Sunday, December 27, 2015

merry christmas

Merry Christmas! I love this time of year where everyone is happy, you see lots of family, and there's usually a little less work in everyones lives. What's not to love? Plus, giving gifts is enjoyable to me too - I know not everyone loves this, and it's not always fun to me, but for the most part, picking out something that I think someone will like is fun to me. Giving gifts is one of my love languages, and it's definitely not about the value of the gift, rather the thought.

On Christmas Eve, we went to church with my family. (my parents & brother; Jen didn't come home for Christmas this year) Then, my aunt & uncle came over with Chinese food (yum) for dinner. Edwin & I had a sleepover at my parents since we were going to be there Christmas morning anyways. On Christmas morning, we opened gifts, and had our traditional breakfast of wife saver, land of nod cinnamon buns, hashbrowns, orange juice, and coffee. (with champagne & Bailey's, respectively for the drinks!) Do you have any breakfast traditions for Christmas?

Edwin & I then went home to shower & change, opened our gifts to each other, and headed back to my parents for turkey dinner! Can I just say how much I love stuffing? (vegetarian, of course) And brussell sprouts?

Odie chillin' by the Christmas tree

This cute boy I know in his pj's

One of my new lulu items - a vinyasa scarf with a gold zipper

Wearing our cute hats from the Christmas crackers - tell me we aren't the only family that wears these?!

It is snowing today!
Last but not least, my parents & bro are coming over tonight for dinner. (you'd think we'd all be sick of each other by now! Nope!) I'm making fajitas.

What is your favorite part of the Christmas season? What did you get up to recently? I hope you are all happy and spending some time with good people! :)

PS - If you need a good, funny read, check out this food bloggers recipe disasters of 2015. She does this compilation annually, and I love it! It makes me happy that even professionals have food flops. Happens to the best of us ;)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

thankful thursday

I really enjoy reading others peoples "thankful thursday" posts, so I figured I should try to do it more often!

1. My sister being home recently. She was home for training in Chiliwack and was able to spend time with us on the weekends. Plus, it was her birthday while she was here so we had a family dinner at Cactus Club in Abbotsford. Pants & I also drove out to meet her for dinner one night, and WOW, Chiliwack is very far to drive to! (I haven't been there in a long time)
 
At the Taphouse in Guildford for some birthday drinks.

2. My dad coming with us to get a Christmas tree. He did this last year too, and since neither Edwin nor I are tree experts, this is much appreciated! He picks us up, gets his own tree too, and helps us bring it upstairs at our house & set it up. His truck is also greatly appreciated!

This is our tree! More pictures to come on it being set up later.

 3. Girlfriends. I love some good girl time, pajamas or not! I also love some good kiddo time.

We took a lot of photos... you may have seen another one on Instgram of us on the couch, or one in my previous blog post of our heads in a circle... we are cool like that. (these are my book club girls)

Julia & I. These twins are getting cuter by the minute. Look at those cheeks! And pigtails!

Lindsay with Harrison.

Happy birthday Heid!! We celebrated the with the classiest cake ever: cinnamon buns in the plastic container.

4. Christmas presents. I really, truly enjoy buying things for other people. I love picking out things that I know they will really like and then seeing them open the gift. I get this from my mom; she is exactly the same way. (disclaimer: we both can get a bit stressed or overwhelmed at Christmastime though!)

5. Date night. Edwin has been working super duper hard lately, and it was fun to be able to go out for dinner on Saturday night. Below is the caeser I had, with a prawn! It was delicious. I also had a seafood hot pot at the Washington Avenue Grill, and it was delicious also.


6. Craigslist. I recently put some candles & candle holders here from the wedding. Realistically, we did not have any use for the 18 candles & candle holders, even though I could have convinced myself that we did. I really like being able to sell something to someone else who needs it, so it can get re-purposed. (win-win, then it also doesn't create clutter in our house!) Plus, a few extra dollars in my pocket doesn't hurt! I thought selling the candle holders with the candles as well might be a long shot, since they are used candles, but nope. The first email I got wanted the whole package. Done. (FYI - there is not much else we are selling from the wedding. I have put sentimental value into most other things!!)



7. Funny things. I got such a good laugh out of these two comics and need to share them with the world:



I need to go to bed, so I don't think I'll be able to get to the full 10 on my list unfortunately! But being thankful for 7 things in my life is better than none. What are YOU thankful for?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

december food thoughts

Recently, my book club girls & I had our annual Christmas dinner. (see: 2011 & 2014) However, instead of a traditional Christmas dinner, we made an array of appetizers. Who doesn't love appys?! The amount of food we had for 5 of us girls, plus one child, was phenomenal! We were all quite full at the end of the night, to say the least.

See? So much! I mean, it WAS dinner for all of us, but still, we had tons of food. I made 3 types of flatbreads (dough included - made with my KitchenAid mixer!), we had tons of fancy cheeses, pasta salad, artichoke dip, 7 layer dip, stuffed mushroom caps, and much more....

Since Lisa's daughter Janessa came with her, we took advantage of having a photographer with us and took some posed photos. Remember taking photos like this back in the day?!

It was a pajama party!

Amanda made this adorable holiday sangria. It has a sprig of rosemary in it, and cranberries with green apples. I think the liquid is a white wine with white grape juice. It was tasty, and the rosemary helped to make it not too sweet.

Has anyone done any holiday baking? I made peanut butter balls (these, but without the sprinkles on top) and almond florentines. The peanut butter balls were really tasty, and easy to make, and then I gave them all away. Then, I made almond florentines, thinking they couldn't really be that hard. (it's stuff baked on graham crackers) Boy, was I wrong. Turns out, don't use wax paper for these. They all stuck to the wax paper, and Edwin & I spent an hour trying to peel them off nicely. We yielded about 2/3 of the total florentines I made, but still, they were quite troublesome and some *may* still contain small traces of wax paper. (you've been warned) The last thing I want to make is peppermint brownies, but I just need to get around to doing that... oh! I did make red pepper jelly too. It tastes good, but is too runny. Darn. I am still giving it to people, as it is still edible!

Next year, to give people at Christmas time, I'd like to try making these pickled veggies! Don't they look pretty? And would taste lovely!

Last but not least, if anyone needs a gift for me still for Christmas, check out these sushi inspired gifts. How cute?!

Tell me about your holiday baking! Good and bad baking items would both be appreciated stories at this point :) And if you don't do holiday baking, tell me why! I'm considering just leaving it to my mom for now... she makes the best shortbread. And her almond florentines don't stick to the pan...

Monday, December 7, 2015

family dinners

I love family dinner! It combines so many fun aspects that I enjoy: being social, family, food, and chatting. (not necessarily in that order though...) I have so many fond memories of family dinners growing up, and hope to continue these for my future children.

We used to go to my Oma and Opas every Sunday for dinner when I was a kid, and it was the whole family that would go each week. Once said family got a lot larger, we alternated some family going to Oma and Opas one Sunday, and the others going the next. I have very fond memories of those Sunday dinners! My Opa was a great cook. He loved to cook, too. Before we ate, I'd always go to the stove to check what was on for dinner, and he would call me a 'pottekijker.' He made soup every Sunday, and we ate it before dinner. (I think that's a Dutch thing!) When I became a vegetarian, my Oma would cut slices of cheese for me to have in lieu of meat. If it was nice out, we'd eat outside. After dinner, they would always put leftovers in containers for us to take home.

This was clearly around Christmas time; Jen, me & Matt with Oma & Opa.
On my moms side of the family, we used to do big family events at my Grandma & Grandpas house. Every grandkids birthday was celebrated there, Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, etc. I remember so many fun things about these dinners. My cousins & I would go up to the spare bedroom and chit chat, the boys would play ping pong downstairs, or we'd play hide-the-penny (or hide-the-thimble depending on the version) in the living room. Grandpa would always have cashews in a little bowl near the coffee table. The same thing happened though: once the family got to be too big, there was SO many people! It got to be a lot of work eventually to have that many people at one party. Plus, it's hard as everyone gets older and has jobs, extracurricular activities, etc. to get everyone together at one time. We do have a traditional New Years Day get together though with everyone, and the next one is at my parents house! (I don't think we could get everyone into our house from that side of the family... hahaha)

We used to do family photos like this every time we had this side of the family together. This is an old one, and I think both Jen & my cousin Kristin, the two babies of the family, are missing here.

Now, we go to my parents every Sunday for dinner. Its been a tradition for about the past two years I'd say now. Time flies! I love this tradition and hope we can continue it for many years to come. It's not always anything fancy, but its great time to catch up on the weeks happenings and share a meal. We did always have dinner together growing up, and I enjoyed that too. (especially when I was allowed to invite Heidi over for dinner with us - two peas in a pod we were!!)

For extended family, we mostly do dinners or get togethers with everyone in the holiday season. Yesterday, we had a Spier family Christmas dinner at our house. (my dads side of the family) This is the first time in a while that we had everyone together!! My cousin Meryl, and her fiancee Evan, have been living out of town for the past few years, and Jen has been out of town for the last two. Meryl & Evan have since moved back home, and Jen just happened to be home for training this week, and so we arranged to have the dinner while she was in town.

Left to right, top row: Aunty Coralee, Uncle Mike, cousin Evan, Uncle Glenn, Uncle Mike, Edwin, my mom, Pants, cousin Adrien, my dad. Left to right bottom row: my sister, Aunty Daphne, Aunty Soraya, cousin Cameron, cousin Meryl, and me
The only person who was invited but couldn't attend was Adrien's girlfriend - I'd say that was a pretty good success rate!! My aunt Coralee normally has us over for Christmas dinner, or we've done brunch somewhere out other years, but we offered to do it this year, and Meryl & Evan have already offered for next year! I really enjoy being able to see everyone, especially at this time of year, it makes it extra special. Plus, you should have seen the food we had... it was an unreal potluck spread, including: ham, cheesy brussel sprouts, samosas, veggie lasanga, scalloped potatoes and so much more... Oh and Evan made dessert. He seriously went all out! He made olibollen and boterkoek (Dutch desserts), fried plantains (a Guatemalan dessert), and apple pie (a Canadian dessert). Oh, and fresh whipped cream! How cool is that!

Do you have any family traditions that involve food? I came across this article today called "how we eat" and was inspired.  Happy holiday season - I hope it is filled with lots of family & family dinners. If you need pseudo-family in this holiday season, or any time actually, come on over! I love an excuse to cook for people ;)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

last stop: panama

The last leg of our trip was from Costa Rica to Panama. Rather than flying, due to close proximity, we took a BUS from San Jose, Costa Rica, to Panama City, Panama. Guess how long the bus ride was? 17 hours!

We left Costa Rica at midnight, and were anticipated to get to Panama City at 5 pm the next day. That included the time to cross the border and a few quick stops. Our plan was to try to sleep as much as possible during the night, which we were both able to do relatively okay. However, we were woken up at 6 am when we got to the border crossing. Unfortunately, the border didn't open until 7 am, so, we waited and waited and waited... when the border finally did open, it was another confusing and complicated process. If you were from some countries of origin, you needed a copy of your passport (luckily not us, since we had no idea how to get copies of our passports at 6 am in this border village!). You also needed to have $500 cash on you, as well as prove that you had a ticket/method/plan to return to your country of origin. (not sure how that works if you are traveling and not going directly home?! Good thing we were heading back to Canada!)

As long as the bus ride sounds, it really wasn't THAT bad. They fed us both breakfast & lunch at least, which was good because we had only brought little snacks & drinks, assuming the bus would be stopping at places to get food. (they didn't)

Alas, this was the last leg of our honeymoon, and I feel so fortunate to have been able to experience so many cool cultures & experiences on this once-in-a-lifetime trip! (I just tried typing this after the photos, but for some reason its not letting me type there... apparently I need to blog more to get back into the swing of things!)

This was what our breakfast came in - isn't it adorable?! It's a bus! (Tica Bus is the bus line we rode, it was like  Greyhound bus. Thank goodness this one had air conditioning!)

Inside, there were games. This kept us occupied for a solid 30 minutes.


So, after a long bus ride, we were finally in Panama! (this picture was actually our last day there, but again, weird blog things are happening. The photos aren't uploading in order for me for whatever reason....) We were staying downtown Panama City, and it's a huge metropolitan area. High rises everywhere!
 

This is on the other side of the pedestrian crossing the above photos are on. Traffic was nuts!!! Also, despite it looking gloomy, it was HOT.
 
This was our dinner once we got to our hotel and settled in after the bus ride. PF Changs! Delicious! There are a lot of chain restaurants, stores etc. in Panama.

The view from the patio of our hotel was gorgeous! (I apologize that I'm too lazy to go through and edit all the date stamps out of the photos...)

The first full day we were there, we took a big, red, double decker sight seeing bus around the city. This was cool to help us get our bearings straight of where things were!



There was some really pretty architecture on our drive.

This is at one of the mall stops. The malls in Panama are HUGE. Like we are talking THREE food courts huge. All of the entrances have a letter & animal associated with them, and there were alphabetical entrances. I am pretty sure it got about 75% through the alphabet - it was ginourmous!

One of our first stops - the Panama Canal!



Unfortunately, we had JUST missed the last boat of the day going through the canal. This is it, almost done.

I'm not going to lie, I didn't know much about the canal & how it worked prior to going here. My smarty pants husband taught me all about it though, and it's fascinating!



There's a 5 story museum that we went to; lots of cool history about the building of the canal, types of sea life in the area, people who work there etc.
 
Another beautiful part of the drive! We drove to some islands, and this is the view of the city on the way back.


We went to Old Panama. The bus dropped us off and you could go wherever, and just be back for the next bus. (it was a hop on hop off kinda deal) We went to the right in Old Panama, and ended up in some quite sketchy areas. The good news is that I got a cheap watch that I love! (albeit it's needed a new battery already since coming home... haha) Once we got back to the bus stop area, we realized that if we had gone to the left in Old Panama, there was a quaint, charming, pretty part of the city. This would have been much nicer than where we went!!

So, we had a quick beer in the nice part of Old Panama before heading out. (see my watch there?!) (also, please note, SO HOT)


On our last evening in Panama, we went to an authentic Panama restaurant, that even had a show, called Las Tinajas. This is my rice and beans.

My seafood dish - I can't remember exactly what it was, but it was good!!

Some of the dancers in the show we saw during dinner. It was very interesting to see the cultural dances, and hear the music and stories. I'd totally recommend this place for a true Panamanian experience if you are there!! 

Friday, November 27, 2015

costa rica

Next on our honeymoon was Costa Rica. We flew from Guatemala City to San Jose in Costa Rica. The flight was quite short, however once in San Jose, we had to get about 6 hours North to our resort, which was near El Jobo near the border of Costa Rica & Nicaragua. There are of course lots of shuttles & cabs, however for that distance, they are crazy expensive. So, my hubby found us a bus to take instead! This was the first of two lengthy bus rides we took on our honeymoon - more on the even longer one in my next post about Panama! Unfortunately I didn't take many pictures of the commute from San Jose to El Jobo via bus. There wasn't air conditioning, so let's just leave the ride at that.

We did take quite a few pictures in Costa Rica, however, after going through them, realized there is a LOT of just us hanging out at the pool, and things like that. We truly had a great & relaxing time and this resort was beautiful. I'd recommend the resort itself for sure, however due to its location, it's very challenging to get to.

FYI: people kept saying that monkeys are everywhere in Costa Rica, but we didn't see any whatsoever. We didn't even see them when we woke up early one day to go on the guided trail hike where they supposedly see monkeys all the time! Bummer.

Our resort, Dreams Las Maraeas, was absolutely gorgeous. This leg of the trip was our all-inclusive & majorly relaxing portion of our honeymoon. The intention was to lay by the pool, and not do too much more.


The beach at our hotel. This was the first day there and we wanted to swim in the ocean. So we did! It was warm, minimal waves, and not many people were there. Later that day, we were at the front desk inquiring about excursions, and they let us know that swimming in the ocean is actually prohibited right now due to sting rays & strong currents. Apparently we didn't notice the red flags on the beach that were supposed to tell us not to swim in the ocean. (maybe they should tell you to look for those upon check-in...)


Our names were in the daily news letter! "Congratulations Honeymooners: Mr. & Mrs. Obando"


There was a snack bar by the pool that served nachos, hot dogs, burgers, and quesadillas. It was incredible. I ate nachos, or just chips, guac & salsa as pictured here. This always equated to a very happy Shannon.

Our hotel patio included a jacuzzi on it! It was like a double-wise bathtub. It was awesome, like our own personal pool. We had a few beers in here a few nights.
 


Check our Edwin's ring tan!


We went to a show one evening, and Edwin got pulled up on stage. It was hilarious! Here he is, flexing his muscles for the audience as per instruction.

This is how I spent most afternoons, with my dance crew on the pool deck.

Aaaand this is how Edwin spent most of his afternoons, napping poolside.

We had big plans to go on excursion snorkeling. Prior to doing so, we wanted to practice in the pool. Turns out, we never ended up signing up for the excursion so this was the only snorkeling we did on the trip!

The drink on the right was my favorite drink, called a green monster. Edwin starting calling me a green monster because I drank so many! It was a fruity blended drink, but with mint in it. SO GOOD. Edwins drink on the left is a "Bob Marley" as its the Jamaican colors.

At the Mexican restaurant for dinner one evening.

After a few drinks, finding a piano is ALWAYS fun.

The resort was especially pretty in the evenings.

This is us taking the city bus leaving the resort. We took the bus back to San Jose. In San Jose is where we needed to get on our NEXT bus to get to Panama. (again, stay tuned for a long bus ride story...)

I feel like I look really tanned in this photo, so I'm posting it ;)
After this post, only one more left: PANAMA!