Memories that taste good. Le 2.

Now that we've been blanketed in multiple layers of that beautiful, peaceful snow, I feel its time to start my winter weekend homemade soup making and there's no time like the presence.  Or in this case, last weekend.  I thought a lot about my Grandmas last week, which led me to do some baking and then I thought more about the tastes I can remember growing up.  So what better way to kick of my soup making frenzy than with my mom's hamburger soup.  Now this recipe kicked ass growing up, but I remember it with macaroni instead of barley.  Mom proudly informs me that this version was a sell out at the annual Church bazaar this year, with her even getting requests to produce more, can it and sell it.
I happily made myself a batch of her famous soup which has been tweaked and perfected as the years go by.  I also, quite proudly, made a second batch of my Grandma's buns and got a little bit better at the skill set I so lack.  I'm challenging my husband to a bake off this weekend...
Anyway, Mom was happy to share her recipe with me and you!  Make yourself a batch of this hearty, healthy soup and I guarantee it will warm you up this weekend.  It was also a huge hit with the kids.

So have a great weekend!  We look forward to Christmas parties, visits with family and working on our plan for next week: Operation Spread Christmas Cheer.


1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 med onion finely chopped (use a food chopper)
28 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups water
1 litre beef broth
1 can tomato soup
4 carrots, finely chopped (use a food chopper) if you have one that is
3 celery stalks, including leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp parsley flakes
1/2 tsp thyme
pepper to taste
1/2 cup barley (rinsed and drained)

brown meat, till nice and crumbly, add onions and brown some more.  Combine all ing in large pot except barley, simmer, covered till vegs are tender, add barley and continue simmering till barley is tender (2 hours all together minimum).  I usually add a large tin of tomato juice that gives it just that extra flavour.  serves 12. at least.  like one ice cream pail full anyway.


What memories taste like

This week I was overwhelmed with a sense of nostalgia, which I think mostly came from spending a lot of time thinking about my Grandma Diehl and missing her. Maybe it was the quiet nights with husband out of town, giving me plenty of time to think, or perhaps it was the presence of the Christmas tree which becomes so symbolic of everything she valued in life.  A Christmas tree that stayed up year round and definitely forged a love a Christmas in this little girl's soul.

I got very close to making her memory video, but decided I needed more than a 2 hour chunk of time to devote to that in one sitting.  It'll come.  So instead I decided to dig through my recipe drawer and find something to bring her back via my senses.  What better way than with a recipe that was one of my favourites at her house: pizza buns.  This recipe is one of my most cherished possessions as it is scribbled on a note pad by her hand.

I then decided to take this one step further and serve my Grandma Diehl's pizza bun recipe on my Grandma Park's buns.   Growing up in the Park household, Grandma's buns were a staple.  So delicious.  Now, I have never made buns before. Shocker.  I guess I had to start sometime, so what better way than under the tutelage of Grams.  Over a couple of phone calls with her, I gathered enough directives to give me some confidence to start this daunting task on my own.  I managed to produce a dozen buns that looked nowhere close to as good as hers, were way too dense and much to big.  The kids liked them though, so I get effort points, no?  Hmmmmm.....we'll be needing some more practice and I need to work on being more patient.  No surprise there.  Luckily for me, Grams is super patient.

There are so many ways to bring back precious memories and I know that by tasting that pizza bun recipe, it brought back a part of my Grandma that I was missing so much.  I could almost see her pitter pattering around the kitchen in her apron, moccasins, navy pants and white top.  I could almost smell the soft scent of lotion on her smooth skin.   It really made me think about how very important traditions and relationships are with people and that even when they're gone-there are sweet memories left behind.

This gives me motivation to work super hard on my Christmas plans and tradition creating.  What better way than to kick it off the Christmas season than at Sun Dog this weekend.  Come say hi to the Simairs at their Crystalline booth!  I'm sure we'll be around there somewhere.

Have a super weekend.

My current faves

Food: sushi or cheeseburgers.
Beverage: red wine or a non fat, 1/2 sweet pumpkin spice latté
iPhone app: houzz...insanely obsessive especially when you need decor ideas
TV show: The Office, but that changes daily
Colour of shoes: blue, but really right now I'm obsessed with boots.  But not blue ones.
Online shop: or
Restaurant: anything on, obviously.  We ordered from Rock Sugar this weekend. The Kung Pao chicken is INSANE!  You gotta try it.
Song: Somebody to Watch Over Me by Eva Cassidy.  Jazz is the only thing that plays here in the fall.
20 minutes of me time?  A hot bath, wine and a book.
Book that I'm reading: BossyPants by Tina Fey
What I'm cooking batches of: Salsa for the freezer...inspired by Sara.  We have WAY too many tomatoes for only toasted tomato sandwiches this year.

I seriously feel that I've been so slacking in everything that I thoroughly love doing.  No videos have been made, no new photos to update my blog header or facebook....not even really any new stories of entertaining experiences.  We've been so consumed by the upcoming listing of this house that I haven't a moment to breathe really.  After this week, I should be good though: another load to the dump, another visit by Community Living and then some minor paint touch ups and a massive clean to complete a show worthy home.  If that is even possible with 2 kids, 3 adults and 2 dogs living under one roof.
We weren't going to sell until after Christmas with our new home being ready in March-ish, but now we decided we'd eliminate some of the stress and do it in the fall.  Here's to hoping it does sell and we get a good price and don't have too big of a gap where we're homeless.
In the meantime, I've been making some fun decisions for our build.  I'll let you in on some of my thoughts/visions on Wednesday.

Have a glorious Monday!

In a New York state of mind.

In the majority of special events in life I like to take some time to reflect.  I find it to be a useful tool for me in examining the good points, to help me learn from the bad but mostly to fully appreciate the experience that I was given. 
My recent New York trip was like none other; it was quality time spent with my mom and sister while enjoying a wonderful city that is different every time I visit it. 
I would encourage you to take a chance on New York. It is surprisingly clean, friendly and easy to navigate and now that I've been there a couple times, I'm becoming even more efficient at managing my time while visiting. I really don't think this will be my last trip to New York because I usually start craving it every couple of years. There's something about that city that gets me every time...... Here are some of my favourite pics and a quick video, documenting our adventures. Have a most wonderful weekend!  
New York from Dee on Vimeo.

A little bit of this and that

I had intentions of blogging from my laptop in NY, but when I went to turn it out, I found that my power cord was broken. Stupid security and luggage handlers.  So I had to do quick blogs from my phone- so annoying.
A couple extra things that I neglected to include:
1- We had MANY celebrity sightings on this trip.  Our list includes: Marlo Thomas (mom was super pumped about this one..Kyla and I had no clue who she was until she informed me she was Rachel's mom on Friends), some top 10 contestant from American Idol. Asian. Guy. I don't watch that show, so again it was mom being giddy. And lastly, my favourite, Troy (Donald Glover) from Community.... he was actually on our flight and I locked eyes with him.  I wish I would have been on the ball instead of awestruck and sung: "Troy and Ahbed in the moooorning".  

2- I did manage to take some video and will be working on a compilation to hopefully debut on Friday's blog.  But I'm also battling a pile of corrections that I neglected, a 2nd birthday party to prepare and some major quality time with my kids.  We'll see what happens. Oh, and our school flooded because of a water main things are kinda interesting there. If I wanted to get ahead with my corrections, I couldn't even do that because we're not allowed in the school. Urg.

I'll leave you with a cute email I got from Dan whilst I was out gallivanting.

Last night was rough.  Worked late again and Willis’ sheets weren’t out of the dryer yet, so I put him to bed in our room.  As he goes to bed he tells me “Don’t worry dad, if I have to pee I’ll wake myself up and go to the bathroom.”  Around 11 I take him to the washroom and move him to his bed anyway.  Around 12:30 he wets his bed.  I’m heading to bed anyway at that point, so I switch him to our bed after another bathroom stop.  Around 3 I wake up.  No Willis.  I look around the house – he had gone downstairs, got the big orange blanket, brought it up to his room and was sleeping with it on his pile of teddies.  Cute.  Then this morning Lucia wakes up just after six – I go to bring her to our bed to try to sleep a bit more.  Then I see the big pee spot where Willis had been.  Yeesh.   
But things got cute pretty quick this morning…

Took the kids out very early to let the rest of the house sleep.  Made a bunch of errand stops, and I ask “where to next?”.  Lucia throws up her hands in the air and yells “Shopping!”. 

Then we went to Tim’s for breakfast (“Hortons!” according to Lucia – she’s on a roll this morning).  Pretty empty at that hour, yet Willis walks up to a table of police officers and tries to pull up a chair.  Odd, but they laugh.  We get the table right beside them.

At breakfast, I tell Willis we forgot Grandpa’s birthday.  He puts down his breakfast sandwich mid bite.  Thinks for 15 seconds and says “Dad.  This is very bad.”  Thinks another 15 seconds.  “We better make Grandpa a pink birthday cake.”  I guess that makes it extra special or something.

We called Grandpa when we got home from shopping around 9.  Willis sang him happy birthday, Lucia said hi.  We’re going to make a trip to PA tomorrow to bring him his birthday cake.

The NYC finale

Our last travel day of adventure we won't against our normal Park-isms and didn't plan a thing. I know- crazy, hey. I can hear Dan gasping from here. I'm a planner, Kyla's a planner and mom's a planner. It is so deep rooted in my soul that there likely isn't a minute of my day that isn't on agenda. Being a teacher doesn't help this. Another thing deeply rooted- the inability to be late for something. I hate being late and prefer to be early for being early.
Anyway- today was a play it by ear day- mostly because the weather was rainy to start with. It was refreshing to go with the ebb and flow of the city vibes, hoping on a hop on hop off bus at various stops. It was pouring off the bat and we were cold and soaked so naturally our first stop was a shoe store.
It only made sense.
After we were cozy dry, we made our way back on the bus and to the World Trade Memorial. It's crazy how much has been built on that site, among it 2 beautiful waterfall pools on the footprints of the original twin towers. I'm glad we took the time to check out this work in progress- it was beautiful.
We then toured our way back up to the hotel where Kyla and I dropped the old lady off for some quiet time (a book and a coffee) and we went and nabbed us some half price tickets to an evening show. Totally unplanned, entirely liberating. Our choices were Mamma Mia, Rent, Ghost or Phantom. We went with Phantom. I last saw this show 20 years ago as my very first musical. It was a grade 6 school trip and I likely was more excited for a bus ride with my friends and boys and a trip to the mall but the musical also created a love for me that still burns. I also remember Jason stealing a hat from the mall and getting in serious shit.
With that our trip comes to an end and we're back to our sweet little families tomorrow. I can't wait to hug my kids and cuddle with my hubby!!!!

Travel day 4

I'm losing track of our days....
When Kyla, Sara and I went to NYC 4 years ago, we had 3 full days. It was good but a little rushed. So this trip we decided to have 4 full days. I'm glad we went with this, it feels just right.
Yesterday we learned and had a fantastic educational tour en route to Harlem on the Harlem Spiritual tour. The history of manhattan was covered and we ended at a Pentecostal mass which was so very different to anything I've ever lived. Singing, dancing, tambourines....
Next we went to Sister Act- more singing, dancing and joy joy joy! It was a good musical. Godspell is still hands down the best I've ever seen.
Our evening was spent giving mom a wardrobe overhaul at Macy's à la what not to wear.... Lots of giggles there.
Finally we did the Empire State building at night- a first for me- seeing the city lit up just added to its beauty. We ended the night at a fantastic French brasserie, les Halles, once again at 11pm.
Today is our last full day of NYC...what oh what shall be in store....

Travel day 3

If Friday was a day to pay homage to the shopping gods, then Saturday was easily the day spent with the gods of art. We spent the good part of the day gawking at monets, manets, picassos, van goghs and renoirs.
It was like a dream seeing all the original paintings from works I have admired much of my life. Highlights? 1-The two girls at the piano by renoir. This hung in my piano teacher's studio where Kyla, rob and I spent much of our childhood.
2- Starry Starry nights by Van Gogh- also another all time fave.

We also decided to break up our day with a pedicab tour of Central Park. It was a beautiful day in New York and the Park was packed with people enjoying life. We even got to witness a proposal and a wedding. Quite lovely!
Other excitement in our day was the huge toy store, FAO Schwartz where I got Willis a backpack for kindergarten and Lucia a 2nd bday present.
Another great stop was Rockefeller Centre where we went to Top of the Rock and enjoyed a cupcake or two from Magnolia Bakery.
Tonight we took in a play, Harvey, which was mom's choice. It apparently was a childhood fave so we had to see it and it turns out that Sheldon from Big Bang, Jim Parsons is starring in it. Bonus! It was a very funny play and I enjoyed seeing bits of Sheldon's voice up close and personal.
Once again we had supper at 11pm....Tis a crazy life we lead!

Travel day 2

Today was epic. I could not have written a more perfect script, thankyouverymuch.
Our fantastic day was spent at the outlet malls getting our shopping itch taken care of right off the bat so we could chill. If Park girls do anything the same- its shop: purposeful, thoughtfully and with as much zest and zeal as possible.
Things were bought, not gonna lie. While we were making our purchases- I was picturing Dan at home, with a live feed of the visa bill-slyly commenting at each purchase. My image of him was so real that I even made some of Kyla's purchases for her- just for entertainment's sake.
Banana republic, nine west, Marc jacobs, dkny, bcbgmaxaxria, Clark's (mom,duh) apparently I'm a shoe snob and too good to shop there....Oshkosh, lulu were all represented. With much joy, I might add.
Our evening was capped off with a moving performance of Godspell. The very first musical I ever fell in love with I found it so hard not to sing along as I still have the harmonies ingrained in my heart. We had front row for this intimate performance and I can't say I've seen anything as incredible. It was so good in fact that all 3 Park girls were in tears by the end and had it not been front row, I'm sure I would have broke into an ugly cry. It was that beautiful.
Because we are in the city that never sleeps, we felt the need to have supper at 11pm at a Hell's Kitchen restaurant: 5 napkin burger.
A really great day over here. Hope you're having a great weekend - we are missing our families too - in case you think we have forgotten they exist.

Travel day 1

4 a.m is early to get up regardless what you're doing. It does however, get more enjoyable when you're hopping a flight to New York City with your mom and sister.
Thursday was a long day of travel with a flight to Regina to Chicago then finally we were at our hotel in Times Square by supper time. The Westin Time Square is a superb choice so far for its cleanliness (it passed mom's check) and for its location. Also we're on the 44th floor of 45 and have a fantastic view.
We took it easy last night, strolling through the busy Times Square, stopping at a few shops, where mom made the trip's first official purchase- a Fossil watch- and then for a fantastic supper at the popular Toloache. It's a highly recommended Mexican eatery with authentic dishes. I had Camarones Toloache and they were superb. They also served three house guacamoles- one normal, one spicy and one with fruit.
The nuit was grand and we were quite tired and happy to snuggle in for a good night's sleep.

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