5 Simple Steps to Cooking Dinner for 30

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I am hosting Christmas for my mom's family this year. With my grandma, her 6 kids and all of their kids, and all of their kids, it can get kind of crowded. I've estimated 30 people for dinner. That includes the 5 of us, so really only 25 guests. A lot of people haven't RSVP'd, which is causing me a bit of anxiety.

SandiegoMomma asks "Now, as for your 30-person Christmas dinner: what are you going to cook? I must know how you're going to do it all. I could use the advice."

We will be having the full-blown turkey dinner on Christmas. Turkey and everything that goes with it. Mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, root vegetables, desserts, etc. How will this be accomplished? I will do what I do best. Organize, delegate and manage this 'project'.

Step 1: decorate the house for Christmas as early as possible, which usually means no earlier than Dec 1st, if DH has anything to say about it. I really enjoy this part, and this is something I would do whether I was hosting a dinner or not.

Step 2: rent tables, chairs and dishes. It'll be the best $100 I ever spent, especially if I can convince someone to help me out by picking them up and delivering them here on Dec 23rd.

Step 3: enlist dear Aunt to coordinate all of the side dishes. Yes, everyone is bringing something. In our rather traditional (read: old-fashioned) family, this usually means complicated, expensive dishes from the women, and buns and butter or pop from the men. ;-)

Step 4: beg DH to make his delicious turkey, the one thing other than the venue that we are providing.

Step 5: be gracious and thank everyone for helping out. Enjoy the evening, then put the rented dishes into the boxes and send them back. The best part is that the rental company washes them!

Sounds good on paper. Check in with me Christmas morning and see how I'm doing!

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And the Basement Goes On and On

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Getting renovations done has been an interesting experience. Having never done this before, I am learning a lot. Meeting with the company principal was fun. Designing the basement with the designer was a fun experience. Seeing the final estimate was not fun. Meeting the general contractor was fun. Having him notice a few problems with the design was not fun. Having him resolve most of them was fun.

We're now in the second week of our basement renovation, and it doesn't really seem like much progress has been made. If you went into my basement, you would be surprised at what you would see. There's a bit of framing around a few walls, a subfloor, and a big hole in the concrete where the bar will go.

The whole first week of the reno, there one labourer here, sometimes two, along with a parade of 'trades' like the plumber, the electrician and the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) guy. One suggestion I will have for the renovators is that the trades all come through before the reno starts to give true estimates, and to have some lead time to schedule their work.

As a project management professional, I am using this reno as a bit of a case study. On any project, scope, budget and time are the three main variables. Only one can be fixed. If scope is fixed, that means the budget and the time can change. If the budget cannot be changed, that means that the scope of the project or the length of the project may change when the unexpected arises. In the case of my renovation project, the budget is fixed. What this means, is that the contractor will attempt to absorb unexpected costs. What it also means is that they expect us to be pretty flexible on the end date. I'd say it's a fair trade.

When we were first meeting with the principal, he told us the project would take between 2 and 3 weeks. When we signed the final design documents and put our 50% down, we were told it would be 3-4 weeks. On the second day of the reno, the general contractor told us it would be at least 5 weeks, and the week before Christmas doesn't count, effectively putting it at 6 weeks, or more.

So far, so good as far as tolerating the disruption, the mess and the noise. The guys working downstairs are really considerate, but when they were attaching strapping to the ceiling yesterday, I could have sworn they were going to send a nail right up into the bottom of my foot! When they cut out the basement floor to move some plumbing, the amount of dust was absurd, and when they attached the subfloor to the concrete, they used a nail gun that is truly a gun in that it uses gun powder! It is inevitable that a renovation will be loud and messy. I just have to keep my eye on the prize - a beautiful basement that we'll be able to use - once we can save up enough to buy a couch for down there.

I know that in no time at all, I won't even remember the inconvenience of the reno, but come Christmas day, it should be interesting as I'm hosting 30 people for supper. I've rented three 8-foot tables and 30 chairs and plan to have them all set up in the living room, but the room is now filled with boxes, extra furniture, a cabinet full of extra paint for all the rooms in the house, and all of the fixtures for the new powder room! Hopefully the downstairs storage room will be finished in time for me to move everything in there so we will have somewhere for people to sit! The contractor has even promised to help us clear out the room before they leave for Christmas holidays. I will hold him to that!

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Slippery When Wet

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

First of all, it is snowing. It has been snowing since Monday night and it's scarcely stopped. Wait, no, it stopped snowing a few times when it was raining. We're notorious for freezing rain around here, and tonight was a perfect example of the worst possible driving conditions. It was snowing and raining at the same time and the temperature was hovering around zero Celcius (freezing). I carefully headed out to my hockey game. It did not go unnoticed by me that there was a thin sheet of ice on my car that I had to scrape off. I'm parking in the driveway because the contents of my basement have been emptied into my garage. Thin sheet of ice on the car equals thin sheet of ice on the roads.

Let me preface this next part by saying that I'll make a really good old-lady driver someday. I'm a little cautious and don't like to use the brakes very often. I prefer to coast to a stop. I don't accelerate overly fast either. I justify it by saying I'm getting better gas mileage and also saving the life of my car, both of which are true, by the way. So, I head out to my hockey game this evening, and I'm slowly (15 kms/h) approaching the first intersection, when I touch the brakes and my car promptly does a 180. Thank goodness no one else was on the street or parked there. I had very little control over the car. Since I was going so slowly, it was actually a good opportunity for me to practice my technique of steering into the turn so I can get some traction. It worked, by the way, but only once I was already facing the other direction.

Since I was already facing home, I thought about just driving back right away and skipping hockey, but I really love hockey, and I expected that the main roads would be better. Around here, we spread salt all over the roads when the conditions are like this. The salt melts the ice and makes driving safer, but it wreaks havoc on the body of the car, our shoes, boots, pant cuffs and car mats.

I was right and the main roads were fine. I made it to hockey on time, and even make it home again.

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Happy Birthday Precious!

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Precious is 3! I was at work all day, and the workers were jack-hammering my basement floor, spreading an enormous amount of dust all over my house. My grandma, step-father, dad and brother were all expected around 5 for Precious' family birthday party. I stopped off at the store to get a red velvet cake, which looked like a white top hat with a red band, as well as pick up the photos from the family portrait we had done yesterday. I may post more on this next time. Suffice it to say that all of the photos save one were disappointing. I got home just after 4. That's the nice part about leaving for work at 6:30 a.m. You get to leave work at 3:00.

After my post-work errands, I got home to a bit of a dusty mess. DH had dismissed the workers early because of the party. I got swiffering and mopping and had most of the dust under control; at least the dust I could see. I ordered pizza, wings and salad and people started arriving. We did all the normal birthday stuff, like eating supper and the cake, and then Precious opened her presents. All of the presents were appropriate for her developmental stage, and she was so excited! DH and I got her a little play laptop. She is always wanting to play on my laptop and talk on the phone. I wonder why? ;-) Like Mother, like Daughter, I guess.
This is Precious right after eating her pizza. Thank goodness for RAW, because I had the wrong white balance setting, which was pretty easy to fix in Adobe Bridge.

I'm researching lenses right now and I was thinking of the Tamron (for Canon) 18-200 with IS. Anyone else have that one? What do you think?

BTW, in today's paper, there was an article about The Big Bang Theory, which is one of my favourite shows. The article said it is one of the funniest shows on TV right now. Remember how I also said I had no more time to watch Pushing Daisies and Dirty Sexy Money? Today, I read that these two shows, while not cancelled, are no longer in production. Has there been some karmic intervention here? Freaky!

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Birthday Party for Precious

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Yesterday we had a birthday party for Precious at the house. Sweet Pea and I made a cake Friday afternoon during Precious' nap. After hockey on Friday night, I decorated it and put a little Dora figurine in the corner. Saturday morning at 10, her friends arrived. Lauren, Abby and Abbi (and Isabella - yeah!) came and they had a snack, opened presents, and ate cake. Their parents are so nice and it was really fun for me to take pictures and to get to know Abby's mom and Lauren's dad. The party went well, despite the fact that I forgot the ice cream and the loot bags! The house was a bit messy, because everything that was in our basement is now stored throughout the house. We have our chest freezer and beer fridge in the kitchen right now, a set of dining room chairs (my brother's) in the living room, and there are two Barcelona-style chairs in the den which don't belong there. Don't get me started on the spare bedroom and the garage! We can't even park in the garage and it's a two-car!

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Favourite TV Shows

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Now that I'm working part-time, with three kids, playing hockey once or twice a week, doing yoga and going to the gym, I've had to let certain parts of my leisure time slide. I haven't had as much time to take photos. I'm not quite as organized as usual, and I've had to let two t.v. shows 'go'. In order to be able to stay on top of my life, I just can't spend as much time watching t.v. or surfing the net.

There are a few shows I love and I'll never miss. You already know about Junk Food TV night.
I can't watch Two and a Half Men anymore because DH likes Heroes, and it's on at the same time as Heroes, so I tape Heroes for him. Yes, tape it. On a VCR. And I can't watch anything else while it's on. I love Big Bang and How I Met Your Mother. These are the shows I watch 'live' with the computer on my lap. Most of the other shows, I tape and watch a different night so I can fast forward through the commercials.

My Favourite Shows
Sundays - Desperate Housewives and Brother and Sisters.
Mondays - Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother.
Tuesdays - Pure Design, some show with Suzanne Dimma, and Sarah's House.
Saturdays - Hockey Night in Canada
Any night my NHL team has a televised game, I'll watch.

I had to let Pushing Daisies and Dirty Sexy Money 'go'. Sorry. No time.
When I have a bit of free time during the day, I watch CityLine.

What shows do you like and would you never miss?

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I love insurance companies

During the summer, we renewed our home insurance, and I actually took the time to read the insurance fine print. I remembered something about having to call the insurance company if I were undertaking renovations. It implied that my insurance during the renovation process would need to be updated. I finally called today to fess up that I was getting renovations done, and they agreed to charge me $150 more this year and reduce my coverage, by about half, for the duration of the renovation!

Wow. Am I ever glad I called... NOT!

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Just One of the Unwashed Masses

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I had an experience today that wasn't one of my favourite things. I took the bus to work for the first time in three years. I was outside at the bus stop while it was still dark out (6 a.m.) and the bus came at 6:10. I took it across town and arrived at the bus station near my work at 7:55. I waited in the cold for 10 minutes, then got on my next bus. The bus was standing room only. I arrived at work after an hour and 25 minutes, cold and cranky. I couldn't believe it took that much time to get to work. And that I'll have to do it every Tuesday.

If I had the money tomorrow, right after my dentist appointment tomorrow, I would go out and buy a car.

UPDATE: I made a little error on the timing of my bus ride. I got on the bus near home at 6:10, got to the bus station across town at 6:55, and got to my desk at 7:25.

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Happy 88th Birthday Grandma!

Monday, November 17, 2008

My mom's mom is 88 years old today. She shows barely any signs of slowing down. She lives in her own apartment, where she gets lots of visits, attention, help with shopping, etc. from her 6 children, who all live more or less in the same city, with at least four of them being less than 10 minutes away by car.

Recently, she decided that she wanted to go into a nursing home down the road from her current apartment. She changed her mind at the last minute because she claimed she would miss baking too much.

Yesterday, we had a birthday party for Grandma at my aunt's house. After an hour or so, all three of my children warmed up to her enough to pose for photos. Hopefully there are many more birthdays ahead for "Great-Grandma"!

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Too Cute

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Check out this video by Feist, Canadian performer extraordinaire. If you aren't familiar with the song, but who isn't, she has changed the words to make it perfect for Sesame Street. The original appeared in an iPod Nano commercial too.

Thanks for sending that Valerie!

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Estate Business

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My dear aunt passed away in Sept 2007 and my brother and I are executors of her will. We sold her house for a good price last November, and filed her final tax return in April 2008. Once we got the return back from Revenue Canada, we thought we were ready to distribute money to the beneficiaries. Was I wrong! Turns out we had to apply for something called a clearance certificate, which takes 6 - 9 months to process, and then we could do the distribution.

After considering everything from doing nothing and waiting, to firing our current lawyer, my brother and I decided to ask that some of the estate be distributed. After waiting almost a month since we first asked, and many emails later, I finally submitted the last paperwork required and we should be getting the partial distribution soon.

I really think this will help to take the pressure off. The rest of the money will come once the clearance certificate arrives. I'll be so glad when this job is done.

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Phew, What a Week!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ever feel jinxed? Last week was one of those weeks. Monday night, I drove 25 minutes out to my naturopath's office and the whole place was dark, the front door was locked, and there were no cars in the parking lot! I had an appointment card that said I was scheduled for an appointment, but obviously someone forgot to tell the doctor. I turned around and drove 25 minutes home.

Wednesday morning, I went to Starbuck's to meet Mindy for a coffee. I waited and waited 30 minutes and still no Mindy. Since I don't have a cell phone, I never thought to call her, I just figured she was caught up with something or she forgot, but it turns out we had out signals crossed and she thought we were meeting on Thursday but I thought we were meeting on Wednesday.

Thursday morning, DH and I had an important meeting with the preschool team for Precious. We had seriously considered withdrawing her from the program because we weren't sure she was getting adequate attention, but what was said at the meeting assured us that she would be getting attention and that the teachers would be focussing on the goals we had set out.

Friday night, I played soccer with Dory's Crew and hurt my ankle when I was trying to kick the ball and a girl on the other team was trying to kick it in the opposite direction, at the same time. I ended up playing half of the next game because a bunch of ladies on my summer team were there and they were short a few players. I had to leave early because I had hockey at 10:15. I left the soccer field and headed for the arena and played my game. I had a pretty good game, but I was feeling a bit tired. It was over 5 hours since supper, plus I'd played 90 minutes of soccer and we had only 7 skaters. 10 is normal, so we were kind of tired. I finally scored a goal, and I got an assist, so I was pretty happy. Plus, the chicken wings at the bar after the game were the best I had ever had!

On the weekend, Mr. Boy had two birthday parties and at the second, I brought Sweet Pea and I paid for her so she could play on the jungle gym and have fun while we waited. It was fun for her and she enjoyed running into her brother. I painted window trim for an hour and a half, and we even went out on Saturday night to see a band that DH knows.

Today, I was at work and the nanny was at home with the kids. Mr. Boy came home from school before 9:30 because of a sore stomach. The nanny is so great. She plays with the kids, helps Precious with her speech, does the laundry and keeps everything neat. I was a bit late getting home today because I stopped at the blinds store (French pun Sylvie), the bank and the plumbing store on the way home. Ever since we ordered our basement powder room fixtures, I've been second guessing myself on the toilet we chose. I felt like we were spending a premium on everything from flooring to cabinetry to ensure it was 'green', but we had a traditional 6 litres/flush toilet instead of a dual flush. I went today and switched to the dual flush. All of the fixtures are in and are being delivered on Wednesday.

The lighting store called and our bathroom sconces and bar pendants are in. I managed to switch the pendants to this one below, called Fiero. I had ordered ugly ones and I'm glad I was able to change my mind.Normally I work on Tuesdays, but tomorrow is Remembrance Day here in Canada, so I have the day off. When I was leaving work, I said in a faux-dramatic way "What a week!" and they laughed and said they would get me back for that comment!

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Working It

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Things have been a little hectic around here. That`s my excuse for not posting. I`ve been trying to clean up after the window installers, had company over on night, played hockey, worked two days, went to the naturopath, tried to meet my friend for coffee, helped with piano lessons, took one child to a specialist`s appointment, hosted a brunch for friends, painted window trim, and prepared and hosted a birthday dinner, all in the last 4 days!

Today I wanted to tell everyone how work is going. I`ve worked 4 days, 3 of which were at my desk. The fourth day was a seminar related to project management. Sadly, I haven`t done much work yet. I`ve spent a lot of time getting accounts activated, setting up access to various documents, and I even made one trip to the headquarters building to get my building pass but lacked the proper documentation. The person who will be showing me the work was too busy this week to show me what he needs. He just needs to give me a little bit of time, and I can help him lessen his workload!

I love being back at work. It feels good to be working for money again, and I even get undisturbed breaks! There are so many adults with whom to converse! I`ve been gone just over 3 years, but there are still some familiar faces and everyone is so friendly and helpful. It sounds a bit too good to be true, but it`s not.

One of the little perks of the job is that there is a free gym. There are nice leafy neighbourhoods on two sides of the building, making it ideal for lunchtime runs.

So far, my commute has been easy, as I`ve had the car and there hasn`t been much snow. I`ve been listening to Astrid and Veronika in the car and I`m on the last CD. It really makes the time go faster. It`s about 25 minutes each way. I`m leaving around 6:30 in the morning and getting home at least an hour before the nanny has to leave. That gives me time to change my clothes, start Mr. Boy`s homework with him, figure out what notes came home from school, and even make supper before the nanny leaves. All in all, it`s working out really well. And the nanny rocks.

I`m finding it a bit hard to sit at a desk all day, and I don`t have many clothes that fit right now, but these things will improve, I`m sure. I just joined GoodLife Fitness and I can`t wait to get started!

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In The End, It Will Be All Worth It

Sunday, November 2, 2008

After the problems we had with the window installers, I was so glad it was finally over by the time I got home from work on Friday. Our window installation took twice as long as expected. The weather didn't co-operate, and putting the wrong colour of flashing didn't exactly help. Once the windows installers ripped off all the flashing they installed on Monday and Tuesday and installed the correct colour, the windows looked pretty good. Once I vacuumed and mopped for the second time in one week (and the nanny did it once as well), dusted everything, , moved some of the furniture back., and painted some of the trim, everything started looking good. Our windows are fibreglass, triple-glazed (meaning 2 panes of glass), with a low-e coating, and they are gorgeous to boot! They are easy to open and there are no broken seals, so we can see out of all of the windows now! Our patio door is much easier to operate, too.
The house looked fine before. (see photo above) All of the trim was fairly light in colour. All we had changed in the last 5 years, since we bought the house, was the roof and the front door colour. The windows were original from the mid-60's, and they were starting to show their age.
Now the windows are a darker colour, and energy-efficient. The front door and garage doors are screaming to be re-painted, but the temperature is too cold, and it will probably be May before I can do it. Hopefully we can get the driveway re-asphalted, too.

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