The Message of the Table

A number of years ago my parents made the big decision to move from our farm and family home into our small, very quaint town. As many of you know, a move like this is huge. There are memories in the home and on the property and you can imagine it was a big task.  After over 30 years, 4 children plus countless family members and friends, how does one capture all of that in moving boxes and containers? Is it possible?

I guess the answer is simple. Our memories are held forever in the recess of our minds, we don’t need stuff to tell us about the life we have lived. But they help, and so it is hard. Many of you reading this know what I’m talking about, you’ve gone down this road before. Whether it has been with your parents, in-laws, friends or perhaps yourselves. When we move we are faced with all the things that have accumulated. The stories, the artworks, the tree houses, the boxes of miscellaneous stuff in the attic … the list goes on.Read More


Princess Cruise for a Day

I am heading off on a three-day cruise next week without the company of my family. Instead I am travelling with a friend of mine that I have known my entire life! We are celebrating our birthday on the cruise as we share the same day. For those interested, you’ll see some of our adventures on social media (Instagram & Facebook) because like any good social media girl, I’ve bought the deluxe drink package + wifi!!!! Disconnected yet a little connected.

For now, allow me to take you on a trip back through time to the first cruise experience we had as a family. It was a massive joint family endeavour; the five of us, my sisters family and her three kids, my brothers family and his four kids and my mum… Enjoy!

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The Ordinary into the Extraordinary

sohn-family-header

At the end of this month, Philip and I will be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. I can hardly believe it’s been two decades since we said ‘I do’, and if you include the on-and-off dating before that, we’ve pretty much been together for 25 years. We met when I was 19 and he was 21.Read More


Jamie Oliver’s Killer Jerk Chicken

I understand that getting dinner on the table can be a challenge. Especially when you’re working, looking after kids and trying to find that balance that allows you not only the time to create something nutritious for your family but the head space and the energy to pull it all together. In an effort to help I am pulling together a few thoughts, ideas, and workable solutions to help bring that balance into play.

As many of you know, I’m passionate about seeing individuals and families thrive rather than strive so today marks Day 1 of a number of posts where I will tackle ‘WorkPlace & Family Balance‘ and hopefully provide solutions for busy people who desire to find, create and live balanced lives. Endeavouring to do so ultimately offers the best to your family, your workplace and allows you space to create quality and quantity time. I’m excited because this is a space that I love to occupy.

ONE CHALLENGE we all face is food. With the rise in obesity, the lure of take away and the absence of time it can ~ and for all of us has been challenging. Today, I’m going to share a solution from our home which comes in the form of a recipe. Every recipe, thought and idea I share here are all ‘Tried and True‘ through our personal test situations. (I promise to share some of the disasters too!) Here we go… If you’re interested to follow on Twitter or Instagram you can check out everything that is offer.

The other day my beautiful 8 year old daughter, Ella, and I found ourself glued to the TV watching the Food Network and another edition of Jamie Olivers 30-Minute Meals. On this particular episode, Jamie was making his Killer Jerk Chicken. A few things I loved about this show:

    1. Nothing was pre-prepared for Jamie, he had to open every packet, get everything from his fridge, turn on and preheat his own oven, boil his own water {you know how on some cooking shows everything is usually ready and waiting and the chef just goes to work and makes it look like it’s 30mins… when in actual fact our ‘at-home-experience’ turns out to be more than a 1hr endeavour}. I loved this!
    2. Although there were a number of ingredients, most we all probably have in our pantry’s with the exception perhaps the chilli’s, black beans and fresh herbs. I like these recipes.
    3. I made the Jerk Sauce in the morning and it took only minutes, popped it in the fridge and it was ready and waiting for the dinner prep.
    4. Cooking times were exact so I was able to tell my family ‘Dinner will be ready in 6 minutes’ all based on the oven setting. Sometimes cooking times can vary. I like when they work according to the recipe/chef.

So, here you go…

Jamie Oliver’s Killer Jerk Chicken Recipe with Rice & Black Beans & Cinnamon + Grilled Corn.

On the show Jamie included a salad which I will do next time, just didn’t have the head space to make it last night. In saying that, I have included the recipe for you). Now go, create and gather your family around the table and enjoy!

Information:

30 Minutes Preparation30 Minutes Cooking. Serves: 6. (Note: This recipe is actually for 4, but I simply added 2 extra thighs and made it serve 6 without adjusting anything. It works!)

Ingredients:

CHICKEN

  • 6 x 180g chicken breasts {Jamie uses skin on. I used thighs and skin off}
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey
  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • a few sprigs of fresh coriander

CORN

  • 5 large corn on the cob, husks removed {I used medium cobs}

RICE & BEANS

  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 250g long-grain rice
  • 600ml organic chicken stock
  • 1 x 400g carton of black beans

JERK SAUCE

  • 4 spring onions
  • a small bunch of fresh thyme
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • ground cloves
  • ground nutmeg
  • ground allspice
  • 6 tablespoons golden rum (if you don’t have rum just buy the tiny bottle from the liquor store it’s exactly 6 tbsps)
  • 6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey
  • 1 Scotch bonnet chilli {I used a Jalapeño instead}
  • 4 cloves of garlic

SEASONINGS

  • olive oil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt & black pepper

YOGHURT

  • 1 x 250g pot of natural yoghurt
  • a few sprigs of fresh coriander
  • 1 lime

Directions:

TO START: Get all your ingredients and equipment ready. Fill and boil the kettle. Put a large griddle pan and a large saucepan on a high heat. Turn the oven on to 220°C/425°F/gas 7.

CHICKEN: Put the chicken breasts on a plastic board and halve each one, leaving them joined at the top of the breast. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper, then rub all over both sides of the chicken. Put into the hot griddle pan, skin side down, and leave to cook. Clear away the board and wash the knife and your hands.

CORN: Put the corn into the saucepan with a good pinch of salt and cover with boiling water. Put the lid on.

JERK SAUCE: Trim and roughly chop the onions and put into the liquidizer with the leaves from most of the bunch of thyme, 3 bay leaves (stalks removed), a large pinch each of ground cloves, nutmeg and allspice, 6 tablespoons each of rum and vinegar, 1 tablespoon of honey and 2 teaspoons of salt.Remove the stalks and seeds from the Scotch bonnet chilli {I used a Jalapeno for extra zing} and add the chilli to the liquidizer, then quickly crush in 4 unpeeled cloves of garlic and blitz with the lid on until you have a really smooth paste. Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to loosen, if needed.

CHICKEN: The undersides should be golden now, so turn the chicken over. Pour the jerk sauce into a snug-fitting baking dish and use tongs to lay the chicken on top, skin side up {if you have skin on}. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon of runny honey and scatter over a few sprigs of rosemary and the remaining thyme sprigs {I rub these with olive oil to keep them moist whilst cooking}. Put on the top shelf of the oven and cook for 15minutes, or until cooked through. Carefully pour away the oil from the griddle pan and wipe clean with kitchen paper, then put back on a high heat.

RICE & BEANS: Put a large wide saucepan with a lid on a medium heat. Trim and finely slice the spring onions and put in the saucepan with the cinnamon stick, a good lug of olive oil and a big pinch of salt & pepper. Stir and let soften for a minute or so, then add the rice and chicken stock. Drain and rinse the beans, then add to the pan. Stir gently. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a medium heat. Pop the lid on and leave for 12 minutes. OR, you can do what I did to save time and stress… I popped it all in my rice cooker {if you have one} and let it do the work. Saved time and turned out beautiful!

YOGHURT: Tip the yoghurt into a small serving bowl. Finely chop a few sprigs of coriander and add to the bowl with a pinch of salt and a good lug of extra virgin olive oil. Finely grate over the zest of 1/2 the lime and squeeze in the juice. Stir in, then take to the table with the other lime half for squeezing over.

CORN: Use tongs to move the corn to the hot griddle pan and drizzle over a little olive oil {I added a bit of salt too} . Cook and turn frequently until charred. Once ready, put on a platter and take to the table.

TO SERVE: Take the chicken out of the oven, sprinkle over some coriander leaves and take straight to the table – I cooked it in an oven-proof pan so it looked amazing and went straight from oven to table. I used a cutting board and put my rice (from the rice cooker) on the board and then the corn and it looked beautiful. When serving, spoon over the jerk sauce from the bottom of the baking dish.

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The Life of a 12 Year Old

I am currently on holiday with my hubby’s family. Yes, with the in-laws. We are in Oahu in Kailua….. just down from Obama’s house. As exciting as that is I find myself captivated by my 12-year-old son.

As I sit here writing, he is snorkelling {in the pool} with his Korean cousin. Not only do they have a language barrier but my son is snorkelling with my snorkel set which is hot pink. That means his flippers are pink, his goggles are pink as is his snorkel. As I write I keep gazing over at him, smiling as he has no idea how {in 1, 2 or 3 years} this ‘get up’ may perhaps be absolutely unacceptable.

The Life of a 12 Year Old…. What does it look like? Well, today it looks like a boy with a pink snorkel set. 12 years old…. Do you remember what that felt like? I do and, in fact, if I could choose an age where I would love time to stand still, it would be at the age of 12 years.

We all have a favourite year or, in some cases, a decade. I have many enjoyable times, many years that were great and being 43 I totally believe that my 40’s are going to be one of the best decades for me. However, in saying that, if I were asked to pick an age or one year that stands out in my 43 years of life, thus far, it would have to be 12.

I loved being 12. I loved everything about 12. Why? I can’t really pinpoint any incredible or life-changing event that occurred when I was 12 but rather a sense I recall. It was a sense of knowing that I was still too young to do the things my siblings were doing {ie: Drive In Movies, Dances, Parties, etc}. I wasn’t even interested. My interest in boys had definitely peaked and I remember pining over one boy called Cameron. He was the boy of that year. I liked everything about him however, I knew that even he was beyond my reach at that age.

In this day and age you may wonder why at 12 I knew a boy or the things my siblings were into were out of reach. Why? It’s simple. I feared my parents and my aunts and uncles and my parents friends in a really healthy way. I knew they all had my best interest at heart and they knew my parents rules and if they saw me operating outside of those boundaries, they made absolutely NO apologies and they let them know. With that knowledge, the appropriate discipline would have been given. Those were the days and I am reminded of the African Proverb that says: ‘It takes a village to raise a child’.

Why did I love being 12? I loved it because I knew I wasn’t old enough to do anything else than be a kid. I loved it because I was a kid and I didn’t have to try to be, nor did I want to be anything else. I loved being 12 because I didn’t have a care in the world. With limited technology and connectivity my only concerns were where I would eat dinner, if I had $0.50 for a popsicle in my pocket {on a hot summer day} and who I would be playing with and who would have a sleep over. I remember 12 really well. My life seemed to be aligned. My parents were alive and well, we seemed to have no concerns as a family {at least in my mind there were no concerns, I’m sure there were but my parents were great at keeping things from us!}, my grandmother’s were alive and healthy {both were beautiful influences in my life and I loved spending time with them}. I had never experienced war, famine or death {I was too young to remember my grandfather’s death so in my limited experience the pain of death had not found my heart yet}. I remember lazy summer days filled with sand, sun and the beach. My bike and a towel draped around my neck, friends and BBQ’s at night. The summer I was 12 seemed to last forever and it would appear that it has, it is a memory that brings me joy, peace and happiness.

As I continue to write I glance over my screen and my son is growling out of his pink snorkel at his little sister. He is unawares of whether or not his pink snorkel affects his reputation or his swag. He is simply loving life, loving summer and occupying the space he is in with confidence and much laughter. My prayer, for all my children, is that when they are 12 they have magical memories…. just like their Mumma. The life of a 12 year old… beautiful, simple, uncomplicated and FUN.

I love my memories and I love the memories my kiddos are making….

Susan xoxox


The Dining Table – Revised

This article is one I posted in 2006 but I believe it needs to be read again. Perhaps now is the time to re-visit the Dining Table or the Kitchen Table and discover it’s value, worth and place within the home. I hope you enjoy what I have prepared 🙂

The Dining Table (from 2006 susanjsohn.com/thefamilyroom archives)

Over the past few years my parents have been thinking about moving from their farm into town. The conversation has progressed substantially and they have bought the house in our small town. This transition is now very quickly becoming a reality. Like many of you reading, you have gone down this road and made this transition, so you know exactly where I/we are right now. In preparation for this move the time has come for us kids to start picking and choosing things from the farm that we want, things from our childhood that scream of memories ~ not an easy task that’s for sure.

I have thought long and hard about what it is that I want, what piece of the farm can I take with me, as I travel through life? What piece will allow me to remain close and connected to a place that saw me grow from a four year old pig-tailed little girl into a thirty-something woman? There are many things I have decided I would like, however there is one thing that has stuck in my mind and I have finally I decided to ask for it. What is it you ask? The kitchen table!

You may think the kitchen table a strange request, however you must understand that in our house, like many of yours {I’m sure}, the kitchen table is the centre of our home life, it’s almost like the central nervous system of our house. So much has happened and still happens around this table, so many hours of conversation whether it is the early morning coffee with the neighbors, warm winter breakfasts, dad’s 12pm lunch {we always ate at 12pm} or the countless dinners that have been shared or maybe it’s the late night heart to hearts. Whatever the case may be, our kitchen table has and continues to host much laughter, some tears, always great food, many jokes and so much more.

Over the years I have learned that a kitchen table isn’t simply wood and varnish rather it is like a giant memory box. The kitchen table is the gathering spot where life is shared, where dreams are realized, where vision is cast and where laughter can be heard. Sadly, I see many new homes being built with no kitchen and no space for a kitchen table, this is a trend in the big cities that I see has not yet hit small town Saskatchewan and I hope it never does.  They refer to this new trend as progress, as adapting for a new way of life, the busy life. This ‘new way’ of living is about eating out, moving away from entertaining at home with guests of even your own family. It’s about being an  individual and allowing each person to ‘fend for themselves’ and perhaps eat in your bedroom or in front of the computer or television. In my mind, this is a modern day travesty.

There is something significant about kitchen/dining tables and as I look through history I see that through feasting and dining cultures come together. There is strength in breaking bread together as families and as communities. I think about Jesus and the last supper and the fact that it was shared at a table. I find it interesting that Jesus could have chosen anywhere for this significant act to occur yet he chose the table to share such an important moment. Through this one act I have to believe that there is a message to us all. Tables are sacred places. They are a place where we can come together to talk about the hard things, to relax and enjoy each other’s company, to communicate, to eat and to simply be together.

I would like to encourage you to use your dining table to it’s full potential. Through our work with thefamilyroom and now through GetRealLive and much of the ‘Work Life Family Balance’ issues that I get the opportunity of engaging with I see change through a simple conversation where I suggest coming back to the table. I have seen countless families come together, broken hearts mended and so much more simply through sitting at the table together, sharing a meal and getting back to what really matters. I find it interesting that we are designed to enjoy food more than once a day, we are designed to stop, sit and replenish so why not start making this a critical part of our family schedules.

If, in recent times, you haven’t enjoyed a meal together at the family table then I would like to encourage you to dust off the table, let everyone know that dinner is on at 6pm, prepare a family favorite and watch everyone enjoy each others company. I know you will be amazed. If you find yourself alone and without family then I encourage you to extend yourself and invite someone to your table. If gathering at the table is something you do regularly then please keep it up and why not invite someone over and share the time together.

As many of you know, I live away from family and have done so for many years now, this being the case, there is one thing I know for sure; if I call home at dinner time, I know I will always get an answer and if it’s a party or special occasion, and everyone’s home but me, the phone will surely be passed around I always know exactly where everyone will be sitting – being able to do this warms my soul and the simplicity of this allows me a feeling of knowing everything being well with the world. The table and what happens around it provides, security, strength, wisdom and love. It is where Faith, Hope and Love live.

To conclude I am happy to report that my parents have said I can have the old kitchen table that still holds the chip that I etched out one warm summer day in 1978. I know that as the years continue and as life changes I will hear the voices of my family and friends, simply by sitting at that table and allowing the richness and memories flood my mind. Let me encourage you to use your tables and remember to always put an extra potato in the pot or rice in the cooker and leave room to squeeze one more in just in case someone turns up at dinner time.

Much love,
Susan

Check Out My House is Your Home For All Things Home and Living

GetRealLive is excited about our newest segment called My House is Your Home. This is expressed through Live Radio shows, Special Guests and amazing articles and ideas as featured on GetRealLive Radio and My House is Your Home Website. This platform exists to build homes, build family and building lives!!

There is so much that goes into a home. From the external frames and structures to the intricate details inside your spaces. These elements make a house but not necessarily a home. A home is built by the relationships, conversations and lives that unfold within these structures.

From everything to recipes for your family, new creative decor ideas  and even what flooring should I choose….watch this space!  GetRealLive will bring you all the Experts and latest innovations that will help you build the true home of your dreams!!

Susan and Scott

 


Princess for a Day

Well, we’ve spent our first 24 hours on board our temporary Princess home at sea and what a 24 hours it has been. From the moment we left our hotel, thanks to our extraordinary cruise co-odinator Cathe Offet, we traveled in style in a hummer limo. Needless to say, the kids squealed for joy as the limo approached the hotel and they realized this was our ‘sweet ride’.

The ride was fun, we had our music pumping and one of our favorites and probably most lyrically appropriate song for the moment came on. It was ‘Dynamite’ by Taio Cruz. We sang at the top of our lungs, threw our hands in the air whilst singing:
Ayo, Gotta let go.
I wanna celebrate and live my life.
Saying Ayo,
Baby, let’s go.

Having lost our father/husband/grandfather only 1.5 years ago and being on this trip (all 16 of us) with our mother/grandmother. Singing about celebrating and living our lives seemed so very appropriate. As we sang I nonchalantly put my sunglasses on to hid the tear I was shedding. My tears were of loss and they were tears of joy. Sitting beside me was my mother. I leaned over and whispered, “Mum, if I don’t say it enough this week, I’m having a really good time and it’s only started.” She turned to me, smiled and with that we both threw our hands in the air again and sang “Ayo, Gotta let go. I wanna celebrate and live my life.’

The limo turned a corner and the singing quickly turned to gasps and ooooohs and aaaahhhhs. We all got a glimpse of our temporary home. She was magnificent. A knife, could have cut the excitement in the limo.

We were dropped off with our luggage and handed over to the porters who took care of us, and our luggage. Our first encounter with the ships staff was with these incredible porters who managed to get our belongings from land to sea with ease. I was pleasantly surprised at how beautifully they treated us. Their smiles told a story and it was a story that was good. Their job isn’t the most glamorous but they were so happy and so attentive to our every need. The attention to detail even at this point surprised me.

Our first few hours involved us getting acquainted with the ship and that means walking and as the kids say ‘exploring’. Within an hour of being onboard our kids (all the cousins) managed to formulate their own (teens, tweens and those under 10). They all hiked around and quickly found out as much as they could and came back to report their findings. Now, 24 hours later they are pros. They are getting around everywhere by themselves. The kids are wise; they are all well traveled so they know the dos and don’ts when it comes to the stuff we all worry about. They are having a ball.

Now I sit writing this update from the comfort of my private deck. My sweet Ella is having a quick nap following an extraordinary day on Princess Cayes Island. After hours of sun and surf our youngest cruiser in the group needs to recharge in order to be ready for tonight. On her list of ‘to do’s’ is the kids club (it looks like so much fun) and for our aspiring artist a trip through the art gallery. Gabriel (9) is enjoying his limitless shakes and smoothies, he and his cousin Tristan have also found the Pizza Bar (Tristan plans to write a note to the Pizza chef complimenting him on his Pizza skills). Sophia (12) is enjoying a break at one of the many pools onboard. She and her two cousins (Isabel and Emma) will no doubt be sitting poolside giggling and having the time of their lives. They’ve decided that tonight it’s movies under the stars for all of us. We can hardly wait.

So friends I have to report Princess For a Day has been pretty extraordinary. This is our first cruise and everyone from the youngest (6) to the eldest (72) loves it. I can’t wait to share more.

Pics are on the way….. Stay tuned!

Susan