Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Perfect Christmas Imperfection

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Sometimes when it comes to the holidays I have these visions and expectations of how I think (and want) things to happen. These visions of the perfect Christmas, where turkey is cooking in the oven as lovely conversations are happening, drinks in hand, with soft Christmas music playing in the background. Where children are playing quietly for long periods of time in front of the glow of the Christmas tree. Where we all nestle into bed at night and sleep straight through the night. And where Christmas eve and Christmas morning are both filled with nothing but laughter, joy and merriment.


sometimes plans don't always go exactly as you had visioned.

With a newborn, 1yr old, 2yr old and 3yr old all in our family, it's pretty much necessary to throw out all of your standard expectations of the holidays and instead fully expect the unexpected.

Because when you cram all 10 of us into mom and dad's house for a week over the holidays, you get a little of everything.

You get giggling kids who sit in front of the glow of the Christmas tree and play to their hearts content. And the next moment you get kids who are fighting over toys, crying and melting down over the simplest of things.

You get nights where you wake up in the morning and realize that you actually slept through the night without any babies waking up needing extra snuggles at 3am. Then you also get nights where it feels like a circus of never-ending bedroom doors being opened and crying kids needing back rubs to help them settle again.

You get incredible meal times where everyone actually sits down together to eat at the dining room table--laughing, drinking and enjoying each others company. Then you get other meal times where kids refuse to eat, babies throw food on the floor and newborns need to be nursed.

You get warm fuzzy feelings as you carry on new or old Christmas traditions, and as you see your kids faces light up you realize that this is why you work so hard to make the holidays magical. Then you get other moments of misunderstandings and frustrations.

*Every Christmas eve the kids go check the mailbox for a wrapped package from Santa--a new book to read before bed.  
*Sprinkling reindeer food on the snow for Santa's reindeer
So what we had this year was a real Christmas. A wonderful Christmas. A perfectly real Christmas. But not perfect.

Sometimes I think we put so much pressure on ourselves to make the holidays into the perfect Hollywood screenplay that our reality just can't keep up. And everyone's realities are different.

For some people the holidays are a terribly lonely time, a sad time, a stressful time--a time that some people dread.

For our family, it's a time where magical moments sneak into the many moments of both laughter and joy and toddler tears and exhaustion. It's a time where little ones love baking cookies with their adorable Christmas aprons on...

and where we sing Christmas carols around the piano at night.

It's a time when we travel to celebrate Christmas again with our favourite silly cousins...

But also where the excitement of Christmas was sometimes all but too much for their little selves to take.

But when we throw out the idea of holiday perfection, we all of a sudden realize that our Christmas was everything that it should have been with the reality of all of the babies and toddlers in our family. It was magical and wonderful. It was crazy and chaotic. It was lovely and exciting. It was tear-filled and exhausting.

Perfect is a word that I'll save for the movies.

Our Christmas was real. Wonderful. Just as it should have been.

Happy New Year everyone!

Erica xo      


Saturday, 21 December 2013

Some Christmas Happies

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It's a few days before Christmas. Life is busy. Life is crazy. Life has been throwing me some moments of stress today. But it's quiet now. Two kids are fast asleep, Christmas wrapping is put away, baking is finished and our bags are packed for when Jen, Jeff, Oliver, Scarlett, Terry, Mya, Carter and I move into my parents house for the week.

Christmas isn't just a one day event in this family. We move into mom and dad's house (even though they live less than 15mins away) and we bring over the chaos of four children and celebrate Christmas all week long.

But today? Well as I sat down to my computer tonight Terry said to me "Whatcha doing over there?".

"I'm going to write a blog post, with lots of pics in it that I've taken recently" I said. "Just for me. Cause I need it today to remind me of why I'm doing all of this Christmas stuff, this life relieve my stress and get my mind refocused".

Sometimes when I step back and take a moment to really focus on the good stuff, the happy stuff, the real stuff, it makes everything else fall into place.

So this is for me.

Some happies. Some perspective. It works every time for me.

1) Mya's first ballet recital.

 I don't think it could have been any cuter. I die just looking at these pics. I was so proud of her.

2)  Cousins in tutus in my basement. Performing their own ballet recital after watching Mya's...

...fancy shoes and all.

3) Real babies being pushed in doll strollers...

...and big babies being pushed too. 

4) Looking after Scarlett. There's nothing better. When I forget about the sleep deprivation, she gives me baby fever. Big time. 

5) This little man has learned how to climb up onto the piano bench all on his own-which gives me a bit of a heart attack...but I love how he climbs up there multiple times a day to test out the keys and make some music.  

6) A brother and a sister getting ready for a Christmas party with their friends.

7) Christmas party fun.

Merry Christmas everyone! Nothing like a little perspective to put things all back together again. I feel better already.

Now let Christmas begin!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend,

Erica xo

Friday, 13 December 2013

BBQ Chicken Grilled Cheese

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I was watching one of those food shows the other week and they were doing a series on all of the food trucks popping up all throughout the US. You know those trucks that pull up to the side of the road at lunch time and all of a sudden a huge line of hungry people begin to eagerly pull out their money and pay for fresh food, straight from the truck?  

Well food trucks aren't something that we see much around our neck of the woods--so I was feeling a little US food envy.

Especially when it came to the grilled cheese truck.

Who knew that you could actually make a business out of selling one of my favourite sandwiches??

So as I sat there on my couch, mouth watering, as they whipped up one gourmet grilled cheese after another, I decided that I'd try to make one of my own.

So, voila:

BBQ Chicken Grilled Cheese.

It was pretty much to die for.

And I didn't even need to make a trip to the US to get me one of these suckers.

It's ooey gooey cheesy goodness. And it was super easy to make too.

All you need is some bread and butter, two different kinds of cheese sliced up, shredded chicken smothered in bbq sauce and red onions fried up to perfection on the stove.

PLEASE try this. You won't regret it. And if you have a hubby like mine (or anyone else in your family) who loves anything bbq sauce related, they'll go nuts for these.

Here is how I made them:

1) Cut up any two kinds of your favourite cheese. *I already had cheddar and mozzarella in my fridge, so I used them.

2) Slice up some red onions, add a splash of oil to your pan and fry up your onions until they are soft and golden brown. *This pic was taken at the mid-way point, so make sure they're even more golden brown than this!

3) Butter up both sides of your bread. The thicker the bread the better--texas toast works great!

4) Cook up your chicken on the stove or in the oven (I used about 2 large chicken breasts) for about 4-5 sandwiches. Then shred them (either in your kitchen aid mixer, pictured below, or pull them apart using two forks).

5) Smother the chicken with bbq sauce, as much or as little as you'd like. I used a lot!

6) Start stacking!
I put a layer of cheese on the bottom, then chicken, then onions, then another layer of cheese on top.

7) Top it off with another piece of buttered bread (I even added more bbq sauce too at the end before topping it off with bread), then start frying on low in your frying pan.

THIS IS THE CRITICAL PART!! it like a hawk. There are a lot of layers in that little sandwich keep the heat low so that it has time to heat up the insides without burning the bread. You don't want all of your work to go to waste by burning it at this stage in the game.

8) When you can see that the cheese is starting to melt and your bread is turning golden brown, flip it over and keep watching it closely until all of the cheese has melted and you have golden brown bread on both sides.

And voila!!
The most delicious, homemade food-truck sandwich that you'll ever taste.

Enjoy!! And have a wonderful weekend.

Erica xo

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Christmas Grinch almost got me

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These two little ones...

have put the love back in Christmas for me this year.

*These pics are for you Debby! :)

I absolutely love holidays--any holiday really...but Christmas for me is just absolutely JOYOUS. I love it. Love everything about it. I love the chaos. I love the excitement. I love the family time. I love the decorations. I love the giving. I love the magic of it all.

But this year I was starting to feel like I had lost some of my Christmas love.

I've been so distracted by other things that I was starting to feel like some aspects of Christmas prep were more time consuming {gasp!} than joyous. Life just seems extra busy these days and with the countdown to going back to work, it just means that my brain is on overdrive right now. So yes, Christmas just wasn't feeling the same to me as it always had.

Last week as I was talking to Jen and Jeff, I mentioned that we hadn't even put our tree up yet and Jeff's response pretty much summed up Terry's feelings about me and Christmas this year...he looked at me with a shocked "WHAT?! Erica Dawson doesn't have her tree up yet??!".

But honestly, I finally understood this year how some people would respond to my adoration of Christmas with a bit of a huff. It can feel like there's all of a sudden so many more things to get done, when your list of everyday to-do life stuff is already a mile long.

You know it's bad when Terry comes over to me, smiles and then wraps his arms around me and says

"We're going to decorate the tree today--and we're going to be HAPPY about it..okay?"

It made me laugh...because it's usually him wrestling the Christmas decorations out of my hands on Oct 31st, claiming it's just too ridiculously early to start putting up all of my Christmas joy.

BUT, the good news? I learned this year how to snap myself out of this little Christmas funk, quickly.

I figured that since I wasn't feeling the Christmas thrill yet, and certainly didn't want my kids to pick up on this, I prepared for the most wonderful tree decorating morning that we could have ever imagined. I convinced myself that if we had this task of putting up the tree, I better make it the most magical and joyous event of the day.

So since it was already chocolate chip pancake Saturday in our house, we finished our breakfast and I pretended that I was really looking forward to setting up the tree and decorating it...even though it really was feeling like just one more thing to check off the list.

But you know what?...As I started boiling water for our hot chocolate and pulled out the mini marshmallows to place on top, I started feeling a bit better about it all. It felt like the magic was starting to settle in. Then I cranked up the Christmas music really loudly and started telling the kids how wonderful it was going to be to decorate our tree together--and I really started feeling it. Then I started running around the house turning on every set of twinkle lights that we have up, and all of a sudden our house started to feel magical. Whatever you say or think will become your reality, so my reality was quickly changing and I started to just let go and enjoy it...because it really did become wonderful.

So we sipped on hot chocolate...

played in the tree box...

pulled out all of the ornaments...

and let the magic unfold.

Which consequently led to beautiful snowflakes falling from the sky right in the midst of us putting the final touches on the tree.

Which I don't think was a coincidence.

And even though our tree is now a little top-heavy, from tiny fingers pulling at ornaments all day long---it's still the most perfectly magical place to snuggle up with a baby doll and have an unexpected afternoon nap.

Which I just love.

So sorry for my rotten attitude, Christmas. I'm over it. I still love you.

Erica xo

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