A close to home summer

A close to home summer

For the past few summers we have spent a lot of it on the road on a couple of epic trips. If you haven’t before you can read about those trips here, 2017 and 2018. This year though we’re going to stay close to home.

So far things have been a combination of busy and relaxing. Noah seems to be keeping things the most busy. He has baseball which is usually a practise and a game a week. So far it has been going really well. This is his first time ever playing and he’s getting better fast.

There is of course basketball. There isn’t any team basketball going on but he has I go out to the courts fairly regularly to play and he has been to a couple skills camps. The first one was put on by Danny Green who had just finished winning the NBA Championship with the Toronto Raptors. Noah got to briefly meet Danny, get his autograph, a photo, and play a quick bit of one on one with him. While there Lindell Wigginton also came one day and Noah got his picture with him and autograph as well. Lindell is from Nova Scotia and just signed a contract to play in the NBA Summer League with the Raptors. We’ve been watching him play and hoping he ends up sticking with the team.

He also had a camp which was put on by a coach of one of our local high school teams and he had some of the Under 15 Team Nova Scotia boys come out to help. Noah was the youngest and smallest one there but he loved it and learned a lot.

One hilarious moment was during a three in three game Noah was team mates with one of them who is 6′ 6″ tall. Noah setup and took a charge against the other team attacking and drew the offensive foul. Earning some respect the boy came over cheering and went to help pick him but but instead lifted him right up in the air like he was going to dead lift him lol.

Caile and Ella have been dancing as usual but less so than during the season. Ella has been trying out Hip Hop style for the first time as well. She seems to have fun with it but not sure she will do it much more.

Each nice day so far Jen has been taking the kids swimming somewhere. I’ve only been a couple times just based on the times of day they’ve gone but they want to do it as much as possible and having a blast doing it. Usually some friends or family have come along too so that it is even more enjoyable.

Yesterday we went to Halifax and played a tourist in our own capital city. We started by taking the ferry across the harbour and walked up to Citadel Hill toured around there. It’s a really cool place and part of history and has some good views of the city.

From there we walked back to the water front and had some treats at Cows Ice Cream. Some of the kids also stopped at the Freaks Lunch Box to get some candy snacks as well.

It was a fun day and it is nice to get to enjoy our local city for things like that instead of the usual trips we make there which tend to be for shopping trips, dance competitions, or basketball, which all seem to be such busy trips. Spending leisure time with friends and family was just what was needed.

Beautiful Day in Halifax / Bedford

Beautiful Day in Halifax / Bedford

Today was the beginning of another weekend of dance competition in Halifax. While we spent a lot of the day inside watching dance a couple times we ventured down to a park in Bedford, overlooking the Bedford Basin. It was a beautiful day and the kids loved playing on the playground equipment.

First Halifax WordPress Meetup

Tonight I attended my first ever WordPress meetup. When I found out that Alison and Tara were organizing a meetup in Halifax I was very excited. Seeing co-workers going to meetups and WordCamps talking with others who are either passionate about, or wanting to know more and learn about WordPress had me a bit envious.

It was a really great evening, the first talk was about the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. This is a complicated topic that has a fair amount of confusion around it and they did a great job at laying things out.

Over the years I’ve helped people in person to use WordPress but it was really neat tonight to get to engineer some happiness in person and I look forward to doing more of it in the future as well. I’m far from an outgoing person, but I found it really easy to talk to everyone tonight and can even see myself doing a talk at some point.

One of the highlights of the evening for me was when I introduced myself and my job title someone said, “that sounds made up.”

Thanks again to the organizers and everyone who came out. I’m looking forward to seeing you all again.

Chocolates, Oh My!

A few nights back I happened upon a Twitter party going on for the upcoming BlogJam conference that is coming up. I interacted a bit because I’m genuinely excited about attending. At the end I saw a tweet from them saying I had won a prize. I didn’t even realize there were prizes to be won!

Turns out the prize was a gift box of chocolates from Rousseau Chocolatier in Halifax. Not the best gift for someone who is working hard at watching what they eat to lose weight, but oh my I was excited anyway.

rousseau

The other night at the Refresh Annapolis Valley get together I was delivered the prize. I figured I would be strong and bring them home to Jen. I gave in yesterday afternoon and opened it up and ate one. Now I’m going to be battling myself not to eat the rest of the box because it tasted as delicious as they look.

Photo 2015-09-09, 3 02 27 PM

A big thanks to both BlogJam and Rousseau Chocolatier for this awesome treat!

Getting Out and Being Social

This is something I struggle with. Working from home I am always interacting with co-workers and other people, but it is all online. As a family we go and do lots with other families and this is wonderful. Our group of friends are a great group and I always have a lot of fun with them and talking to them. Having these in person relationships and conversations are essential for me to stay a sane person.

Tonight I went out to a meeting with a group I haven’t been to in way to long, Refresh Annapolis Valley. There were three presenters tonight and they were all unique. RenĂ©e Downs is one of the organizers of the upcoming conference BlogJam in Halifax. She spoke about being a reluctant blogger and her story how she got started. Cheri Killam spoke about her year long project she’s undertaken called 5 Down. I’ve been following along and it’s an extremely interesting project, I encourage you call to take a look. The last speaker was Laura Churchill-Duke talking about her site and blog Valley Family Fun.

Equally beneficial to hearing the speakers is just the social interaction with other people. There were new people who I met for the first time and there were friends who I hadn’t seen or talked to for some time. Just tonight I’ve been invited to speak at a future Refresh event about WordPress. Tonight I also got talking with a professor who asked me to come be a guest lecture about WordPress to one of her business classes.

After getting a little taste I’m now even more looking forward to going to BlogJam and hearing and talking to more Bloggers in real life and to the upcoming first meeting for the Halifax WordPress Meetup.

Halifax day trip

Yesterday we took a wonderful day trip into Halifax. It was a beautiful day and it had been a while since we were able to all go spend a day together. This was the first day this year I was able to wear shorts and t-shirt, the only time I was a little cold was when we were on the ferry going across the Halifax

The ferry is my favourite way to get to downtown Halifax. You get a great view of the city and the harbour and it’s pretty cheap as well. We spent a bit of time walking the waterfront and had a treat at Cows ice cream, it’s Jen’s favourite. The boardwalk along the water is so nice with the playground for the kids to play and neat shops and views.

There was some food that was smelling really good when we first walked off the ferry. Noah said that smells so good, can we follow that smell and eat what ever it is.

Discovery Centre Fun Day

We had a great family day in Halifax today. The Discovery Centre has a couple new exhibits set up that we hadn’t been to yet so that was our destination today in between shopping stops.

One of the new parts was a Sherlock Holmes mystery. They had eight chapters to the storey, each with their own clues and rooms. You had to walk through and try to figure out the crime. Maybe it is all the games of clue we’ve been playing but the kids really liked it. We might not be the best detectives though as we missed a couple pieces in the beginning that would have helped us solve it.

We always have fun even at the usual displays. I have to be careful when we go here though as they have a great Lego section and I could likely kill a lot of time there.

Alexandria took a spin in the chair.

Ella and I had fun building our own roller coaster.

Natural History Museum – Dinosaur Exhibit

We’ve been trying for a while now to find the time on a weekend to get into Halifax to do something fun with the kids and get some errands done at the same time. It seems like there has just been one thing or another get in the way though. There have been a few storms, and last weekend Alexandria was sick.

We waited a bit before we left just to give the roads some time to melt off but besides that we had a smooth day. It was also very cold, but the sun was actually shinning so it was a nice drive. There were a couple shopping stops first, but then on to the Natural History Museum to see the Dinosaur Exhibit which is visiting.

On the way home we made our last stop at Costco. That’s always a fun trip especially on a Saturday afternoon. It helped remind me how much I don’t miss living and commuting in the city. Even short distance drives can take forever because of all the traffic. The one good part of stopping at Costco though is the fact that I was able to sneak away and grab a hot dog without anyone noticing. Because of the time we left we ate an early lunch and I knew that we would end up having a late supper so the hot dog was a smart move.

We still had some left on a gift card from Christmas so we had Swiss Chalet for supper. It’s always a nice treat to not have to cook and clean up after at home. We were even treated with a table side magic show by Al Bernard.

All and all it was a great day spent with my family. It seems like things have been leaning heavy to the work side of the work life balance, so this was a welcome day.

Donairs and Donair Pizza

While I was away in Spain meeting my new team one of them, Simon, asked me about food in Nova Scotia and if he came here what he would have to try. The first thing that came to mind was donairs.

Truthfully I don’t actually eat a lot of donairs, but when I do I enjoy them. It is much more common that we will make a donair pizza here at home and eat that instead.

So in case anyone is interested I thought I would share the recipes we use to either make either donairs or the pizza.

We tried a few different variations of the donair meat and sauce recipes, but our favourite came from this site by Glen Petitpas https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/~gpetitpas/Links/Donair.html.

Donair
Image From: https://www.flickr.com/photos/40726522@N02/8600781370/

As I mentioned we usually make a pizza instead of the donair pictured above. To do this we cover the crust with the donair sauce, break up the meat into little chunks and spread it out then you can add onions and tomatoes over top of that if you like. To finish it off cover it with grated mozzarella cheese. Cooking time really depends on the crust but for us we usually do 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes.

If you happen to try out any of the recipes below let me know what you think. As I’m writing this we have donair meat cooking in the oven for pizza tonight and I’m looking forward to it already.

Donair Meat

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 3 pounds lean hamburger
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1-2 tsp cayenne red pepper (depending on your taste)
  • 1 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 3 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

The original recipe recommends seeing if you can have your butcher or meat shop triple grind your hamburg, but we’ve only done this a couple times and didn’t notice a huge difference. We now just grab packages from the cooler in our supermarket.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Knead for 20 minutes. Shape into two tightly formed loaves. Bake on broiler pan for 2 to 2 1/2 hours at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool loaves and slice into thick slabs. Meat can be frozen for future use. You may find that the inner parts of the loaf are not browned enough. This can be remedied by re-heating the meat in a frying pan. This browns it nicely and gives it that slightly chewier texture.

Heat donair meat in a frying pan. Dip a pita bread in water and fry in frying pan to soften (this is VERY important). Place a generous amount of sauce on bread. Top with meat, chopped onions and tomatoes and finish off with lots more sauce. Put on some old clothes, then roll up or serve open face on a plate.

Donair Sauce

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2/3 cup canned sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

(Or for a 14oz tin of sweetened condensed milk, add 1/2 cup vinegar, and 1 tsp garlic powder)

I usually mix the garlic powder in with the vinegar first and then add the sweetened condensed milk. Stir it up until it is a consistent thick texture. We find it best to chill it in the fridge for a while before using.

Pizza Dough

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 pkg yeast

Mix together & let yeast rise, then whisk in:

  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Add 4 cups flour

Knead.
Put dough in covered bowl in oven with light on for 1/2 – 1 hour. Makes 3 round pizzas, or two large square pizzas. Knead in a little flour if sticky. Oil pans & stretch dough to fit. Add toppings. Let sit at least 15 min. before baking. Bake at 450.