Monday, 25 November 2013

Menu Plan Monday: 23/11 - 29/11

Saturday: I think I’m succumbing to the horrible cold that the rest of the house has, or I’m just exhausted from taking care of everyone. Either way, energy is low and Saturday’s supper needs to be quick, easy, and nutritious... once again time for Sweet & Sour Pork with hot peppers. I may toss some garlic in for extra cold fighting nutrients. Asian food, or asian inspired food, is a go-to around here when there is sickness.

Sunday: I’ve got a chicken coming for this week’s Sunday Roast, along with parsnips and a fresh bag of potatoes. Undecided as to whether we’re going to have pudding or stuffing with this one. I think I have some gravy in the freezer which will be a nice addition. The bonus is that David makes an excellent roast bird so it won’t matter if I’m too sick to cook.

Monday: I’ve been craving brisket quesadillas and, as a bonus, Sainsbury’s had a 3-for-2 deal on tortillas – perfect as I have two small brisket pieces and a can of refried beans just waiting to be used. I think we’ll be in quesadilla land for awhile! To add some vegetable this time around I bought another ‘seasonal squash’ and will be livening it up with butter and brown sugar. A sweet & spicy meal, my favourite.

Tuesday: I want to make Easy Chicken Wellington to use up part of the leftover roast chicken. We’ll have this with rice & broccoli.

Wednesday: I bought too many cans of kidney beans last time I made rice & peas, so I’m going to use some of them to make Rose Elliot’s Stuffed Marrow with Kidney Beans. I’ve never had marrow so I’m interested to see what it’s like.

Thursday: Time to serve up the leftover moussaka. I’m thinking Greek Potatoes as a side.

Friday: Pizza, of course! But we’re going to Ely’s Christmas Light Switch On, and David is dashing off to a meet the author event hosted by Topping & Co. after, so we may do pizza lunch and a light dinner instead, since the evening is going to be hectic.

Now a look at last week’s plan in practice: 

I’m glad that I went with baked beans etc on Saturday. David and Walter were both quite sick and it was nice to have an easy meal to prepare in the evening. The squash was an awesome choice with it – I loaded it up with butter & brown sugar and it really complemented the sweet mellowness of the beans and bread. A winner with everyone but Walter, who has spent the week subsisting on milk, bread, and the occasional piece of fruit.

The brisket joint I got for Sunday was, at first appearance, a stringy piece of meat. Fortunately cooking proved it otherwise, and I managed to make gravy, and it was an excellent meal all ‘round. There was just enough beef leftover for two meals of brisket quesadillas. Also, have I mentioned that mustard & pepper make an ideal and simple seasoning for beef or pork? Trick I learned from my mother and it hasn’t failed me yet.

On Monday we got Thai and it was delicious and loaded with fresh ingredients, as always. We got our usual order: veggie tempura, red curry chicken, spicy noodles with beef, jasmine rice, and stir fried tofu & veggies in red curry sauce. So, so spicy. So, so good.

Tuesday’s Eggs Benny was delicious but the hollandaise sauce that I’d been craving was an abysmal failure. It’s not wise to make hollandaise sauce in an unheated kitchen when the temperature dips below zero, because it really hurts the thickening process. I ended up having to broil the whole dish because I didn’t want to risk semi-raw eggs on a cold suffering David, which at least caused the hollandaise to finally thicken but also left it a bit curdy. The flavour wasn’t affected, but it did lack some of the richness of a properly made sauce. Also, my recipe for it is very vague, which makes me wonder what I was thinking when I copied it out...oh yeah, I was 2.5 months pregnant with Walter and not thinking of much other than sleep. On the plus side, I followed Genevieve Taylor’s advice for poaching eggs and it worked, so that was a win because poached eggs are so great.

Genevieve Taylor’s moussaka did not disappoint, aside from wanting a hearty side. Because there were three different prepping steps (meat sauce, roast aubergines, b├ęchamel sauce) I thought it might prove to be a bit of an undertaking with the kids running around, but she really simplified the process so with a little organisation it turned out to be an easy meal to make. Verdict from the adults: delicious! I think if we could have justified it, we would’ve eaten all of the dish in one go on Wednesday.

I had the fortune of going to a lecture given by two of my former UVic professors who are doing a sabbatical year in Cambridge (and who, it turns out, live a scarce five minute walk from us in Ely!). I’m so glad that I planned a simple, quick supper for Thursday night as it mean we could all eat before I left. The tomato soup, made from the remaining 750ml of a box of tomato juice which I bought for the baked bean recipe, was pretty good but even with ¼ cup of sugar and swirls of double cream I struggled to cut the acidity. So it won’t be a regular, but if I’m in a similar situation with too much tomato juice I’d do the same idea. As for the ham & cheese melty croissants – bliss! I know that some people scoff at sandwich recipes as just being assembly instructions, but I’ve always found that quantity is an important thing to know in crafting a delectable sandwich – in this case the chutney amount given was perfection. I used some apple & shallot chutney that has been hanging out in the fridge. Recipe here for anyone curious:

Ham & Emmental Melty Croissants 

1 tbsp plum or apple based chutney 
emmental cheese 
good quality ham 
butter Heat oven to 400┬║

Slice croissant in half and butter. Put sliced ham & cheese on bottom of croissant, then add the chutney. Put on the top croissant and bake in the oven until melty, about 5 minutes. Good use for a little leftover ham. Serves one. 

As for Friday's pizza, the ideal comfort food for a cool autumn night. I coupled mine with a chocolate stout and it was perfection. 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Apple Festival!

The City of Ely hosts an annual apple festival. David and I stumbled upon it by accident in 2011 – I’d just returned to England with my new visa and a daytrip to Ely was our big date after nearly a month apart. Needless to say, I was really excited to be heading out to it again and was especially looking forward to experiencing it with our little apple-munching-monster.

Still trying to get the apple stains out of his shirt collar...
The day was grey but the weather held (David credits my prayers). There was a stall outside of the Cathedral where a Christian group was giving away free coffee, tea, & Jesus-prayer tracts. We took advantage of their hot drinks although I had a mild qualm of conscience about participating when I already knew the drill. Then I thought back to my childhood and figured that as I’m now Catholic I may no longer count as Christian to certain other Christians, and therefore I’m still open game for evangelisation, so I could drink the tea without feeling that I was stealing it from the mouths of lost souls.

Once we’d warmed up with our hot drinks, and once the liquids had decreased enough that I could safely push the buggy without spilling tea everywhere, it was time to check out everything apple. David & I split the festival monies so that we could each pick out treats for an afternoon feast without feeling the need to negotiate. So, as soon as I spotted the booth I was hoping for, I ran off to buy some Wobbly Bottom cheese. They make their cheese primarily from goat & sheep milk and have a great range of flavours. Goat cheese with nettle is my favourite (a certain friend brought me some a present shortly after Walter was born), but this time I went for a log of soft goat cheese with garlic. Delicious! The garlic & cheese combo was sweet, nutty, and creamy. Certainly satisfied this little Ukrainian’s constant need for garlic.

While I was busy ‘negotiating’ (ie trying to break through a sea of Angles who suddenly all needed cheese right away) the crowd at the cheese counter, David & Walter were busy checking out an apple display at a booth set up by the Ely Farmer’s Market. The woman who was manning the booth was busy feeding Walter samples of different apples, and he was busy thinking he was in paradise (pre-fall, post-snake perhaps). David also squired Walter off to check out some birds of prey (owls & falcons), although Walter was too little to hold them.

He'd totally have won any competition for how much apple one could cram into their mouth...

cheeky monkey
There was an apple shy (like a coconut shy, only with apples) with the money going to the Christmas Light Up, so David decided to take part in a show of town spirit. He managed to knock down a couple giant bramley apples and won four sweet apples as a prize. He presented them to Walter who seemed unable to quite believe his good fortune of Papa handing him four apples at once.

Sharing one of David's prize apples
We toured the rest of the festival, picking up treats for an afternoon feast – apple & blackberry crumb cake, apple cider, Cambridgeshire honey, and a kilo of fancy apples (egremont russet, michaelmas red, & orange pippin). Then us adults chowed down on some pork & apple burgers while Walter tried to convince us that he was old enough to enjoy the same treat (ha – he wishes).

It was only a short part of our day but it was really fun. We came home and had a feast of local foods, watched a few episodes of Seinfeld, and just enjoyed being together as a family. I am so grateful that we live in a community that always has little things like this going on. It’s fun going out and experiencing this aspect of English life – with the Town Crier dressed up & clanging her bell, with Morris Dancers congregating in the street, and with other families just out with their kids on a Saturday morning. Days like this go a long way to making up for the sacrifice of living so far away from home.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Menu Plan Monday: 16/11 - 22/11

Linking up with for Menu Plan Monday 

Menu Plan Monday, posted on a Wednesday but written last Tuesday!
Saturday: My groceries are getting delivered this evening and we’re planning to go to a Christmas Fair during the day, so it needs to be an easy dinner with ingredients I have on hand. I’m planning to heat up the leftover baked beans & soda bread, and I think I’ll cook a so-called ‘seasonal squash’ that I picked up at Tesco.

Sunday: I’ve ordered a brisket for this week’s Sunday roast and we’ll be having it with yorkshire pudding, the last of the potatoes, and some parsnips. Hopefully I’ll have the energy to make some gravy as well.

Monday: As half the household is down with a nasty cold, David suggested we order some Thai for dinner. Not in the budget but an excellent idea – turns out I needed to conserve some energy this week.

Tuesday: I’ve been craving some proper Eggs Benedict ever since I left North America. I have a nice chunk of leftover ham that will be perfect for this.

Wednesday: I keep running across recipes for mousaka and having little cravings, so I’m going to try out the one in Genevieve Taylor’s A Good Egg (a brilliant cookbook, btw).

Thursday: If my calculations are right, there should be just enough ham left over for ham & emmethal melty croissants and some homemade tomato soup, made with the tomato juice leftover from the baked beans I made the week prior.

Pizza, of course!

Now a look at last week’s plan in practice:

I’m really glad that I went with an easy supper on Saturday, as I found myself short on time. It was just as delicious as it was when I made it freshly a few weeks ago. I wanted to take a picture of the mini wellington I made Walter, but there wasn’t enough time.

I followed my friend Emma’s tip for making rice in the UK and it worked with the rice & peas, so Sunday’s supper was quite a success. Lots of rice & peas frozen for another meal, and the ham had just the right amount of fat to meat ratio.

On Monday we went to a local pub, High Flyer, which is our top pick of Ely pubs for being child friendly & having consistently good food & friendly service. David went with his usual, the ultimate burger, while I had a venison pie with root veg mash & a cauliflower & leek gratin. Delicious and super filling. We stopped by Waitrose on the way home to get some ice cream and discovered a champagne truffle flavour. Two of my favourite treats combined in ice cream – yes please!

My Ants Climbing a Tree wasn’t as good as I remembered, so Tuesday’s supper saw that recipe stricken from my recipe file. My current file of tried & true recipes, which is a word doc on the computer, is 96 pages long. I thus tend to be a bit ruthless when something is no longer up to snuff. I’m not that surprised, either. I taught myself how to cook and the recipe is an old one from the days when I was first really branching out in cooking from scratch.

I changed the plan up for Wednesday and we went with spaghetti & meatballs. I wasn’t feeling like it but the meatballs had already defrosted. Fortunately by the time dinner was ready I was in the mood for it. Still, I think we’ll be putting this standby on hold for awhile.

And I changed the plan yet again for Thursday, going with some leftover cottage pie & yorkshire pudding. It was quick & easy, which is great because the kids didn’t give me much rest the night before and the day was a bit long and tiring.

And of course, Friday pizza night. Delicious as always!

Friday, 15 November 2013

7 Quick Takes - Volume 18 - The Craft Version

A couple of week’s ago I said “watch this space” for some craftyness. I’ve surpassed my expectations & managed to finish a little embroidery project – bibs for a friend’s new baby. I sketched the designs myself & and then embroidered them. I’m pretty pleased with the result, especially as I needed to keep them relatively simple so that there would be a hope of them getting done!

I know I already wrote about how Emma (and Rob) joined us for Thanksgiving, but what I didn’t mention is that Emma has yarn-talents and makes beautiful things for babies, including my babies. Last year she made Walter a beautiful chalice lace blanket (now known as ‘blankey’ and often found wrapped over his head during awake times or snuggled up at his chin during sleep times) and this year she had an adorable bunny for Emily.

Being the new baby on the block, Emily has been the recipient of many lovely handmade gifts. My friend Nicole quilted her a beautiful pillow, which looks quite darling in the cradle and has already come in useful as Little Miss prefers to recline against pillows when awake, thank you very much:

And my mother sweetly obliged to knit Emily some shoes for her Baptism outfit, since I didn’t have the time or resources to make them myself. I’m pretty sure the buttons are leftovers from an outfit I had when I was a baby:

Speaking of mum, she has the gorgeous autumn-yellow wool that is super soft and cozy warm and makes great baby sweaters. She made this awesome hooded sweater for Walter:

And since I have Irish Twins, I felt no compunction in requesting a sweater for Emily as well so that they could be matchy-matchy:

And finally, a family friend from back home also got in on the handmade spoiling and has done these beautiful cross stitch quilts for the babes:



For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A Day in the Life

Inspired by other bloggers, I thought it would be interesting to track a day in the life (I’d have done a week, but the kids are too little to bring enough variety to make it interesting...and that’s assuming even a day is interesting). So, here’s Friday, October 25th:

7:00am: Walter wakes up sometime around 7 and talks to himself until either David or I hear him. I’m usually the one to get up, because I hear him first, and today is no exception. Now that he’s older he’s  generally content in his crib for a little bit when he wakes, which gives me time to warm up his milk & use the toilet. Unfortunately, this morning he’s soaked through his clothing and it means a diaper change first thing, which he rarely handles with grace. We compromise with some milk before & after. Then, wrapped up in his robe, he takes breakfast (cheerios, banana, & milk) in his high chair. Because I’m heading out to Mass this morning I have some tea, toast, & orange juice while he eats. Then we go to David’s office to watch some Baby Mozart, which allows me to check my email & gives Walter an activity to do that isn’t fussing the life out of me.

8:00am: David wakes up and Walter loses interest in his show. We go into my room and Walter plays with his toys, with minimal fussing. Emily wakes up, but she is pretty content in the morning which gives me time to get ready for Mass before she starts crying. I have just enough time to change her diaper & start feeding her before I need to run off to church.

9:00am: I’m off to Mass. Walter sees me getting ready so follows me to the door, howling. I enjoy a brisk walk and revel in the solitude and quiet. I’m happy to be at church and glad to see that it’s pretty full for a weekday.

10:00am: Mass is followed by Adoration. I stay for a bit, enjoying the quiet time with God. I’m so grateful that David takes the kids so that I can do this, because it is the only time I get for prayer and worship that doesn’t involve keeping alert to baby noises. When my thoughts start wandering too much I leave and head home. On the walk I stop at a shop to try on potential dresses for Emily’s baptism, since I’m unencumbered by children/buggy. It’s so nice to be out on my own, window shopping, and if my feet weren’t hurting from my heels I would definitely overstay my time limit.

11:00am: Back home again. The children have fussed David all morning so he disappears into his office to start his work as soon as I get in the door. Walter’s way past his naptime – he’s cutting three new teeth and hasn’t taken a proper morning nap in over a week, so I’d told David not to bother sticking to the schedule & to just put Walter to bed if he seemed too exhausted to stay awake. His gums are too sore for him to eat properly, which I discovered the previous evening, so I give him some baby tylenol and then set him up for his 11am “fruit snack”. While he eats I change out of my church clothes, have some fruit, & see to Emily, who keeps spitting out her soother & sobbing for it to be put back. Then Walter gets a clean diaper and exhibits signs that he might actually nap, so he’s off to bed and it’s time to focus on Emily again – another diaper change and a bottle of milk prepped. I dress her in daytime clothes and alternate between reading a book, soothing her, beginning to type this blog post, and soothing her some more...

12:00pm: I feed Emily &, in between her burping breaks, I heat up lunch. Fortunately we’re having leftover cream of bean soup & garlic bread because it means I can get it ready quickly and don’t need to wash dishes. Walter stays sleeping, which is a victory this week, and it means that David & I can enjoy a relatively quiet lunch as there is now a 2:1 ratio of parent to child. After lunch David goes back to work & I start getting Emily ready for her immunization appointment. Walter wakes up and alternates between helpfulness, playing, and fussing because he knows someone in the house is going outside.

1:00pm: Emily & I head out to her appointment. I decided to use the baby hawk which means I get to enjoy snuggles with my little girl all the way to the doctor’s office. It’s a sunny autumn afternoon and the Cathedral park looks lovely – it’s too bad we have to spoil it with unpleasantness, but needs must and this baby needs immunizing. The surgery is nearly empty, which is nice, but then the immunization nurse rubs me the wrong way with almost everything she says, and my poor baby girl is screaming like she’s being tortured, and by the time I can head home I’m beat.

2:00pm: We arrive home to a happy Walter. Emily crashed after she calmed down so I put her into her crib and hope she takes a long nap. Walter is content to play with his toys so I snatch the opportunity for a break and sit down with a novel. Emily wakes up, screaming, so there is the usual fluster of feeding & changing her while trying to keep Walter entertained. Fortunately he is in a loving mood and spends most of his time trying to kiss & hug Emily or me.

3:00pm: Emily is still doing her “eat & fuss” routine when Walter starts his own afternoon performance of milk-whining. I manage to put him off with some vague promises of my undivided attention once Emily settles down, but he calls my bluff by dirtying his diaper. So off I go, to heat up his milk & make myself a cup of tea, changing his diaper while I wait for the water to boil. Emily is put out by this sudden change in the direction of my attention and decides to give her lungs a good airing. She gets so tired of waiting that she cries herself to sleep. I take the opportunity to give Walter his milk and put him down for a nap. Not sure if the nap will take, as there is a lot of banging & murmuring going on from his room, but it should buy me up to an hour of relatively quiet time. I should take the opportunity to nap, but I’m never able to fall asleep if I know he’s awake, even tho’ he’s happy & playing in his crib, so I take my tea, grab & apple and make some toast, and settle down next to Emily. If I’m really, really lucky both kids will be asleep at the same time and I’ll be able to take a nap. I could always go and do dishes but I am feeling really tired and could use the down time to read a book.

4:00pm: Walter didn’t sleep, but he was content to have quiet time in his room. Emily stayed sleeping and I used the break to chat a bit with David and read. At half past four we grabbed Walter and David went back to work while I dealt with yet another stinky diaper.

5:00pm: Walter was content to play until twenty past five, at which point he wanted supper. It’s Friday, which is pizza night in these parts, so he accompanied me to supervise (ie whine at my feet) the making of his mushroom, tomato, & onion pizza. I tried to keep him entertained while his pizza baked and then I did some very light housework while he fed himself.

6:00pm: Walter gets around an hour of playtime after dinner to help his food digest. Just as I was putting him down and encouraging him to run around, David’s parents called and we ended up chatting with them on Skype for an hour or so. It was one of those rare times when both kids were awake & able to go on Skype and where David & I were also relatively free to join in the conversation at the same time.

7:00pm: At 7, Walter was sure to let us know that he was ready for his evening “fruit snack” and bedtime routine. I left David & Emily to continue chatting on Skype while I cut up Walter’s orange. He devours fruit like there’s no tomorrow so I’d barely gotten his bedtime milk ready by the time he was done eating. Then it was off to the bathroom for another diaper change, jammies, and brushing teeth. He said his goodnights, blew kisses to everyone, and I took him off to his room for prayers, songs, milk, & sleep. Then I sat with Emily & chatted with David’s family while he went to the kitchen to finish making the pizzas.

8:00pm: Emily needed a change and her supper so I got off the computer and went back to work. Normally by the time Walter is in bed I am done for the day, and this is when I really feel the hard work of having a newborn in the house. Emily’s really been struggling with a gassy tummy for the past week or two so feeding her is far from pleasant as it usually involves a lot of fussing and crying before she’s comfortable again. Still, there’s no reason to let fussiness spoil our evening, so we juggled the baby back & forth while watching Fight Club (I’d never seen it until now!) and eating pizza. Eventually David calmed her down.

9:00pm: Still watching Fight Club, still enjoying my pizza & beer, and eventually moving onto some Macadamia Nut Crunch ice cream. Love our Friday Pizza Nights!

10:00pm: Emily was ready for her last bit of milk. I’m trying to get her onto a 10pm bedtime (because it has been creeping towards midnight more nights than I like), but on evenings when we’re watching a movie it’s difficult. Unfortunately the milk didn’t sit well with her, so instead of her drifting off with a milk-induced sleep, it was more juggling of a fussy baby.

11:00pm: Emily finally falls asleep. I swaddle her and move her into her crib. Then I take some time to wind down. I wish I could go to bed as soon as the baby does but I always need to unwind first. Finally it’s time to prep the kids’ bottles for morning, get ready for bed, and tidy up what I can.

12:00am: Lights out, finally!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Menu Plan Monday: 09/11 - 15/11

Linking up with for Menu Plan Monday 

Saturday: This is a busy evening – we want to go to the bonfire & fireworks for Guy Fawkes day, and immediately after that we are going to the evening reception for my friend Gemma’s wedding. I need something quick & easy: leftover chicken wellington, rice, and roast parsnips should do the trick.

There’s something nice & autumnal about ham, which we’ll be having with rice & peas and roast sweet potatoes. I’m going to use my usual sweet & sour glaze for the ham.

Monday: We’re being treated to dinner out.

Tuesday: I made meatballs a couple of weeks ago and I have a pound of ground pork leftover from that. One of my go-to recipes for using up ground pork is a Chinese dish called Ants Climbing a Tree. It’s stir fried ground pork, noodles, & chillies. Hot and delicious! I’m going to cook some carrots on the side.

Wednesday: I made baked beans & soda bread last week, so we’ll have having the leftovers this week. If there’s any bacon left I’ll be putting a couple of pieces on top to cook into the beans when I reheat them.

Thursday: As I’ve had no complaints from the husband or toddler department, it will be yet another week of spaghetti & meatballs. Easy and satisfying.

Friday: We’ve been invited to a party at our friend Katharina’s place in Cambridge, and there will be drinks & nibbles, so I’m not quite sure if we’re going to have a late lunch of pizza & then something light before we head out, or if we’ll just have a really early dinner before we leave. Chances are I’ll see how things are going on the day.

Now a look at last week’s plan, which I wrote but never posted, in practice:

I’d received a £3-off coupon in the post for a posh brand of ready meal. As I was going to an All Soul’s liturgy at the Cathedral on Saturday evening, it seemed the perfect night to try out the brand as the coupon brought the product within budget. So we feasted on some excellent salmon en croute, with some rice & cucumber to accompany.

For Sunday Roast we went with pork, which I did in a honey-mustard sauce. David requested stuffing, instead of pudding, so I made an apple & onion one (but it wasn’t that great). The highlight of the meal were the roast parsnips. Really enjoying the autumn produce!

I made Perfect Meatballs on Monday and we had, you guessed it, spaghetti & meatballs. The meatballs really were perfect – light and with a nice flavour, but basic enough that we could easily adapt the recipe to whatever we like (David’s thinking a hint of mint might be nice). I’m definitely saving this recipe.

Tuesday was David’s viva and I knew that after a long & stressful day no one would feel like cooking. We had a Tesco Indian Box (the hot chicken one) for dinner, with copious amounts of cava and some ice cream for dessert. Easy & stress free.

I had a chunk of roast beef in the freezer which I defrosted for Wednesday, making a delicious cottage pie. For those who don’t know, a cottage pie is a shepherd’s pie, but made with beef instead of lamb. Back in Canada we tend to call any of these potato-topped pies “shepherd’s pie”, but it is a misnomer. I’m really not a fan of substituting ground beef for the real deal, so I was pleased when I found this recipe years ago as it uses leftover roast beef. I like to serve it over slices of yorkshire pudding to help soak up the gravy.

I’m on a comfort food kick so on Thursday I made Rose Elliot’s Boston Baked Beans. I served them with corn on the cob, soda bread, and some home-made pork crackling from a piece of crackling-fat that my mum had frozen when she was here in the summer. It was a delicious, filling meal and perfect for these chilly evenings.

And of course, Friday pizza night. Delicious as always!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

a pass

David & I met ten years ago in a Latin class at the University of Victoria. Back in the day we sketched vague pipe dreams about driving around Canada in a converted van or bus, picking up work as we needed it and living the simple life, just enjoying experiences and travel and not having to settle down. Then, towards the end of our degrees, professors started encouraging us to apply to graduate schools. This started us on a path that led first to the University of Alberta, then the University of Toronto, and finally to the University of Cambridge. We’ve been walking the Grad School Road together since 2006.

Surrounded by his sea of books in Edmonton
It has not been easy. People who think that the academic path is some sort of charmed life, protected from harsh reality, know nothing. There have been times when we haven’t had more than $20 between us, or times when we’ve wondered if it would’ve just made more sense to stay home and get steady jobs and settle down. A PhD dictates your whole life. It’s a long time commitment, and we lucked out because at Cambridge it’s the same length as a Canadian undergraduate degree (4-ish years), whereas back home it would’ve meant 5 or 6 years. Every decision has to be weighed in the balance of the dissertation submission deadline. The back of your mind always knows that the clock is ticking. It intrudes on vacations, on weekends, even on evenings. It affects the whole family, not just the person undertaking the actual degree, and we have all had our roles to play & our sacrifices to make.

Quite the Gentleman Scholar in Toronto
But, inch by inch, we’ve journeyed towards the light at the end of the tunnel. And one day, not too long ago, I mentioned that Thesis Madness was over. The dissertation was submitted. Of course that wasn’t the end of the story – submission meant that it was completed on time. The next step was the defense, or in Cambridge terms, the viva voce.

Wearing Cambridge robes & enjoying a glass of whiskey in the Clare MCR
On November 5th the kids & I killed several hours in a chill & damp Cambridge, while David went and defended the past few years’ work. I admit I was a rather distracted mommy that day, my eye constantly on the clock, my ears straining to hear my phone ring. It’s one of those situations where you have absolute faith in someone’s ability but still worry that things could go wrong. And then, thanks be to God, when the phone finally does ring you get the best news of all – a pass.

Thesis Submission!
 When we met in 2003 I never would have thought that I’d be married to a Cambridge doctor. And if you’d told me that we’d spend the evening of November 5th, 2013, taking our two children into a fenland park to set off firecrackers, and then coming home to drink two celebratory bottles of cava, I probably would’ve laughed. But we did it. We did it, because David did it. Because my wonderful genius of a husband passed his viva and has been recommended for a doctorate degree from the University of Cambridge.

Do you even need to guess how proud I am of him?