Seward Air BnB. There were two bedrooms, fully equipped kitchen, bathroom with plenty of hot water, dining room, living room and a sun room.  The latter offered a great place to snuggle up to read or check out our social media accounts.

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For supper, we decided to head in the vicinity of the Xcel Centre in St. Paul where the concert was to take place. As we wondered around, we found a unique place called the Seventh St. Truck Park where we ogled at the delicious fare coming from the windows of a variety of food trucks. We ended up taking a seat at New Bohemia where there were a bevy of taps on hand with local, national and European beer on hand. They also had a house red wine to my delight.

We all decided against the “Best Wurst on Earth”, the guys indicating that they would indulge later that evening. Truth be told, with the abundance of food we ordered and a couple of more filling beers, on top of that, the guys were done their consumption for the evening, even if the wurst were the best. D and I split an order of delicious chicken fingers with a butter milk ranch dressing along with a side of wedge fries (from frozen) and a fresh cut order of Belgian fries that I had to have once I saw them trailing out of the New Bohemia Kitchen. It was hard to choose from the 10 dipping sauces offered but I finally decided upon the Pepper Jack Cheese Sauce.  We also were smitten with the Truffled Grilled Cheese Sandwich, that is until we tasted it. I couldn’t detect the truffle oil amidst the sautéed onions, which would have been no biggy if the grilled cheese was good but alas it was made with processed cheese a technicality that you never would have gotten away with in Canada.

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We walked across the street to the Xcel Centre for the concert as the fellas made their way to another watering hole. D actually switched to Sprite at some point as he was the Designated Driver for the evening.

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The concert commenced right at the strike of 8 featuring Idina Menzel as the opening act. I had been exposed to Idina through Boo who loved her way back when she starred in Rent on Broadway. Even though Idina was no longer headlining when Boo and I saw Rent together in New York. She did get to see Wicked that same trip but I am not sure whether Idina was still with that show either. Regardless, Boo knew her music well and as a result I did too as it would be playing in my car as I drove Boo back and forth to school for a number of years. More recently Idina was made familiar to me again when Disney cast her as the voice of Elsa in the hit movie frozen. As a result, another generation, that of the Wee Ones knew every word to Idina’s ballad of “Let it Go”. Menzel’s voice is just as powerful and her long legged body just as lithe in spite of the years that have past. All in all, a fabulous concert and so worthwhile the wait, the drive and the cost of admission.

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My favourite crooner Josh  Groban was the headliner that evening. This was my forth time seeing the singer live, having done so twice in Winnipeg (where I met him IRL) and once at an outdoor venue in Chicago. I hadn’t yet picked up his newest CD so was somewhat unfamiliar with his new renditions but the show was so beautifully assembled, adding old favourites like “You Raise Me Up” and “Per Te” as well as “Take Him Home” from his Stages album and the ballad that I want played at my Celebration of Life (hopefully not in the too near future)-“To Where You Are”. I get a kick out his quirky ways and humility; by the way he always gives credit to his teachers and folks who happened to be in the audience that evening.

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I was smitten all over again and felt so blessed to experience both performers with my youngest daughter.

We enjoyed a night cap together when we arrived “home” but it was an early evening as we were pooped from the early start and the long drive.

Kath’s quote: “When I am down, and o my soul, so weary. When troubles come and my heart burdened be. Then I am still and wait here in the silence, until you come and sit a while with me“.-Josh Groban

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Jerusalem – A CookBook

October23

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We invited a friend of ours to dine with us recently. We know that she loves Ethiopian food but I confess that I have not mastered those culinary skills. She has also been to Palestine recently so I pulled out my beautiful Jerusalem Cookbook. I have only prepared a couple of recipes from the book so I looked at the occasion as a great excuse. She was familiar with the book, not because she has cooked from it but because she read it like a regular non-fiction work instead of a cookbook. The narrative reads that beautifully.

Every single ingredient that I purchased for the dinner was from the produce department. I pulled a bag of shrimp from my freezer and a can of clams from the pantry.

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I prepped everything that afternoon. The sweet potatoes and eggplants were ready for roasting, the red peppers and onions were ready for sauteing and finishing the sweet potato dish, the tomatoes and oregano were ready to submerge and then bake the shrimp.

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The sweet potatoes called for fresh figs that are already out of season so I substituted them for little jewels of pomegranate.

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The recipe indicates that you leave the potatoes unpeeled and although I was skeptical of this, they were perfect. The dish was completed with a drizzle of balsamic glaze. The spuds were even delicious cold.

The shrimp baked with clams, tomatoes and feta were also a hit. I mixed the leftovers with a pasta a couple of days later and it too was exceptional. Perhaps my new tomato sauce recipe will simply include oregano and sugar as this one did.

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If you are a regular visitor to this space, you will know that I love eggplant. Pictured above are the scored eggplants ready for roasting with Chermoula. Confession time…I misread the directions of the recipe and baked these with the topping that I had prepped in advance, when in fact they were to be roasted “bare naked” and you were to spoon the topping on after they came out of the oven. Unfortunately some of the raisins got too well cooked in the process. I had tasted the topping before I had baked it and knew that it would be fabulous on its own.

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I didn’t have Bulgar so I used a mixture of a variety of rices (brown, wild, long grain) which had been pre-cooked in my rice maker. To this I added pre-soaked raisins and slices of green olives for that sweet and salty combination that I love. Fresh tastes came from ribbons of fresh mint and cilantro. A silky olive oil and generous squeezes of lemon added the acidity and finished the dish beautifully. I made this up on a Sunday night to enjoy for lunches for a busy week.

I sent our friend home with leftovers as the recipes were of generous potions. She returned the container with a gift and this note:

In Kenya, I learned one does not return a plate (or container) to its giver, empty. I share with you my sister’s wonderful Masala Chai jelly-the bite comes after the fact! but so good. And a little memento of Jerusalem.

We enjoyed a taste of the jelly yesterday on our toast. And so the circle of giving and sharing was complete.

Kath’s quote: You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces — just good food from fresh ingredients.” – Julia Child

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