Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving in Bermuda, 2015

I haven't begun detoxing from Thanksgiving weekend yet, so it's still fair game to post celebratory pictures.
We hosted a Friends giving dinner this year, and it turned out great!  Several weeks were spent planning and shopping and madly pinteresting..
Not really.
 I did enjoy looking at Pinterest a lot for inspiration, but I did not want to make myself any crazier than I already am.  The one bit of advice I took to heart actually came off of a site called Houzz.  They have a great plan ahead list that I looked at a few times this month.  The tip I borrowed from them is to print out your recipes ahead of time and make a laminated binder.  I know it sounds nuts, but I did it, and I can't tell you the number of times I flipped thru it in the days leading up to T-day.  On the day of cooking itself, it was instrumental.  I've gone back and printed out some pictures and  laminated my shopping lists and prep times and added it to the binder, so I am ALL SET for next year. 
I told myself I was going to be super organized this year, and I was.  Apart from the day my landlord came in (Thanksgiving Eve) and installed a new washing machine and proceeded to break the water valve, and I had an inch of water all over my floor.  No planning for that, alas.  I also didn't plan to drop an empty wine bottle and chip out a piece of my kitchen tile. 
Ooops.  It's not a party till something gets broken, right?

Southern Comfort Apple pie, pre baking.  I love this recipe, but it gave me some trouble this year when it came to warming it up.  I don't know why, since I've made it at least a half dozen times.  Pies can get crazy on you sometimes.  As long as they taste good, though, who cares?

Some fall inspired decorating the week of.  I also set the table the night before and watched Theo like a hawk so he wouldn't pull the tablecloth down and destroy my wedding glassware.

Very simple tablescape.  I got lucky and scored some sunflowers the day of the party.  It's not always easy to find what you want the day you want it, here in BDA, so I was super happy.  The burlap was another score here on the island.  I love Urban Cottage

Crostini, with goat cheese, fig jam and toasted pepita - courtesy of the Food network magazine I picked up while we were vacationing last month in the US.  Delicious, but you really have to time the laying out.  I put it out a bit too soon, I think and the cheese got a little dry.

We had quite a few kids join us, and they had their own table, which I covered in a chalkboard tabletop runner (another Urban Cottage find.) I put out a bunch of puffy paint pens and chalkboard markers, and they went to town.  I know you can find this stuff really easy in the US, but it's more of a challenge here.  Kudos to DNA Creative Shoppe, here in Hamilton.  I walked in and swooned. I won't even tell you how much I spent on pens for myself.  I am a notorious pen junkie, and hide all the good ones so the kids don't take them.

Jeff opening the libations.  Prosecco topped with a splash of Aperol liqueor.  I may have enjoyed these a wee bit too much.

Yeah - exhibit A on that point.  Look at my wee beady eyes.  When will I ever learn?

I was happy to host this dinner for a number of reasons, among them - it gave me a chance to toast a goodbye to our dear friends, who will be leaving the island in December.  They welcomed us here five years ago, and have been like family to us.  They depart for the US, and I know, as sad as it is right now, we will see each other again soon.

Miss Mina, posing with the ever fabulous Nisha.  I have never seen a bad picture of this woman. 

And my favorite part - the leftovers the next day!  YES!  This turkey was so good. I used the recipe from Anne Burell, and brined it in my fridge.  No fancy heritage birds for me (since they don't exist here, and the fresh ones I've ordered in the past are too small to feed the crowd I had.)  I just used a boring old Butterball, but defrosted it properly, herbed and buttered it properly, let it do a dry out in the fridge the night before, and flipped it during cooking (with Jeff's help.)  I think that's key.  Her recipe doesn't say anything about that, but I know you have to do the flip. 
Flipping is your friend.
Also, make the gravy ahead of time.  Ain't no one got time to make gravy when there are twenty people waiting to be fed.  I used Chef John's recipe. He's never failed me.
Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Who's excited for Thanksgiving?

I know I am. 

Wait till I show you how organized  I am this year. 

Theo sampling butternut squash soup.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris thoughts.

Friday,  November 13, 2015.

"Pray for Paris" was all over my facebook newsfeed, which I checked late in the day.  You know that means something horrific has happened because that's the language of empathy people use in social media.  Sure enough, insanity was writ large across the tv, as I caught up with the day's events.

As I watched the 24 hour news cycle feeds, and scrolled through my twitter for updates, it occurred to  me that as all these events unfolded, I was just hanging out and relaxing over wine with a friend.  I fed Theo his dinner while we caught up on the past mid term break.  We talked about holidays, family, and upcoming plans.  The big kids kept themselves amused elsewhere.  I don't think either of us imagined what was happening elsewhere in the world.

I imagine everyone in Paris who headed out that evening had been of the same mindset - living their own lives quietly.

So, we begin a new cycle of zenophobia and Muslim bashing.  I'm so tired of it.  These radicalized cockroaches need to be annihilated.  The nihilistic ideology of politicized Islam has no place in the modern world and has to be wiped out with a better world view.  I feel distraught that refugees fleeing terrorized countries will now find the borders even more difficult to cross .. Perhaps rightfully so.  But it's a shame.  I can't think of a better message to send to the world than one of a free country embracing the desolate and weary, welcoming them to our shores and offering them hope.

It's a two way street though, and I say this as a first generation American, born to immigrant Muslim parents.

 If you come to the land of the free, you have a moral obligation to accept that our version of freedom means we all get to choose how we want to live.  There is no fundamental code, or Shariah or Biblical law that overides the rule of law as it exists in the sectarian world.  If you are accepted into the land of the free, you better do your part to become one of us.  If you don't like that people drink, dress scantily, marry only one person, or eat pork .. Get over it.  It has nothing to do with you.  Do what you want and let others do the same.

Live and let live, is a good start.  Stop judging.  Stop excluding. Work, vote, pay your taxes, send your kids to school, become part of your community in the larger sense, wave hi to your neigbor and invite them over for a 4th of July Barbecue or a fast breakimg dinner during Ramadan, wish everyone a Merry Christmas or Happy Hannukah or whatever you think might work on any given day, .. just recognize we are all humans, all of us, with our own spark of the divine.  Celebrate that light, in the land of the free .. and thank whatever God you want for the luck you had in getting here.  

Don't deprive others of the same right.  

If you honestly believes your religion justifies killing, start with yourself.  

Preferably in some excluded part of the woods or desert where your right to religious freedom doesn't intersect with my right to live.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Random Disney Moments, October 2015

Because I know how much I love looking back on great memories.


Jeff strolling down Main Street expressing faux Disney happiness and trying not to think about how much this is all costing.

As an aside, I absolutely loved fall Disney décor.  The orange and black and pumpkins and yellow mums everywhere - love!  Halloween is my favorite holiday, and spending it at Disney during a rare school week off that doesn't coincide with any of the American holidays was priceless.  Very unlikely to happen again, so I savored it all.

Disney during the Christmas season is pretty amazing too.  I still remember Main Street's Osbourne Festival of Lights and the snow falling.  I've read they are going to phase that out this year.  So sad.  But if I know Disney, they will find a way to make something else magical happen.


Theo is not a big tv watcher.  He just doesn't have the attention span.  But he loves Woody and Buzz, from A Toy Story.  Not that he can sit through a whole movie.  He loves them because his pediatrician's office has these larger than life murals of them on the wall.  When we walk in there for appointments, his face light up.

Getting to see the characters at Disney was such a kick.  He was at the perfect age for it too - I know at some point the little kids get scared of these enormous characters, right up there in your face.  Theo was spellbound.


The Barnstormer - Jordan's favorite ride.  He rode it over and over again.  At last count - 6 times in a row.  Thank goodness it was raining and the crowds had dispersed and there was no line.


Of course he dragged Grace, Jason and Mina along too.


Exiting triumphantly from the ride for the umpteenth time.  This was the first year we let Jordan and Mina have more independence as far as rides and splitting up and meeting us at designated locations.  It is a far cry from years past when I never let them out of my sight.


and then there's this guy - riding Dumbo for the first time.  Kristen took such a great shot of the three of us from the Dumbo in front.


Jordan's windswept look on Test Track.


Theo waking up to lunch at Rainforest Café.  I can't even imagine what was going on in his head when he awoke to the animatronic creatures and jungle rainstorms around him.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Theo takes a stroll.

At 14 months, Theo is finally walking from room to room.  This video captures him taking steps across the basement, stumbling, but correcting himself enough to land in heap next to me. 

The look on his face at the end just kills me.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Disney 2015 - Vacationing in the land of the Mouse (with three kids.)


We just returned from a Walt Disney vacation in Florida, and I already want to go back.  I have become such a Disney junkie over the years.  I think I may love it more than the kids.

We went during our "Mid-term break."  This is a distinctly UK tradition that is followed here in Bermuda, wherein the kids get a week off in October.  Since no school in the US has this holiday, it is wonderful time to go visit massive theme parks like Disney.  I personally lost track of how many Brit accents I heard whilst we were wandering the parks.  (Yes, whilst is a word.  See what I did there?)  Did I use it right?  Brit friends, help me out.

It is an especially fantastic time to go if you want to see Disney done up for the fall.


This is our dear friend K, who is the absolute best person in the world to travel with, bar none. Seriously. When the sh-t hits the fan in my own life, I ask myself .. how would K handle this? She is that good.

I'm not really sure why I love this place so.   Disney is over the top, expensive as heck, and absolutely mental in terms of planning, hyper stimulation and consumer spending ... but still...


We had the best time.


Does is make any sense to bring a one year old?  Heck yeah.



Did we have an awesome time with our fabulous friends?  Oh yeah.


Was trick or treating at Mickey's Not so Scary Halloween Party cool?  Yes!!!!  (even in the rain.)


Does Disney think of crafty ways to get you to buy their products. (I'm looking at you Memory Maker.)


Kidding aside, I do love Disney.  They know how go do it well.  All of it.  We have done it with the kids several times now, and each time, it seems to become more fluid.  Our first time was a complete disaster, of course... Jordan in the Disney hospital with a raging fever, flu across the board spread to friends with us, money wasted .. Etc.  

Since then, we've worked out some kinks...


I'm not going to pretend it was easy traveling with a 13/14 month old.  The airline flights alone (for us, it meant two plane rides both ways) were brutal enough to make the most seasoned parent nervous.  While it's nice that his entry into the parks is free, throwing him into this mix meant accepting some sleepness night, some overstimulation, and some fussiness from the extreme change in routine.

And he was constipated.  Enough said. 

But we kept our expectations low and were lucky to be with understanding friends who pinched in and helped make the experience memorable for all of us.  And on the plus side ... His screaming in the security lines at the airport became a fast pass of its own.  I am not joking.  They pulled us out and got us through longer lines than I have ever seen.  

And of course, at Disney, having an infant means you can legitimately use the rider switch program.  Combined with a fast pass, it is just about the quickest way for a group like ours to go.  Extra bonus points for the kids tall enough to go as solo riders.. (I am telling you, our friends have taught us the best Disney tips.)

Added discovery - the infant care centers located in each park.  I took advantage of one on our first day at Epcot, and brought Theo in there for a diaper change, a cuddle and some down time because he was over stimulated.  The place was amazing - quiet and serene in the midst of KA-POW happening outside.  Anything you need for a baby is there (diapers, formula, baby food, basic first aid care, changing tables, little bathrooms.)

Apart from private nursing rooms,  they also had a room set to the side with Disney movies playing on a low volume to keep the slightly older siblings occupied.  I had read about these in the Unofficial Walt Disney Guide, and was so glad I remembered.  After the big kids and adults had finished their ride, they met Theo and I and we regrouped.  Theo was calm again and we could venture forth.


We visited the parks we wanted to see, prioritized our rides and adventures, and made the most of what time we had.  The magic band system, particularly when used as a guest at an on site resort, is awesome.  Our super savvy Floridian friends booked us all at a great on site hotel (Tree house villas - the three bedroom option for those staying at the Saratoga Springs Disney resort).  With our own cars, traveling between the parks and the room was much simplified.
There's so much to say about each individual park, and the best way of navigating them.  Much of it depends on what your group consists of and what your priorities are.  Like I said, I really kept my expectations low.  Since we have done Disney before, done the character breakfasts and reservations at fancy restaurants .. for this trip, my only goal was getting Theo to see Buzz and Woody. 

Really.  That is it. 


Having accomplished that, I sat back and watched in awe as my big kids ran off and tackled the Tower of Terror, Test Track and Mount Everest expeditions. We let them run off and do their rides and meet us back at designated locations, so I could manage the baby.


 And just as I thought they had all and grown on me, I saw this happen:


 Disney brings out the kid in all of us.  Even the kids. 

Especially the kids.

Other highlights:

 - The Food and Wine day at Epcot.  Yes, I would like the three wine pairing and cheese tray, thank you.  Sushi and pineapple sake?  Go on then...

-  Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party fireworks and Boo to You Parade;

-  The Kilamanjaro safari ride at Animal Kingdom (done this three times and I still love it.);

-  Beating Jeff's score  on the Toy Story Mania Ride;

-  The creepy crawly effects on the "It's Tough to be a Bug" ride at Animal Kingdom. Very cool.


All I want for Christmas is a Disney Annual Pass.  I know, in fact, I am quite certain, I can make it economically feasible within  year. 

Friday, November 06, 2015

Theo at 12 months - Happy Birthday!

Twelve months passed by both quickly and slowly - if that makes any sense.  The early days (and months) of sleepness nights and zombie days felt like they would never end. 

The days rolled on though and gradually, it became possible to look up from the haze of newborn days and rejoin the world. Over time, that little bundle developed a personality of his own. 
My little guy at 12 months:

P6 (5th grade) P5 (4th grade) and Theo - 1 year old

Happy, easy- going, great disposition. He loves his big brother and sister, he eats just about everything. Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Elmo and Mickey Mouse are his current favorite cartoon characters. He mostly sleeps through the night, with an occasional wake up for a cuddle ( this habit needs to be nipped in the bud -  I'm looking at you, Jeff.)

Although he's not walking independently yet, he's taken his first steps and will walk holding hands with someone. 

I can't believe how many teeth he has!

 His favorite foods are peanut butter, Cheerios, French toast, pasta, and ice cream. He loves fruit like strawberries and raspberries; and he is the only kid of mine who devours asparagus.

My smiley guy. 

Meeting Elmo at his friend's birthday party. 
To celebrate Theo's first birthday, we had a small party at home with a handful of friends. Jeff barbecued some streaks and we had tons of appetizers, sides and desserts. Woody and Buzz made an appearance on the cake, and the little guy was as happy as you can imagine. 


Such a cliché, but this year flew by!