Sunday, October 12, 2014

Teachers College and parenting - not the ideal marriage

Teachers' College is very demanding.  There is a lot of reading, even compared to when I did my Masters Degree in History.  And there are many, many projects, most of which are group work.  Everyone in my program is feeling the pressure and the very few of us who have kids, are feeling it especially because the pressures of home do not let up just because you are a full-time student again.  And being me means that I haven't let all of my extra-curricular volunteer activities go.

I've realized that it is foolish to expect to get much of anything done on weekends because the kids want to do fun things and I don't want them to languish in front of glowing screens which is what would happen if I spent hours on school work.  Also, John loves the NFL.  Enough said on that front.  Much as I have tried to push him to revisit his Sunday afternoon schedule, it is to no avail.

So, I spend late nights in front of my computer during the week and I don't get all my readings done.  That's just the way it has to be.

This coming week is Fall Reading Week at OttawaU.  Unless you are doing a Bachelors of Education, in which case you have classes and professional development.  On the upside, there are fewer readings.  So I guess that's a concession.

The reality is that I will get this done, and I will get it done well, but not as well as I would if I didn't have kids.  But having had my kids already gives me certain advantages and confidences and knowledge about kids and their brains that I didn't have before I had children of my own.  And thankfully, they are, so far, pretty understanding about Mummy's schedule and demands.

Also, I've figured out I can pay Emily $2.50 for looking after the other two while I work at my computer for a couple of hours.   GAME-CHANGER.

Now, back to my readings.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Great changes

So, yeah.

It's been a while....

And although it may sound like I am writing assuming someone is actually out there reading this, I am well aware that these words are blowing off my corner of the internet into the great ethos, with no other eyes taking a gander.

That didn't use to be the case.  And I'm okay with that.

Blogging used to be a huge part of my life.  Until life took over as the kids got older.  Which meant my wee Henry didn't get his fair share of face time on here.  Instead, his life, for the past two years anyway, was chronicled on Facebook, which means it hasn't been chronicled well.  And for that, Henry, I am so sorry.

And then, when life was already getting busy, I ended my glorious existence as a stay-at-home mum (something I relished and excelled at for seven lovely years) and returned to paid employment for Her Majesty.  I went back to a posting at Foreign Affairs and two months later landed a better-paid position at Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

And then quickly realized that I needed to finally do what I had wanted to do for over ten years: become a teacher.  Because working for the government was not going to work for me long-term.  In fact, it wasn't working for me short-term.

I applied to teachers' college ten years ago and got into to the University of Ottawa's Teacher Ed program but at the same time found out I was expecting Emily.  And so that plan had to wait in lieu of my three amazing children.  And now, those children are older and Henry has started JK and, oh yeah, the Government of Ontario is about to turn Teachers' College in Ontario into a two-year program so my plan morphed into "now or never."  I chose "now".


In the past ten years I have never really questioned that I was meant to teach and every waking moment of my volunteer time was spent with kids (and there were many waking moments spent hiking, camping, running meetings and selling Girl Guide cookies), honing teaching skills and figuring out my goals and my philosophy of working with kids.  It was extremely worthwhile.

So, here I am now, one and a half months into my Teacher Ed program at Ottawa U.  And I am exactly where I should be and want to be and I am so excited to finally be here.

I've decided that in order to keep my thoughts straight and figure out my goals and intentions for my teaching career as well as chronicle this year and my imminent search for teaching work in the Ottawa area, it is time to restart this old rust-bucket and get back into blogging.  Because I do miss it.

So, I go back to the beginning.  The beginning was blogging just for me and for my kids.  So they know what I was thinking and feeling at certain times in my life.  So they can go back and read about themselves and our family.  So I can go back and reflect and remember and relive these moments of knowing exactly where I wanted to be and why.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A great start to summer

The first two days of summer have been pretty much perfect so far.  Yes, it was raining cats and dogs the first day and yesterday saw a cold wind blow in but that has had no affect on the perfection rating.

On Friday, we met lots of friends at the Museum of Science and Technology where we let our kids run wild and free and took in  a great physics demonstration by one of the excellent museum demonstrators/teachers.  I whispered to my friend that the kids probably learned more at that demonstration than they'd learned the entire last day of school. They were all really engaged with it and two of our group got to go up as volunteers.  Anna was even brave enough to risk having her face smushed by a swinging bowling ball.

I ended up coming home from the museum with more kids than I went with (thank you, Mazda 5, for making this possible).  The rest of the day was a whirlwind of playing, movie, playing, tea party, playing and then a very wet walk to the library in the rain.  It was such a great day and aside from two of my own kids being a bit whiny at times, everyone got along like a house on fire.

The crazies having lunch

I think they need to work on the drainage system at the park.
Yesterday I took the kids strawberry picking to Ovens Berry Farm in Osgoode.  We'd never been there before but we will certainly be going back.  The berries were great, there were very few people picking berries (it was threatening to rain... I have to assume that it is normally busier) AND they have rows and rows of Saskatoon berries as pick-your-own as well.  And no one but us was picking them! They also have pick your own rhubarb and lots of raspberries that they'll be starting to pick next week. The farm has to be the tidiest berry farm I've come across.  And thankfully they have a little play structure for the kids when they give up on picking (about 15 minutes into the process).  It's a small farm, just the right size for me.

Filling our baskets
Henry tried it out too but found he was better at sitting and eating.

Three batches made and more to come.
After we got home, the kids played Wii for a while and helped me make freezer jam (I am amazed how quickly Saskatoon jam sets) before we headed to our local wading pool.  Unfortunately it was closed - I continue to be flummoxed by how arbitrarily our wading pool is closed.  It seems to be at the discretion of the lifeguards but really? It wasn't raining, it was a bit on the cool side but there were kids there when we arrived who were equally disappointed that they couldn't swim.  The sprinkler park kept Henry happy while the girls played on the playground.  We ended the day with three very tired kids and more freezer jam.

Henry brings a lot of joy to the sprinkler park.







Friday, June 28, 2013

Transitions

I've been searching for a way to break the ice after such a long absence from my once-loved blog.  I realized tonight that there isn't a smooth way to do this where I glide back in, segueing into a well-crafted post after a pithy sentence that somehow erases the months and months that I've been away (only proverbially... in real life my only absence was a lovely few days in Austin this spring).

Rather than explaining my absence (so very, very busy with... life) or trying to play catch-up (which would never work well), I'm just going to jump right back in and see what happens. It's my blog after all and that's how I want to do it.

Things are changing in my life.  After seven straight years at home with my children, I am returning to work this September.  I'll be back with the government, in fact, with the same department but in a much diminished role.  I didn't truly expect to go back at the same level I left, given I was away for 7 years but I didn't really expect to return to an entry level position.  However, things are really tough in Canada's public service right now.  People are losing jobs not getting them.  I'm just so thankful to have found something that will fulfill the debt that I owe the government from my maternity leave top-up.  I don't owe them money... I owe them time.  If I hadn't found a position, I would have had to pay that top up back. 

The position I've taken will be for one year.  I don't know what will happen after that.  I'm not too concerned at this point.  Right now I'm completely focused on reorienting our family from one where there is a parent home full-time who is largely responsible for most stuff at home - meals, laundry, cleaning, school work, play, lessons, etc - to having two parents working full-time and all the kids in daycare and school.

I'll be tough.  Particularly on me.  On the plus side, there will be more money in our pockets.

And that is the first transition.  The others are much more interesting to talk about, but I'll save that for another night when the UK version of Life on Mars isn't calling my name.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Gluten-free Monday: favourite pancakes

Obviously I took a week off but... here I am today, nursing a cold, ignoring a nasty diaper, and generally pinning things to my Pinterest boards that I really want to sew.

My love of sewing has been reignited the last few months.  It began when I pulled out my long forgotten and unfinished Christmas tree skirt (still unfinished, I might add).  Whenever I start to sew a project again (rather than just sew on Girl Guide badges or make minor repairs), I fall in love with sewing all over again.  My next project will be a fun bag to tote my Girl Guide stuff in.  After that, it is finishing some other quilts while making some summer skirts for the girls.  But first, I MUST finish my Christmas tree skirt.

I also have a Gluten-free goodness board on Pinterest.  You can find it here.  And like most of my other pins, I haven't made a single recipe on there yet.  Maybe I'll change that this week and try one out.  I'm thinking the chocolate cookies.  Yes..... I see a project for Henry and I today!  Expect a review next week.

In the meantime, I'm going to share my favourite pancakes with you today (sorry no photos).  This is a recipe that I got from Baking Beauties but I have fully changed around to make much better (in our opinion).  We always add blueberries but plain is good too, as is any other fruit you can think of.  You can also add canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices for a really great treat.

Karen's Pancakes

1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
3 tbsp tapioca starch/flour
1/3 cup potato starch
2 tbsp ground flax seed
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp xanthan gum

1 egg
1 cup yogurt (plain or vanilla)
1 1/2-1 3/4 cups milk, depending on how thick you like your pancakes.
3 tbsp oil
2 tsp vanilla

Whisk all dry ingredients together.  Mix wet ingredients separately, whisking well.  Add wet to dry and mix well.  Sometime I have to add extra milk to make a thinner batter as I don't like my pancakes too puffy.  Melt butter in frying pan and add large spoonfuls of batter adding blueberries or whatever fruit you like.

This batter also keeps well in the fridge for a few days.

I honestly don't think a wheat-eater could tell the difference eating these pancakes.  There is not GF texture here at all. Yum!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Gluten-free Monday: GF flour blend & Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I know, I know.  It's Tuesday.  I realize now that posting on Mondays will likely be difficult because Brownies is at 4:00 every Monday which means my Mondays is normally dominated by running around, getting craft supplies ready, doing some shopping, etc.

Yesterday we had a skating party at Brownies so there was little running around and no crafting to be done but Emily was home sick so the day was strange and didn't follow routine AND I am starting to cut/limit Henry's naps so there was that added in the mix as well.

And so, on this very cold Tuesday, I give to you Gluten-free Monday: the second edition!

Last week, Julie asked if I would post my gluten-free flour blend.  I'll happily do that today.

In full disclosure, this is actually Carol's Sorghum Blend and not invented by me at all.

I love this blend.  I've tried many and this one is by far the best for our tastes.  No rice flour: win! Easy to mix: win! As close to wheat in texture and taste that you're gonna get: win!

I don't use blends too often, however.  Normally I gravitate to recipes that have a number of different flours and starches in the recipe and do not depend on an all-purpose blend.  These recipes tend to work best as the ratios have been determined for that specific recipe.  This is why I like MGCC's website so much.  Their GF guru, Julie, doesn't use blends either.

There are some instances that require a pre-made blend however.  I have a couple of recipes that ask for one and I go to this blend for converting some of my square and muffin recipes.  It works well.  I wouldn't use it to convert a cake or cookies, though. Be forewarned, it won't work.  It is great for thickening sauces, stews, or other recipes that ask for 1-2 tbsp of flour as a thickener.  This will be a great replacement.

Carol's Sorghum Blend

1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
1 1/2 cups potato starch (not potato flour)
1 cup tapioca starch/flour

Mix and store.

I've used this recipe in the following muffin recipe to rave reviews:

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

I can't even remember where I got this recipe... AllRecipes, maybe? It's a GREAT addition to kids' lunches if they survive an hour past baking.

Ingredients:
2 tbsp shortening
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 cups Carol's Sorghum Blend
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Directions:
Cream shortening and sugar in big bowl.
Add eggs and applesauce, mix well.
Mix dry ingredients, add to big bowl.
Add in vanilla, yogurt and bananas.
Mix well.
Stir in chocolate chips.

Pour into muffin cups.  Bake at 350F for 24-30 minutes.  Makes 20-24 muffins.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Gluten-free Mondays

I've decided, on the spur of the moment as I devour another gluten-free cheese bun that I baked this morning, to start a new series on the blog: Gluten-free Mondays. 

I've been eating totally gluten-free for two years next month.  I was dragged kicking and screaming into a gluten-free diet after almost two years of ongoing and sometimes serious health issues revealed that gluten-free was the only cure for my many issues.  You can read about my health journey to this discovery here.

Since then I have found and developed a lot of GREAT gluten-free recipes.  My mantra when I started out was that if it wasn't as good as the wheat version, I wouldn't eat it (or make it again).  I've been able to stick to that and in some cases, my gluten-free version is better than the original wheat version.

We now have a completely gluten-free household.  Emily and Hope showed signs of gluten-intolerance about a year ago and have been GF since about then.  Henry has shown signs for a while and has been GF for about two months.  I'm still not convinced that this is the answer for him or that he is truly intolerant but given that gluten-intolerance is hereditary, there's a good chance that he is, even if it isn't solving his current issue.

John decided to join us as the last man standing and after reading an article that scared him off modern, North American wheat for at least a while, if not a lifetime.

I've only just started to convert my own recipes over to a GF version recently.  More often than not, I scour the internet for an already tested recipe.  I find that if I do choose to convert, my best luck happens with muffins, quick breads, pancakes.  I still haven't mastered a from-scratch homemade bread recipe.  Bread still eludes me.  It is the toughest thing to replicate given that it is reliant on gluten to make it 'bready'.  If we want bread, I buy a tolerable version at Costco or get the Bob's Red Mill everyday bread mix.

Several of my friends are starting to consider going GF because they have ongoing gut issues etc.  And they have asked me for recipes.  Instead of putting all my links together, which would take me a LONG time.  I've decided to feature one of our favourite GF recipes here each Monday.  Most often it will be taken from someone else's website or a cookbook.  So, kudos to all those people out there who have mastered recipe conversion.  My family benefits daily from your perseverance.

This morning, as I mentioned above, I baked cheese buns.  These are not normal buns.  They're called Chipa and they're common to South America.  My sister-in-law, who is from Brazil, makes these often.  Their texture takes some getting used to - they're very chewy inside.  We're totally addicted over here.  They need to be eaten the same day they're made so if you aren't going to eat 48 little buns in one day, put some of the batter in the fridge to use the next day.  That's what I normally do and it works great.

I found this recipe on Mennonite Girls Can Cook's gluten-free page.  It's become one of my go-to GF recipe sources.  I've only had one recipe not work out (bread, of course).  And of course, being Mennonite, they appeal to my desire for traditional Mennonite recipes converted to GF.  This week I'll be trying their wareneki recipe from their cookbook.  Can't wait!

Chipa


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3 cups tapioca starch/flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups of strong grated cheese 
2 eggs
1 cup milk

Mix all the dry ingredients together.
Add oil, beaten eggs with the milk and stir in till the dry ingredients are well moistened.
Put into greased mini-muffin tins.
Bake at 350 til golden brown, 20-25 minutes.  I bake mine on 325 convection and leave them in for 15 minutes.

Delicious cheesy little pillows.