Wednesday, December 31, 2008


A TV character once said - I think it was on Ally McBeal - that if reflecting on the past year doesn't make you cry either tears of sadness or tears of joy, then it has been a waste. I can honestly say, based on that criteria, that 2008 was anything but wasted! I figured I'd do a quick year-in-review post. This is mostly for my own need to look back, but read on if you care to.

January: The highlight of our year came early! My due date was January 25th, so after a feast of hot wings on the 24th (putting my faith in the old wives' tale about spicy food inducing labour...), my active got labour started around 2am on my due date. After a long and frustrating (and at times scary) labour, Norah Catherine Wei-Chu Kwok was born at 3:37pm on Saturday, January 26th by c-section. I was blessed that my mother was able to board a plane once she found out I was in labour, and she was at the hospital with me (along with Francis and his mother - but that was to be expected) for the last several hours of my labour, and she stayed for several days after to help out.

February: I turned 29. To be specific, I turned 29 sitting in the waiting room at the ER with an IV lock in my arm, awaiting the results of the blood test that would tell me if I did indeed have a post-op abscess. Luckily, I did not. I did, however, have 2 other breastfeeding-related infections which required 3 kinds of antibiotics. My parents and grandmother came to visit, so Gooey could meet his first grandchild and Nana could meet her first great-grandchild. Later in the month, Francis, Norah and I packed for our first family trip - a ski weekend at Mont Tremblant with Francis' parents, his brother, his sister and her husband and baby. Looking back I must have been CRAZY to agree to go away for a weekend with a 3 week old baby, but I'm glad I did.

March: We spent March Break in Halifax, introducing Norah to my family. She was 6 weeks old when we first took her on a plane - I was 14 the first time I flew! Norah was baptised on March 30th - Divine Mercy Sunday. We had wanted her baptised as soon as possible after she was born, but the new pastor at our parish doesn't allow baptisms during Lent. It was suggested we go elsewhere, but after working at that parish, at that particular Mass, for 4 years, it meant a lot to us to have our beloved community be witnesses to such an important moment in our daughter's life. My sister, Jenna, and my brother-in-law, Damian, are Norah's godparents.

April & May: Drawing a total blank here... I honestly can't remember anything newsworthy from these two months - which likely means I'm over-looking something significant. *Sigh* My brain is not what it used to be.

June: This was another big month. Francis found out he got a full-time permanent teaching position at the high school where he had been teaching as an LTO for the year. We were both thrilled, as the new job would mean being able to buy a house, and the school itself is such a great place for him to work. We went to Halifax near the end of the month, to prepare for Jenna's wedding. It ended up being a rollercoaster trip, however, as a week before the wedding we lost a cousin and a second cousin, both suddenly and tragically. We weren't able to attend Shana's funeral as it was in St. John, but Tommy's funeral was... well, I don't even know how to describe it. It was, I suppose, exactly how it should have been, under the circumstances. Undoubtedly one of the hardest days in many of my relatives' lives. The wedding, however, was a beautiful celebration and the affirmation of life and goodness that many of us needed. Jenna and Patrick were glowing, and we were overjoyed to welcome the good Mr. Craine into our crazy family.

July: We spent a day in Barry's Bay celebrating Jenna's birthday and Norah's half-birthday. It was wonderful to see my sister in her own home as a married woman!

August: Our good friends Tracey and David got married, and Francis and I were honoured to help out with the wedding: me as Matron of Honour, and Francis as a musician at the Mass. We had our first real family vacation, just the three of us. We spent a few days in Toronto, wandering around down town, eating amazing Chinese food and visiting with friends and family.

September: On one spectacular day near the end of the month, we found out two big pieces of news: we were expecting baby #2, AND our offer had been accepted and we were soon to be home-owners!

October: We took posession of our new house on October 17th. I figure having a mortgage was the final piece in the "grown-up" puzzle. We did some preliminary moving and painting for the next couple of weekends, thanks to the help of Francis' family and some good friends.

November: We finally made the big move to living in the new house full-time. Emptying out the old rental place was a big pain in the butt. We did a LOT of purging - many bags of garbage/recycling, bags of things to give to SVdP, and a lot of bigger items that we gave/sold to some friends. And yet, when we started unpacking at the new house, we realized we still have too much stuff! I think more purging will be among our new year's resolutions...

December: Norah's first Christmas: celebrated in Halifax. Norah's first tooth: showed up on Christmas morning. My uncle died: on Francis' 27th birthday. Norah's second tooth: showed up on New Year's day. Norah's first steps: also New Year's day.

So it's been a wild and wonderful year for the Kwok family. Parts of it were hard, but that's how life is, so we've chosen to learn and grow from the challenges, rather than whine about them.

We're looking forward to even more fun and excitement in 2009 when we welcome two new nieces and/or nephews, at least one more first-cousin-once-removed, and of course our own new bundle of joy!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Food Friday

I've decided that Fridays will be my day to post some of my favourite recipes. Lately, I've been on a Christmas baking kick which, among other things, has included several varieties of biscotti. I have two favourites so far. Here's the first one:

Gingerbread Biscotti
1 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup molasses
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoons baking powder
3 teaspoons ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1. Place the almonds on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, stirring halfway through until golden. Be sure to keep a close eye on them, they can burn quickly.
2. Allow almonds to cool, then chop into small pieces and set aside.
3. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, molasses until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
4. Using another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and almonds. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and stir to blend.
5. On two greased cookie sheets (or cookie sheets covered with parchment paper), using floured hands, pat the dough into 4 flat loaves, spacing them evenly on sheets. Each loaf should be about 1/2 inch thick, 2 inches wide and the length of the baking sheet.
6. Bake in a 350 degree oven until just browned at edges and springy to touch, about 18-20 minutes. Halfway through the baking turn the pans so they bake evenly.
7. Leave the biscotti on the cookie sheets until just cooled, then cut into long, 1/2-inch thick diagonal slices.
8. Turn the slices over and arrange them close together on the baking sheets and bake again at 350 degrees until browned, 15-18 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool completely before dipping, drizzling or storing.
*Melt white chocolate chips (or baking squares) in a double boiler with a bit of shortening (about 1 tbsp shortening per cup of chocolate). Use this to drizzle over the biscotti or dip one end of each biscuit in it and place on foil or parchment to harden.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Norah and Santa

'Tis the season...

We took Norah to meet Santa for the first time the other day. I had two good reasons to hope it would go well. First, friends of Francis' family run the Santa photos at the mall, and they gave us the "good" Santa's work schedule. Second, Norah's grandfather (my father), Gooey, has a beard and glasses, so I figured she probably wouldn't get too weirded-out by Santa's appearance. Both of those things coupled with the fact that she almost never makes strange with people gave me a certain amount of confidence she'd do well. She did. And here's the picture to prove it.