Family Hockey Pool

For as long as I can remember, my family has created a family-exclusive NHL Hockey Pool. Each fall, someone carefully crafts a draft which is intended to challenge and pull at the heartstrings of the participants. It is distributed around Thanksgiving for careful consideration and selection. The entry fee is pretty minimal (heck, most of us forget to pay) but there is a lot more at stake than winning a few measly dollars, there is pride, reputation, and a trophy on the line!

I used to make my selection based on which player’s name sounded the funniest. Then, when I got a bit older, I used to pick the player that was on my favorite team. At one time, I’m pretty sure my cousin chose players based on their potential for being suitors for herself.  We all have our own strategies. Some work better than others but we all want to win.

And then there’s the trash talk. I think this is my favourite aspect of all. Alliances made, alliances broken, threats, jabs, kicks, chants, and that’s just from Grandma! Spouse vs. spouse, kids vs. adults, boys vs. girls; no one is immune, especially around the dinner table during Christmas.

This year has been a real shake up. Many of the expected ‘top-ranked’ participants have been underperforming, underdogs have made healthy strides and others have been subject to a battery of injuries. Many weeks remain, so we can’t be too sure to pin-point a victor quite yet, but it sure is fun.

And maybe I’ll keep a drumstick under the table this Christmas ‘just incase’.


Sugar Sugar

Like most people lately, the past few weeks have been busy busy busy. I've been settling in at my new position, attending holiday parties, shopping for gifts, decorating my place and wrapping presents. My baking endeavours have been on the back burner for a while but this weekend I got back into the swing of things. This recipe... sugar cookies.

Sugar Cookies:

3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups butter (oh boy)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350'F. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until completely combined. Cool the dough overnight in the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough 1/2 to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out shapes as desired and place on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake 6-8 minutes or until edges just start to brown. Let cool completely before icing.

Royal Icing:

3 egg whites
3 cups icing sugar

Beat egg whites until foamy. Slowly add sugar and stir until completely blended. Add colouring if desired. Icing will cool and harden.  Pipe or spread on cookies as desired.


There IS Holiday Spirit

A few days ago I wrote about my frustration with the lack of holiday spirit over the past few days. But every story has two sides and I’d like to share some of the good things that have happened to me too.

You may recall that my wallet was stolen after lengthy appointments at a hospital. As my friends in Australia say, I was ‘dev’ (meaning devastated). Such an annoying process that I’m still trying to rectify by the way. Anyhow, what I wanted to point out is that I had a great friend who took time out of her day to come meet me at the hospital and wait with me while my eyes were readjusting. There’s not much you can do to kill time when you don’t have vision. Books, magazines, internet browsing, even listening to my iPod was out of the question because I could barely enter my pass code into my iPhone let alone see a playlist. So my friend drove to the hospital, took me out for coffee, had good conversation, and once we realized my wallet was stolen, she even drove to the bank and gave me some emergency money to get by in the mean time. True friends and true kindness; I’m so very grateful.

I was also really touched by how much D stepped up and helped me out with the situation. See, the stolen wallet was actually a gift from him during our very first trip together. I’m not a very materialistic person (okay, maybe I am a little bit) but I hadn’t ever had a ‘designer’ wallet before and, more importantly, it had sentimental value to me. I was able to keep myself together the whole day in but, of course, when I called him at noon to tell him what happened the tears started flowing. He told me very sympathetically that everything was replaceable and not to worry about he wallet. Then later that evening, after an exhausting day clinic, he took me out shopping for a replacement and then out for dinner. He didn’t even mention that an important hockey game was on or that his new Xbox had arrived in the mail just that morning. Three days later, a huge pot of seasonal poinsettias was sitting at my place; white ones, of course, to go with my festive colour-scheme.

So I don't really have a point other that that I am extremely grateful to have people who take care of me when things go right and when things go wrong. I don't like being a negative person who focusses on all that is wrong with the world. There will always be people who cut in line, take your parking stall, or nearly hit you with the bus they're driving while talking on a cel phone (ahem, hopefully not that often) but there will also be people who hold the elevator door open for you, treat you to coffee 'just because' or simply smile at you when you pass them on the street.

And no wallet will ever be worth more to me than my friends and family who make me feel like a million bucks.


Where’s the Holiday Spirit?

A few things have more-than-annoyed me lately and anyone who knows me knows it I’ve got a pretty high level of tolerance. I’ve been known to apologize to people for cutting in line ahead of me or stand patiently and smile while someone takes 15 minutes to check out 5 items at the self-check out counter. But after this past week I’m beginning to question, where is the holiday spirit?

After enduring a battery of tests at the hospital for a few hours Wednesday morning I decided to grab a coffee. While putting the lid on my seasonal beverage my wallet was stolen. Driver’s License, Credit Cards, Health Care cards, money…all gone. The barista behind the counter looked more inconvenienced than anything when I asked if someone had perhaps turned it in.

A city bus driver nearly ran into me while I walked across the street at a marked crossing. Was it by any chance the cel phone that you were yacking on that distracted you from the red lights Buddy? Not cool. Plus I think that’s forbidden for public transit drivers to be talking on cel phones, at least it should be. I gave him a dirty stare-down and he ignored me. Complaint filed.

And finally, after waiting 4.5 MINUTES in my car (with my signal light blinking I might add) for an elderly gentleman to load up his car, read the label of an item he purchased, put his cart away and pull out of a parking spot, a big SUV whipped around the corner and drove immediately into the empty stall. Even the bystanders outside the store shook their heads.

I’m hoping things turn around soon because I’m fed up right now!