Wednesday, December 12, 2012

December Days

Not everyone understood my last rant post. My own mum gave me flack about it, "I thought Under the High Chair was a food blog" she said. It was, I defended, and gave the short version of how it has morphed into my personal blog. (Clearly Simple Bites is the 'all food, all the time' blog of the two.) "Well your aunt thinks you're pregnant," she sniffed.

However, unfounded baby rumors aside, a lot of people related to my sound off. A lot. Even one guy is sick and tired of being asked when he's going to start having kids. And he's a guy.

It's all very interesting. In a nutshell, we'd all wish people would stop asking us about how we are (or are not) building our families.

Now it isn't my intention for a second post to be about pregnancy, but I did want to mention that I received a lot of comments, emails and remarks in response to the post, before we move onto something a tad less serious.

Like cookies.

Here we are, two weeks away from Christmas, and this little family is deep into holiday prep. Before I sat down to write this post, I piled a plate high with cookies for Danny as a bribe to address our Christmas cards. It's a task I loathe; I hope my bribe works.

Stockings have been hung, a twig tree decorated, and the last few gifts stashed in the top of the closet. If only we had snow, I might really believe that the season of good tidings was upon us, but it is elusive this year save for a thin blanket of ice.

While we wait for the late-coming white drifts, the last days of the school year are getting crossed off the calendar, one-by-one, and we keep a growing list of activities we want to visit over the holidays.

My annual cookie swap has come and gone, and my freezer is lined with long plastic containers of fresh baked goodies. I organize them by similar flavors, so they maintain their cookie integrity. Everything chocolate in one flat, shortbread and vanilla cookies in another, and all gingerbread and spiced goodies are grouped together. It's a good system.

My girls baked some beautiful cookies, fudge and chocolate-dipped caramels.

We barely fit everything on the table - over 1000 cookies -and my simple, festive centerpiece of tea lights in jam jars bathed the heaping plates in a warm glow. It's a little bit like a beautiful dream, wouldn't you agree?

I captured a few moments via Instagram just to prove it wasn't all a dream.

This also could have been a scene from a reverie: a break from work and the kids to have an uninterrupted dinner with friends? Yes, please.

Let the holidays come. We're ready for them and we fully intend to take the hustle and bustle at our own pace. After all, it is the most wonderful time of the year.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays wherever you may find yourself this December.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Baby News (ask me about my kids)

 Psst! I’ve got pregnancy news. 
 You’re about to get the scoop, straight from the horse’s mouth. Ready?
Am I pregnant now? No. Could it happen, though, eventually? I suppose anything could happen. It has three times already.
Why am I sharing this? Oh, because you asked. Yes, you, and every one else, pretty much since the same day I birthed Clara, coincidentally. 
In fact, I am asked so often if I am having more kids that I am thinking of having a T-shirt made with the above all-caps quote blazed on it.
You asked.
You asked if we’re ‘done’.
You asked if we were going for an even-numbered four.
You asked if we’re planning for another girl.  For another boy. (As if we ‘plan’ those details.)
You asked if Danny wanted more kids....If I did......If I didn’t.
You asked if we wanted a big family.
You asked if I was ready to be finished with pregnancy and birthing.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is: Stop Asking. It’s personal. It’s not really any of your business. And it’s awkward.
I probably wouldn’t give you an honest answer anyway.
Instead, ask me about the three children that I DO have. That’s much more interesting. 

I’ll tell you how Noah reads and writes better French than I am capable of and can spell words like ‘heureuse’ and ‘baladeur’. You might smile to learn he crafted Justin Bieber out of play dough this afternoon. You’d certainly smile to see him sitting and reading to his baby sister.
Ask me about my kids.
I’ll tell you how Mateo talks my ear off and blows my mind daily with his astute observations, carefully sorted and ejected from his puzzle-loving beautiful mind. I'll tell you that his nickname "Snacks" is honestly earned.
Ask me if Clara melts my heart and I’ll tell you yes, twelve times a day. Ask me how I feel about her and I won’t be able to answer. Instead I’ll duck my head to kiss her soft hair to hide my emotions.
Ask me if she’s a good baby and I’ll tell you of her ever-present smile, her jolly good-natured personality, and her insatiable curiosity.    
Ask me about the family I do have, because it's kinda great.    

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Harvest Dinner

Posts aren't exactly tumbling out themselves from the cracks and crevices of my laptop and self-publishing, so until that happens (wait, that would be some strange content) we're just going to play catch up for a bit.

It’s no secret that I’ve been grasping at summer, not wanting to let it slip away, so last month we hauled our dining room table out onto the freshly mown grass, added the picnic table, plus a table I use for photography, and hosted a harvest dinner party under the trees.

I invited over 60 people (what was I thinking?), and in the end we were 44, kids and all.

Check out the full recap with pictures and tips over on Simple Bites, but for now here are a few Instagrams images I managed to snap.

These tomatoes were the inspiration for a simple tomato salad with buffalo mozzarella, fresh torn basil, and a sherry vinaigrette.

The gathering place of friends at it conception, with 23 indoor and outdoor chairs that we managed to round up.

There were simple place cards on apples for the guests, and jam jars for water glasses; wildflower bouquets and red wine for all.

 Kids corner: a self-serve snacking station complete with wraps, drinks, muffins, fruit & vegetables.

Dinner under the willow tree. There may have been a few babies present.

The only dish I managed to snap a photo of, and my favorite of the day: poached salmon, homemade tarragon aioli, dill, pickled ramps, and our own eggs.

In the middle of winter I'm going to gaze at this photo and remember the warm night air, the sweetness of the tomatoes, the rippling laughter...and then start planning the next event.

Friends brought desserts of all kinds - cherry clafouti, apple bundt cake, blueberry pie, peach crisp and much more. We ended the evening on a sweet note, to be sure.

Here is a one-minute recap of the event with Danny’s first attempt at timelapse photography. ..The end is a natural fade-to-black, as we lingered outside until it was nearly night...

Until next summer...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Grasping at summer

I've never been one to usher in the arrival of fall with whoops and cheers, eagerly abandoning the over-ripening tomatoes and mammoth zucchinis for early apples and taut leeks.

I know the fall produce season is a good long one, so these days I overlook the (howbeit, beautiful) bushels of oval Roma tomatoes at the market, and pass over the heaps of Spartan apples in favor of yet another basket of peaches, a flat of berries (perhaps the last for many months), a dozen ears of corn, and the largest bundle of basil to be found.

Back in the kitchen, I turn the basil into pesto and freeze it in muffin cups for use during the winter. The boys hunker down by the compost pile and shuck the corn for me, so I can cut it off the cob and add it to the freezer as well.

I serve up salad after salad for dinner, followed by generous slices of melon, which we all -even Clara- eat until the floor under the table is sticky and the rinds are heaped on our plates.

I understand that autumn's arrival is inevitable. I don't pretend to ignore the landscape of school supplies spreading across the buffet. I'm aware, painfully so, of the faint tint of gold on the leaves in the back forest.

Even today, as we picnicked with lemonade and cookies on the grass (an undeniable attempt to salvage summer), I felt a chill in the air. Clara's bare feet felt clammy. And I shivered even though the sun was shining.

Yes, August hangs by mere moments, but I'm choosing to live in them, deliberately.

On Sunday I cannon-balled off the diving board at my in-laws, amid shrieks from my boys. I let myself sink to the bottom of the pool, relished the cool quiet, then surfaced in the sun. Perhaps it would be the last swim of the season.

I stripped Clara naked and dunked her in the clear blue salt water as well. She's only going to have a soft teeny dimpled bottom to appreciate for so long. At five months she's sitting and nearly crawling. In as much as I'm aware of the season's turning, I'm as painfully aware of how quickly she is growing up, transforming from infant to little girl.

Christmas products are in stores and holiday baking is starting to plaster Pinterest, yet I'm firmly stuck on summer. I'm buying up stone fruit and baking desserts like Vanilla-Biscuit Peach & Plum Cobbler, which Danny and I consume together after the children are in bed, our spoons congenially scraping the bottoms of our bowls together.

The best way I can come to terms with the approaching autumn (and subsequent winter) is to preserve the summer season in jars. This week I roasted trays and trays of peaches slowly in the oven, and as they perfumed the house, they reduced into a thick, rich butter. I seasoned the butter with a dusting of fresh cinnamon, tipped it into hot jars, and gave them the hot water canner treatment for 15 minutes.

Once cooled, the pints of cinnamon-peach butter join the other jars in my pantry: sweet zucchini relish, pickles, cherry-plum jam, strawberry jam, blueberry butter, sliced peaches, cherries in vanilla syrup, and more.

Slowly, one jar at a time, I am conceding the end of summer.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Strawberry Season Recap

They came and went in a flash. Not gone entirely, I suppose, as late varieties still linger at the markets, however when I pulled up at my local U-Pick I was told the strawberries were finished. That was the beginning of my raspberry picking adventure, and another story altogether.

Before the season was over, I did manage to get a few berries tucked away for winter, with the help of Mateo, who washed and drained the lot. He is most enthusiastic about this summer berry, and couldn't care less about the rest.

Not all the berries went into the freezer; we made sure to feast on them along the way.

First up was a creamy, dreamy strawberry-buttermilk lassi: berries, ice, buttermilk, a sprinkling of sugar unless you like it tangy. Blend. Drink.

There must be roasted strawberries each season, jarred up in their own juices and frozen. For crepes. For cornmeal pancakes.

On they day the strawberries were roasted, I tucked several into a panini along with fresh basil and a few squares of chocolate. Summer lunch at its best.

Ice cream was made, strawberry-sour cream ice cream, at that. Two little boys pulled up stools and watched the pink cream freeze and take on shapes.

It was so good, I made two more batches that week.

And of course, jam. First a Honey-Strawberry Jam, then a Strawberry-Rhubarb Orange Jam from the new Food in Jars cookbook from Marisa. It will go down in history as the very best straw-rhub jam I've ever made, with its perfect consistency and balance of sweet and tart.

Strawberry season may be over, but I'm still canning. It's Canning Week over on Simple Bites, kicking off with Sweet-Cherry Plum Jam, and continuing with Marisa's sultry Peach Barbecue Sauce. Come join the party.

What are you doing with summer berries?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ten Years Married

Ten years ago Danny and I tied the knot in an apple orchard with about 120 friends and family looking on. We were young, just 23, full of hopes and plans for the future.

The years since have blessed us with far more that we could have ever dreamed -three healthy children, a little urban farm, careers that we enjoy, and most of all, a love for each other that grows stronger by the day.

On Saturday (our actual anniversary) we returned to the very same orchard with our three little ones in tow. We picnicked on the grass, played tag among the trees, and reminisced over our wedding day.

Later that evening, Danny and I slipped away without the kids for a dinner on the town where we sipped champagne, slurped a dozen oysters, and speculated on what the next ten years might possibly hold. Good things, we are sure of that.

Here are a few iPhone photos from the day.

Clara gave us the very best anniversary present ever - she slept through the whole night in her own bed. This was the morning after, when she was all smiles.
We all were.

PSST! In honour of my 10th wedding anniversary, I'm giving away a KitchenAid 7 Qt Bowl Lift Commercial Stand Mixer valued at $900. Head on over to Simple Bites to enter and good luck!

(Giveaway is sponsored by KitchenAid USA and only open to US residents.)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day (and BellaBlu giveaway winner)

Happy Mother's Day to my readers who are mamas (and I suspect quite a few of you are, considering the subject matter of this space!)

Here's hoping today is special for you all, filled with love, peace, and sunshine. I was blessed with strawberry shortcake, bacon & eggs, and coffee in bed this morning. Apparently, Noah whipped the cream by hand, which I thought was cute - and valiant.

I'm sharing my thoughts on this particularly poignant Mother's Day over at Simple Bites, plus a bunch more cute photos of Baby Clara. I'll see you over there!

Psst! We have a winner for our BellaBlu Birthing & Nursing Gown giveaway...

Congratulations to Staci A. who said:

"I would love this for our next little one. I hated everyone seeing me in the ugly hospital gown, and it seemed like people were constantly coming in my room!"
Happy Mother's Day, Staci! Enjoy the gown and best wishes for the duration of your pregnancy and the birth.

Also, a big congratulations to all the pregnant mothers who entered the giveaway. Is it just me, or is this a record spring for babies?! Here's wishing you all a beautiful birth.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Early Days

Adoration. Elation. Admiration.

Each time Motherhood encircles me and I find myself once again caring for a precious newborn, I am tenderly reminded at how deep my love of babies runs and how much I adore this stage.

It is everything about them. The folds of their soft neck, the downy tufts of hair, every little sigh and squeak they emit while asleep.

It is being surrounded by handmade blankets and tiny knit sweaters as soft as a bunny's belly.

As much as the laundry piles up, there's a thrill in folding perfectly white onsies, matching darling little socks, and hanging a row of frilly dresses in the closet.

It's knowing that nothing else matters outside of the family cocoon, and nothing is worth more than falling asleep with your baby asleep on your chest.

The nourishing and bonding that happens now is far more important that anything that could possibly be going on outside the home - or in the virtual world.

I love every stage of childhood, but I think the most beautiful, most cherished, are the fleeting days and weeks of a newborn. Clara is one month old today, and I fully intend to enjoy every moment I can with her.

You won't find me posting much in this space (I'm even taking a blogging break from Simple Bites) because, as I'm sure you'll understand, I'm making the most of the early days...

** All images courtesy of Angela Chin of Tim Chin Photography**

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Blog Lovin', Press Mentions, and a TV Appearance

This post has been in the wings for nearly a month now, but a certain
cute little distraction has kept me from wrapping it up and hitting publish. Finally, here's the recap.

This year is just three months old, yet it's already been an exciting one! I'll try to keep this really short, but I wanted to throw out a few links to the kind folks who have noticed my blogs and given me a little exposure in 2012.

Here they are!

UtHC a Canadian Weblog Awards Winner.

Huge thanks to the good folks behind the 2011 Canadian Weblog Awards. Somehow the jurors saw it fit to award this space with third prize in Best Weblog About Family & Parenting.

I'm so appreciative of the nod and honored to have Under the High Chair in the company of the 1st and 2nd place winners, Home to Heather and Coffee With Julie.

Congratulations to all the CWA winners!

FBC Featured Member

The awesome people over at Food Bloggers of Canada made me their Featured Blogger not long ago, causing me much embarrassment over their glowing recap of my place in the Canadian food bloggers scene.

Thanks, Mardi, Ethan and Melissa!

Best Health Magazine

An interview I had late last fall with Best Health Magazine appeared in their March 2012 print issue on newsstands now. Titled 'How four female bloggers turned their passion into cash', it features Canadian bloggers Schmutzie, Andrea, Heather and myself.

I really appreciated how the article's writer, Camilla Cornell, closely listened to my story and wrote a very accurate recap of my blogging history. If you're curious at all as to how I got started, definitely grab the magazine or read the article online.

Family Cook Off on Food Network Canada

The much anticipated Family Cook Off series finally premiered in early March and we threw a little viewing party, despite the fact that I was hugely pregnant. Friends and family converged on my sofas to watch my mother, sisters and I battle it out in a friendly cooking competition.

Labeled as "wild women who can get a little saucy..." the show definitely played up our rural upbringing and had fun framing me as the Kitchen Nazi. Okay, I admit it, I'm the boss in the kitchen, there's just no way around that once one has had years of experience in a fine-dining kitchen.

So IF you are in Canada, you can watch our episode online right HERE! It's only 22 minutes, so not much of a time suck.

The editing left out a few interesting parts; for example, at 15:29 minutes in, Haidi cut herself badly while trying to peel the (horrifically rock hard, unripe) peaches provided. She essentially signaled to Miranda to take over, and was out of commission for the rest of the countdown.

Alas, such excitement was not included.

We were super proud of our dishes and had a blast filming! My dad and brother were in the audience (front row) and it was just an unforgettable experience to have together.

Wimbush clan L-R: Haidi, Zoe, John, Josh, Miranda, Aimee

I can't wait to see what the rest of the year holds!


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