Super Cleaning!

We’ve been busy today with more cleaning. So much so that I don’t have much time to write today’s blog.

Our middle child took on the task of cleaning out all the cupboards in all the bathrooms. Pretty sure this is the look of regret by starting on it. She has found plenty of “product” that we never use. Time to turf it!

My son and I were cleaning the windows in the sun room. Bleach around the edges to get rid of the black and grime forming. Then washing the windows twice in order to get rid of the streaks.

Being cooped up in the house has it’s benefits. The cleaning was taken in stride and the kids were very willing to do the chores. Plus we aren’t out spending money- that’s always good for the bank account.

How clean is your house these days? Doesn’t it feel good?

Donuts or Doughnuts?

Mmmm dessert cake things. However you want to spell them (I’ll use both spellings in this blog)- they are sweet treats of yum that make you go nuts!

Okay, sugar high aside… we made donuts from scratch today. they turned out pretty darned good. I decided to make the doughnuts because I put fresh oil in the deep fryer. No one wants French fry or chicken strip flavored desserts.

The recipe was one I’ve been wanting to try for ages since I first ate one of these doughnuts. I didn’t make the cotton candy icing this time around. Forget it! I’m going to start a second batch right now and do that for this next batch. For the first donuts, our daughter made a lemon icing that she loves, and is equally as delicious.

I know a few things I could do differently… mostly patience with the yeast and the rising of the dough. But not bad for my first ever attempt. Definitely going to repeat it… Right now!

Here is the link to the original recipe. Go and try it for yourself!!! Terri’s Donuts

Home. Home Again.

I like to be here when I can.

As much as I enjoy sharing about the adventures we take or have taken, I still enjoy having a home to rest my soul at. Being here a bit more frequently lately has made me appreciate what I do have.

Besides four walls and a roof to hold my stuff, I have a loving family. A family that remembers my birthday and Father’s Day. A family that will go out of their way to like the things I like in order to share moments with me.

In this home there are vestiges of each and every one of them. From pictures to artwork to trinkets- our collections share a story or a fond memory. I’m lucky that these reminders are around. They bring me joy.

That’s all I wanted to share with you. But I also used today’s blog as a friendly reminder to myself that I have an entire universe of love and kindness here in my home, even if I feel trapped.

Google Nest Wifi

My wife had Google Nest Wifi delivered to our home today. I thought for sure it would take a long time to set up. I was wrong. It took under 15 minutes including unboxing.

As usual, I was excited to have new tech in the house. My kids are stoked as well to have Google Assistant at their fingertips from almost anywhere in the house. We can also play music through the speakers in the WiFi Points.

We don’t have a Spotify, Youtube Music or Google Music account. So there wasn’t any option to really “skip” or choose songs. But I was able to choose a genre or style. I started by requesting Queen. Then moved on to Ska. And wow, I really enjoy Ska, who knew?

I’d be more excited about the idea that instead of saying “Ok Google” I could say “COMPUTER” like I am living in the Star Trek universe. But at least there’s some music to enjoy, and I love tech, maybe one day we will be closer to the Star Trek life.

Spring Break Staycationing

The past few days I’ve been staying at home. Wednesday was the last time I ventured out. I had booked vacation time for this week because I knew the kids would be home for Spring Break. I did not know COVID-19 was going to be so widespread, thus requiring people to stay home.

It’s tough to feel cooped up that’s for sure. I’ve seen a lot on Instagram of people making the most of the situation. Many others are doing the same thing I’ve been doing for “Spring Break.”

Originally we were going to do some day trips around the Lower Mainland, and I was planning an overnight excursion to Victoria. Instead, I have taken the time to do touch ups to our home that are long overdue. Loads of yardwork, painting and decluttering. But visible progress has been made.

I’ve also enjoyed the extra time we are having together as a family. Making meals and having fun. I’ve been actively spending extra time with each member of the household. And not just making the kids do work, but actually having quality parenting time. I think a break amongst the hard work is necessary.

How are you coping with seclusion and physical distancing?

Sushi At Home

I’m enjoying this at home meal making. Tonight I made homemade sushi. I’ve made sushi at home previously, so I wasn’t afraid to have another go at it. I’m also getting better at making sushi.

I also cheated a bit this time around. I used a Sushezi. It’s essentially a “Sushi Bazooka” that pushes out the rice/fish mixture. It makes the sushi rolls so much faster than when I roll my own. Unfortunately they are much larger than regular sushi rolls.

The family enjoyed the dinner and scarfed it down in record time. Much faster than when I was making it.

How are your cooking skills these days?

I Made Pasta!!! Eat It.

I’ve always wanted to make my own pasta. So I decided that while I’m at home avoiding the world- this is the best time to try it. I even had a helper who enjoyed the rolling out of the pasta.

A couple of years ago I wrote about my discovery of my father’s old pasta maker: My Place Is In The Kitchen. It promptly was put in the back of a cupboard to be forgotten about, until today. I think it was because of playing the video game “Overcooked 2” recently that inspired me.

I decided to try my hand at making spinach pasta as my first ever attempt. Mainly because my wife bought a metric shit-ton of spinach, and no one was eating it. Why not make a green pasta with a white sauce?

Our middle daughter was a fantastic helper as we rolled out long strands of pasta. She also brought her Pop Vinyl from the film Ratatouille so that he could watch over us.

Who knew making pasta was so easy? And delicious. A glass of wine and a side casear salad made for a great family dinner. Making the pasta took the better part of an hour. But it was some good quality time spent with my daughter, and I’d do that any day.

Temporary/Permanent Garage Shelter

Back in 2016 we bought a temporary shelter for our Honda Element. I put it up along the side of our home near the carport. And there it stood… until today.

We’ve been using it as extra storage for things like camping gear and outdoor Christmas decorations. I’ve also used it as a workspace for when I needed to set up some sawhorses and do some painting or building. It’s been extremely versatile. So we didn’t really want to get rid of it.

Instead, two of our children lay out the cover on the lawn and scrubbed the green film off the outside of it. I disassembled and reassembled the frame in its new location. The other side of the house. Which is a great location for this shelter.

We have a “dead space” on the side of our home that we have tried to utilize. We’ve set up a fire pit, a sitting area, even an herb garden- but it never lasted. Mostly because it is out of sight. So it’s a great spot for the temporary shelter. We moved the camping stuff, Christmas stuff and some other stuff that we don’t need out in the open. It’s a perfect storage spot.

It also made the front of our home have nicer curb appeal. Our daughter can park off to the side if she wishes. We can also access the backyard much easier once more.

Pressure Washing Zen

My daughters were hard at work the last couple of days using the pressure washer I had recently purchased. Today, I was going to clean just a small area. Five hours and two large decks later, I finally had to stop.

I completely forgot how therapeutic pressure washing can be. The vibration of the wand, the gentle hum of the machine (because you should always wear ear protection!) and the way the water works to remove grime. A soothing visual of immediate changes occur. Sometimes the sun hits the mist and a glinting of rainbows appear.

The final result brings a sense of pride to your work. A clean area to enjoy nature once more. Cleaning therapy, who knew?

All That Hard Work Will Make Our Home

Today the sun was shining and the weather was warm. It was the perfect day to clean the yard and the outside of our home.

Our son took on the task of adding some paint to their old playhouse. We use it as a garden shed now, but it can easily be converted back for play should young kids ever live here again.

Our middle child pulled out the lawnmower and gave the first mow of the season to the backyard. We have about half of our acre that needed a mow. The rest is mostly trees and bushes.

Our oldest enjoys pressure washing. With all the trees and dampness in our area- a lot of green shows up on cement and such. A deep cleaning at the start of the season will make for a good spring and summer.

At the end of the day, it feels like we’re only part way through. We’ll get there soon enough. And then we can relax enjoying nature and our home.

Stay Home- Early Start To Spring Cleaning

Next week, I have a week of vacation. We won’t be going anywhere due to the things going on in the world. So I’m going to get a jump start on Spring Cleaning! Or rather- I’ll make lists and get the kids to do most of it!

Except for today. Today I took advantage of a couple of hours of decent weather and filled six yard waste cans. No kids, no hassles, just me and the front yard. The wintertime always make the yard look bleak.

But when spring hits- Hoo boy. Our yard gets green and full of life. Which is good because the growth helps to hide the weeds and fallen branches that we neglect to pick up. Rarely do we need to buy any plants as it all comes back each year. Super awesome!

The fresh air and a bit of solitude will do the family some good. We’ve been busy with speed skating and graduation planning that this Spring Break is needed. No big plans, but some quality time outside (weather permitting of course) or we dust and wash the windows and floors inside.

Something to pass the time instead of just saying that we are avoiding the world.

Panic Purchasing? Butt Why?

Oh man. There is a lot of panic in the world right now. Especially regarding COVID-19. Unfortunately paranoia is causing folks to be a tad bit irrational.

On Saturday morning in my hometown of Langley, a video was taken of people rushing into a Costco to buy toilet paper of all things. The media has been reporting of the scarcity of the butt tissues for some time now. As if a lack of shit tickets is the cause of the virus outbreak. But people love to spread misinformation on social media causing panic thus creating a real shortage now. It’s a strange catch-22 that we entered over the past couple weeks.

Yes the virus is real and over 100,000 people in the world have been diagnosed with it. There are 5 million people living in British Columbia- 32 of which have the virus; and 4 of those have overcome it already. Less than 0.0000064 of BC’s population has the virus.

I’m not going to compare these numbers to cancer or the flu. I’m just trying to figure out why toilet paper and racism is taking hold of our society. And I’m at a true loss to explain it.

But if the world runs out of toilet paper, maybe it’s time for purchasing that bidet I’ve been wanting for a couple of years now. Washing my bum was a pleasant experience while traveling in Tokyo.

How is your toilet paper supply?

Are you stocked up?

The Last Of It…

We have three teenagers in our home. They are witty, intelligent and caring of others. They are also moody, self absorbed and lazy. Not knowing which attribute we will see around the house is a fun game. A game I am not always prepared to play.

The worst part of this game is as a parent, I’ll ask a question of them. A question that I’m not expecting an answer to. More a rhetorical question that I want them to think about. As I grow older I realize that this is a typical “Dad Thing” to do. And my kids do the typical “Teenage Thing” as a response.

Here we see an example of what our kids love to do. They don’t quite use up everything. Just enough that they leave it for someone else to find/replace/change/throw out… a roll of toilet paper with one square… A carton of juice with five drops left… Sour cream with half a spoonful remaining… When I ask, “Who finished…?” I get the usual, “Not Me.” And sometimes, “It’s not empty…”

If I didn’t have to supply nourishment to them, there are some days I’d leave the fridge barren to prove a point. which I am tempted to do this weekend. Leave some lemon juice, a yogurt, pickled pepperoncinis, salad dressings and condiments- see how well they’d survive before asking for real food.

The joys of being a parent to three teenagers brings out my immaturity.

Backyard Flooding

For the first time since we bought our home almost 13 years ago, our backyard flooded. There’s a lot of water in the far back of our acre, so at least it’s not near our house.

In and around our neighborhood I noticed the ditches were overflowing from the last couple of rainfalls. It’s rare for the ditches to get like that, but the heavy rain will help replenish the aquifer that we use for our well.

Living in the outskirts of Vancouver- I am fully aware that we technically live in a rain forest. It’s still unsettling though when there is such a large accumulation of pooling water. Hopefully the rain eases up for a few days and balance will come to our natural surroundings once more.

Fireplace Cooking

The other day I mentioned how we love to use our Fireplace. After discovering a better way to warm our home with it, I wanted to go the next step. Let’s cook!

I’ve also always loved Cooking with Cast Iron. The versatility of the cookware is amazing. I love having the ability to move the cookware to any type of cooking area. Be it stove top, oven, BBQ, or open fire- Cast Iron is fantastic.

Last night I chose to make dinner in a Cast Iron Dutch Oven while using our fireplace. I already had a warm fire going for a couple of hours. I moved the fire and embers to one side of the fireplace and lay a cast iron griddle across the grate on the other side.

I prepared an eye of round roast with a dry rub of salt, pepper and Montreal Steak Spice. I put that into the Dutch oven and let it cook using indirect heat. I kept the fire going on the opposite side in order to keep the heat at a continuous hot temperature. I ended up cooking the roast for approximately 2 hours in order to fully cook it. Once o removed the roast from the fireplace I key it rest prior to carving it.

While I kept the fire going, my wife and daughter worked on the side dish. Roasted Root Vegetables. This included potatoes, garlic, beets, and carrots mixed with olive oil and some rosemary stems. My wife cooked them on a baking sheet at 400° for approximately 40 minutes. The vegetables turned out amazing.

The roast also turned out perfect. Inside of the dutch oven was quite a bit of liquid, so we made a gravy for dinner as well. For a first time using our fireplace to cook with, I’d say dinner was eligible for a repeat occurrence.

Have you ever cooked in a fireplace

Fireplace

I love our wood burning fireplace. It gives off a great ambiance to the home. Recently I tried to figure out– How do you build a good fire in a fireplace?

With winter in full force for the first time in years, we have been using our fireplace to heat up our home more often. Here is what I was taught to do when building a fire:

  1. Crumple some newspaper and place under the grate and on the grate.
  2. Place wood kindling lengthwise with the grate. Put on two pieces of wood on top.
  3. Put two more pieces of wood perpendicular to the first two.
  4. Ensure the damper is open.
  5. Twist a long piece of newspaper and light it. Hold it carefully into the flue in order to create a draft.
  6. Light the paper under the grate.
  7. Enjoy the fire.
  • I have been lightning fires like this for decades. I found that I kept adding wood and burning faster thinking I needed flames to create heat. The other day I discovered a new technique and it really made the house much warmer.
  • Essentially you build the fire upside down compared to what I had been doing for years.
    1. Start with two or three large pieces of wood and lay them lengthwise and tight together.
      Lay three more pieces perpendicular on top of the first layer. Again making sure it is tight.
      Now add the kindling on top along with crumpled newspapers.
    1. Ensure the damper is open.
    2. Twist a long piece of newspaper and light it. Hold it carefully into the flue in order to create a draft.
    3. Light the paper and kindling that was stacked on the top.
    4. Enjoy the fire as it burns from the top down making more of a hot ember base.
  • The six or so pieces of wood burn slower and last much long than the old way. Going for ambiance- I’ll still light a fire my old way. But with negative temperatures- heat is the priority.
  • Here is a video that I found that explains the new way: Perfect Fire. I’m in no way connected with the YouTube video- I just found it very helpful and wanted to share.
  • I love living in the country and the lifestyle that comes with it. But one day we will move and I’ll have to enjoy a gas fireplace instead.
  • Are you keeping warm the winter with a wood burning fireplace or do you prefer gas?
  • Snow Day. S’no Way!

    Yesterday the kids had a snow day from school. I also had a rough time trying to get out of our neighborhood to go into work, so I ended up having a snow day as well. The downside to that is I’ll be making up my work day but my kids won’t have to. So what did I do to my kids? I made them work in the snow!

    Our driveway and back deck needed shoveling. A couple of times. I also had the kids gather up firewood in order to keep the house warm. Understandably there was a fair bit of grumbling to be had. But I made them some pizza bites and hot chocolate for lunch.

    By the afternoon it had cleared up somewhat. It was now just very windy and much colder than before. Our little cul-de-sac and nearby side streets were still being ignored by the plows and salt truck. The kids don’t have a sled or any nearby hills to enjoy but they wanted to go outside.

    So they pulled out our old inflatable boat and bombed up and down our empty street in it. They got the idea from me when I was talking about a bad snow storm from back when I was about 19-20 years old. I talked about my sister’s boyfriend at the time who had a 4×4 truck and he dragged me in a sled up the street doing about 60km/h.

    Our kids did something similar, but not at the same speed. Much, much slower. Their fun only last about 30 minutes because of how cold it was. But their ingenuity and joy made me happy for them. I opted to remain warm.

    How do you spend your snow days? Do you stay warm inside or get out and have fun?

    N’Ice

    Oh man. It’s been cold in the Vancouver area lately. An unpleasant type of cold. The kind of cold that only the rest of Canada experiences. Hey Winnipeg-come get your weather, it appears to be lost.

    For the first time ever, the water on our downspout chain froze. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen ice formed from our roof or eaves ever. It’s not right!

    Someone can come and take this snow and ice away any time now. Our two days of winter are over. I really hope it doesn’t last much longer. Not experiencing snow and ice is the main reason we stay living in the Lower Mainland.

    Property Value

    Here in British Columbia, homeowners have been receiving their 2019 property assessments. According to news reports, it sounds like values have decreased slightly across the Lower Mainland.

    In my opinion, I’m hoping the trend plateaus now. The decrease doesn’t bother me since we bought our home almost 13 years ago. Sure, I want to see the value increase- that just makes me “house rich and cash poor.” Every so often, I search for other listings in the Lower Mainland- future prospects for houses or neighborhoods. The “ideal” home for us once our children become adults.

    Only, I don’t know what our kids will do in the future.

    Will they move out or will they need their own suite to live in? Or should we look at a home that eventually our kids can take ownership of? Or do my wife and I just look out for ourselves and downsize?

    I don’t know at this time. So that means- we will stay put for a few more years. And it doesn’t matter whether the assessment of our property increases or decreases. What matters now is- what will our property taxes be?

    Brain Power

    Yesterday was rather windy. Living in a neighborhood filled with trees and power lines- it was only a matter of time until our power went out. I’m glad it happened after dinner at least.

    Our fireplace kept us warm during the outage.

    I had started a fire shortly before dinner to begin warming the house. As soon as the power went out, the kids sprang into action and gathered up candles and flashlights. I headed outside and turned on our portable generator. We connected a small space heater and a couple of table lamps.

    The kids have decided that during power outages we need to play a board game to pass the time. Last night’s game was Trivial Pursuit: Family Edition. To my surprise our oldest daughter ended up winning the game and my wife came in last. Going through the questions I realized that I don’t know much about sports or recent historical events.

    It was a fairly good evening as we hung out as a family without a screen being on. But almost immediately after our game ended- the power returned. Then we went to the living room and streamed some Disney+ before retreating off to bed.

    How do you handle power failures? When was the last time you played Trivial Pursuit? Let me know in the comments.

    Empty Spaces

    Yesterday afternoon we removed Christmas from our house. The walls, shelves and floor space are abundantly empty. It feels barren and spacious. It’s all sorts of creepy.

    Our home looked so festive throughout December. It felt warm and inviting. Not to mention joyous as well.

    Now it’s stark and devoid of life. But as we do quite often- it’s time to rearrange our furniture and knickknacks. During this time we will purge some stuff that we don’t want or need anymore. It always feels good to do that.

    Have you De-Christmased your home yet? How does it make you feel?

    Rich and Egg-citing Foods

    The winter season is all about food. Yesterday I mentioned Leftovers and previously I wrote about Christmas Baking. But there are other rich foods that I love and only enjoy this time of year.

    Egg Nog.

    The thick, sweet, dairy product that makes me feel bloated with joy. As an adult I have moved on from adding dark rum to this beverage. Now I mix it with Fireball or Gingerbread Rum. It makes my insides feel like I’m getting tipsy on what Christmas should taste like.

    Deviled Eggs

    Oh my. I could eat a plate of these little creamed yoke treats. But my brain knows that my body would be unhappy afterwards. So one, maybe two, are enjoyed. A simple delicacy that was often found at picnics or potlucks of the 70’s and 80’s. Now they dawn our table at Christmas. Our son made these ones and they turned out delicious- as always.

    What rich foods to you over indulge with over Christmas?

    Holiday Leftovers

    We enjoyed a variety of food over the Winter Solstice, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day that we do not need to prepare meals for the next few days.

    Half of our fridge is filled with storage containers of a variety of foods. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cheeses, meats, desserts and all of the other sides that went with the meals. If the kids get hungry- they can mix and match the leftovers.

    Yesterday and today I’ve been working on a turkey soup as well. Boiling the remainder of meat off the bones. It has created an excellent aroma in our home that adds a coziness to our castle. That’s tomorrow night’s lunch/dinner. Later today we will make what we call “Turkey Slop”. Mashed potatoes, gravy and turkey meat all mixed together in a pot. I cannot wait to enjoy it this evening.

    Did you make an abundance of food over the holidays? Do you enjoy leftovers as well? Let me know in the comments what you do with your turkey leftovers.

    One Week Remains

    It’s getting down to crunch time! Only one shopping week remains to get that special gift for your special someone. Unless you are in a perfect relationship like I am- where my wife said to me, “You don’t have to get me anything for Christmas.”

    That is not what I wanted to hear. I’m fairly certain that she’s lying. I’m no good at guessing games. So if she dropped hints all year long- its likely that I missed them.

    My wife did however buy herself a few items and give them to me to wrap. I guess not knowing which gift is inside which wrap is good enough? At this stage in life, one may as well buy what they want and gift it to themselves. That way you’re not disappointed and display “Present Face” for those not-so-amazing gifts.

    In the past I’ve bought her jewelry she doesn’t wear and craft supplies she doesn’t use. I’ve even picked up kitchen knives and dishes in the past. These are more for everyone, but I throw her name on them so she has something to unwrap.

    Yup, Christmas gift giving to my wife has me turning into a husband cliché. I’m not sure how to break the cycle. Maybe one Christmas I’ll nail it. Until then, I wonder how late Walmart is open?

    Natural Decorating

    I love decorating our home for Christmas. One of my favorite styles is keeping it “Country Living”. I utilize nature as much as possible.

    In the past I have used fallen branches as a part of our decor. Hanging them from under the skylight or adorning our main entryway. Using natural branches also means that every year the decorating changes.

    I have even made tealight holders from the thicker branches. I finished them off with some red burlap string and modpodge glue in order to keep their sheen.

    This year my wife suggested we use some holly branches. She loves the look of the red holly berries against the vibrant greenery. Holly, just like pine trees, keep their colours for quite some time. But once the season is over- they become brittle and dry.

    I’m loving that each year we modify our decorating just a little bit and that I use nature to do it.

    What do you make at Christmas?