I celebrate secular Christmas - and in our family the reason for the season is food.  And more food.  And maybe a little more after that.  And don't forget snacking!

Whatever and however you are celebrating this time of year, I hope this season is full of love, family, friends, and happiness!  And food.  Lots and lots of food.

Gary getting into the Christmas spirit.

Posted by Jen B On Friday, December 24, 2010 1 comment
My Aunt and Uncle raise cattle.  Earlier this year they sent one of their cows to slaughter and filled their freezer with it.  Cows are giant and they produce hundreds of pounds of food, so she gave some to my Grandma, who in turn gave some to my Mom.  This past weekend, Mom shared some with me.  It started with "do you want a pound of hamburger?" and ended with a giant bag of glorious meat!  My Mom is beyond generous and spoils me to pieces whenever I go over there.  This time of year her house is especially full of food, treats, cookies, and candy and I reluctantly (ahem) help her through it so it is all gone by New Years.  The gift of meat is above and beyond what I expected though.  It was given to me with love, is farmer fresh, and knowing that the cow was raised locally (and by family) adds something to the quality of the meat for me.  Thanks, Mom.

Awesomely the gift of meat included some T-Bone steaks.  John fought the cold and BBQ'd them up for an amazing meal the other night.
Mmmm.... Winter BBQ

These steaks were thick and giant.  I couldn't believe how much of my plate they covered.  We served them with a side of perogies (go big or go home!) and steamed carrots.  My cup runneth over.
Now that is a lot of meat!

I couldn't eat all of mine so I saved half for lunch the next day.  Steak and eggs baby!  If I don't weigh an extra 15 pounds by the end of the holidays, it won't be from lack of trying!
Protein power lunch

Posted by Jen B On Thursday, December 23, 2010 No comments
I awoke drunk with sleep last night at 2:00am or so to step outside and check out the total lunar eclipse.  Half asleep, I struggled into my boots and coat, but I was still able to enjoy the majesty of the event.  The eclispe happens over a few hours, so I only glimpsed a portion of it, but it was cool none-the-less.  I fell instantly back to sleep and awoke again at 3:30am.  At that point it was in total eclipse mode with a reddish/orange hue.  Beautiful.

Here is the one (half asleep) photo I took with my point and shoot.  There are much better photos all over the internet today.
Lunar eclipse at 2:06am Dec 21, 2010 - view from the front yard

Posted by Jen B On Tuesday, December 21, 2010 No comments
I'm at my Mom's this weekend and she has been doing lots of holiday baking.  Yesterday she made her world famous Nuts and Bolts and today she is whipping up her equally delicious caramel corn.  Here is a shot of what goes into the "caramel".  Mmmmmmmm....
Mmmmmm... Sugar and fat... A winning combination!!

Posted by Jen B On Sunday, December 19, 2010 2 comments
I'm in Barrie today, but just barely.  It was snowing heavily the whole drive down and it has only gotten worse since I've been here.

I know I live in Canada.  I know it is winter time.  I know that piles and piles of endless snow should not be a surprise.  But it has been snowing for DAYS now (DAYS!!!) and it is starting to make me a little bonkers.  In the country, everything is contingent on the weather.  If it is a snow storm you can't go out, even if you need groceries.  Or you can go out, but plan to take twice as long and pee before you go, because you might not make it back.  It is weather like this that makes me miss the city.  No matter what the weather, you can just walk to the bus/subway and you can get where you're going.  It still might take a while, but at least you're not risking your own vehicle, and it is probably a lot safer being in a giant bus versus my little Mazda.

One of these days I am going to pick up a pair of snow pants and try to enjoy all this stupid snow.  Until then, I am taking to my little blog and complaining about it!

Posted by Jen B On Wednesday, December 15, 2010 No comments
You know all those people who go to the mall and curse the Christmas music blaring from every store sound system? I am not one of those people.  I love Christmas music.  I hate being at the mall in December, but it is not because of the music.  The music I like.

This year I am filling the house with Christmas cheer via internet radio.  John let me know about something called SHOUTcast, and it has an entire page of Christmas radio stations.  The one that I keep returning to is called Christmas Melody.  It is a crazy mix of songs that will transition from Elvis to NSync to The Andrews Sisters to Pavarotti to John Denver. It also includes comedy songs and original classics - it is fabulous and I have been playing it non-stop.

Listening to Christmas songs all day makes me think about favourites.  Jingle Bells is pretty classic - it is catchy, fun to sing, and is full of memories of elementary school sing-a-longs.  What's not to like?  There are so many fun songs - Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Frosty the Snowman, Holly Jolly Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Jingle Bell Rock - it is hard to choose the best, as there are so many that I like.  The following is a list of a few tracks I absolutely must hear over Christmas and some that I try to avoid altogether.

My Christmas Favourites:
Rocking Around the Christmas Tree - Brenda Lee
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - The Pretenders
Baby it's Cold Outside - I like the Tom Jones + Cerys Matthews version, but any will do.
Wonderful Christmastime - Paul McCartney
Christmas Time is Here Again - The Beatles

My Least Favourite Christmas Songs:
12 Days of Christmas - Bob and Doug McKenzie -- The beer in a tree thing drives me nuts!
The Christmas Shoes - NewSong -- The worst of the worst.  Completely gag-worthy.
River - Joni Mitchell -- I actually love this song but I find it way too depressing for Christmas.

What are your favourite Christmas songs?  Which ones drive you crazy?

Posted by Jen B On Saturday, December 11, 2010 6 comments
Gary loves boxes.  She also loves to dominate anything new.  Putting up the tree around here involves the extra step of cat-removal.  Good thing she is cute.

A new box, eh?  I better check this thing out...

Now where is the comfy spot?

I could hang out here all day...

Posted by Jen B On Saturday, December 11, 2010 2 comments
Because sometimes you get more.  Or you save more over time.  Or both.

I'm really frugal so I'm always looking around for the best deal, and sometimes the best deal is more expensive on the front end.

Being the proud owner of a new used car, I want to do everything I can to take care of it and extend its life.  Now that it is winter time, that means rust proofing it from salt.  Rust proofing is new to me, so I called around to a few places to see who could do it and how much it cost.  Walmart and Canadian Tire were two places I knew of that did it, and I found out they both offer a treatment for $89.99 that covers the entire car, not just the undercarriage.  I made an appointment at Walmart (they had the earliest time available), but they told me the appointment could be conditional on the weather.  The technician let me know that if it was too snowy/slushy, they weren't able to remove the snow/slush from the car before they did the oil application.  It was a snow storm the day of my appointment, and they said I was welcome to still get it done, but they would have to spray the oil OVER the snow/mud/salt that was on the car, so they recommended I reschedule for a less snowy day.  I don't think there is going to be a less snowy day until March.  I called Canadian Tire and asked if they remove the snow from the car before application.  They told me that the heat of the garage melts the snow off and then they apply the oil.  The snow melts off on its own?  How long does that take?  Doesn't anyone have a hose and some warm water to rinse the car off?

Krown does.  I was complaining to my brother about getting rust proofing done in the snow, and he told me to "just go to Krown".  I'd never heard of them, but Bro said they are the best.  I called the Barrie location and they are indeed the best!  When I asked if they clean the snow from your car first, they said they spray it off with hot water.  No letting it melt away on its own?  No just putting the oil on over top of it?  Nope.  They clean the snow from your car before they apply the oil treatment.  That is all I wanted.  The price was higher - $119.95 - but that also included drilling into the car so they could put the oil deep into the vehicle.  They give your car a rinse after the application, and they guarantee the price you paid for the life of your car.  So even if their rate goes up, I'll always pay $119.95 on the Mazda.  The best part was the staff were super friendly and helpful and it only took 25 minutes.  I mentioned that my brother went there too and they gave me $10 off for a family rate.  Seriously?  It was a bonus that has me singing their praises and now my Dad is going to go there next year too.  I was really impressed with the whole Krown experience and it was only twenty dollars more than the other places.  For the professional service I received, I think it was well worth it in the long run.

Also this week I paid more up front for new Christmas lights.  My previous lights were regular bulbs and half the strand was dead when I plugged them in.  I only used them twice and I already had to replace them.  I went in to get a new strand last night, and I had to decide between the $5 regular strand and the $15 LED strand.  The LEDs use less power and are said to last ten times longer than the regular strands.  I gave them a try and I frickin' love them! They are so bright and festive.  From what I have been reading about LED lights, I am pretty sure when I plug them in next year they are still going to work.   And the year after that and the year after that.  I had to pay $10 more up front, but I'll save money on my hydro bill and by not having to replace them as frequently.

Pay more now, save more over time.  Sounds like a plan.
Posted by Jen B On Friday, December 10, 2010 No comments
I bought my fifth box of clementines of the season this week.  And my 17th pomegranate.  These fruits are only in season from late November to mid January, so I am trying to shove twelve months worth of love and appreciation of these yummy treats into the two short months they are available by consuming as many as possible.  Plus they are both my absolute favourite.  I love, love, love them.

I love pomegranates because they satisfy some of my key snacky cravings: perfect crunch, finger food, and takes time to eat.  I pull my pomegranates apart (like this), and make my way through seed by seed in one big, messy, fulfilling snacking adventure.  They are incredibly tangy, juicy, and fun to eat.

My favourite way to eat clementines is in groups of five or more.  My average is eight per sitting.  Last year I went through about 12 boxes of them without really trying, so we'll see how many I get to this year.  Clementines are easy to peel, generally seedless, and full of yum.  Such a great snack.  I wish they were available all year round!

Posted by Jen B On Thursday, December 09, 2010 4 comments
Exiting the grocery store this afternoon, I began to walk down the row of cars where I remembered parking.  I scanned the row of cars and it was easy to spot mine: the one with the headlights left on.  Shit.  I picked up the pace with my groceries in tow, believing that the extra three seconds I gained by running would ensure the battery was not dead.  I threw myself in the car, did a chant of "please don't make me learn the hard way", and attempted to start the car.  It worked, thankfully.  No boost required.

One of the only flaws I have found in my car is that there is no alarm bell if you try to exit the car with the headlights still on.  I'm not used to turning the headlights on and off, so I need an alarm to yell at me or I am not going to remember.  In lieu of a bell, my friend Duct Tape and I have placed a friendly reminder in the form of the word "Lights" on the inside car door just above the handle.  Here's hoping that this visual aid will help me avoid a car battery failure in the future.

Posted by Jen B On Thursday, December 02, 2010 2 comments
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