Wednesday, August 31, 2022

What's Up Wednesday: August 2022

It's the last What's Up Wednesday post of our summer. While I've been back at work for a week and a half, the kids are enjoying their last few days of summer around here. Thank goodness for Dave's parents who have been providing the kids with some fun while Dave and I work.

As always with this post, I'm linking up with Shay at Mix and Match Mama and Sheaffer at Sheaffer Told Me To.

image from here

What we're eating this week... We're eating all the end of summer produce from our CSA and from the produce stand at the pool. Almost every meal I've made lately uses some sort of fresh veggies or fruit. Unless, it uses something out of our freezer because I'm trying to use up things in there too. Last night we had the super fun theme of "everything is old and freezer burnt and needs to be eaten" which we all loved. Hahaha!!!
In terms of fresh produce, we've had zucchini pizza (I was going to make regular pizza but the kids wanted this instead!), chickpea kale soup, peach muffins, and lots of fresh sliced cucumber. Also we've been eating a lot of quick and easy meals because work has been insane.

zucchini pizza and chickpea kale soup
peach muffins and tomato/cucumber/avocado/feta salad 

What I'm reminiscing about... Rachel starts Grade 6 on Tuesday (which is the last year before middle school for us) and Sam starts Grade 8 (which is the last year before high school) so I'm thinking about those kids I sent off to Junior Kindergarten and wondering what happened to them. How have the years gone so fast?!?!? Dave and I are especially sad about this being the last year at our amazing elementary school. We have had kids there for ten years. That's a long time.

Sam, September 2013 * Rachel, September 2015

What I'm loving... I'm so boring but I'm still loving my morning coffee outside with Dave. On the rare days it doesn't happen, I feel grumpy.

Morning coffee-hot chocolate outside, laundry hanging on the line, and Dave -- these are a few of my favourite things :) 

What we've been up to... The kids had two weeks of swimming and tennis and now they have a quieter week before school starts. They've had some appointments, today they're having a beach day, and tomorrow they're going to a movie. Dave and I have been working, running errands, organizing spaces in our house, and working on getting Rachel ready for dance. Fall activities and the Jewish High Holidays are about to hit big time over here and we're trying to be as prepared as possible.
What I'm dreading... Next week. I'm a school secretary and our board rolled out a new student information system last week. So I've been trying to do all the things that need to happen at the beginning of a new school year (registering students, putting them in classes, printing out class lists) and I'm struggling with all of it because of this new system. So next week when the students are actually back in classes (and my school's big construction project isn't yet completed) will be... interesting... to say the least.
What I'm working on... I'm trying to finish up the last three posts for our summer vacation. I was hoping to have them done yesterday, and when that didn't happen, by the end of this week, and I just haven't gotten them written. However, they are coming soon. (I hope!) You can read the first post here if you're interested in catching up on our three week trip to Europe, which included an 11 day cruise. It was an amazing trip!!!
In Paris at The Eiffel Tower * In Dover, England

Getting ready to board the Disney Magic

At the Baltic Sea in Germany and at the North Sea in Denmark
On Lysefjord in Norway
What I'm excited about... This is so boring but we've been working on some organization projects at home and I'm so excited that a couple of big ones are done!!! We cleaned out our garage this past Saturday and got rid of a lot of stuff. And then I went through all the boxes of hand-me-down clothes in the basement and organized them. After years of having boxes of hand-me-downs, we are now down to five boxes. I'm so thankful that friends have given us so many of their kids clothes but it's a huge task to keep it all organized.
What I'm watching/reading... I've been watching training videos on the new student system and reading all the emails coming out about the start of the school year. It's boring, but it's the truth :)

We watched pieces of a few Blue Jays' games this past weekend but they weren't very fun as the Jays were on a losing streak. Blah. I've also watched way too many America's Got Talent videos on YouTube this past week, and because of that, we attempted to watch The Greatest Showman over the weekend but we all lost interest about halfway through.

I'm sad that this summer never kicked my reading back into high gear. But I'm so thankful for my Blog Friends' Book Club which keeps me reading at least one interesting book a month. This past month we read The Body by Bill Bryson and it was fascinating. I highly recommend it if you're into trivia and super interesting information about our bodies.

What I'm listening to... All the construction noises at work. However, in between bouts of construction noise I'm appreciating the quiet because next week, when the students are back, will be anything but quiet! Hahaha!!!
What I'm wearing... Nothing exciting. It's the end of summer, it's still hot, and I'm wearing work clothes and shorts and t-shirts. While I'm not ready for summer to end, I am looking forward to pulling out jeans and sweaters, but that likely won't happen for another month or so.

What I'm doing this weekend... Getting the kids ready to go back to school. And probably baking muffins. And I'm fully embracing September by buying mums for our outdoor spaces! I've been holding off on that these past few weeks but now it's time :)

What I'm looking forward to next month... Cooler weather. The LUMEN festival -- a festival of technology and light in our uptown. Being back into a more regular routine.

Favourite Amazon product of the month... Well, as you know we rarely buy things on Amazon. Honestly, I'll only be able to answer this question about every three or four months! However, I caved and ordered this sweater. I got it in the "olive" colour and it's so cozy. I am really looking forward to wearing it at work on those cold winter days because it's so soft. Rachel even wants me to order one for her!

Please excuse this bad picture of me or, alternatively, really enjoy my "I'm exhausted and work is beyond stressful plus I'm wearing a warm sweater and it's super hot out" look. There's a lot going on in this one picture :)

I apologize that this isn't a very exciting post and is filled with lots of work stress. However, that is what this past week and a half has been about for me. The last weeks of summer are always hard and even Sam commented last night that he isn't liking this week because there's not a lot going on and it's just about waiting for school to start. Thankfully we have lots of great summer memories to look back on and we have a lot to look forward to this fall as well.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Northern Europe Disney Cruise 2022: Why We're Moving To Norway

While I can't decide between my second and third favourite days of the cruise, this day I'm about to write about was my absolute, hands down, favourite day. This was the day we docked in Stavanger, Norway, and we booked a port adventure to do a boat tour into Lysefjord. And it was incredible. Therefore I am about to overwhelm you with pictures and I'm not even sorry :) And hopefully you won't be sorry either, after you've seen them all.

This was on the boat headed into the fjord. Since it was raining and sort of cold (around 16C/62F) I was thankful that our boat had a very large, and warm, inside. However, I was also very excited when I discovered that we could go out on the upper deck of the boat for wetter, but clearer, views. So some of these pictures are taken from inside the boat and some are on the rainy outer deck.

It was while we were passing the group of houses in the upper left picture that Dave and I decided this would be a pretty great place to live. The views were incredible.

We were even able to stop and feed some goats, from the boat. Rachel loved that.

After about an hour of cruising into the fjord, we stopped for a break and got Norwegian waffles. They were served with a thick, sour cream like substance and jam and they were delicious!

This was a little further into the fjord and the towering rock walls were amazing.

I loved being able to get so close to the waterfall.

Do you see the green-ish mailbox in the middle of the picture? I was super excited to send a postcard from here until our boat captain told us the mail from this box only gets picked up about once every year or so.


All in all, we spent about two and a half to three hours cruising in this specific fjord. When we got back on the ship I started searching for cruises that only cruise in the Norwegian fjords and, after these pictures, I'm sure you can understand why! Wouldn't that be an incredible cruise?!?!?!

This phone booth/library was something we walked by as we left our fjord trip. I LOVED it and was so tempted to go in and browse. It looked so fun!!! 

As we were heading back to the ship, the kids saw something called Viking House. We went in and there was a virtual reality (VR) Viking experience which the kids talked us into trying. First though, Sam made a Viking coin. He really enjoyed doing that and the noise of him striking the coin was very loud.

For the VR portion, we were all seated in this Viking boat and had the goggles and headphones on. The VR experience was both hilarious and terrifying. I might have screamed out loud a few times :) We learned the story of Harald Fairhair, including riding with him into battle (I might have had to cover my mouth when the blood splattered). The kids loved the VR experience and I found it a little too realistic, what with the Vikings around me and the battle.

Except for the VR experience, this was absolutely my favourite day, and hopefully you've gotten a small taste of why. So if you want to come visit us in Norway, let us know :)

To read a little bit about Day 15 (an "at sea day") and a lot about Day 16, go here.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Monthly Musings: Fall Dinners

It's been awhile since I've linked up with Holly at Pink Lady (find her here) and Patty at Good, Better, Best (find her here) for their Monthly Musings but I need a good dose of fall right now. I've been back at work this week and it's been exhausting and frustrating as I deal with multiple challenges beyond my control. I cried three times before 10am yesterday morning so I'm more than ready for mid-September when the weather will be cooler, we'll all be back into our fall routines, and my work challenges will be... less, or at least different :) And I can indulge in some excellent fall comfort food!

1) Easiest dinner you make? Will you share the recipe?

Probably the easiest dinner I make in the fall is Tuna Noodle Casserole. I got this recipe years ago from my cousin and it's a great comfort food dinner. For years and years and years it was Sam's favourite meal ever but in the past year he hasn't enjoyed it as much. I still make it (or better yet, get the kids to make it because it's so easy) a few times a month though.

You can find the recipe (such as it is) here.

2) Crockpot? Instapot? Both?

I actually don't have either of these. And I'm not really interested in acquiring them. One of the main reasons I don't want a crock pot is because I'm vegetarian and most crock pot recipes I've seen require meat.

Fall veggies ready to be roasted in the oven

3) Are you a member of a wholesale club? Which one and favourite items there?

We are long-time Costco members. Our favourite items to buy from there are gas for our car, maple syrup, Kleenex, toilet paper, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. We're very exciting :) I should probably take time to actually walk around Costco and discover new and exciting items to buy but I usually try to get in and out as fast as I can.

4) Do you meal prep or menu plan? Do you follow any set themes?

I've meal planned a month at a time for about twelve years. Our meals get switched around as our moods change, but we do have a set plan to follow and shop according to that plan. I don't really follow a theme but I used to plan Mexican Monday, pasta one day, and soup one day. I would probably have an easier time meal planning if I went back to the theme nights.

Apple nachos are a really yummy fall snack!

You can find the "recipe" here. I like mine with caramel topping, chocolate chips, and cinnamon. Rachel highly recommends adding marshmallows to yours. 

5) Best dinner tips for busy nights?

Get Dave to cook! Hahaha!!! We either do a quick and easy meal (which tends to be the meals Dave cooks -- grilled cheese and tomato soup, eggs on toast, meatball subs, etc) or we plan to grab fast food. But really, if you've got a meal plan, it's easier to cook on those nights.

6) Do you use certain ingredients more in the fall?

Yes, we have a CSA (community shared agriculture) so we tend to get the root vegetables in the fall -- carrots, beets, squash, cabbage, etc. Therefore I cook meals which use those items. Also, I rarely cook soups or pasta (except for pasta salad) or casseroles in the summer, so we start adding those in more in the fall.

Fall CSA produce -- two kinds of squash, celeriac, and pumpkin

7) Any back to school dinner traditions?

Not really. We usually have tacos on the first day of school but that's because our first day is almost always a Tuesday so it's Taco Tuesday and a quick, fast meal everyone enjoys.

8) Do you own an air fryer?

Nope. I own no helpful cooking appliances :)

9) Favourite grab and go items? Homemade or store bought?

If you've read around here for any length of time you probably remember my obsession with back to school muffin baking. They are my favourite grab and go item and I have a whole Pinterest board of recipes dedicated to muffins! They are a great breakfast item, easy to pack for lunch, or easy to eat as an after school snack.

Pumpkin muffins (left), banana muffins (right)

10) How many nights a week do you cook?

Between Dave and I, we cook about 6-7 nights a week, most weeks. This week is my first week back at work (and it's been a doozy) and Rachel has a dance open house so we're grabbing fast food twice this week, but normally we cook almost every night. Dave BBQs and does the easier meals but I tend to do the majority of the cooking. It's not that Dave can't cook, I just get off work earlier and usually have more time.

I'm looking forward to reading your responses about cooking and hopefully getting inspired with some great back to school and fall meals! I didn't participate in July's Monthly Musings about back to school because we were on vacation, but I'm going to try and answer those questions next week as we start gearing up for back to school around here.

Happy (almost) fall everyone!!!