Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What's cooking Wednesday

Tonight's dinner was delicious, thanks to John, but it was also a use-up-what's-in-the-fridge-because-we're-going-away-tomorrow-meal. So, there isn't much to share. However, with dinner, we served some leftover guacamole. I must say, I make kick-ass guacamole. So, in the absence of anything else for What's Cooking Wednesday, I'm going to share my recipe, if you can call it that, with you. No pictures though. You'll just have to use your imagination.

1 ripe avacado (this means that the skin is black and your finger leaves a small indentation when you press the skin)
1-2 tbsp chopped, fresh cilantro
juice of half a lime
salt and pepper
some chopped tomato (put in however much you like)
a dollop of sour cream

Remove the seed from the avacado and squish the avacado out of its skin. Put it in a bowl. Add the tomatoes and mash it with a fork to get it to the consistency you like. Sometimes I like the avacado to stay chunky and sometimes I want it to be creamier. Add all the other ingredients and mix it all up. Serve with, well, anything because you could spread this on an old tire and it would taste good.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Greemy, grimey gopher guts

This morning we were at the library picking up our weekly reading material. We were not at our usual branch. We were at an older branch, a branch where there is no self-checkout. You have to do it the old fashioned way. In other words, you have to deal with a real human being.

Emily noticed right off.

Emily: Where we do the books?
Me: There aren't any self-checkout computers here. We give our books to a person instead.
Emily: What person?
Me: That person. Standing right there. Behind the desk.
(Please note that by this point in the conversation we are standing directly in front of the person in question.)
Emily: That's not a person. That's a boy.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Finally, a recap

We're going to be leaving for the cottage again at the end of this week, and I still haven't blogged about our weekend there last week. Or was it the week before?

Sad, I know.

Before I get into the crux of the weekend, I should give you a quick low-down on our family cottage. The cottage is not a typical Muskoka cottage (ie. summer home bigger than our current house). Nope. Ours is a cabin really. It was once a rental cabin, which was purchased by my mum's dad (known to Beth and I as Pappa). My mum spent a lot of her summers there. My mum and her sister inherited it after my Pappa died in 1979 and a few years ago my mum bought out her sister's share. Being that my mum died in 2005, my dad now owns it. For Beth and I especially, it is a childhood home of sorts and because several years ago now my parents moved away from the house we grew up in, it is certainly a place where we have deep sentimental attachment and memories. In a word, it is magic. The eye of the beholder is not objective, however. Here it is in all its glory (just look beyond Emily's giant orb):

The weekend was really an "opening up" weekend, which generally entails a lot of cleaning, specifically, cleaning up mouse poop. A lot of mouse poop. I washed most of the pots, pans, dishes and bakeware, all the countertops, we swept and mopped, got rid of a wasps' nest inside the cottage, cut the grass, got all the beds made, got rid of some clutter, you know.... the usual kind of stuff.

We arrived on Thursday and that night Emily and John witnessed a mouse run across the kitchen floor. Seems the little critters decided not to vacate this year. I guess they didn't get the memo about vacating the premises when the trees got their leaves. Like all the other animals. I guess we got the dumb mice this year. As there was no food left in the cottage, they spent their winter eating soap. I should have taken a photo of the soap sculpture that is sitting by the kitchen sink now.


I set a trap. One mouse caught. Unfortunately not the mouse spotted the previous night. Reset the trip. Caught another mouse. Still not the mouse we saw. Seems that there is a leader who is the brains of the operation and I caught his two blundering sidekicks. There could be a movie about all of this. It wouldn't be very good though.

Apart from the cleaning and killing, we swam a lot. The water was very warm for June as a result of all the hot weather we've been having. I showed Emily how to play bakery on the beach. Beth and I spent hours playing sand bakery when we were kids. Passing these things onto Emily lets me relive it all over again. Watching her there, seeing her learn how to play there, discovering all the magic herself, well, although I didn't know it at the time, this why I wanted these kids.

We explored the nooks and crannies around the cottage. There were lots of wildflowers to look at, lots of critters, the sun and wind on our faces. We made some great discoveries, like these wild irises growing on the beach:

We saw lots of wildlife. The first morning there was a snapping turtle trying to lay her eggs on our road. We're unsure if she was successful but being that she chose smack in the middle of the road, we're thinking chances of hatching are not so good this year. We saw lots of deer and a porcupine. And of course the resident groundhogs. Through all of this I only caught one critter on film:

I'm expecting a call from National Geographic any day now.

We also went into Port Sydney for ice cream. Emily chose to wear it instead of eat it.

John and I were unsure of how Hope would do at the cottage. The first summer of Emily's life we spent almost two full weeks there. Two full weeks of hell. It was brutally hot. We had only one fan (obviously there is no air conditioning at the cottage). The lake water wasn't even refreshing. Emily had terrible prickly heat and sleeping was a no-show. She wasn't crawling much so didn't really enjoy exploring. In a word or two, it sucked. We were afraid of a repeat but, aside from some super-sized bug bites, Hope seemed to love it all. She even slept better than she does at home. Maybe I just need to move up there permanently. I mean, wouldn't you like to stare at this all day?

We leave again at the end of this week for a full week there. Beth and Graeme and Fetal Texan will be there too which means FUN TIMES! And some serious bocce ball me hopes. I'll be better with the camera, I promise, and will have some (better) blog posts when I return.

Keep tuned in this week though for such gems as "We go to the park" and "We go to the library" and maybe even "We go shopping for baby shower items." I know, I'm all a-quiver, too.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Hands and knees

Hope has graduated. She is no longer commando crawling, sneaking up on those (many) dust bunny enemies hidden in the corners. As of two days ago, Hope figured out how to use those knees. And when she really wants to move fast, she reverts back to the sneak attack.

This means that (re)childproofing has to begin in earnest. I always knew that Hope would be the child that is into everything. Emily was not that child. She rarely went into cupboards that were banned, she didn't get into kitchen ingredients (until older), she didn't make a quick beeline for stairs. Hope is a different ballgame.

The other day I was unloading groceries from the car. I put the kids in the house and made sure the basement door was closed. When I came back in from the first load, the basement door was wide open. To say that I broke land speed records is an understatement. And there was Hope on the landing just before the big tumble to the basement. I grabbed her and searched for some heart medication. It took me a long time to calm down.

I asked Emily (calmly) why she opened the door. She said: Hope wanted to go down there.

We'll be buying another baby gate this weekend. Seems a door is no defence against a toddler wanting to help out her sister.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What's cooking Wednesday

Well, today was fajitas made with leftover steak from John's (kick-ass) birthday meal that I prepared on Monday night. So, I am not putting that forward for What's Cooking Wednesday. However, today is a bread-making day so, without further ado and as promised a long, long time ago, today is your first peek into my bread-making life.

Since almost the beginning of this current maternity leave I've been making all of our bread. Now, before you ooh and aah too much, I must admit that I have a little help in the way of this:
It certainly doesn't do all the work as a bread machine would, but it does the kneading, which is the difficult part of making bread (difficult on the old arms, anyway).

I've been making bread for years, although only for special occasions or when the whim hit me. My mum got me started. She was an amazing baker and she made killer chelsea buns and rolls. Never ventured into whole grains though as she wasn't too keen on anything that wasn't white bread. So this year I started searching my cookbooks for some good multi-grain and whole grain recipes. After I went through those, I hit the library for some new ideas and landed upon this book:

It took me to a new level of bread-making. So, as tonight I'm making our bread for the next few days, and it is one of my favourites from this book, Buttermilk Bread, I'm going to share the recipe and techniques. I have one caveat though. If you haven't made bread before, this is not the recipe to begin with. I'm going to assume some proficiency in baking and bread-making. That doesn't mean you shouldn't continue reading though! Because.... because! In making bread this year, I've learned a lot. I've learned a lot about making bread but while doing that, I've also learned things about me and about how to approach my days around here, and maybe life altogether. So, read along. I'll try and show you what you can learn when you get elbow deep in the staff of life.

2 tsp active dry yeast (in other words, not instant yeast - you want the traditional stuff)
1/2 cup warm water

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let sit for a few minutes. I find it useful to put the mixture in a mug since I generally need my glass measuring cups for the other steps. Pour a cup of tea. I find a cup of tea is the perfect accompaniment to bread-making.

3/4 cup very hot water
1/4 cup honey (liquid not creamed)
1 1/4 cups cold buttermilk

Combine these ingredients in a glass measuring cup. You'll want something that pours easily.

Next, in your mixing bowl combine 5 1/2 cups of whole wheat bread flour and 2 tsp salt. Attach the bread hook to your machine, or if you are doing this by hand, get a strong wooden spoon. If using the dough hook, with the machine running at low speed slowly pour in the yeast mixture and then the water/honey/buttermilk mixture. Lesson number one: approach each step slowly and with purpose. Do not grab your tea cup and pour that in thinking it is the yeast mixture. It really doesn't play the same role as the yeast. Since I did that, I always slow down. Bread-making is purposeful. In each tiny step or movement there is purpose and results. I skip one, I make a mistake because I'm in a hurry and it can all fall apart. I can't claim that I take the same approach in everything else I do, but in my slow-moving, breadmaking moments, I like to reflect on it and hope that it is spilling over into the rest of my day.

If you are doing this by hand, stir. A lot. Now it is time to knead. If you have a mixer, lucky you. Let it run for quite a while for this recipe. I let it go about 10 minutes or so. I almost always have to add more flour. It is always too sticky and wet. If you're not sure, stick your fingers way down into the dough (please turn the machine off first!). If it feels pretty wet/sticky, add another half cup of flour and then check again after it is incorporated. Knead the dough until it is "smooth and silky." Then incorporate about 2 tbsp of butter in cold bits. Truth be told, I often forget this step and it only makes a marginal difference. There are moments when you can get away with a lack of attention. Just not very many of them. Plop the dough onto the table and form it into a ball by kneading by hand a few times. If you aren't using a machine, you'll have been kneading by hand for a while, like twenty minutes. I'm not going to go into an explanation on how to knead. I figure if you don't know, you haven't made bread before and you're not going to be making this recipe anyway. However, if you haven't tried kneading bread dough before, you really are missing out on an energizing yet calming experience. Getting your hands into a soft dough, giving yourself time to reflect on... whatever or nothing, really getting your hands into something that will possibly be the first thing you put into your mouth during the following days, sustains you through the week, is something almost spiritual. It connects you to generations and generations of people before you who kneaded their own bread and thought about the things that mattered to them. It shouldn't be missed. Try it at least once.

And yet, here is my first annoyance in my learning curve in bread-making. How do I know what a smooth and silky ball of dough looks like? How will you know? Well, here is the photo of what it should look like:

Okay, so now stick that sucker in an ungreased bowl. Don't smear it with oil or butter. It isn't necessary. Make sure the bowl is big. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it in a warmish place for a long time. About 1.5 hours. When I first started making bread this year and using this book, because the recipes in this book take longer than any other bread recipes I've used, I would still be doing all the usual activities around here - taking the kids to the library, the playground, going grocery shopping or doing other errands. It was always my downfall. I would come home to an over-risen dough or would be baking the bread at 11:00 at night or force it to sit in the cold storage until the next morning when I had time to bake it. I learned after too many times that this just doesn't work with good bread-making. I have to be present in what I'm doing. I have to do just one thing at a time and let the rest of the day be. We stay at home, Emily helps me make the bread, it is the activity that day. She knows that it is special, that we'll be eating this bread over the next few days and therefore it deserves our attention and the respect of letting it be our focus that day. If I do this, I have a beautiful loaf. If I don't, chances are we'll be eating a brick for a couple of days, or I'll be starting again. Give important things the respect of my time. That's what I've learned. That doesn't mean of course that I never end up baking loaves at 10:00 pm. Like when I'm focussed on getting my WCW post together rather than getting the loaves in the oven. Oh, the irony.

After the dough has risen, you want to poke it. If the hole doesn't fill in at all or if the dough sighs around the hole, it is ready for the next step. Comme ca:

Take the dough out of the bowl, press out the air and reshape it into a nice ball, put it back in the bowl, re-cover with plastic wrap, and give it a second rise. It should take about half as long as the first rise.

When that rising is complete, press the air out again, shape into a log and cut the log in half. Form each piece into a nice round. I have a technique for doing this, but you should do it whatever way you like. When you are done it should look like this:

Cover the two balls with a tea towel and let them sit for about five minutes. They will re-soften. Meanwhile, grease with butter two loaf pans. I used to use cooking spray but have realized that after all the effort of making bread, you need to pay attention to the details. Why go to all this effort only to ignore the little things that show the level of care that has gone into it all?

Now, get two plastic grocery bags. Put some water in each and empty them out, in effect getting them damp inside. Now use these to create little greenhouses over each pan and leave the bread for a final rising, about 30 minutes or so. The bread should spring back when given a gentle poke. Let it have a good rise, going a bit longer even than you think you should. If you do, you'll have an extra high loaf from this recipe and it is a devastating creation when done well.

We're in the home stretch. About 10 minutes before it is done rising, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Bake the loaves for about 1 hour. When it comes out, brush with a bit of butter for extra richness, or just cut off the heel and, as the maker, enjoy the fruits of your labours. You deserve it. As have all those who came before you. The final product:

I normally slash the loaves, but didn't tonight. Instead I chose to admire the perfect dome of a well-risen loaf. Ahhhh. Satisfying, isn't it?

If you made it this far, serious kudos. Is there an award for longest WCW post, Shannon? I think I'm in the lead, if there is.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Desperate for a bamboo stake?

Can you ever imagine yourself in a situation where you are so desperate for a bamboo stake that you poach one from a neighbour's tomato plant? No, me either. But apparently there is someone who lives in my area who finds him or herself in this sad situation because we arrived home from the cottage tonight to find one of my plants sadly lacking in support but still in possession of the pieces of cloth that tied it to its stake.

Honestly, what on earth?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I've been waiting for this all year

Today we leave for the cottage for our first visit there this year. I wait all year for this. It will be great. We're just there until Monday this time but will spend more time later this summer (with Beth, too!).

So, I will be MIA until Tuesday or so as there is no WiFi, not even a phone line, at the cottage. How wonderful.

See you back here next week!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What's cooking Wednesday

I didn't think that frozen hamburgers on the grill were in the true spirit of What's cooking Wednesday but luckily Emily and I made cookies today. Great cookies. Heavenly cookies. And I'm not joking here: they are not that bad for you.

Stop laughing. I'm not kidding.

I got this recipe last week from Tamara. She and Emily made it together the day we left Kitchener. They're addictive but with a cup of bran in there, at least you'll be all regular like.

Pacific Pride Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup hazelnuts chopped (I used walnuts)
2 cups flour (I used one cup whole wheat, one cup white)
1 cup butter (okay, the recipe says margarine but I am diametrically opposed to margarine in all its forms)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup bran, corn or wheat flakes
1 cup coconut
1 generous cup of chocolate chips

1. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast them lightly in a 350 F oven. Set them aside to cool.
2. Preheat oven to 300 F.
3. Sift flour and set aside. (Yeah, I didn't sift anything.)
4. In a very large bowl, cream the butter, sugars and eggs. Add the vanilla, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the flour and mix well.
5. Stir in the oats, bran flakes, coconut, nuts and chocolate chips. Mix well. (I did the whole thing in my mixer.)
6. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheets and bake for 12 minutes.

Makes 7 dozen. It really does make a lot. See? Not quite 7 dozen though. Enjoy guilt free!

I am the urban gardener

I certainly don't proclaim to be a master gardener but I would say that my thumb is a distinct shade of green. This year, however, I have moved beyond my normal summer obsession and moved decidedly into the realm of Urban Gardener. What warrants that label you ask? Well, this is the view from my front door:

Pretty? Well, yes, and the fragrances from those peonies are, quite frankly, overwhelming, almost artificial. And I love all the discoveries I make as I poke around my very small patch of heaven. But that isn't what made me decide to elevate myself to the realms of all those Italian men living on Preston Street and vicinity. It was this that did it:

Yup, those are tomatoes, fully staked, growing right there in my front yard. This year, I'm using every available inch to either beautify with perennials, give Emily a patch of dirt to cultivate (and destroy, let's be honest) or grow vegetables. And this year, the vegetables are taking precedence. We have a poorly used cold storage in our basement, a soon to be depleted bank account, and a tiny yard ripe for the harvest.

If you ever walk down Preston Street in Ottawa, our little Italy, you will see tiny backyards filled with tomatoes, the odd other vegetable and herb, but mostly robust, serious, take-note tomatoes. This is no light-hearted undertaking, my friends. This is serious business for these old gents. And I've tasted the bounty when John and I lived on Corso Italia. Our gracious and very old Italian landlords handed over many tomatoes when we handed over our rent (in cash, by the by).

So, I've joined their ranks, at least in method if not in quality. And I'm proud of it. Why shouldn't we use our front yards to grow food after all? Maybe I'll start a little trend on my street, if not a string of tomato thefts.

The backyard vegetable garden has been replanted after the squirrels reaped the rewards of bean and squash seeds and I'm hoping for better luck. Stay tuned. An obsession like this is bound to warrant several more posts. Aren't you all so lucky?

I also have to say: what the h-e-double hockey sticks is going on with the size of these flowers? Check this out....

Okay, so I do have carnie hands, as John readily points out, but still, that's one mother blossom.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Hopey unplugged

I find myself with some time on my hands. I could clean, garden, cook but instead I've decided to go hog wild and blog. More satisfying and tastes great, too.

John pointed out a few days ago that the few photos I posted from our get away last week were all Emily all the time. Where is Hope, he asked? And he was right. The wee one was no where to be found. I'm rectifying that today.

The truth is that Hope is playing a dominant role in everything now. She is commando crawling (think military-style sneaking up on the enemy kind of move) everywhere, even falling off the one step we have on the main floor at least twice that I know of (no bruises, just a few complaints). Last week she started playing peekaboo with her bib and now the curtains or her arm or whatever she can find. Two days ago, after several days of Emily singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and doing the hand motions to go along, Hope started doing the hand motions, too. When she wants us to sing it, she sticks her chubby little arm in the air and starts squeezing her wee hands open and shut. I think my heart is permanently liquefied. She chatters non-stop, often repeating the same noises she just made but experimenting with her voice to make slight changes. As of two days ago, she started sleeping on her stomach. To me, this is a big mile marker when babies head towards toddlerhood. They finally figure out how great it feels to plop in your bed on your stomach and zone out. For one night it made a difference in her totally crappy sleep patterns.

Emily has started making up games to play with Hope. She runs from one side of Hope's highchair to the other squealing "Where is me, Hope?" and Hope anticipates where Emily will show up and laughs hysterically when they find each other. I love to watch the two of them play together. Already I daydream about them chasing each other to the basement to play house together or running outside to dig in the garden together. I have a constant feeling of contentment while I enjoy my life with them now and anticipate what it will be.

As much as I complain about my lack of sleep, my relationship with Hopey (Emily's nickname for Hope has stuck. Hope of the future: I apologize for this) has changed since she stopped sleeping well. For the longest time I could stick her in her crib, turn on her little light and music acquarium, walk out and not hear from her again for hours. No longer. When that all stopped and she didn't want boob either, I was forced to rock her, something she has never wanted before. All of a sudden my non-cuddler started laying her head down on my shoulder and gripping my arms with those pudgy hands. As much as I complain, I really love it. The cuddling is the one thing I've missed with Hope. Emily is all about the cuddles. Hope is all about the activity. I'll continue to complain about how tired I am and why can't this kid sleep, already?! but you'll all know that as much as I complain there are some moments that I'm loving that I wouldn't have had if she was sound asleep in her crib.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


I have several posts I want to put up, all of which deserve more than the seven or so minutes I have to myself per day right now that isn't filled with cooking or kids or gardening or shopping. Hope, who is completely wonderful right now in every way but one, is a bear to get to sleep and once she is asleep she stays that way for all of an hour (when I'm lucky) before she is up again. I miss the days of her great, long sleeps.

So this is the extent of my post for today. Maybe for a few days. I have lots I want to say but I want to say it well (okay, at least marginally well) and I'm frustrated that I just have no time. It really sucks ass.

The kids are great though. Lots of fun. I'd share pictures if it didn't take so damn long to organize. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What's cooking Wednesday

There was a lot cooking around the house today. We made bread, dessert and the main course. I've chosen to give you my favourite meatball recipe for today's What's Cooking Wednesday because my bread today didn't turn out as it usually does and frankly, I'm still eating the dessert while I type.

If I'm making meatballs, these are the ones I'm making. The recipe was taken from my favourite Canadian-Italian celebrity chef (we all have one, don't we?), David Rocco. I love their simplicity. You'll love their yum factor and how easy they are. David Rocco is a Canadian of Italian descent who lives and produces his show in Florence. His recipes are dead simple but look delicious and I think that comes from the simple local ingredients he uses. Pretty much the basis of all great Italian cooking. His titles are always in Italian. I think this might mean Peppe's meatballs but I'll leave it to Michelle to do the true translations for us.

Polpette di Peppe

1/2 cup pinenuts
1/2 cup raisins
1.1 lb ground beef (500 g)
1.1 lb ground pork (500 g) (I used 1 kg ground chicken tonight instead of pork/beef)
bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped
basil leaves thinly sliced (however many you like although he says 4)
2 eggs
80 g Italian bread, crust removed
1 cup milk
1 cup freshly grated parmigiano cheese
sald and pepper to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4 cups tomato puree (not prepared tomato sauce - you definitely need pure pureed tomatoes)
1 cup red wine

1. In mixing bowl, add meat, raisins, pine nuts, parsley, basil, cheese, salt and pepper.
2. Soak bread in milk and remove excess milk by squeezing the bread with your hands.

3. Break up bread into small pieces and add to mixing bowl. Add eggs and mix until ingredients are evenly distributed. With your hands, shape the meatballs into the size of golf balls. I love this part of making meatballs. Reminds me of making mud pies or outdoor soups when I was a kid. Just to give you an idea, I've included a picture of my mixture at this point. Don't you just want to squish it with your hands right now?

4. In large pot, heat extra virgin olive oil and cook onions until they're translucent.
5. Add red wine, tomato puree and bring it to a boil.
6. Add uncooked meatballs to the pot and let cook on medium heat for 30 minutes.

I served it on spaghetti. I know for many Italians this is a dish on it's own without pasta, but I just love meatballs on spaghetti, or any pasta for that matter. Also note that unlike most North American meatballs recipes, these aren't browned first or baked in the oven. Instead the meatballs are simmered in this beautifully simple sauce and end up being soft and tender and full of the wine and tomato flavour. Oh so good.

Phew. Back home.

We're back. We got home around 9:00 last night. I think. It's a bit of a blur.

The last two days were great. After John got home on Saturday, the rest of the day was spent playing outside - sprinklers, kiddie pool, mud pies ensued. On Sunday we all went off to Port Dalhousie. Okay, it's not much of a trek from John's mom's house - maybe a 15 minute drive. The kids all rode the carousel. The carousel is the reason to go to Port Dalhousie for us. Rides still cost 5 cents as they always have since it's establishment in the 192os. Last year Emily would not get off. At 20 months old she insisted on riding the up and down horses on her own. I expected more of the same this year. Of course, you know what that meant. She wouldn't ride the horses. She would only ride on the bench. So, I rode the horses with Hope on my back.

While in Port, I also went over to Anna Olson's bakery and spent too much money on products I could have bought elsewhere but at least I got to see the celebrity chef in action as she was chopping veggies or something behind the cash register.

The rest of the day was spent lounging around and playing outside. John's sister and her family went back to Cambridge that afternoon.

Monday was spent with my family and friends. We drove to Ridgeville (about 25 minutes from John's mom's house) and had a great lunch with my aunt and uncle. Emily explored their property, looked at the vegetable garden and climbed the treehouse. She threw out all the gourds that were stored in there from last year, swept it out and made soup. My Aunt Sharon and I went over to a small garden centre (typical to my hometown it was actually a bunch of plants for sale in someone's yard - someone I knew of course) and then went to the cemetery to plant them at my mum's plot. After that, John, Emily, Hope and I went just down the road (literally about 20 metres from my aunt's house) to my friend Julie's house for a great dinner.

Julie was my best friend throughout high school. I spent umpteen hours at her farm. The farm house is about 150 years old they think. It's a huge victorian house complete with lots of gingerbread and wrought iron. Julie's family has run it as a berry and fruit farm for years. It is finally for sale. I was so happy to spend one more afternoon there. The kids played so well together and the adults just relaxed and talked and had great food prepared by Mathieu, Julie's chef husband. After supper we all walked to the strawberry fields and filled baskets to take home. Brian, the guy currently farming the strawberries, forced some to ripen early and as they haven't been checking in on them, Julie and Mathieu help themselves. As did we and all the kids. It was so much fun and took me back to all the picking I did in high school. It will be sad not to go there anymore but hey, anybody wanna buy a farm?

From there it was back to John's mom's for the night, a quick jaunt to Happy Rolph's animal petting zoo place yesterday morning and then home yesterday afternoon and evening.

I've only included a few photos here. I took 169 of them during the week. I'll stick most of them on Flickr but not today. Today I'm unshowered, unpacked but happy to be home, too. And both kids are sleeping so the teapot is calling.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

He's back!

Yesterday was a nice quiet wind-up morning in Kitchener. Emily and Tamara made amazing cookies (I'm sure the recipe will make its way onto What's Cooking Wednesday very soon) and put together some mac and cheese for lunch. From there we went to Cambridge to spend the afternoon with John's sister and her kids. Emily, Kennedy and Claire played outside for most of the afternoon, Hope napped, and I relaxed. Ahhhh.

After supper all of us drove in caravan to Omi's house in St. Catharines. Unfortunately, Emily fell asleep in the car on the way down resulting in a full melt-down when we arrived. We're not really sure why she does this after an evening sleep in the car, but it isn't the first time. The kids finally were in bed asleep by 9:45 (yikes!) and the adults ended the day eating wings from Duffs. Not bad, actually.

Today was special because John came home. Yahoo! I picked him up at the Toronto airport in the early afternoon with Hope in tow. Emily was completely immersed in play with the cousins and Omi. The rest of the day was spent running through sprinklers, splashing in the kiddie pool, and sitting in lawn chairs. And catching up with John, of course. All in all a wonderful, if steamy hot day.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Day Two

Yesterday we met my very good friend Marnie, who was my roommate through most of university, and her daughter Molly and all trekked to the St. Jacobs Farmers Market. I picked up my log o' summer sausage, some Dutch apple squares, some preserves and we enjoyed a coffee among the throngs. From there we went back to Marnie's new house (new to her) and Emily played with her three yung'uns for the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon. Hope showed off her crawling skills and I got to enjoy a good visit with Marn. Her parents were visiting which meant her mom watched the kids so we could relax a bit. A definite treat right now.

After we returned to Tamara's, Emily played, Hope took a big sleep and I relaxed a bit again. The day ended with Greg bringing us Blizzards to give us some respite from the nasty heat.

The most challenging part of being away with the kids on my own is getting them to bed at night. We're all sleeping in the same room. Emily always talks and sings to herself while she is falling asleep so it's hard sometimes to get Hope in "the zone." I'm relying on the boobs to lull in her into dreamland. If that doesn't work, I'm stuck. I don't know what I'd be doing if I was bottle feeding.

After lunch we're off to John's sister's house. Emily will play with her cousins, Kennedy and Claire, and then we're off to Omi's house after supper.

Sorry for this very uninspired post that reads like a tour itinerary but my brain is running on fumes right now.