New Year, New Traditions: Family Fondue

It's a new year and our family is a year older. When you are parenting young children, this growing up business can be really exciting. Moving past the cumbersome, workhorse days of babies and toddlers can feel like a liberation of sorts. For me, there's a mix of satisfaction (at getting through it) and sadness (at saying goodbye).

I can feel the magic of this time of year inching closer to an end. Sleepy faces wearing footed pajamas and poking us awake when it's still dark. Plates of cookies for Santa and wide-eyed wonder at the gifts he has left for us. The six of us rumbling around the house together in that quiet space between Christmas and the new year. I will miss all of it.

But having older kids means we can bring in new traditions. This year, I decided we would bravely and boldly try fondue for our new year's eve meal (I really know how to let my hair down these days). It hasn't been on my radar until now, because I couldn't imagine a meal made up of repeated safety warnings about boiling cheese and hot pots would feel very festive or relaxing. 

family-fondue-night

Most of the recipes I found for the cheese sauce had ingredients like dry mustard, garlic and Worcestershire sauce (which would probably be delicious, unless you're a kid), but I opted to keep it simple and plain-tasting and added a flavourful cheese to the cheddar instead.

  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup of shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • pinch of salt to flavour
  • 2 1/2 cups of milk (or to desired thickness)

Pre-mix the two cheeses and toss with the flour and salt, then set aside. Heat the milk on the stove until it's bubbling at the edges and then slowly add cheese while whisking constantly. Once all the cheese has melted, transfer to the fondue pot.

  • boiled mini potatoes
  • cubed ham
  • cured sausage chunks
  • sirloin steak cubes (pre-cooked)
  • steamed broccoli
  • red pepper strips
  • apple slices
  • pear slices
  • chunks of fresh bread
family-fondue

Anyone who feeds kids knows it's hit-and-miss when you try new food, but not this time — everyone liked it! Being able to choose which items to eat and which ones to dip was a big part of the enjoyment. 

And we didn't stop with cheese. I had a smaller, ceramic and candlelit fondue set for dessert. I melted a block of semi-sweet baker's chocolate in a pot on the stove and slowly added evaporated milk until it was a nice consistency. We dipped pineapple, strawberries, gigantic marshmallows and chunks of pound cake. A friend of mine has since suggested melting a giant Toblerone bar: brilliant. 

family-fondue

It ended up being a fantastic way for us to ring in the new year as a family. It was interactive, silly and different from the usual meals we have around the table. I only delivered warnings about the hot pot about 10 times before JB's sideways look told me I had reached maximum safety nut levels. 

Family rating for family fondue night: FIVE STARS. 

 

 

 

 

 

Time For The Holidays: Thank you, Flipp

holiday-time

My sister and I made our way around the table—each of us folding the festive napkins just so—as we set the kids' table for the dinner ahead.

I looked at her when we met at the last seat and said, Feels strange and wonderful, doesn't it?

For the first time in over a decade, no kid in sight and no sounds of mooooooom being called from the other room. Between us we have kids old enough to watch out for younger siblings/cousins and wise enough to handle a lot of the moments that used to need a parent to fix.

One of our guests was there with her toddler and newborn baby, and as we sat down to dinner my sister and I tried to reminisce about those days and how it felt to eat cold plates of food and miss out on most of the adult conversation. But it seems our memories were blurry. We said, but it must have happened to us, even though it felt too distant to remember moments so recent. We laughed with an oh well and took turns holding the baby instead.

flipp-app

This year, I had a full day to dash from shop to shop finding the perfect ingredients for our well-planned Christmas feast. I was able to take my time making the best choices for staying within our holiday budget by using my favourite Flipp app, and that gave me some room for extra surprises (hello, crab legs!). 

But still my eyes wandered to the babies accompanying their weary parents through the shops and to the newborn in my dinner guest's arms. 

holiday-time

How can those days already be behind me? Why were they in such a hurry to leave? 

Where have those stolen moments with the weight of a warm, flushed child on my lap at the table (so I could stay in the company of the adults awhile longer) already gone?

The other night, I happily walked the hallways with that brand new baby, so her mama could eat a warm meal. And when I came back to my table and reluctantly handed her over, my dinner had gone cold.

As I ate it, those memories came back to me more clearly. And I knew why it was so easy to forget the taste of less-than-perfect food.

 It was made and served with pinches of love and then abandoned with dashes of love.

And that made it taste just as good.

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This post was sponsored by Flipp who helped me buy my holiday groceries this season. I am a long-time and weekly user of this easy-to-use app for planning my weekly grocery lists and saving money. I also use it to find the best prices for non-food items. I enter my list and instantly know where the best prices in my area can be found. I can clip from flyers and download coupons for added savings. It takes the same amount of time it does to scrawl a list (except now you won't lose it before you leave for the store). So, yes, even parents with young babies can add it to their smartphones. 

Stories about my family life, as always, are mine. 

 

Holiday Gift Ideas: For your Tween/Teen

holiday-gifts-teen

We have just stepped into the teen years around here—with our oldest already there and another just starting to dip his toe in the water. 

With this shift in our family dynamic, comes a change in how we choose gifts for the holidays.

Packages are getting smaller and requests are more specific. The element of surprise is much harder in this phase, and it's more of a challenge to hold on to the magic.

It's a time when self-discovery is happening and identities are being sorted out, and it can easily become an era of me, me, me—it's part of the growing process. I remember going through it myself.

But it's also an era of becoming more aware of being part of a bigger picture. They are learning about and paying attention to world issues, as well as those in their own local communities. 

And I want them to understand their value in being able to make a difference.

So, yes, we are giving them some of their requested items: iTunes gift cards, dance wear, sweat pants, video games, books, make up, monster hoodies, toques, sketch books and journals. But we are also putting items under the tree to remind them to think of others, too. 

Every pair of Me to We mittens purchased (at any Staples store or shop.metowe.com) will provide the gift of health care to a child in a community overseas.

holiday-gifts-teen

And the very popular Rafiki chains (which my daughter has given to many of her friends) can be found in-store at Staples, Indigo Chapters, and Mastermind and help make an impact on the Free The Children community. 

holiday-gifts-teen

The magic of the holiday season is different now that they're older.

But there is still magic.

And we can remind them that it's their gift to give. 

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Disclosure: I was invited to a Me to We Artisans Holiday Preview, but our family was already an enthusiastic supporter. We happily gifted our complimentary Rafiki chains to friends and family.