Sunday, October 23, 2011

The gift I got 8 years ago......

My first-born turns 8 today.  When I was writing her birthday message - I realized how much of it was about me, not her.  So I wrote another one focusing on her - but I thought I would publish what I originally wrote - which was what I have gotten out of the journey that started 8 years ago.  Being a mom is the hardest job I have ever done - but also one of the greatest gifts - she made me more human, and I now realize that knew nothing before I had her....and that I still probably know nothing.....I hope I have a full lifetime to learn.......

I never knew my heart could break and fill with pride all at the same time - and it does, every time I watch her try something physically challenging, like skating - where her muscles can't do what she needs them to do, but she keeps on trying.....and never complains about how often she falls. 

I never knew how helpless I could feel when the world seems to be more than she can handle and process - where every unkind word and deed is stored in her memory.  When she realizes that other kids are faster than stronger than her, and quicker to learn. That things she works so hard at doing, come so easily to others.  Her pain builds up and explodes in such a big way, and I am helpless to protect her from it.

I never knew how frustrating it could be dealing with a child who has challenges learning.  How I would have to reach deep down within myself to look for the patience to deal with her unwillingness to try at times.  (**I have learned that enjoying a glass of wine during reading time helps**)

I love how she surprises me with her bravery.  Her love of roller coasters and horseback riding - such a thrill seeking nature behind such a quiet, shy and tentative front. 

I never knew I would walk around for the rest of my life feeling so vulnerable - worried that I can't give her all the tools she needs to survive and thrive in this world.

I never knew the joy I could feel doing simple things together, like "saving worms" after a big storm (placing them gently back in the grass so they don't dry up and die on the pavement).  Taking walks in the woods, going out "just the girls" for ice cream. 

I never knew how disappointed I could feel in myself, whenever I lose my temper with her (and it happens more often than I care to admit). How ashamed I am at myself for getting frustrated with her chronic shyness.

I never knew how hurt I would be when she acts like a typical 8 year old.  Rolling her eyes at me, questioning my motives, saying she "hates" me.  I know she doesn't mean it, but it still hurts. 

I never thought a child would be the one to make me question all the beliefs and definitions I have about success.  Cs in school are ok, as long as you are trying your best.  And it's ok if you want to work in an ice cream shop when you grow up - not everyone has to go to University or aim to be a CEO. Maybe success isn't external, but internal.  If you're happy, you win - who cares what your paycheque or title are. 

I never knew the peace I could feel when we sit quietly together.....just being.  I could sit like that forever.

Happy Birthday beautiful girl, you are perfect, just the way you are.

Happy 8th Birthday Beautiful Girl.

Today my little girl turns 8.  She's not so little any more, and I love watching her grow into the person she is becoming.....and I am always suprised by the things I have learned over the last 8 years......

Still waters run deep.  She is shy and quiet, but very observant.  She isn't as physically strong as other kids, but she tries - making my heart fill with pride and break all at the same time.  She loves to dance (but only when nobody is watching).  She loves to shut herself up in her room and play music and sing into her microphone.  She has quite a temper - which may come as a surprise to the rest of the world (she usually saves it for us lucky people at home!).  She's daddy's little girl - and knows it.  She has an unexpected thrill-seeking nature - she loves roller coasters and horseback riding.  She loves her friends - a day without a friend coming over is like a day without sunshine.  She isn't very organized - AT ALL (I keep hoping that her organization genes will kick in sometime soon).   She doesn't like to read - but I am still hopeful! She loves to swim.  Everyone thinks she doesn't talk much - until they get her on her own.  She doesn't like large groups and tends to go into herself or escape with a friend or two - if you want to get to know her, spend some time alone with her.  She doesn't like chocolate - simply vanilla please.  She loves watching movies (but scary ones give her nightmares for days).  She likes to watch me play online Srabble on my ipad.  She has an incredible palate - she will eat just about anything (just not very much of it!).  She loves skating - even though it is something that is very physically challenging for her to do, and she falls down - a lot.  She loves to help out in the vegetable garden, and takes great pride in our annual harvest.  She is an introvert - but she loves people - and often doesn't realize she needs to spend some time on her own to recharge, until it's too late.  She's very petite girl with a tiny voice - until you get her mad.  She is loyal, and sticks up for her friends.  She is learning to like babies and small children (this didn't come naturally) - they aren't all gross, even though they do drool.  She loves playing with her Barbies.  She doesn't like shopping.  She doesn't photograph well when you ask her to pose so we rarely buy her annual school photo (ever see that Friend's episode when Chandler and Monica are taking their engagement photos??).  She is definitely starting to develop an attitude, and it's pissing me off. She is learning to be kinder to her brother.  She loves drawing and designing clothes.  She is responsible and follows the rules.  She is devastated when she gets in trouble at school (which has only happened once).  She makes a mess of her room every day when she gets dressed.  She wants to work in an ice-cream store when she grows up.  Her eyes change colour - sometimes they are brown, sometimes they are green.  She doesn't like wearing socks, and I often find them randomly scattered throughout the house.  She has just recently developed a fear of the dark (seriously, now? She's 8!). She likes putting signs up on her door (the current one reads "no little boys alawd").  She's an atrocious speller - and she doesn't care.  She doesn't like tights or leggings that are actually tight.....this causes lots of problems in the morning.  She loves using the camera to take pictures, and she's surprisingly good at it!  She thinks that "strangers" are just friends we haven't met yet.....and I hope she goes through life with that perspective (paired with a little healthy caution). 

Happy 8th Birthday my beautiful girl.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Growing my Hair..... AUGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

I have very big hair.  Take your definition of big, and multiply it by 5!  Remember that episode of friends when they went down south and Monica's hair got really big?  Well, that's what mine looks like if I don't try to keep it under control.....which is why I have opted for very short hair for the last 15 years - much less to tackle with a flat iron. 
I was getting bored with my short hair and fantasizing about the ability to combat a "bad hair day" by just throwing my hair up in a ponytail - but for 15 years I didn't get very far in growing it out.  But then one day about 9 months ago my little girl came up to me with genuine concern over the fact that I have short hair and rarely wear dresses, she said with tears in her eyes "Mommy, how will people know you're a girl?".  Luckily, she didn't hear my hubby mumble in the background...."it's called a rack". 

Anyhow, my daughter's distress gave me the motivation to try growing my hair out again - it has been a couple of decades, why not try again?  Change is good, right? Well,  we just got back from a week in Mexico where it was very humid, and I didn't spend a lot of time fighting with my wild mane....needless to say, it very vividly reminded me why I had opted short hair for the last 15 years.  In our family pictures from that trip, all I see is my head of very big hair - it's quite distracting.

Right now, I have managed to grow my hair out to chin level - and no matter what products I put into it my hairdo will fall into 1 of 2 camps - wild and crazy or beaten into immovable helmet-like submission.  I am pretty close to giving up my dream of having beautifully wavy hair that is soft and manageable that I can run my fingers through.  Any tips for a girlfriend - before I go out there and shave my head?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Please Excuse my Absence, but life's been busy!

Please accept my humble apologies for not posting in so long..... but as it sometimes does, life got in the way.  I haven't posted in about 3 months, I lost focus and was in "survival" that I feel I have things somewhat under control, I hope to start blogging again!

The last few months have been very busy here in our household - our caregiver of 4 years moved on, and I had to get the application process started to bring another caregiver into Canada (let me tell you, the process is not an easy one - a month of evenings was spent filling out the paperwork!!).  So for the last few months, hubby and I have been flying solo with 2 full time jobs, a house, and the kids to take care of (I know, millions of families do this without the benefit of the kind of help I have - but it took some time for us to get adjusted.... and it meant fun things like my blog had to be temporarily put on hold while I took care of the endless piles of laundry).   We have been piecing together childcare as best we can.... and have at least another 3 months before our new caregiver arrives. So, although I hope to start blogging again, it will probably still be somewhat sporadic for the next several months. 

I have also been working very hard on my New Year's Resolutions, hubby and I have been on a diet since June 1, and I am happy to report that we have each lost about 25 pounds!  So, I am quite proud of the work we have done - but I will get into the details of that later.  In the process of losing weight, I learned that I am gluten-intolerant - which explains why I have been feeling so poorly for the last few years.  Needless to say, while I have been figuring out our new way of eating, inspiration on the cooking and baking front has been rather limited!!!

I have also been working on my New Year's Resolution to find a job that I love.  First things first, I had to get my resume in order - that was no easy task! I haven't found a new job yet, like I said, I like my job, I just don't LOVE it - so I have been very particular about the positions I apply for.  But now that my resume is up to date, at least I will be ready to apply for that great job, once the right opportunity presents itself. 

So, overall, I am quite pleased with the progress I have been making on my goals for this year.  The only ones that has slid a little are the "laugh more" and "yell less" ones - sadly without the domestic help I used to have and the stress of all the added paperwork and the childcare shuffle over the last several months (not to mention the diet!) I have been a little crankier than usual. 

Anyhow Girlfriends, keep on keeping on.  I'll try laughing more and yelling less, even in the face of never ending laundry, and meal preparation......(I love to cook, but I don't like feeling CHAINED to the kitchen!). 

Hopefully we will chat again soon!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Go-to Lunches: Simple Pantry Lunch - Beans and Tuna

I work from my home office a couple of days a week, and while I love not having the stress of packing up my lunch the night before, it often does leave me with nothing planned to eat.  So, I like having a couple of go-to lunches ready to go in the pantry should there be slim pickings on the leftover front. 

I keep a few tins of mixed beans in my pantry as well as a tinned tuna.  I don't have this often (maybe twice a month) given the tuna warnings out there, but I add a drizzle of olive oil and a healthy squirt of lemon juice and I have a fabulous lunch!

Do you have any go-to lunch recipes to share?  You can find my other go-to lunches here.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Go-to Lunches: Sardines on toast

Tinned sardines served over 2 slices of toasted bread (home-made in this case)
make a quick, healthy and delicious lunch!
I missed out on over 30 years of sardine enjoyment...... what a shame.  I had disliked sardines for as long as I can remember, I had just never been able to get over the smell and the thought of eating whole little fishes, bones and all.  When I was pregnant, my doctor encouraged me to eat sardines for the amazing health benefits (high calcium content and all the good omega oils you find in them).  So, I dutifully bought a few tins, and in my pantry they sat, unopened until well after the birth of my second child

One day, I was working from home, and I needed something quick for lunch, and there was nothing in the house.  So I thought I would open that trusty tin of sardines, figuring that worse case scenario, I would throw it out.  Well, it was TERRIFIC!  To be honest, I still have a hard time believing that I enjoy them so much.  They have become one of my favourite go-to lunches.  Seeing as I am still very new at enjoying sardines, does anyone out there have interesting ways of enjoying them?  Do you have any foods you spent a lifetime detesting, only to learn later in life that you really enjoy them?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Recipe: Yummy Banana Muffins

I always try to have fresh bananas in the house for the kids to snack on.  That means that I often end up with over-ripe bananas begging to be used.  They usually inspire me to bake banana bread, or cheater banana ice cream, and this time banana chocolate chip muffins.  I try different recipes, hoping to find "the one" - which is yummy, nutritious and easy to make.  For me, easy to make means that it uses ingredients I tend to have on hand and is an oil rather than butter based recipe.  Thawing out the butter to room temp is generally more fore-planning than I am willing to put into my banana muffin cravings.  So far, this recipe is the winner, it uses oil instead of butter, and the best part is I don't have to use any electric machines - so the cleanup is simple for those weeknights when the over-ripe bananas are just begging to be put to use.   Do you have a great banana muffin recipe to share?  Like I said, I always like trying new ones!


  • 1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (or you could forgo the whole wheat and just use a total of 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups smashed bananas (about 4 to 6 bananas)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cups chocolate chips or walnuts
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly brush a 12-muffin tin with butter and set aside.  I find this recipe makes 16 muffins, so I need to use 2 muffin tins which I line with muffin tin paper liners.
  • Whisk the flour, baking soda, brown sugar, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  • Whisk the banana, oil, milk, eggs, salt, and vanilla in a large measuring cup with a spout or another bowl.
  • Make a small well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into the center; then stir with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients are moistened but still lumpy. Do not over mix the batter or your muffins will come out dense. Gently stir in the chocolate chips (or nuts). Divide the batter evenly into the muffin tin(s), filling each cup about 3/4 full (I find using an ice-cream scoop helps with even batter distribution).
  • Put the muffins in the oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking. (Insert a toothpick into the center of a muffin to check if it is done. Toothpick should come out clean). Cool muffins in the pan on a rack for a couple minutes. Turn the muffins out of the pan and cool on the rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  • Once completely cool store in an air tight container for up to 2-3 days.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Recipe: No-knead Bread (whole wheat loaf)

I love the concept of baking bread, but I don't own a bread machine, and I find bread baking rather intimidating.  I have tried a different recipes for no-knead bread, and I have enjoyed them all - but I found that the 24 hour planning some of the recipes required were a bit much - and that meant that I couldn't manage loaf of bread quickly on a whim.  I also had yet to experiment putting it in a loaf pan, and using it as a sandwich/toast bread. I found a recipe on, for Chuck Hughes' No Knead Bread, which is a quick whole wheat recipe made in a bread pan, so I thought I would give it a shot. 
The bread was very delicious, and hearty - but mine didn't seem to rise enough - it was on the dense side(this seems to be a general theme with my bread baking.....I can never seem to get it to rise properly on baking - even when I follow the directions perfectly!). 
But even though I didn't get enough of a rise, it was still a tasty loaf, and so quick an easy to prepare that I thought I would share it.  I am going to keep playing with the recipe and see if I can get it to rise higher (since I never seem to get a good rise with any recipe, I think it is me, not the recipe - let me know how you fare!). I am publishing his original recipe, but I have made some changes in adding my own notes and comments.

Chuck Hughes' No-Knead Bread
Yield: 2 loaves


  • 3 cups very warm but not hot water
  • 1 tablespoon dry active yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 3 cups white flour
  • 2 ½ cup – 3 cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  1. Mix together in your large bread making bowl (I used my KitchenAid with the dough hook) and allow to bubble up and foam: The yeast, sugar and water. Wait a few minutes till yeast starts to work then add vinegar and oil
  2. Add the white flour cup by cup stirring well after each addition. Then add the whole wheat flour mixing in the salt at one point, cup by cup stirring well after each addition. This dough will still be a little bit wet and spongy.
  3. Cover with a damp tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 – 40 minutes or until it has doubled in size. (I put it in my oven, which I preheated to 175 degrees F, then turned off - when you open the oven to put the dough in, enough heat escapes to make it the perfect proofing temp)
  4. Using a big spatula, spoon out into 2 well-greased loaf pans. Using your fingers if needed, press the sides down, helping to create the perfect loaf shape. (do not knead)
  5. With a knife make 2 or 3 diagonal shallow incisions in the loaves.
  6. Bake the loaves about 50 minutes @ 375 degrees F or until they are golden brown and crusty on top and sound hollow when tapped on the underside.
  7. Let sit if you can wait, for at least 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving with butter.
If you have ever wanted to make your own bread, this is a great recipe - because it is so easy and really doesn't take that long - give it a try and please share your results (especially if you get yours to rise properly when you bake it!).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Recipe: Awesome Cheater Banana Ice Cream

I love ice-cream.  My kids love ice-cream.  My ever-expanding rear end does not like ice cream.  Over the last week or so, I saw the host of Food Network's 5 ingredient dinners make a peanut butter and  banana "ice-cream" and then I saw it on a blog posting at Kitchen Simplicity where they made a chunky monkey version with nuts and chocolate chips - and there were many other posts as well.  I had to try it!  The magic of this ice cream is that it's really not ice cream at all, but rather just pureed frozen bananas, with the promise of ice cream flavour (great if you have any lactose intolerant kids!).  If I could really get the mouth feel of ice cream, with the calorie count of a banana, then perhaps there is hope for me yet.  Not to mention, I would be a rock star at home, letting my kids have "ice-cream" every night.   But I must say, I was skeptical....  But  now that I have made it, I must declare - that it' really good - much better than I had expected!

Luckily, I had a bunch of bananas that were getting somewhat over-ripe (and I really didn't feel like making banana bread), so I sliced them onto a parchment lined baking sheet and shoved them into the freezer until they were good and frozen (2-3 hours).  Once they were good and frozen I dumped the whole batch into the food processor.  At first it it's rather frustrating - but keep at it, keep using a rubber scraper to push the banana mixture down, then keep processing.  (As a side note, I first tried using my blender and my Magic Bullet - they don't work, you need the food processor with the larger blade).  Eventually, when the mixture has thawed a bit from all the processing, you will get something with the consistency of ice cream.  I scooped it out into bowls and garnished with a few chocolate chips.  The rest went into a storage container and into the freezer to serve to guests coming the next day.*

I think I will play around with this recipe, perhaps add in some maple syrup for a little more sweetness....or some honey.....I wonder if it would keep the consistency if I threw in some berries.....let me know if you try it and come up with a great combination!

Now, as good as it is, it doesn't completely have the mouth feel of ice cream, but it is really close - better than some of those "light" ice creams out there.  So close, that it will satisfy an ice-cream craving and perhaps even reverse the butt-expansion process I have going on...... well, a girl can dream.

*When I served the ice cream the next day, it was still good, but it had lost a lot of it's creaminess, and had crystallized a bit - tasted more just like frozen banana.  In the future, I think I will process only what I need and keep extra frozen banana chunks in a freezer bag, ready to process whenever the urge strikes!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Go To Lunches: Beans on Toast

Beans on toast is one of my ultimate comfort foods - and what makes it a winner is it's absolute simplicity as a pantry meal.  I don't often eat canned food, but Heinz Beans in tomato sauce is an exception - and on a really cold day, or a day when I just don't want to think about cooking, it's a great lunch.  Sadly, my hubby still thinks that it's disgusting - but he's never bothered to try it, he just objects in principle.  Given that he has a British mother, I am surprised that he was never given this meal as a child because it was a staple in Leah's family home - where I spent a lot of my childhood.  In highschool, Leah and I would often end up at her house for lunch, and more often than not, we would have beans on toast.  No recipe here - just open a can of Heinz beans in tomato sauce (it's even better if you can get Marks and Spencer beans - but we don't have them in Canada anymore) and heat it up on the stove.  Meanwhile, toast a slice or two of bread and slather with butter.  Put beans on top of toast and sprinkle with some freshly ground  black pepper and enjoy with a large glass of milk.  YUM!  You'll need a knife and fork to eat it.  I encourage you to give this really simple go-to lunch a try.  Buy some beans (remember for an authentic experience, it's important that it's beans in tomato sauce, not browned beans) and keep them in your pantry - next time you have no idea what to have for lunch, give it a try!

So, I'll put it out there - is this disgusting?  Maybe I love it because it's so simple and brings back such happy memories......  Do you have any comforting foods like that?  Ones that make the rest of the world cringe, but make you smile?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Just Asking : Good Recipes for home-made "Shake 'n Bake"?

As in many households, chicken is a dinner time staple at our house.  My kids are rather fussy with meat, and one day out of sheer desperation I bought "shake 'n bake".  Well, my kids loved it.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am paranoid about hidden ingredients, or ones I can't pronounce - and my little man has an allergy to soy - which seems to be in everything.  So,  I have been on a mission to make my own shake 'n bake style coating that is ready to go in my pantry whenever I need it. 

My efforts so far have been great on crunch (using Panko instead of breadcrumbs) but not so great on flavour (tending to be over salty, or not flavourful enough). 

Has anyone out there come up with a great recipe that for home made Shake 'n Bake?  It would be even better if it could approximate the great flavours in KFC's 11 herbs and spices!

Help a girlfriend out?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Happy First Day of Spring - or if you're Persian, Happy New Year!

Spring officially arrives on Sunday (March 20th) at 7:21 PM EDT.  And if you ask me, not a day too soon!  It's hard not to get spring fever....I'm dying to put away all the hats, scarfs, gloves and boots, and bring on the light spring jackets and regular shoes!  As I have mentioned before, I come from a Persian background, and the first day of spring is the Persian New Year..... somewhat fitting I think!  Whenever spring comes, I feel the need to make New Year's resolutions, clean the house, purge myself of everything heavy and dull - and surround myself with light and colour. 

My family has always been rather low-key about the Persian New Year - we get together and have a meal and ring in the new year (thankfully this year it's at a decent hour!), and the kids get gifts.  We decorate eggs, and we all admire the table, laden with signs of spring (like the picture on this post I won't get into them, but if you are interested, here's a link to learn more about the traditions of the Persian New Year).
I particularly enjoy the array of cookies my grandma used to make - there were candied almonds, and delicate raisin cookies, and my favourite almond cardamom cookies (which I thankfully can now make myself). 

Perhaps it is because I come from a Persian background, or because getting a fresh start along with the rest of nature seems natural - but every year, I look on the first day of spring as a time of renewal, and a second chance at those New Year's resolutions I made on the first of January!

So, Happy First Day of Spring everyone!  With a nod to Persian culture bring in a cheerful spring plant (like a Hyacinth or a bunch of tulips), give your house a good cleaning, give all the rugs a good shake, and don't forget to dust off the new year's resolutions you made 3 months ago! 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Reading: The 7 Habits of Happy Kids

I was at a school council meeting for my daughter's school, and one of the teachers was talking about a book written by Sean Covey called The 7 Habits of Happy Kids.  I own his father's book, "the 7 habits of highly effective people" and remembered that it had some great basic guiding principles.... basic things like "putting first things first".  I have been frustrated with some of the bad habits my children have been developing (needing an adult to entertain them, not taking responsibility for themselves or their things), so when I heard about this book, I borrowed it from the library - and gave it a read.  To be honest, I was skeptical, it all smelled a little bit too much like the Dr. Phil family empire with everyone in the family getting into the game....all recycled content for new profit.   But I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised....
At first glance, it doesn't look that engaging for kids - my kids looked at the cover and weren't interested - but I sat down and started reading out loud and very quickly they were engaged in the stories and kept asking me to read more.  The book has a group of fun characters who run through the 7 stories - each one focusing on one of the "habits":
  1. Being Proactive (taking responsibility for yourself)
  2. Begin with the End in Mind (goal setting and planning)
  3. Putting First things First (prioritizing - work first, then play)
  4. Think Win-Win (effective conflict resolution)
  5. Seek First to Understand and then to be Understood (listening with your ears, eyes and heart)
  6. Synergize (working as a team, appreciating everyone's strengths)
  7. Sharpen the Saw (the importance of balance in life - mind, heart, body and soul)
The kids enjoyed the stories, and getting to know the characters.  There were great questions at the end of each chapter so you could explore the themes with your kids.  My 7-year old got it - and my 4 year old just liked the stories, but hopefully it will sink in eventually!

I had the opportunity to put one of the 7 habits into action today - Think win-win.  My daughter was going to a "beach party" at the local community centre, and she wanted to wear a summer dress - I needed her to be warm while we walked there.  My usual impulse would have been to just tell her that if she wanted to go, she had to wear something warmer or put leggings on under the dress (the easiest solution when I am pressed for time).  But instead I told her about my need for her to be warm while walking there, and let her know that I understood her need to dress in beach wear. So, we came up with a list of solutions that would satisfy both of us.  I won't lie, the process was a little bumpy, and there were tears and it took longer than my just telling her what to do, but in the end, we worked together and came up with a win-win solution.  I guess the book was as much for me as it is for the kids!  Many of you out there probably already do these things with your kids - but for me, I am at best inconsistent - so it helps to have a framework and reference to drive these positive behaviours.

I think this is a book I would like to own - so I can keep reading the stories to the kids and reinforce the messages to them and to me!  Thought I would share it with you......

Does anyone else have great books that reinforce good values?  I am still looking for one that stresses the importance of taking care of your things and respecting what belongs to someone else.......

Monday, March 14, 2011

Recipe: Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie

It's March Break here in Ontario, and my kids are home for the week.  It's fine during the day, because I am at work, but at night when I come home I find they are bored and looking for something to do, having exhausted all entertainment options during the day.  Luckily a friend of my daughter's will be spending the next couple of days with us, so that should make for a good couple of days.  Kat's friend arrived this evening to spend the night.  I thought wewould kick off the fun fest by making a giant chocolate chip cookie.  I got the inspiration and recipe from a blog post done by thishomemadelife.  I basically followed her recipe but I have tweaked it a little and updated it with some of my observations. 

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie
2 cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (I didn't have pastry flour, so I just used plain whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (we used a mix of chocolate and butterscotch chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt;  set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer cream butter and sugars until mixture is light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla;  mix until fully incorporated.  Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined.  Add chocolate chips and just stir in until combined. The dough looks a little dry, but don't worry.

The kids had fun smooshing the
dough into the pan.
Transfer dough to 10 inch ovenproof skillet (I used my cast iron pan - it is 12" across the top, but the base is 10") and press to flatten, covering bottom of pan (this is great work for little hands!).  Bake until edges are brown and top is golden, 40-45 minutes (I found 30 minutes was about right- start checking after 25 minutes, and take it out just as it is turning golden brown, mine over baked).  Don’t over bake (again, check after 25 minutes);  it will continue to cook a few minutes out of the oven.  Cool for 15-20 minutes before serving (since I over baked mine, I flipped it out onto a cooling rack so that it wouldn't continue baking). 

I think it would be a great idea to decorate this cookie with some icing, perhaps with a birthday message for a friend.... but we didn't put icing on tonight, it was too close to bedtime and the last thing I needed was to have them pumped full of even more sugar!
As you can see, even though I over baked it a little, it was still enjoyed!  Do you have any fun kid-friendly recipes to share?  I still have the rest of the March Break to go!!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Being Green: The Story of Stuff

I struggle with my desire to be more environmentally friendly and my need for comfort and well, stuff.  I also do daily battle with all the stuff in my  house.... I wouldn't have to spend so much time de-cluttering if I didn't have as much.  I saw this video several months ago, and I really thought it was a great simple way to explain the impact our need for "stuff" has on the environment.  Since watching this short film, I have made the conscious choice to consume less - we often forget that the first of the 3 Rs of Recycling is to REDUCE!  It is a US based analysis, and a little "left leaning", but now those sensitive to that have been warned - still watch it - it will make you question what you buy and bring into your home.  So, from girlfriend to girlfriend, take the time to watch this video clip, it's worth it!

If you want to learn more, or watch other videos (I may post them later) please go to the website The Story of Stuff

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Girlfriend Picks: Porcelain Tea Mugs

Ever since I was a little girl, spending lots of time with my friend Leigh and her very British family, I have gained an appreciation for tea and the porcelain (fine bone china) mugs that must be used to enjoy it!  My family, being Persian (also a very strong tea culture) drinks black tea out of clear glasses - but the porcelain tea mug is more my style.  Milky black tea in a large yet delicate mug.  For some reason, I am quite content drinking coffee from a large chunky ceramic mug, but tea..... has to be out of fine delicate porcelain.  My porcelain tea mugs are one of the great little pleasures in my life, which I really appreciate.  They bring me comfort and make me feel civilized  - even on the most harried of days!

TIP!  Do you know how to tell if something is porcelain vs. ceramic?  If you hold porcelain up to a light, and put your hand behind it, you can see the shadow of your hand through the piece (porcelain is translucent). 

Traditional porcelain tea cups are fine (you know, the pinkie up cups that came with your wedding china)  - but they hold so very little.  I NEED VOLUME to satisfy my desire for a large mug of morning tea to wrap my hands around.  My favourites are my porcelain mugs form Harrods (a famous department store in England).  They are delicate yet tall (8cm/3inches in diameter and 12cm/5inches high) and hold just the right volume of tea (320ml or 1.5 cups).  I bought these on a trip to England about 15 years ago, and I have yet to find a comparable product readily available in Canada (usually size is the issue).  Drinking tea from these mugs is one of the true pleasures of my day, and I wish I had more of them (when Leigh's family comes over, as they frequently do, I don't have enough to go around!).  I think it is so important to have "little pleasures" in our lives which we can use to ground us and calm us when things are getting a little nuts.  These mugs will forever remind me of the countless hours I have spend with Leigh and her family, in their kitchens, enjoying the company of some of my favourite people on the planet.

Has anyone out there come across something that I can source in North America?
Are there any little items in your life which bring you great pleasure - share with your girlfriends!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Organizing: Spice Cabinet

We moved into our house just over 4 years ago, and I was very pregnant at the time.  So, needless to say, packing and unpacking was done very quickly, and I didn't have much energy to put into purging and setting things up the way I want.  We had renovated the kitchen, and I had installed something which I loved (and still do) - a spice cabinet with roll out shelves, right next to my stove.  So, in went all the spices and condiments.  I have been enjoying this convenient cabinet for the last several years, but it has gradually gotten a bit out of control.  A few things were particularly bothering me:

  • My spice tins were designed for the spice cabinet at my old house.  The labels were on the side of the tin, since my old cabinet was an upper one, and I would look at the spices head on. 
    In our new house, my spice cabinet is a roll-out shelf, and I am looking at my spice tins from above, so I can no longer see the labels without taking the tins out.  It is time consuming and annoying playing the "guessing game" every time I need a spice.  I needed to find a way to label the top.
**I have been asked where I got the tins from - they are from a store called Lee Valley Tools.  A great size and good value!
  • The second shelf is where I keep extra spices. This one had gotten especially out of control.  There are so many packages of spices that I don't even know what I have anymore - and I keep buying more.  I needed to go through, throw out old ones and find a way to organize what I have so that I can easily refill my little tins when they run empty.

  • The bottom shelf is where I keep things like sauces and oils.  Again, a little out of control, and some really old stuff in there that I just need to purge.  I had also noticed that the bottom was a bit "sticky" - time to give everything a good scrub.

Special things I was saving for "someday".
Got too old, now they are in the
garbage bin!

So, I embarked on what I knew wouldn't be one of those 10 minute jobs (like the time I organized my tupperware drawer) - but one that would take a bit longer but would be very satisfying.  So, I went at it - I started with the bottom shelf - took everything out - and scrubbed.  I ended throwing out most of what was in there - a lot of specialty oils I was saving for "some day".  This was a valuable lesson - use your specialty items now, don't save them for some day - because like mine, they may just end up getting old and thrown out. 

Labeling with a Sharpie now lets me
see what is in the little tins from
 Then, I moved on to the top shelf (I'll admit, it's because the middle one was still intimidating) - I took out all the tins, emptied the ones I knew had been sitting there for a while, gave them all a good wipe down.  Then I scrubbed out the bottom of that drawer.   But the big thing I did here was use a Sharpie marker to write the content of the tin on the top of the tin (I tested it and I learned that you can remove Sharpie off of glass by rubbing it with alcohol).  So, off I went, labelling away - so that I will no longer have to play the guessing game everytime I need a spice!  YIPPEE!

Onto the dreaded second drawer, I started by emptying everything out - and putting the unopened bags of spices into alphabetical order.  I was shocked by how many of the same item I had, what a waste!  I threw out all opened bags (even though the general rule is that spices are only good for 6 months, I tend to stretch that out to a year....ok, maybe two).  It "hurt so good" to throw out so much stuff.  Then I put everything back into the drawer - with my unopened spices in alphabetical order so that when one of my tins is empty, I can just go to the second drawer and see if I have another package or if I need to take a trip to the store. 

TADA!!!  It took about an hour and half, but I think it really was time well spent!  What little space have you been organizing lately?  Do share!

Top shelf for easily accessible spices while I am cooking.

Bottom shelf now has room to spare!

Middle shelf to house "refills" and
some other small items.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Recipe: Apple Squash Soup

I can't recall which of my girlfriends gave me this recipe - but it has become a staple amongst my circle of friends.  It is easy to prepare, delicious and very impressive to serve to guests (but I just like having it in the fridge for lunches!).  I can almost smell spring in the air - the days are starting to get longer (my little man asked why we were having dinner so early the other night - because it wasn't dark yet!).  So with spring coming, I have to get in the last of my soup making - and had to use up the last butternut squash we had from our garden.....

The blend of butternut squash, apples and onions gives this smooth soup a very delicate taste.  It is a staple in my entertaining repertoire, and I hope it becomes a staple in yours!

Apple Squash Soup
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups apple, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups squash, peeled and diced (I use butternut squash - but you could experiment!)
  • 4 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 cup of light cream or whole mile
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt and pepper (or to taste)
  • ground cinnamon or chili powder to taste

  1. Melt butter in a large pot, add onions and apples and cook uncovered for 5 minutes or until the onion is soft (do not brown). 
  2. Stir in squash and chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer covered for 20-30 minutes (until the squash is tender).
  3. Puree with immersion blender (or you can put it in a food processor or blender). Push puree through a fine sieve if you want an extra fine texture.
  4. Return soup to the pot and add cream/milk and salt and pepper.
  5. Serve with a garnish of chili powder or cinnamon (I sprinkle these into the bowl just before serving  - that way everyone can pick which flavour they want).
This recipe is easily doubled.  I have tried making it vegetarian by replacing the chicken stock with a vegetable broth - but I find that the soup loses too much richness - please let me know if you have any success making a vegetarian version.

I hope you enjoy it and give it a try before spring fever makes us want to put all the soup recipes away until next year!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Recipe: Almond Cardamom Cookie Bites (Hajee Badoom)

Today is the 1 year anniversary of my grandmother's death.   Once a year, she would bake a batch of these, my favourite cookies for me.  They are a Persian cookie called Hajee Badoom, made with ground almonds, and they are usually prepared for the Persian New Year (first day of spring).  She always promised to teach me how to make them, but we never made the time..... Then she died, and I couldn't find the recipe, anywhere.... not on the Internet, not with my went with her.  But for the entire year, I kept asking, and luckily a dear friend of my Grandmother's knew how to make them, and shared her recipe with me.  Although they are delicious, I seem to remember my grandma's cookies being a bit lighter in texture - but maybe that's just because SHE made them.  They are crunchy (almost biscotti like) with the beautiful scent and delicate flavour of cardamom.  They are relatively healthy, as far as cookies go and they are gluten free (this is a terrific recipe for those with a gluten intolerance!).  I have yet to find anyone who doesn't like them.  My little man devours them by the dozen! 

For me, these cookies will always remind me of my grandmother's unconditional love.  It felt right to make them today - on the anniversary of her death. While I miss her beyond words, I felt close to her, and I could almost hear her praising my ingenuity and perseverance at finding the recipe..... praising me as only a grandmother can do.  I hope you enjoy them.

Almond Cardamom Cookie Bites (Hajee Badoom)
  • 150g of icing sugar
  • 200g of almond flour (which is essentially just ground blanched almonds)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • just a trace of egg white (1/4 of the white you would find in 1 egg)
  • 3/4 tsp ground cardamom (be sure to use fresh ground cardamom, or grind the pods yourself!)
  • 1 tsp baking powder

  1.  Sift the icing sugar into the bowl of your mixer and add the egg yolks and egg white.   Mix thoroughly until the mixture is light and fluffy (this takes about 3 minutes).
  2. Add the baking powder and the cardamom and mix briefly to combine.
  3. By hand, gently stir in the almond flour (may also be referred to as ground almonds) until everything is just incorporated.  Put the mixture onto a piece of saran wrap and bring it all together into a log or a disk - wrap it carefully and put it in the fridge for an hour or so. 
  4. Preheat the oven to 275°F.
  5. Take the dough out of the fridge.  Cut about a quarter of it off and roll it into a log (about 1/2 inch thick).  Cut into little bite size pieces, roll into a ball, and place 1 cm apart on a parchment lined baking sheet (they don't spread very much).  Be sure to keep the rest of the dough wrapped as you work, so that it doesn't dry out.  Continue with the rest of the dough until you have all the little balls done. 
  6. Place in the oven for 20 minutes.  DO NOT open the oven for the first 20 minutes of baking.  After 20 minutes open the door and check to see if they are done.  When they are done, they will be firm to the touch and slightly golden brown.  Keep setting your timer for 3 minutes, and check again, until they are done.  I find my cookies can take anywhere from 20-30 minutes, depending on how big I made my little balls.
  7. Take off the tray and place on a cooling rack to cool completely (they will still be a little chewy until you cool them completely).  Enjoy!
I hope you try this recipe - or if you have a variation of this recipe, please share it with me! 

I like to roll the dough into logs and then cut and roll out the little balls - but my grandmother's friend just takes the dough by the teaspoonful out of a bowl and rolls them into balls.  I like my cookies really small, you can try experiment with other sizes (just remember to adjust the baking time accordingly).

Try to make your little dough balls the same size so they bake evenly.

Crunchy airy texture inside.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Organizing: Kitchen Command Centre

In the spirit of spending just a few minutes tackling an area of the house that irritates me, I turned my attention to the small counter area in our kitchen which I'll call the Command Centre - really, it's a place with the phone, and where all mail and junk gets dropped off.  It's the first thing you see when you walk into the kitchen/family room area, and I am certain that my blood pressure rises a bit every time I see it! It had gotten out of control lately, so I decided to spend a few minutes cleaning it out.

The catch-all area for things without a home.
 About 20 minutes of work, (this one took a little longer, because I had to go through the mail and sort it) - and I am so pleased with the results!  Let's see if we can keep it looking like this!

I purchased the grey wooden box to hide all the little things that we need access to, but clutter the counter (like keys, hand sanitizer, etc).

I encourage you all to take a few minutes to tackle a problem area that has been getting on your nerves!  I have spent the last several weeks getting aggravated every time I walked into the kitchen, and 20 minutes is all it took?  Do you have any problem areas in your home?  Do share!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dads out there - always be your daughter's Valentine

Valentine's Day isn't the horrible, white-knuckle, cold sweat inducing day it used to be in my early 20s.  Now, it's simply another day where I am happily in love with my husband and can chastise him for being ripped off buying flowers on Valentine's day, while secretly being glad he did.
In our early 20s, some of my girlfriends were in relationships, and some weren't.  So for some of us, Valentine's day was at best, well, awkward......girls at work getting deliveries of flowers and chocolate, swooning over a gift from a secret admirer (you know those girls, every office has one, they giggle, wear pencil skirts and tight sweaters....have MANY admirers).  Me, I would try and become invisible, seem really busy.... oh, is it Valentine's day today!?  But not for my friend Lesley.  She always had a Valentine.....her dad.

I clearly remember one Valentine's day when neither Lesley nor I were in a relationship, and whereas I came home from work feeling sad, lonely and pathetic, she came home with a smile on her face.  Her dad had sent her a cute Valentine's Day arrangement to her office.  She had a Valentine to proudly display on her desk, for all to see (eat that you giggling, pencil skirt wearing twits).  On Valentine's day, if you are not in a relationship, it is easy to feel wretched and sorry for yourself....but if you have a Valentine (even if it is your dad), it helps to remind you that you are loved and important.

When my daughter was born, I told hubby the story of Lesley's dad always sending her a Valentine's day gift, and I asked him to always make sure our little girl gets a Valentine from him..... especially when she is an adult.  So far, even though she is only 7, he gets her a Valentine every year, an annual reminder, that she is adored.

So, to all you dads out there - send your daughters a Valentine, especially if they don't have anyone else to make them feel special on Valentine's Day.  By the way, it always helps to sign the card "your secret admirer" - so even though she knows who sent her the Valentine, the girls at the office won't!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Making Home-made Organic Yogurt

I love yogurt - my parents come from a Persian background where yogurt plays a very prominent role, as a side-dish for pretty much every meal (you should try it with rice, or with potato ships as an alternative to traditional dip, it's terrific!).  In my household, yogurt isn't as prevalent, but we do enjoy fruit yogurt and I do serve it occasionally when I get up the energy to make some Persian recipes. 
I remembered that my mom used to occasionally make yogurt when I was a child (and I also remember there were rather mixed results) - and when I thought about it, trying to make my own yogurt made sense to me on many fronts:
  1. I can make an organic yogurt that has the taste profile I want (I like my yogurt to have a nice sour twang to it).
  2. Cost savings - the organic yogurt I like isn't always available, and when it is, it's quite expensive (about $7 per litre). 
  3. Yogurt has many health benefits - and when I make it myself, I am certain that it contains all those live pro-biotics that are so good for us.
  4. Helping the environment - this yogurt doesn't require packaging, and shipping beyond the original re-usable supplies I purchase.
  5. I can make fruit yogurt and vanilla yogurt using pure ingredients where I control the sugar and there are no artificial ingredients.

I am happy to report that I found success!  I have now produced over 6 batches of yogurt, with consistent results - so, I am ready to share, and I hope you are inspired to try making it on your own.
4L of Milk produces just under 4L of final product. 
It will produce less if you choose to strain it for a thicker yogurt.

I make 4L at a time (because I have pots big enough, we consume that much, and 4L is a convenient amount given that I can buy 4L of organic milk at Costco for under $8).  But feel free to try it out with a smaller amount - it is a very scalable process (that's right, it's not really a recipe, but a process).  Please don't be intimidated by the amount of text - I just want to clearly describe the process - it actually takes very little hands-on time!
Organic Home-made Yogurt
Here's what you will need:
  • Organic Milk (as much as you would like to make, I tend to make 4L of 2% - I think this recipe will work with any fat content, I have used 2%)
  • Organic plain yogurt with live bacterial cultures or a yogurt starter (you will need approx 2 tbsp of plain yogurt for each litre of milk, or alternatively you can buy yogurt starter in the organic dairy case of some grocery stores).
  • A large metal pot to heat the milk in on the stove (again large enough to comfortably fit the amount you are making)
  • An oven safe container (again large enough to comfortably fit the amount you are making - I use a big corningware/pyrex dish I have)
  • Kitchen Thermometer (I like to use a digital probe thermometer)
Put your milk into your pot, and turn on the heat to med-high (be sure not to turn it up too high, as the milk at the bottom of the pot can easily burn) - bring the milk up to 180°F.  Be sure to stir occasionally so that a skin doesn't form.  I like to use a digital programmable probe thermometer and set the alarm to notify me when my milk reaches 180°F. 
**Please note I have put the link to one of my favourite local kitchen stores, not because I want you to buy it from there, but just so you can see what one looks like, they are very readily available at many kitchen supply stores.  If you don't want to invest in a digital thermometer, you can use any other type of kitchen thermometer, you will just have to frequently check the temperature so that you hit the right temperatures.  I have learned that making yogurt is a temperature game - if you can accurately control the temperature, you can control the quality of your yogurt!

Once your milk has reached 180°F, now it's time to let it cool.  I like to transfer my hot milk to another oven safe container.  I do this because it helps the milk cool down faster and I don't want my big pot occupied for 24 hours, just in case I need it for something else.   Let the milk cool down to 112°F.  Be sure to stir occasionally so that a skin doesn't form, and set your digital thermometer to notify you at 115°F so you can get your yogurt starter ready while the mixture continues to cool the last few degrees. 

Once your yogurt hits 112°F, you have to add your starter (either yogurt  you made in a previous batch, yogurt you purchased, or starter you purchased).  Add 2 tbsp of your starter for each litre of milk you have heated.
**You have a bit of wiggle room here, the addition of the starter should take place between 112°F and 108°F. 
My probe thermometer is letting me know it is time to add my starter!

From here it's easy - cover your container and put it in a warm, toasty place.  I like to heat my oven for a minute or so (until it is warm) and then leave the oven light on and tuck my yogurt in for the night.  Some other people I have spoken to wrap their container in an electric blanket and plug it in, and my mom used to wrap the container in a blanket and put it on a heat register in the kitchen.  Whatever method you use, the goal is to keep the container warm to the touch.  Just slightly warmer than body temperature (between 108-112°F). 

I think the yogurt should sit at least 8 hours - and probably no more than 24.  I have found that the longer you keep it warm, the more sour twangy the flavour.  My magic number sits at around 12 hours.  Take a peek and give it a jiggle, it should be set by this point.  Put it in the fridge and let it cool completely.  (this usually takes around 12-24 hours for my 4 litres - the less you make the less time it takes). 

After the yogurt is cool, put it in jars and keep in the fridge...... mine have been known to last as long as a month and a half.  If you like your yogurt thicker than what it set at, simply set some cheesecloth over a strainer, set the stainer in a larger bowl, and ladle your yogurt on top of the cheesecloth.  This separates they whey (liquid) and will give you a very thick yogurt - just let it strain until you are happy with the thickness! 

Happy yogurt making folks - I hope you try it - it's super easy, and very satisfying.  feel free to ask me any questions if you need some help!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A healthier home-made Nutella: made with almond butter

Little Man doesn't eat very well.  He likes junk food, and I really struggle trying to balance my need to get calories into him, and making sure those calories are nutritious.  He loves Nutella, but I really don't like it's dubious nutritional claims.  I like the nutritional benefits of almond butter, but sadly my fussy little guy won't eat it.  So, I embarked on an attempt to make a chocolate almond butter.  I originally mixed 50% Nutella with 50% all natural almond butter  - which worked well, except for storage (almond butter should be refrigerated, Nutella should not be) - but it did taste good. The other day I thought I would try to make my own "Nutella" type product using almond butter as the base, and add cocoa and a bit of sugar into it.....Chocolate covered almonds are one of my favourite treats.  Chocolate and almonds seem like such a natural combination, why hasn't anyone made this..... it seems so obvious!  So, for lack of a commercial product to buy, I tried to make my own......I can't say that it worked out perfectly, but I am determined to keep trying!

Adding cocoa, icing sugar and coconut oil
to almond butter.
 I started by dumping a jar of almond butter (sugar and salt free) into my stand mixer bowl - then I started adding cocoa....and more, and more....... after adding over a cup of cocoa, the mixture was getting rather dry, and the lack of sugar was becoming even more obvious..... so out came the icing sugar and the coconut oil.  After adding about a quarter cup of each, I liked the consistency and the sweetness level, but it still didn't taste very "chocolatey".  The taste of toasted almonds is such a strong taste, that I can't seem to get the cocoa flavour to shine through.... maybe this is why this product isn't commercially available?  The Ghirardelli cocoa powder I used is rather expensive, and after using almost the entire tin, with no noticeable chocolate taste.....I am thinking this endeavor may be an expensive one - the strong taste of almonds overpowers the taste of the cocoa.....hmmmm.... I wonder if they sell a natural hazelnut butter...... 

So, the good news is that little man ate a bit of it - because I told him it was Nutella, but he did look dubious...... The true test will be if he eats it the next time I give it to him.
I am determined to make this work - but I will need help.   Has anyone out there tried making a chocolate almond spread?  Any suggestions for me to try on my next batch?  

Got a nice sheen with the addition of the coconut oil.  Got a total of 1L of finished product.

Watching David Letterman Live!

On our trip to NYC, hubby and I were just walking down the street minding our own business when a rep from CBS came up and offered us free tickets to a taping of the David Letterman show.  Of course we said yes!  It was quite an experience, and we really had a good time.  Thought I would share it with you......

You pick up your tickets between 2-3pm, and no, you don't just waltz up to the box office, the process takes close to an hour.  You are asked to be back in line (in numerical order based on the number on the back of your ticket) by 3:30, and the taping starts at 4:30.  So, from 3:30 to 4:15, you are all huddled in the lobby getting "warmed up".  You still don't know who the guest is going to be, they keep it a surprise.  The people ushering you through the process have lots of energy, and it's hard to believe that they do this every day! A few interesting things they said....
  • Dave checks out the audience before the show - if he has some really great content, but not a great audience, he will save it for another show.  He gets a lot of motivation from the audience, so it's important to be very enthusiastic.
  • Have a question prepared, he likes to interact with the audience and work it into the material for that show (and he did it, it was quite neat to watch).
  • Dave comes out and meets the audience about 5 minutes before the show starts to interact with them a bit.

When you finally do get to sit down in your seats, the music is playing really loud and you are encouraged to clap along - after a while, your hands start to hurt.  Then the band comes out and plays some great songs, then a comedian comes out and tells some funny jokes, then out comes the big man himself, to interact with the audience for a spell.  The show we went to see aired on January 19th, and the guest was Martin Short and the musical guest was Darius Rucker - both very enjoyable!  The taping ended up taking just over an hour because they had to "re-shoot" Martin Short's song.  Now what struck me as odd, is that although the show is taped, and not live - they act as if it is live.  They actually take commercial breaks.... we sit there while the band plays us a tune, and they countdown as we go "live" again..... odd.  Anyone have any idea why they do that?

It was a very neat experience although we just "lucked" into our tickets, I understand that you can go online and request tickets - I would recommend going if you ever get the chance!  It certainly was the highlight of our whirlwind trip.  Again, proof that there are still happy surprises awaiting us all!