Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

And they're off...

Tomorrow starts the beginning (ending? climax?) of the Christmas crazy travelin'.
My heart feels so much more ready for Christmas - that is, to celebrate Jesus' birth - than it has been in many, many Christmases past.
I am excited to be with family and friends.
I am excited to love on my hubs and my boys.
I am thankful for friends and family and you!

Merry Christmas from the Stricklands!

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace 
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the lord of hosts will do this.
Isaiah 9: 6-7

Hazelnut Chicken Bites

These aren't specifically Christmasey but I think they look Christmasey and I've wanted to make them for years now, but never got around to it.
Last night I got together with a bunch of really good friends from over 10 years ago. We all met through our church and while we haven't all stayed in touch, we pretty much pick up where we left off every time we get together.
So yes. I made these. They were simple {if not a tad time consuming} and delicious. A great party appetizer.
This summer we were given a jar of Dijon beer mustard from Quebec and while we've used bits here and there, I saw this and realized it would be perfect for these little tasty morsels.

Next I had to toast and chop some hazelnuts that I've been waiting for a recipe to use them in {so they've been sitting in my freezer for almost a year now}.
{pretend I took an awesome picture of this.}
Then I poached some chicken and chopped it up into small squares.

Put it all together and start rolling and dipping!

Then spear those babies and you can even add a cherry {or I used grape} tomatoes for a festive feel.

Look at these beauties!
Merry Christmas!
Hazelnut Chicken Bites

2-4 poached chicken breasts
1/2 cup dijon mustard of some sort
3/4 cup toasted and finely chopped hazelnuts

Cut the poached chicken into smallish cubes. Roll in the mustard and then in the chopped hazelnuts.
Spear each cube with a toothpick and chill, covered until you're ready to serve {for up to a day}.
Garnish with cherry/grape tomatoes if desired.
Makes about 4 dozen bites

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

more conversations with Noah

Noah: Mom, I don't want my ears to be round. I want sharp ears.

Me: (confused) Sharp ears?

Noah: Yes.

Me: Who has sharp ears?

Noah: On Rudolf the small boy has sharp ears.

Me: (having a sudden realization) Ooooh. Like elf ears?

Noah: Yes.

Just another day, folks. Just another day.

And now for something TRULY lighter...

Jingling all the way!

Jingle All the Way! from Vanessa Strickland on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

bound and gagged

I have so much that I want to write and say, but right now is just not the best time.

Change is hard.
And slow.

My first inclination is to just shout it to the world, throw it in your face, talk non-stop about it until it finally sinks in for you, but I think {and so I've been told} that this is perhaps not the most effective way to facilitate change in others.

So I need to


s l o w.

And be gentle.

Sometimes it's hard to remember where you used to be when where you are seems like all you've ever known.

Sometimes I suck at showing grace.

Sorry for the totally and completely vague blog post. I hate it when others do it and here I sit, doing it myself. Just know there is more to come. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

this winter is...

wishing you were outside playing with your brother in the snow

the wall of cheer making me smile every time i walk past it

wrapping presents all in red

welcoming keven home with a huge party; everyone crammed into my parents' living room to watch a slideshow of his tour in afghanistan

baking, baking, baking!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

tantrums and my own issues

Lately I've been struggling with my responses to Noah's meltdowns. Like screaming-in-my-face-in-the-middle-of-Chapters meltdowns. Like throwing-metal-cars-across-the-room meltdowns.
Everything in me just melts down into one emotion: pure rage. And then embarrassment if we're somewhere public. And then frustration because I don't know how to
I read somewhere {Raising Boys, maybe?} about testosterone surges in boys at ages 3 and 7 and then of course during puberty I think. This would explain the pure rage and anger Noah exhibits, but how to explain mine?
I've mostly been able to keep it under check but it's definitely a wake up call that I need to work through my issues of control and pride {because that's what causes my embarrassment in a public situation}.
But it's frustrating to feel like I'm back here again. Working through these issues all over again.

Today I decided to play out a future situation with Noah.

Me: Noah, we're going to Hannah's house after lunch. And we're going to stay and play there for awhile. But after awhile we're going to have to leave and come back home. So when I say "Noah. It's time to go." You need to say, "Okay Mom." and then we'll get our coats and boots on. Okay?

Noah: Okay.

Me: So let's practice. Noah. We're having a fun time at Hannah's house but it's time to go.


Me again: So what do you need to say?

Noah: Um...okay Mom. Boots and coats, now?

We rehearsed this a few more times and I also reminded him of this in the car on the way there.
While we were there we had a minor struggle for a diaper change {more on our goal of The Great Potty Training of 2011 later} and I reminded him of his response when I would soon tell him that it was time to go.

And then when it was worked! He said, Okay! {and then quickly asked if he could watch something on tv while I prepared dinner when we got home.}
So all the rehearsing worked. I wasn't a believer of the practicing and preparing beforehand in the past, but I guess I needed to actually get him to say the words and pretend. I think it helped a lot.

I hope this will help the rage in our household. Because Jude watches and is The Ultimate CopyCat in his spitting and hitting and saying "NO!". It's shocking because he's so young, and kinda scary at how much he picks up from watching Noah so I'm really trying hard to set firm ground rules of expected behaviour because I do NOT want my children screaming in my face, much less anyone else's!

It's truly a good thing they are so cute because all I have to do is look at pictures like these {no matter how my day has been} and my heart goes to mush.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Today was a really wonderful day.

My brother came home from serving in Afghanistan for the past 7 months.

My sister running out to hug Kev as he arrived at the house.

It was a great reunion. We picked up right where we left off.
I love my family.

Reunited and it feels so good. (Seriously. Look at my Mom. She's practically glowing!)

I had to drive home shortly after our family lunch so I could be back in Guelph for our staff team potluck that we were hosting at our home! And it snowed about 20 cm!
To be honest, I kinda felt sick about driving in that kind of snow. But I got onto the highway and about 1km into my drive the roads had cleared and were almost completely dry! I was in shock and awe as it had REALLY snowed for the 3ish hours I had spent at my parent's house.

And then my heart welled up with gratitude to God for taking care of me and showing me that of course he would provide for me and my family - be it with the safe arrival of Keven, or a smooth, easy drive home with both boys who sat quietly in the back of the car {Noah actually fell asleep!} or the wonderful time of food and fellowship we experienced tonight with our incredibly fun staff team.
As I listened to Chris Tomlin sing "Glory in the Highest" on the drive home I worshiped with my whole heart and felt the smile of God shine down on me - His daughter. Precious to Him and provided for.

And then we partied tonight with some amazing co-workers who are also some very good friends. I am {again} so very grateful to have such awesome friends and community in my life. Oh and laughter. Lots and lots of laughter.
And delicious food. :)

The dessert spread was far too decadent.

Thank you God for your abundant provision for me. May my worries fall away when I remember your steadfastness and may my doubt disappear when I think upon your love for me.

Monday, December 13, 2010

3 Pepper Spice Cookies


I have found my 2010 favourite Christmas baked goodie. 

So about a month ago I signed up for the Better Home & Garden 12 days of baking emails and every day for 12 days I received mouth-watering emails that only added to my list of to-bake items.
Among the many this recipe popped out at me: 3 Pepper Spice Cookies.

Three pepper?!?

Yep. We Stricklands like our spicy foods. Cayenne, chili pepper & black pepper. 
Now I looked everywhere {sorta} for this ground chili pepper but I couldn't find it. So I ground up some red pepper flakes and voila! Red pepper! 
These are spicy {of course} but they also are very spiced if that makes sense - clove, ginger and cinnamon give these delicious morsels a really full and warm taste. And then dipped in chocolate...I die.

So I thought I'd share the recipe here with you. Enjoy!

3 Pepper Spice Cookies
adapted from Better Homes & Garden

     2/3  cup  butter, softened
     1 cup  sugar
     1 ½   teaspoons  baking powder
     ½  teaspoon  ground ancho chile pepper {I used red pepper flakes ground up}
     ½  teaspoon  finely ground black pepper
     ½  teaspoon  ground ginger
     ½   teaspoon  ground cloves
     ½ teaspoon  ground cinnamon
     ¼ teaspoon  cayenne pepper
     1 egg
     1 tablespoon  milk
     2 cups all-purpose flour
     Medium-grind black pepper
     10 ounces chocolate, coarsely chopped
     1 tablespoon shortening
1. In a large bowl, beat butter with electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, ground chile/red pepper, the 1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl ocasionally. Beat in egg and milk until combined. Add the flour. If necessary, knead dough slightly to blend. Shape dough into a ball. Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a 6-12-inch-long roll {the longer the roll, the smaller your cookies. My second batch looked like two cucumbers before I cut them}. Wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper; chill 4 to 24 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut rolls into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place slices 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle cookies with medium-grind black pepper. Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are golden. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool.
3. In a small saucepan, combine chocolate and shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Dip each cookie halfway in melted chocolate; shake off excess. Place chocolate-dipped cookies on waxed paper. Let stand until chocolate is set. Makes about 60 cookies.

Also, don't use your coffee grinder to grind up whole cloves and red pepper flakes. Just sayin'. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

living in community {not the tv show}

oh hello adorable.


Well, I'm back. We're back.

And it feels good.

Ever notice how AWESOME your bed is after you get home from being away and sleeping in a particularly crappy bed for a week? Yeah. That.

We were up north for a week of a training with work. Well, Jamie went to the sessions. I hung out with the boys and the other Moms and their kids. It was great.
The boys doing some colouring and crafts. (ages in this picture span 16 months-4.5 yrs)

And SNOWY! I love the snow. It's gorgeous and it makes me feel cozy and Christmasey. But bundling and unbundling 2 children {and myself} 6 times a day is enough to make anyone hate the winter. Perhaps hate is a strong word. Because every time I looked out the window and saw the lake with the snow covered trees, I sighed a little romantic sigh. It's just so pretty!

on the drive up. thank God for winter tires. 

Honestly I really do love living in community with others. Doing meals {even though they are stressful at times} together, hanging out in the evenings after our kiddos are in bed and talking until it's way too late; we even threw a triple baby shower for three expecting Moms. A triple baby shower! It was just too much fun.
I feel so incredibly blessed to have so many wonderful women {and awesome men} in my life. To be able to go to things like this and know my kids will be loved on and have other kids to play with is really such a gift and I always feel so thankful for the flexibility and family-friendly events we're able to attend with work.

Oh the chaos. Love it. 

So it was a good week. And I'm thankful to be home. {and now I'm baking lots. stay tuned...}

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Life with a three year old is essentially a pendulum swing. There doesn't seem to be a neutral middle place to hang out in. It's either rude, cranky, tantrum-throwing defiance or happy, hilarious, intelligent adorableness.

Often heard in our house by Noah:

"I'm the one with the poop."

"Uhhhhh NO!"



"Mom? I asked you a question!"

"Can you turn on the Christmas lights, Mom?"

"Can I watch something?" {I hate this one. Granted, it's usually asked when I'm unable to engage with him directly at the time and he's just bored.}

"I want a snack!" {This one could be said moments after any meal or instead of a meal.}

The entire alphabet sung either in French or English. Or Frenglish.

Noah is really into drawing {and he draws people now and I LOVE it. The head with the arms and legs coming out of it just kill me.} and doing crafts that involve gluing, colouring or cutting. Today I let him colour our sample Christmas photo card and when I looked at it afterward I laughed when I saw that he had coloured red over top of his and Jude's faces looking very much like street graffiti.
He wants to help me wash the dishes and do the laundry. He'll often help me with Jude and the tenderness he shows toward his brother melts my heart completely.
But he's also throwing tantrums on a whim and pushing his brother's buttons {and vice versa. I know. Already.} and I can see his internal struggle to work out the emotions he's feeling - whether they be frustration or anger or guilt or disappointment. I know it's hard for him and I'm trying to help him work through it and put names to emotions and let him know it's okay to feel those emotions, but it's not okay to, say, throw a chair or kick his brother or outright defy me.

How do you teach a child to obey even when he doesn't want to? {For now that's a rhetorical question. I'm pretty sure I know what we need to do at this point it's just getting around to doing it and focusing on training him to obey the first time, every time.} I know this leads into a fantastic spiritual analogy for my own life and I'm working that one out as well.

Three years old is way harder than two ever was. But as I watch and listen to him make up hilarious stories or imagine an empty box is a fantastic pirate ship or make me a birthday cake out of Play-Doh and then sing "Happy Birthday to You", I know that whatever we are working through and will work through is worth it to see him grow and develop into the person that God wants him to be.

Friday, December 3, 2010

and now for something a little lighter...

Jamie and I have picked up a new show to watch. Community. If you have not seen this gem of a show, you MUST WATCH IT NOW.
I laugh so hard during EVERY episode.
Like last night, for instance, we watched an episode and I couldn't stop laughing {I still can't!} at this clip:

Am I the ONLY one out there who says it like Britta? Anyone? {For the record, Jamie has always made fun of me for saying it this way AND my family makes fun of me as well, so I'm not sure where I got it from, but somehow I got lucky enough to say it the RIGHT way.}

Or what about this {I cried just now watching I was laughing so hard.}:

My absolute favourite character is Abed. Jamie likes Pierce {of course. He can't resist Chevy Chase.} the best.

I think it's the hilarious, quick banter that gets me. And the lack of filter. And the lack of PCness. And the complete stereotyping that they knowingly do. Okay and it's totally quirky at times. I love me some quirkiness.
This is a series I would watch over and over again.
Just search "Troy & Abed" and you'll find tons of hilarious videos on YouTube of Troy & Abed's antics.

Here's a classic and one to put you in the Christmasey mood:

I think this was what sealed the deal for me:


Thursday, December 2, 2010

a momentous occasion

An historic and momentous occasion occurred in the Strickland household last night.

Are you ready?

At bath time, we had our very first floatie incident.

As in someone pooped in the tub.

That would be Jude.

Honestly! Noah has never pooped in the bath (except while he was a baby - like a newborn maybe?).
But sure enough, within a couple minutes of putting Jude into the tub and letting the water run he started farting. Then he crouched and paused.
Then he leaned forward and...



So I did what any Mom, fearful of the quickly disintegrating poop getting EVERYWHERE, would do. I grabbed it with my bare hands.


Anyway, luckily Noah wasn't in the bath yet. Or any of the toys. (This was Noah's first concern - whether the poop got on any of the toys. A valid point, I suppose.)

Anyway, so that was our excitement for the evening.

You're welcome.
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