A Saturday in November


A particularly creative free day

It’s the perfect kind of November day for a Saturday. A day typically spent indoors should be one that is gray and relatively unappealing. This combination of chill temperatures and somber skies makes it very easy to focus.

Our Saturday morning ritual has become something I look forward to. N and I get up early with the girls, who have started classes on Saturday mornings. Mama S sleeps in after a long week of commuting to and from her job. After the girls are dropped off, N and I scoot to the nearby Second Cup where we grab a warm beverage and find a cozy corner to sit with our laptops and catch up on work, or catch up on writing, or catch up on the myriad frivolities of the Internet. We’ve got a couple of solid hours of “me” time before we gather up the girls and head home. Then we work as a crew to clean our home, which leads us usually to the dinner hour.

The grown ups in our home are trying to follow Timothy Ferriss’ ‘The Four Hour Body’ and Saturday has become our ‘free day’. Six days of careful food choices are capped with one day where we can eat anything our hearts desire. We’ve made the girls a part of this too – very carefully. We explain that we take care of our bodies by choosing to eat very healthy and exercise, and then on ‘free day’ we can enjoy some treats that might be less healthy. We aren’t the kind of parents who restrict foods from them though. We try to maintain a healthy, balanced diet for them rich in protein, but if the occasion for a treat arises, and good nutrition has been a big part of their day, then it’s usually a ‘yes’.

I’ve discovered in my own quest for healthier living that education and temperance are key. I like food plans that make sense and are easy to maintain, and I have learned to be forgiving of myself if I can’t stay on track. N and I are fortunate because we work from home, so we aren’t constantly tempted by fast food options or social indulgences. We have also been successful at building a morning work out into our schedule. For Mama S, who works out of the house, it’s a bit more of a challenge to stay consistent, but she’s genetically blessed with amazing muscle mass and so, in my opinion, is ahead of the curve.

Today’s indulgence will be a grown-ups only dinner at Holy Chuck. while the girls are spending time with N’s mom. I’ve been craving poutine all week, and it was high on my list for free day. N met the owner of Chuck and Co. at a foodie dinner this week and it didn’t take much to sell Mama S and I on the idea of burgers and gravy smothered fries.

Free day will become our biggest day for recipe sharing I think. We tend to be our most creative then. Last week, for example, we spent the entire day working together on this Epicurious Chicken Pot Pie. It literally took the ENTIRE DAY to make, but we all love being in the kitchen, so with some great tunes and a glass or two of wine, it was a pleasure. If you are less inclined to devote your day to cooking, I recommend breaking the recipe up and prepping it over a couple of days. The dough and the chicken broth can be made ahead. This was the very best chicken pot pie I have ever tasted in my entire life. I cut the sage by half because Mama S isn’t a big fan, and N was worried that the dough was too sticky, but we went with it and it turned out perfectly! I did notice the potatoes could have been a bit more pre-cooked before baking in the pie, and I truly recommend you read this recipe ahead of time as there are lots of steps. We managed to smash this with the help of N’s mum and brother, and the girls were rather disappointed to have nothing left for Monday lunch. Next time, we’ll make two!

I’m starting to get all Christmasy. It’s my favorite time of year, and I really want to make it special for our family, even though none of us are particularly Christian. I love the warmth of the season though, and all of the cooking, baking, making, sharing, presents, delicious aromas, etc. We have a couple of holiday traditions that we look forward to all year long:

1. The Ross Petty Pantomime

We took the girls as a family for the first time last year, and they continued to talk excitedly about the show for an ENTIRE YEAR afterward. I’ve worked in theatre for my entire adult life, and the shows are a real delight for all ages. Campy goodness, shameless gags, singing, dancing – they have it all. We got to enjoy the show last night. This year was inspired by the Wizard of Oz and A (our 5 and a half year old) got pulled up on stage where she unflinchingly charmed everyone before a crowd of easily a thousand people. Earlier, she turned around coyly in her seat and batted her eyes at a fourteen year old boy who gave her a peanut M&M without her even having to ask. Mama S says she takes after me. Our dear friend Ming Wong works as a costume cutter for the Panto, so she was able to hook us up with a mind-blowing friends and family discount, but the evening is great entertainment and silly fun, so I think we’d go regardless. It made H (our 8 year old) belt out her Snoopy laugh several times, and that itself is worth the admission.

2. The Winter Fair

Each December the girls’ school puts on a fund raising event called the Winter Fair. It’s a collaborative effort made possible by the labours of the parents and teachers, and it is absolutely magical. The school is totally transformed into a Winter Wonderland and with games, and crafts, and puppet shows, and delicious food to fill the day it’s a highlight of the year for all of the school community. I’m trying to lure some of our friends with wee ones to the fair this year.

November has consistently been a challenging time of year, where I find myself battling old sadness, where big unsettling changes tend to happen, and where the shift into the bluster of Autumn can make me feel really small and uncertain. I’m learning that embracing this shift towards quiet, inward turning is empowering and I’m learning that creating warmth and love in the form of mulling spices and chimney smoke is almost as powerful as sunshine.

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