Monday, February 16, 2009

Family Day

This is our second year celebrating Family Day, thanks to Mr. McGuinty, who back in October 2007, declared the third Monday in February to be a new Annual "Family Day" statutory holiday for the province of Ontario. Good call, Dalton. Without this most important holiday, we would have been working straight from January 2 until April 10, before getting a nice long weekend. That’s just way too long to bear, especially while enduring the winter blues.

Our family took advantage of this holiday by playing board games that we hadn’t played in a long time. First, we played “Settlers of Catan”. We used to play this game pretty much every Friday Night, until all of Derek’s favourite Animes got re-scheduled to Friday nights. We just didn’t bother to re-schedule Family Game Night to another time slot. So, that was that. I think the last time we played this game was back on March 29, 2008, when we participated in Earth Hour.

Earth Hour is an Annual International Event created by the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund), held on the last Saturday of March, that asks households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights and electrical appliances for one hour to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change.

I remembered we had a lot of fun playing that game last year, when we had to rely solely on candlelight to see what we were doing. Colin had won that game last year. But, given that he was the “Banker”, the person in charge of giving out the “Resources”, and we were playing in semi-darkness, there was a very reasonable chance that he could have cheated. This time around, Derek won the game, but that was because he got to go first. I know, I know, I’m a sore loser.

We also used to play “Scrabble” quite often, but the boys, including Dick wandered back to their own favourite electronic games, while I started to take an avid interest in the Internet, with things like Facebook, Blogs, Forums, etc. etc. to pass the time, we started to split apart and played in our own little worlds. Because of Family Day, we made a conscious effort to play together again, as a Family and it is such a great way to re-connect and build memories.

Scrabble is one of my favourite games because I love any kind of Word Games including Crossword Puzzles, Jumble, and other word Logic Games. I fully expected to beat the pants off the others. This game started slowly for me. In fact, I was consistently trailing throughout the whole game …. til the end, of course. Being the “Comeback Kid”, I came in for the kill at the end, with a dramatic finish. I kept struggling with having too many vowels. They weren’t even the good vowels. I was stuck with a lot of “I”s and “U”s. Fortunately, what saved the day for me was that I always had the “Blank” tile to begin with, but I kept it as my secret weapon, until lo and behold, I picked up the second “Blank” tile near the end of the game. So, I’m thinking what am I gonna do with 2 “I”s, an “A”, an “O”, an “R” and 2 “Blank”s???? Then I spotted an opening on the board, and used up all seven of my last tiles to make the word: ORIGAMI. Can you believe that, Origami is one of my most favourite activities too and it saved the day for me. This is telling me something. Origami, is going to figure into my future Retirement Plans somehow. Hmmm……

So anyways, there’s probably nothing worse than a Sore Loser, except for maybe a very Annoying Self-Satisfied Winner. Please excuse me while I savour this moment.

YEEESSSSSS!!! (Pumps Arm in the air a few times) Neh, Neh, Neh, Neh, Neh (Places hand over nose, while wiggling fingers and sticking tongue out). O.K., Now, I’m done.

*** On a side note, just picked up the mail and found out that Colin got accepted to Ryerson for the Bachelor of Commerce - Information Technology Management Program. *** Yay!!! I'm so proud of my Colin!!!!

Playing "Settlers" during Earth Hour in 2008

Playing "Settlers" for Family Day 2009

Everyone is busy studying their letters while playing "Scrabble"

Yes, we have a Winner!

The Winning Word: ORIGAMI

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ataun's "Farewell" Bash

February, Friday the 13th, 2009. That day marked Ataun's last day with Reorg. She started in Reorg exactly 4.5 years ago on August, Friday the 13th, 2004. Coincidence? I think not! I believe that Friday the 13th just happens to be Ataun's favourite day.

Well, if you know Ataun, you'll know that "Stewie Griffin" from "Family Guy" is her "Role Model" One of Stewie's famous catch phrase: "Victory Shall be Mine" is the same Motto that Ataun lives by. She relishes the fact that she will one day take over the world, through EVIL means or otherwise. Is she delusional or is she for real? Warning to all. Appearances can be deceiving. Ataun may look pretty and sweet, but what sort of sinister scheming and planning goes on inside that pretty head of hers?!?!?!? All I can say is, the day she does take over the world, you better be on her good side and she will spare you an easy and painless death. Sorry Ataun, please spare me but I do have to warn others.

All kidding aside, Ataun has decided to go back to school to hone her skills further and then return to the workplace, ready to pounce! So Watch out World!

On her last day, Ataun brought in some assorted sweets called "Burfi". They were so colourful and pretty and very yummy too. I'm not much for super sweets, but I really enjoyed the square pieces covered in chopped pistachio nuts. They tasted so creamy and so mmm....mmm....good.

In a tribute to her favourite imaginary friend, I made Ataun a "Stewie Griffin" Valentine cookie as her "Going Away" present. It depicts Stewie presenting her with a ribbon decorated Valentine Balloon that seemingly says "Ataun, Be Mine", but once the ribbons get unwrapped, it reveals the full message: "Farewell Ataun, Victory Shall be Mine". I hope that she enjoys the mixed messages and will cherish it.

As well, we presented her with assorted gifts for her upcoming "Scholarly Days" and beach wear for her trip to Cuba (the lucky girl). But I think the best gift of all was a Collage of some of the great friends she had made over the years. She leaves behind many happy and humorous moments. Life in Reorg will definitely not be so lively without her.

After work, many of her nearest and dearest friends that she had befriended over the short time that she was with us gathered together to wish her well. The private room we reserved for the occasion was jam-packed with people. Ataun is one popular gal! The few pictures I took at Ataun's Farewell Bash represented only a handful of the people who attended Ataun's Farewell Party, but I'm sure there will be many more posted by all the other well-wishers on Facebook and elsewhere.

There will be a HUGE gaping hole now that she's gone. So sad :(..... We will all miss her dearly. Ataun has been such a strong presence in so many people's lives, she will not be easily forgotten and we all hope that we will always be a part of her life in the future.

Farwell Ataun. Please come visit often.

Ataun brought in some sweets called "Burfi". So colourful, just like her.

A "Stewie " Valentine cookie for Ataun

Stewie's famous catch phrase: "Victory Shall be Mine" is Ataun's Motto to live by.

After Ataun took away the "A"s from her name, Beatriz spelled the word "NUT". How appropriate.

Ataun's "Farewell" Card

Best wishes from some of her friends who managed to squeeze their messages in.

Parting gifts & Cake for Ataun

A collage of friends she hung out with over the years

Ataun, back at the desk she started out in.

Caught her in the act, trying to lift a stapler. Notice, she is trying to look innocent?

The Bulletin Writing Team

The girls finally get to meet Mike from the Discount Brokerage Dept.

A bunch of friends raising their glasses to Ataun.

Ataun holding up very well, after her 5th shot.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentines Day!

Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday this year and that made it easy to celebrate with all the loved ones in my family. Our day began with a Valentine’s Day Brunch of pancakes, beef patties, & fruit (all heart-shaped, of course). I had a lot of fun preparing the Special Valentine’s Breakfast Brunch because I finally got to use 2 of the kitchen gadgets I got for Christmas. Afterwards, we exchanged Cards and Valentine Treats.

The previous week, Derek and I had a lot of fun making some cookies just for this occasion. I gave some of the Valentine cookies away to my favourite Niece, Patricia and her very creative friend, Serena, whom I was fortunate enough to have finally met. Serena gave me a lot of ideas on how to pursue my love of arts and crafts and I thank her very much for that.

If you are interested to view some of Serena’s very whimsical artwork, please go to: or visit her blog at:

I also brought some of the Valentine cookies for a “Valentine’s Day/Family Day/Long Weekend/Goodbye to Ataun” Potluck lunch party held on Friday the 13th, at my workplace. I shall be posting a separate post for Ataun’s going away party tomorrow.

So, for our afternoon snack, we ate the remainder of the Valentine’s Day cookies, along with some of the Valentines Treats and served it with some “Love Spell” Green Tea. The “Love Spell” Green Tea is a Fresh Green Organic Sencha Tea containing some very fine ingredients such as Thai Papaya Chunks, Coconut Chips, Red Sugar Hearts, Pineapple Bits, Safflower and Fruit Flavours. The Tea looked beautiful and tasted heavenly.

For dinner, we had wanted to visit our favourite Vietnamese Restaurant (Kim Po), but their menu indicated that all their Vermicelli dishes are served with peanuts. We’ve been to this restaurant many times in the past and Derek, who is allergic to peanuts, had never suffered any allergy attacks while eating here. But with the new warning on their menu, we decided not to take any chances and to try our luck elsewhere. We checked out the nearby Richmond Court where it always serves good food with big portions and we weren’t disappointed in that department. Too bad we couldn’t say the same for the service. We had to ask three times for tea refills before one of the nicer waiters came along to serve us. All in all, I still had a lovely Valentine’s Day.

The amazing Kitchen Wizard. It's a salad server, strainer and flipper, all in 1. I actually used it for whipping eggs while making the pancake batter. I also got to used the Heart Shape Ring with a handle to form the heart shaped pancakes.

Special Heart-Shaped Brunch included pancakes, hamburger patty with cheddar cheese, strawberries and mango.

The Hamburger Patty with the Heart Shape cut-out was fun to eat also.

Colin and Derek enjoying their Brunch

Valentine Gift Exchange

Here are all the goodies for the whole family to enjoy.

I'm not sure what turtles have to do with Valentines Day but Derek insisted that turtles be included for this special occasion. It's all above Love. And Derek loves his turtles.

Here's a trayful of some of the cookies we created.

We served the cookies with this "Love Spell" Tea.

The food was really good at Richmond Court, especially the Beef Fried Noodles.

Here we are enjoying a romantic dinner at a local Chinese Restaurant with our kids.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Homemade Lasagna

About a month ago, Derek and his friend made Lasgana as their homework assignment for their Food & Nutrition Class. As part of the assignment, they had to go shopping to pick up all the ingredients and do a dry run at home before actually reproducing the recipe in class. One of the requirements was that they had to complete the dish and clean up within the classroom period of 75 minutes. To cut down on the prep time, they were allowed to use Oven-Ready lasagna noodles. They managed to bake the lasagna at home in well under that time.

Colin, as usual was eager to taste test any food that comes out of our kitchen. He took his first bite and we heard the distinct crunching sound of very crisp pasta being eaten, much like the sound of potato chips being munched on. We waited for his opinion and he proclaimed that it tasted good. Success!!! Well, almost. What the boys learned from their dry run was that the lasagna noodles needed to be fully covered with sauce right to the edges and corners. Otherwise, the noodles around the edges comes out tasting very dry and crispy. Not an unpleasant texture, but definitely not desired in the final product, as it is being marked by the teacher. I must say the 2 boys did an excellent job. They managed to make a very good tasting Lasagna on their first attempt. Best of all, they cleaned up the mess afterwards.

So, tonight Derek decided to cook Lasagna for the family. Derek was the Chef and I was the Sous Chef. This time, we decided to use regular lasagna noodle (the kind that needs to be pre-boiled first instead of the "Oven-Ready" type) just to see if there would be a big difference. Of course, it took extra time, but we felt it was worth it because the texture came out perfectly. What I like about homemade lasagna as opposed to the frozen kind is that we can control what ingredients go into it. I find the frozen version, as with a lot of so called convenience food contains a lot of artificial ingredients and is very high in sodium. On top of that, it takes 80 to 100 minutes to bake it from frozen while it only took us about an hour or so to make it from scratch, even less time, if we were to use "Oven-Ready" lasagna noodle. Good Job, Derek! Looking forward to more family meals from our new Chef.

Derek pours the sauce over a layer of pasta while his friend grates mozarella cheese for the topping.

What a beautiful sight. The boys washing up.

The boys enjoying the fruit of their labour.

Here's Derek making the sauce.

Derek layering the sauce over the pasta.

Here I am lending a hand.

Ta da! 2 trays of Homemade Lasagna fresh from the oven.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Weekend Fun with Friends & Snow

This has been one of the funnest weekend I had this whole winter. It started with having the Nakamotos over for dinner on Saturday. Terry had wanted to expose her 2 girls to some Chinese New Years tradition, other than receiving lucky money, so we had them over for a belated Chinese New Year's dinner. However, our knowledge of cooking a traditional Chinese New Year meal is rather limited. The best that we could come up with was preparing some fresh rolls, filled with glass noodles (silver chain), golden needles (wealth), water chestnut (unity), Shitake Mushroom (longevity, sizing opportunities), and various assorted other ingredients.

After viewing a picture of some of the Chinese New Year's food that Dick's mom had prepared for us last week, Terry was good enough to fill me in on some of the food symbols I was not previously aware of, such as that a head of lettuce (saung choy) means to generate wealth, fresh fruits like tangerines (saung gwoh) means lively & energetic, and that whole fish must be presented in pairs to represent togetherness in being a couple.

Now that she piqued my interest, I searched the internet for more Chinese Food Symbolisms and I came across this link:

Dick also prepared one of my all-time favourite dishes, "Haw Loong Woo" (Shrimp with Lobster Sauce). It's a dish he had learned and perfected from his training as a cook at his parents' Chinese Restaurant (Shangri-La Gardens) in Orillia. It's considerd to be more of a Chinese Canadian dish, and it proved to be a big hit with the Nakamotos.

After dinner, the girls had fun playing Karaoke Revolution with Dick. Terry & Ian also joined in the fun later.

The next morning, while making some Pillsbury Crescent rolls for brunch, I decided to have some fun with it. Since we are in the Year of the Ox, I thought of making the pastry into a the shape of an Ox Head. It was quite easy to reshape it and it was fun to do.

Later in the afternoon, we had one of the most beautiful sunny and warm days so far this winter. I had been looking forward to this day ever since the first snowfall. A day when the temperature allowed for the snow to be perfect packing snow to build snow sculptures! So now, the Snow Sculpture Building Contest is on!!! I had challenged Connie over at Beaversatile to this contest and have been waiting very patiently for this very day. Unfortunately, Connie appears to be not feeling too well at this time, so I hope she will have another chance soon to submit her snow sculpture entry. If any of my Facebook friends would like to join in this contest, they are most welcome and we'll take a vote at the end of winter to see who wins.

Winter isn't my favourite season, but this is one of the few things I enjoy most about winter. Let the Contest begin!!!!

A platter full of Fresh Rolls

Annette & Rachel singing "Sweet Home Alabama" & some Britney Spears tunes.

Terry and Ian sang a Frank Sinatra Classic "New York, New York" . They really pumped it up.

The kids having fun with "Mario Cart"

The girls could have played all night, but had to cut it short because it was getting way past their daddy's bedtime.

Raw Ox Head

Ox Head, fresh out of the oven. Yummy and Fun to eat!

Derek made a snow turtle and I made Stewie

Smiley Turtle & Stewie Griffin (Good vs Evil???)

Friendly Turtle. Awwww, so adorable....

Stewie scheming some evil plan to take over the world????