Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What's cooking Wednesday

I'm not quite sure what got into me but when November's issue of Canadian Living arrived, I must have become possessed with either Hallowe'en fever or by Martha Stewart. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea and rather fun to make the "Spooky Spider Cake" pictured on the cover.

Let's just say, I don't have the cake decorating skills of Martha Stewart or anyone who works for Canadian Living, unless Dora is involved, of course.

So, Emily and I baked the cake. No problem there, except the spider's body fell into several pieces when I took it out of the bowl. But, as usual we had a good time baking it. Especially Emily. She has an unnatural relationship with beaters.

Then the decorating. And this is usually where I wonder why I thought I should try to decorate a cake. I'm great at baking, not so good at decorating. I tend to focus on the cake and its decadence, shunning cake mixes. Then, people ooh and ah over the cake, and no one notices the lame attempt at icing or the fact that I covered it in whipped cream, or that there isn't any icing at all.

Anyway, all this to say, our spider was a little on the lame side, if you compare it to the photo in the magazine. But, we had some good laughs and Emily (and Hope) loved eating the icing and Emily loved decorating the cake. Cibele, my sister-in-law, and Emily applied a good portion of the icing and sprinkles. John helped out by eating the Licorice Allsorts that were supposed to be his eyes. Apparently he thought I was being nice in buying him his favourite candy. Clearly he doesn't know me as well as he thought he did. Luckily, I had some juice berries but the result is Spidey is a bit dead in the eyes.

Photo in Canadian Living:

Cake we made (notice dead eyes of Spidey. Kind of makes it spookier though, dontcha think?):

I'm not going to give you all the instructions for decorating this cake or this will be one mother of a WCW post. Instead, I'm giving you the cake recipe because the actual cake? It rocks. Yum, yum.

Happy Hallowe'en everyone!

Chunky Chocolate Spider Cake

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp each baking powder and baking soda
1/2 sp salt
2 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Grease side of 10 inch springform pan; line bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour 6-inch metal bowl; set pans aside

In large bowl, beat butter with sugar until light. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time; beat in vanilla. In separate bowl, whisk together flour,. coca powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt; stir into butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, making 3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of buttermilk. Stir in chocolate chips. Scrape into prepared pans, smoothing tops.

Bake in centre of 350F oven for about 50 minutes for small cake and 60 minutes for large or until cake tester comes out clean. let cool in pans on rack for 10 minutes. Turn out onto racks; peel off paper from large cake. let cook completely. Do with them what you will. Allow your inner Martha Stewart to rear her ugly head. Or just eat it with a fork and some whipped cream to cover your crumbling spider head.

Should you choose to create a spider, make sure you have one of these handy for afterwards:

It really helped me a lot.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The week in recap

I just downloaded my photos from this past week. We've done a lot this week, most of it fun, and almost none of it was mentioned here. Time to rectify that, primarily through a photo montage.

Emily loves crafts. If it were up to her, we would spend our entire day doing crafts. On some rainy days, it feels like we do. One day this week, her nap didn't take so, it being rainy, we "crafted." She was a pig in shit. With Hallowe'en around the corner, it's easy to come up with craft ideas and find cheap materials.

Hope spent a good part of her week falling, climbing, walking, stumbling. The usual. She's discovered the fun of walking around with an empty bucket and finding things to put inside it. She also has become a little taken with Emily's doctor set. She carries it around looking for people to open if for her and listen to her heart.

Thursday is garbage day around here. This week a little part of our family was set out at the curb. I can't say I was sorry to see it go. This member hasn't pulled its weight in a long time and I cursed every time it had to come anywhere with us. The member I'm talking about is this beauty:

We bought this stroller, or rather "travel system" before Emily was born using money given to us by my friends at work. The stroller and car seat that came with it wheeled both Emily and Hope around, often at the same time during the last year. I devised a system where Hope would ride in the stroller (or car seat clipped into the stroller when she was really small) and Emily sat underneath with her bum in the basket. It's hard to explain but it worked. Unfortunately (or fortunately in fact) the added weight and unintended use was too much for the old girl to bear and last week one of the bars underneath gave up the ghost. Couple this with the fact that one of the front wheels has been falling off for well over a year and we decided to say goodbye. I'm really not sorry to see it go but at the same time it is a little piece of history that is now sitting in the Carp landfill.

Today I took Emily and Hope to the Farm for the members' Hallowe'en party. Emily loved it. We met our friends there, Pam and her kids Nevan and Celia. Emily and Nevan couldn't have cared less that it poured most of the time we were there. Emily was just thrilled to be decked out in her (three dollar!) Baby Bop costume, making crafts and filling her face with caramel apples. Hope got into the action with a bit of colouring (and eating caramel apples).

And then finally (I promise), at the end of the day today we went to our friends Ron and Meredith's for their son Duncan's second birthday party. The kids played, the adults had a great time hanging out, we filled ourselves with spaghetti and meatballs and wine and cake. It was a fine end to a fine week. Oh and this afternoon I had a 90-minute massage that made the week extra special for me. I expect to sleep very well tonight (Hope willing).

Tomorrow we plan to go to the last Ottawa Farmers' Market of the season to pick up our locally-produced veggies and beef. After that we'll hit a playground with some friends who we haven't seen in a long, long time, Jen, who often comments here, and her kids Gillian and Gwen.

After that I'll probably need to sit down for a while.

What's cooking Wednesday: this time with the recipe

Yeah, I realize today is not Wednesday but I'm still owing that pot roast recipe and since last night I finished the assignment for my course (!), I have all this time on my hands for the rest of the weekend. Hah-hah!

We did finally eat the pot roast on Thursday night. It was great and I highly recommend this recipe. Also, being a slow cooker recipe you can ignore it most of the day, which is a big bonus. This recipe comes from Eat, Shrink and Be Merry, the newest from the Podleski sisters.


3/4 cup root beer (not diet)
1/3 cup hickory-flavoured bbq sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp grated gingerroot
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp minced garlice
1/2 tsp each ground cumin and chili powder
1 sirloin tip roast (3 to 3.5 lbs)
salt and pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into wedges
2 tbsp cornstarch

To make sauce, combine root beer, bbq sauce, tomato paste, lemon juice, gingerroot, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, cumin and chili powder ina small saucepan. Bring to a boil over med-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and let sauce boil gently for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Sprinkle roast lightly with s&p. Heat oil in large skillet and brown roast on all sides.

Place roast in slow cooker. Put onion wedges around it. Pour sauce over it. Cover with lid and cook on low heat for 8 hours (I did 6 hours).

Remove roast and onions. Pour sauce from slow cooker into a medium saucepan. Skim off as much fast as possible. I put the roast and sauce in the fridge over night, which made it dead easy to remove the fat. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch with an equal amount of water and stir until smooth. Add to sauce and bring to a boil over high heat, whisking constantly, until sauce has thickened slightly.

To serve, slice roast thinly and spoon hot sauce over top.

We L-O-V-E-D this. I'm not usually a pot roast person as I like my beef medium rare to rare but this was great. It was the sauce that did it. Delicious!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Cold: 1 Karen: 0

Hope's cold has me beat. It's required me to be up with Hope on average 3 times a night. It sucks. Bad.

I planned to put up my pot roast recipe last night but now I'm thinking it might finally appear in time for next week's What's Cooking Wednesday.

I have a few things I want to post about but they are now all taking a back seat to the assignment I have due for my course on Tuesday. I haven't started it and I'm starting to worry because our dance card is filling up for the weekend. If Hope cooperates though, I'll power through it tonight and put it to bed. And then put me to bed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What's cooking Wednesday

I tried a new recipe tonight; it was a slow-cooker recipe. Unfortunately, I put it in the slow cooker at 2:30 and it wasn't done until about 7:30. We ate leftovers, which were good but since it's a recipe that has been posted here before, well, you'll all be getting my slow cooker recipe tomorrow when we eat the pot roast.

Hope has a cold. I hate it when Hope has a cold. It translates to less sleep for me, especially after the powers that be have declared kiddie cold medicine the next death trap. I now see that it made a difference because when I gave it to her in the past it meant she could breathe while she slept. Without it she makes gurgling noises with her nose. Her mattress is now propped up with towels. I hope this gets her and me a few extra hours of sleep tonight. I'm hopeful but not optimistic.

Night all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

You've gotta see it to believe it

I retrieved my camera yesterday after leaving it in the back seat of Julie's car so now I can give you the full story of my day away with the girls on Saturday.

The four of us (Julie I., Julie L., Meredith and I) decided to go to Perth for the afternoon. We had a lovely lunch at Fiddleheads. The Red Hat Society was meeting there at the same time which, if you've never seen it before, is definitely worth seeing once in your life. Just for the purple velour track suits.

After lunch we stopped by Julie I's cottage so she could give us the tour. It was a lovely spot. From there we went to the main event: an antique/flea market place that Julie had told us all about. It exceeded my expectations and went beyond her explanation. But, it's not really something you can explain to someone. You have to LIVE it. And so, my internet friendlies, live it for yourself:

If you ever past by this sign, you have to stop. Rideau "Antiques" is so worth the stop, just for the element of crazy.

This is only a smattering of what I saw outside on the property. It was row upon row of this. You never know what you'll see around the next corner. I loved the old Laura Secord candy display. I would love to know who would actually want this. Because it is all for sale. And, shockingly, for high prices. I saw a totally rusted anvil for $285. Are anvils really that rare? Because Wile E. Coyote never seemed to have trouble finding one.

If you are even a little bit claustrophobic, this is not the store for you. Me, who isn't at all clasutrophobic (or so I thought) had to leave the upstairs when I started to feel a bit panicky. The photo above is the entrance into the back room. At the back of this room is the baking ware. It was literally piled on the floor and came up to our waist. I pulled something off the top and things started to slide. Meredith and I were wrapping our arms around the pile trying to stop the avalanche, meanwhile laughing ourselves silly. It was so totally absurd. And then there was this:

Good thing we didn't want to look at anything in that cabinet. The store, to put it mildly, is crowded. Not really meant for this kind of shopper:

We had a great time. We laughed a lot. I haven't had an afternoon with these girls in a long time, or any group of girls for that matter. I loved it. We're doing it again in a few weeks. We're planning a run to Target in Watertown, NY. I'm hoping that the girls' afternoons with these great friends becomes a monthly habit.

We all need girls.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bye-bye baby: my girl at 3

Dear Emmy,

Today is October 21. I should have written this letter to you around August 11 but here we are. I guess it is a testament to how busy you and your sister keep me. You turned three years old in August (a fact you are always reminding me of: "I three years old!"). It amazed me then and it amazes me now. During the last week I've been organizing the photos in iPhoto and spending time looking at you during the last three years. When I look at the photos of you as a baby I can see your three-year-old face in there sometimes. When I look at you today, I can sometimes see my chubby-cheeked, rosebud-mouthed, wide-eyed beautiful baby.

The last year has been so many things to me. It has been the most challenging year of my life. You and Hope (particularly you) have kept me on my toes, exhausted me, made me laugh, made me cry, made me angry and made me learn things about myself I probably wouldn't have learned if I hadn't had you home with me this year. I am very honest in saying that Dawn closing her daycare was the best thing that ever happened to me because it meant that you have been with me every single day this past year and I have gotten to know you on a much deeper level than I did before. I know what you will always want to watch on t.v. (cooking shows), what your favourite lunch is (grilled cheese picnic in the basement), your favourite snack (apples at the moment), your favourite and least favourite friends at preschool and church, your favourite songs (The More We Work Together at the moment), favourite books (anything Curious George), your favourite spots in the house (our bed and inside your toy box), your favourite animals (Pooh and Bonhomme), your favourite spot in the yard (laying on the platform on the climber from Omi), what you like in your tea (lot of milk and a little sugar), what you like on your sandwiches (always mustard and ham), well... you get it, I think.

It also meant that you and I weathered some pretty stormy seas together the past year all on our own (with much-needed help from Daddy when required). Toilet training was the biggest hurdle for the two of us and you and I certainly butted heads on that one. But we did it! We did it well and I am so proud of us!

During the last year, you and Daddy have spent a lot more time together going on your "adventures." You've both loved this. I love how close the two of you are. You are so excited to see Daddy at the end of the day and equally excited if he is still home when you get up in the morning. You and he have favourite made-up games that usually involve rolling on the floor in some way. You will sometimes ask if I will put you to bed instead of Daddy but then when it comes down to it, you always look at me and say: "I want Daddy instead." You and he have a pretty set routine when you go to bed. I follow it but he is better at implementing it and making it more fun. I'm tired by that point and my creativity is gone. He's still totally on his game and rules the school at bedtime for sure.

At the end of this year, just before you turned three, I decided to stay home for at least another year before going back to work. It was the right decision. I wonder what you'll think of it when you look back one day? It was a very hard decision for me. I didn't want to put myself in a position where I would feel lost or adrift when I'm ready to go back to work. I also wasn't sure about delaying and possibly giving up French-language training. So, I decided to delay it for a year. I know that as next summer approaches I'll have to revisit all of those issues and in particular the issue of leaving you and Hope in someone else's care. It wasn't willing to do it this year and I very well might make the same decision next year. To be honest, I try not to think about it because the idea of not being with you tears me apart inside. Just know that staying home this year was the right decision for you AND for me and I don't regret it for one second. I could never get this time back. I can always study or pursue a career and I've always done well with whatever I choose to do so I'm not worried about it. This is what is fulfilling for me now: you and Hope and learning from the two of you every day. But also know this, if you are faced with the same decision some day, do what feels right to you and know that if you want to go to work, that's okay, too, but don't let anyone make that decision for you because you are the one who has to live the life you choose. Okay, enough Chicken Soup for the Soul, let's move on.

You are turning into a wonderful girl. Particularly this past week, I have seen what you are at your very best and I couldn't have hoped for anything else when I first held you in my arms. You are funny. You are extraordinarily smart. You are passionate. You are so loving; you have hugs and kisses for everyone, or at least everyone you know. You are also Mummy's girl and while I complain about that sometimes, truly, I don't want it any other way. You and I are two peas in a pod and I think that's why I have a lot of success now in reigning you in, controlling situations where you're getting out of control, or just understanding what's going on when you're sad or mad or tired. I understand because I would be acting the same way in that situation if I were three.

Lately you've been telling me that someday you want me to be Emily and you'll be Mummy and you'll take me to preschool and to play with Nevan and Daddy will stay home with grown-up Hopey. I find this hilarious. It also melts my heart because it points in every way to your huge capacity to love and want to take care of people. You often ask me if I'm happy or if I'm okay and every time my heart grows a few sizes. Not only does it show me how much you love and care about me, but I also know it means that you have developed a sense of empathy for people and that you are going to be an amazing adult. I'm already feeling like you are the best thing I've done so far in my life. When you're thirteen you're going to think that is totally lame and that I seriously need to get a life but when you're thirty-five and looking at your own three-year old, you'll totally get it and this will probably make you cry. Well, knowing you, I know it will.

You have really become the Great Pretender. You love to pretend anything. Sometimes it makes no sense at all and I just go along for the ride to see where we'll end up. Unfortunately, you're also starting to develop quite the bum humour, which normally I would fully applaud. Sadly, it hasn't quite developed to a sophisticated level yet but I'm hopeful.

You are becoming a pretty good big sister. You still have your moments when I think you secretly wish there wasn't anyone grabbing for your doctor set or your play food but all in all, you're pretty thrilled with Hopey. And she is smitten with you. Now that she's started to walk, you're probably going to have to become more creative in getting away from her, but I'll leave that to the two of you to figure out. I love seeing how possessive you are of her ("No, that's my sister!") when other kids try to kiss or hug her. You also continually point out her achievements to me (often long after we've mentioned them ourselves): "Mummy, she's walking!" or "Mummy, she clapped!" She's very lucky to have you as her cheering squad.

I'm starting to see in you typical three-year old behaviour. This is slightly frightening. It just means a lot of noise, a lot of emotions (that aren't easy for you or I to control), and a lot of craziness. Sometimes you lie on the floor and spin around making up words or talking about your bum, or someone else's bum and loudly laugh that fake laugh of yours. From all accounts, this is classic three-year old stuff. It's not my favourite. It's just weird. But, hey, at least I know you're normal. Hope sure gets a kick out of it, anyway.

There are lots of great things about you being three. If you miss a nap, it's not the end of the world. You can do so many more things yourself. You also can do so much more when we bake together (one of our all-time favourite activities). You can help me around the house and you love to do that. Not that I'm running a sweatshop here or anything, but I sure love the extra hands. I can also count on you to make some pretty decent decisions once in a while. Sure, you still make some mistakes but, hey, you're only three after all. You're also old enough now to go to preschool without me. This thrilled you when it first started but now it's old hat and I get the feeling that if you had the choice, I'd be there the whole time. The novelty has worn off for you but at the same time, you don't let it bother you and I do think you're enjoying your independence. I sure enjoy watching you march to the gym with the other kids while I sip my coffee in the lounge area. There goes my grown-up girl pretending to be a shark and always last in the line. Marching to her own beat. I just love it. I always feel so proud and I don't exactly know why. The other kids are good sharks, too.

Well, my girl, my Emmy, my pumpkin, my M-train. I tell you this every day, and plan to for the rest of my life: I love you so much. I'm so happy I am with you every single day to watch you become the person I see unfolding in front of me. You are the perfect three-year old for me.


Yesterday was amazing. I had such a great time. No kids, no worries, no diapers. Wine, shopping, laughing, eating. Leaving the camera in the backseat of Julie's car.

So, I'll give the full low-down when I get the camera back, hopefully later tonight. For now, just know that I had a great day with great friends and one of the weirdest shopping experiences I've had.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Stepping out

Tomorrow is my first outing without the kids since.... um, I'm not sure. Oh, I think it's since I went to the spa in Chelsea back in the spring. It's been a long summer, folks.

Tomorrow I will leave John with the girls while I join the big girls for a few hours of bliss. We're going to Perth to poke around some kind of flea market/antique barn and have a nice lunch. It doesn't seem like much, I know, but it will mean the world to me.

I'll be sure to take photos of the debauchery that is sure to ensue.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

She's truckin' now

I can't truly say there was anything good to come out of Hope burning her hand. There wasn't. Not one thing. But, some might say it spurred her onto alternative means of getting around. Crawling on two hands just wasn't comfortable so she switched to the bum scoot. I really enjoyed watching her bum scoot. I watched her each time with a wistful look on my face; bum scooting was how Emily got around for almost seven full months. She never took to crawling on all fours. I enjoyed reliving that.

It didn't last long for Hope though. I think it is too slow for her fast-paced personality. Instead, she took to walking. She's been taking three or four steps at a time for the past week but since her burn, she has, ahem, jumped ahead by leaps and bounds. I'm surely not saying this is a good thing. It means that I'll be a busier, more frantic woman with even more safety fears but really there is nothing better than watching a toddler.... well, toddle:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What's cooking Wednesday

Fall is here, folks. There is no denying it any longer. The leaves in Ottawa are distinct shades of orange and red, the days are crisp and the nights are crisper. It's time to pull out the comfort food recipes. This is a recipe I've made several times before. My note on top of the recipe says that I first made it during Christmas 1995. And it was "awesome!" I still stand by that. It is a perfect recipe for this time of year and I often find myself pulling it out when the apples are at their best.

Sautéed Sausage with Cabbage and Apples

750 g farmer's sausage
8 cups coarsely shredded cabbage
2 apples, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp white sugar
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
1 cup sour cream
cooked egg noodles

Prick sausage in several places. Place in large deep skillet with enough water to just cover bottom of pan, about /4 cup.; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and cook for 10 minutes. Uncover and increase heat to medium-high; cook sausage for about 5 minutes or until browned all over. Remove sausage and set aside.

Pour off all but 1/4 cup pan drippings. Add cabbage, apples, onion and nutmeg to skillet; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until cabbage starts to wilt. Meanwhile, slice sausage into bite-size pieces. Return sausage to pan, pushing down into cabbage; reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring often.

Combine vinegar, sugar, cayenne and salt and pepper to taste; stir until sugar dissolves. Stir into cabbage mixture; cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and stir in sour cream; heat through but do not boil. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Keepers of the feast

This is a post I've been wanting to write since way back in the winter some time when my friend Shannon posted.... something. I can't find the post she put up that made me come up with this idea but I'll still give her credit. It was something about her daughter Abby learning to print. I think. Anyway, whatever brilliant thing she wrote or Abby did, it (for some reason) got me thinking about my favourite recipes and where I keep them. I started thinking about my mum's old wooden recipe box and then her "new" 1980's teale plastic recipe box and then the photo album recipe books she made for Beth and I.

I realized that there are as many stories about the boxes that hold recipes as there are about the recipes themselves. And I think they're probably good stories, family stories, stories we'd all like to hear.

Here are my two recipe holders:

I got the tin box from my very close friend Marnie (who I don't talk to nearly often enough anymore). Marnie and I were roommates for a good chunk of university and have been very close ever since. She did her third year abroad in Nice, France. She brought back a tin of cookies for me. The cookies were alright but what I really liked was the tin they came in. Needing a place for recipes I was collecting once and a while from roommates and friends, I started to stick them in the tin. It's been with me ever since. Once in a while I have to weed it as it starts to get full again and there are recipes I'm not using. It's hard to make the choices about what stays and goes as all the recipes have stories: who gave it to me, when I tasted it, where I was.

One year for Christmas, my mum gave Beth and I each a small photo album partially filled with recipe cards. On each card she had written our favourite recipes of hers. It was probably one of the best gifts she ever gave me and I use those recipes all the time. Not surprisingly, most of them are for baking; she was an outstanding baker and she bred that into Beth and I. The small album started to fall apart the year after I got it, simply due to use. I haven't replaced it yet, but I should. I'm just trying to hold out as long as I can, moving recipes to the back as the pages fall out. I don't want to give up the ratty thing because my mum picked it out. I doubt she laboured over which dollar-store album to buy, but it still means something to me just because it has been the home-away-from-home for these favourite recipes for so long, almost 10 years now, I think.

That's the story of my recipe holders. I'd love to see yours and hear your stories. If you choose to share them, just drop me a comment so I can link to you.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Safety question (get ready for a few of these)

Not surprisingly, after last Friday, I'm a little focussed on safety issues in our house. Hope's burned fingers have lit a fire under me (that's a bad choice of words) to search out something to block off our gas fireplace doors. We use the fireplace to heat our basement, which is also the playroom, in the winter. The company, Kidco, sells a hearth gate for $300 here in Canada plus tax. It is much less at Target but they don't ship to Canada and it is kind of big so asking Beth to bring it up for me at Christmas isn't practical. I might be able to get my dad to bring it back with him after his November visit, but I'm looking for other options (that are less than $300). So, does anyone out there have any ideas to safely block off a gas fireplace or has anyone heard of another gate that is useful for this? I've searched the internet and have only found the Kidco gate.

Sorry for the outright boring-ness of this post but I'm a little preoccupied with this at the moment. And not spending $300. Although I'll do it if I can't find anything else.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The most crappiest day of the year

It has been a rough couple of days around here. So rough, in fact, that I didn't even want to put it down on (virtual) paper. But one of the reasons I have this blog is to keep a record of my days with the kids, events, situations we get into so that when I'm old and decrepit and flirting with senility, they can rely on the blog to answer their questions rather than their mother who only wants to talk about scrambled eggs or something equally riveting.

Hope's three great nights were clearly a way for the universe to prepare me for a couple of craptacular nights. Friday night she was up several times. I think in the end she was too warm. I finally changed her into something else and she slept for four hours straight but only after I'd been up a whole whack of times. During one of those ups, I fed her. I'm not sure if this reset her switch but last night she was up a lot again and wanting boob. I didn't give in until 4:00 but that was after a few visits to her room. So, those were the nights. Let me turn to the days.

Yesterday a very bad thing happened. Something that John knows will never be the butt of a joke or the punch line or be referred to with humour. Ever.

Hope burned her hand on the stove.

I've always considered myself fairly safety-conscious but not over-the-top about it. If I have an outlet without covers, I don't get too concerned. There are gates where there should be and I don't leave matches, hot cups of coffee, knives or chainsaws lying around. I try to strike an even balance between safe and neurotic. But there is something in our house that has bothered me for a while: it's Emily's step stool in the kitchen. Over the last two years she has used it as a table and then as her stool to help me bake and now cook. I've never been comfortable with her pulling it to the stove when she helps us stir a pot. I always say no and move the pot somewhere else. I don't know what happened Friday. I don't know why I let her do it. She helped stir the macaroni and cheese. I turned the burner off (also, I never use the front burners... why did I do it Friday?), Emily climbed down, I turned towards the sink to get the bowls from the cupboard. My back was turned for 10 seconds before I heard Hope scream and start crying. She was on the top of the step stool holding her hands out. I grabbed her, I ran, I got her hand under the tap. I think I ran to a couple of different sinks trying to find the perfect position, the magic water that would make her stop screaming and make time move backwards.

I called Telehealth Ontario and the nice nurse walked me through the steps to determine how bad the burn was. She didn't actually give it a degree but I think it is a minor second degree burn. She had immediate white blisters on the sides of two fingers in small areas and then a large white blister between her third and fourth finger. I immersed her hand in water for 10 minutes (no small feat). Then it was nap time for her. She cried and screamed and held her hand in the air and sucked her fingers. I got her dressed, we all got in the car and I started to drive hoping she'd go to sleep. She cried and screamed.

We finally stopped for ice cream. It seemed to make the afternoon better for her. Cookies and cream can do that. We picked up John and headed to Mike and Cibele's for supper. Hope fell off the couch and banged her head on the coffee table while my back was turned getting a DVD going for Emily. Score another one for slacker moms. I'm expecting their call any day now inviting me to be their new spokeswoman.

To say that I felt sick to my stomach the rest of the day (and most of today) is a huge understatement. I should have moved that stool. I shouldn't have let Emily put it there in the first place. I shouldn't have gone to the library so late that morning so I wasn't so rushed to get lunch ready that day. I can't change any of it now but oh, if I could.

The large blister has now popped and I'm applying Polysporin. There doesn't seem to be any pain now. She crawls around on it and grabs things. She seems to favour it a little but not too much. She cried a lot today but now I've figured out that she's getting another tooth and it isn't her hand that's making her so unhappy.

Hope seems to suffer with teething worse than Emily did. Emily had a hard time but not like Hope. Emily got her teeth later and I think that might be part of it. I just don't remember it being so bad. Hope is suffering for sure. Her missing skin probably isn't helping, nor is her negligent mother.

So, I have to get her hand checked next week but it seems okay. There is some swelling and there was some clear fluid leaking before the big blister burst. Does anyone know if that is normal or okay?

Now, here I sit hoping I get a few hours of sleep in a row tonight. My only pyjamas are in the dryer and I feel pretty shitty. I teach Sunday School tomorrow and only started to prepare the lesson at 9:00 tonight. I'm feeling pretty good about that.

I sure hope tomorrow is better. Oh, and before anyone tells me "don't worry, I dropped my baby on his head several times; we all do it," I'll just say: please save it. I don't think what happened is okay or excusable in any way and no, it doesn't happen to everyone.

It shouldn't happen to anyone.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

She tagged me

My bloggy BFF, Shannon, tagged me for a meme that I hadn't heard of before, which convinced me right there that I'd do it (oh, and also, she asked me). I mean, when do you ever really hear of a new meme anymore? Or maybe, and this is more likely, I'm just completely out of the loop.

This is a desktop meme. The bones of it is that Shannon wants to see my desktop and then I'll want to see yours. Now, as usual, I'm supposed to tag five people but at risk of feeling like the kid who can't find anyone to play hide and seek, I'm just sending out an open invitation for you
to play along. Here are the rules:

Upon receiving this tag, immediately perform a screen capture of your desktop. It is best that no icons be deleted before the screen capture so as to add to the element of fun. Here’s how you can do a screen capture if you're on a PC (insert a big, wet raspberry here):

  1. Go to your desktop and press the Print Scrn key (located on the right side of the F12 key).
  2. Open a graphics program (like Picture Manager, Paint, or Photoshop) and doing a Paste (CTRL + V). If you wish, you can “edit” the image before saving it.
Here are the instructions for all of you blessed Mac users (who have clearly heard the higher calling, seen the light of day, got your wits about you, well, you get the drift):
  1. Press funny symbol on the apple key-shift-3. Your beautiful Mac will automatically save the photo to your desktop. That's it!
And now for both PC and Mac users:
  1. Post the picture on your blog. You can also give a short explanation on the look of your desktop if you want. You can explain why you prefer such a look or why it is full of icons. Things like that.
  2. Tag five of your friends and ask them to give you a free view of their desktops as well.
  3. Add your name to this list of Free Viewers with a link pointing directly to your Desktop Free View post to promote it to succeeding participants.
People who have already pimped their desktop: Francine of La Place de Cherie Chez FrancineBloggishi Unchained Melody LadyJava’s Lounge Mariuca Revellian Dot Com|Desktop Emila’s Illustrated Blog Spiff, The Spaceman Rolando Brown Baron The Kat House Tales From the Fairy BlogMother Virtually There

Not exactly original, is it? (Check out Shannon's... I think I see me a theme!) I do change it occassionally but it is always the same two faces, maybe in a different location, season and clothes. Always the same smiles. I imagine it will be this way for a long time, if not the rest of my life. I move the icons arround; often I'm putting them in the trash after I've stuck photos on the desktop to upload onto the blog (my one complaint about my Mac is that iPhoto is not at all useful as a file manager). Not much else to say... what say you? Want to play?

What's cooking Wednesday

Fall is, by the calendar, most definitely here but the weather, at least as of a few days ago, told a different story. Until yesterday, my tomatoes were still ripening on the vine. The colder temperatures in Ottawa today forced me to pick the last green ones and ripen them indoors. But, I still have enough zucchini, vine ripened tomatoes and oregano to pull off one last zucchini pizza with most of the vegetable ingredients from my garden. This is a recipe I discovered in July. I've made it several times since; it's become a true favourite for all of us. The flavour will blow you away. It has a ton of zucchini on it but it might be difficult for someone not in the know to guess that, which makes it a great choice if your kids turn their noses up at vegetables. Well, it's finally time that it became part of What's Cooking Wednesday. It is dead simple and just darn tasty.

Zucchini Fontina Pizza

1 pizza crust of your choice (pre-baked, raw dough, pita bread, you choose)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
2 cups grated zucchini (about 1 medium)
1/4 tsp salt
1 large tomato, diced
1 3/4 cups grated Fontina cheese

Preheat oven according to the directions for the pizza crust you are using.

In a large skillet, heat oil and saute the onions and thyme on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the onions soften. Add the zucchini and stir in the salt. Continue to cook for 2 minutes. increase the heat and add the tomatoes, stirring for another 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Spread the zucchini mixture on the pizza crust and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake.

Sleep is so within my reach

I've eluded to it a couple of times during the last two weeks: I decided to stop breastfeeding Hope during the night. I made the decision three weeks ago. My decision was a result of two issues: the first was that Hope was not eating solid food well at all. She would eat a few crackers, some bread, yogurt and maybe some baby fruit if I was lucky, and that was her complete repertoire. The second issue is that Hope loves the boob. This isn't inherently a problem but after talking to a friend of mine who is still breastfeeding her 3 and a half year old during the night I saw my future. She's resigned to it now; it doesn't bother her; but I don't want to be doing that with Hope.

Hope is VERY into breastfeeding. She still breastfeeds about 4 or 5 times during the day and up until three weeks ago was breastfeeding about two or three times a night. I cut her off cold turkey. When she woke up wanting to feed, I would giver her a hug and kiss (at which point she started to cry if I didn't move to the chair quickly enough) and then I'd put her back in the crib. She screamed. I sat on the floor and sang to her. The first few nights I was up well over an hour a couple of times. My goal was to get her to 4:00 am before feeding her. We had some stops and starts. A couple of nights I did feed her before 4:00 because she was waking up every 15 or 20 minutes and was clearly hungry.

It went on like that for three full weeks. The girl is stubborn as a mule. John would say "as stubborn as her mother." Turns out I was more stubborn this time because two nights ago she went to bed and then didn't wake up for a feeding until 5:30. Last night she slept right through until 6:30 before she wanted to be fed.

We saw an immediate improvement in her eating of solid foods. She started to try new things: cheese, meat (wow!), vegetables (double wow!). Now, don't get over-excited. She is still reserved and cautious but it is a huge improvement. She is actually excited when she gets in her high chair and seems to be really interested in food now. It's a huge step forward and totally worth the efforts and tears of the last three weeks. Clearly she discovered rice, a new favourite:

It would have been all the better last night if Emily hadn't peed in her bed at 4:00. After that she came to sleep with me. It would have been fine if she'd actually slept. Instead she tossed and turned and talked and drove me crazy. I finally got her up at 6:15. Tonight she's back in Pull-ups. I'm having a hard time understanding the step backwards for Emily. She hasn't worn Pull-ups at night since the late spring. She went the whole summer with maybe 2 or 3 accidents at night, total. The last month she has had several. Nothing has changed for her in her eating and drinking or in her environment. I'll just wait it out and see what happens but in the meantime, it's back to Pull-ups. I'm just too excited about a full night's sleep to risk it.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I never preface that with 'Canadian' by the way because for me, this is Thanksgiving, right now. That one in November - you know the one I mean - isn't on the radar for us up here. Although I do understand the placement of it for anyone in a warm climate - harvest happens later, but up here, we're just past the peak of the harvest so it is indeed time to lay out the feast and loosen our belts. It's turkey time!

Last night we had our Thanksgiving dinner: an amazingly juicy turkey, tasty stuffing, some of the best gravy I've made, an creamy bean dish made by Pam, horseradish mashed potatoes and carmelized brussels sprouts by John (Emily's favourite), cranberries and for dessert, Pam's pumpkin chiffon pie covered in whipped cream (okay, I think this may have been Emily and Hope's favourite). I only realized after the table was covered with stains and dirty dishes that I hadn't taken one photo of the group or the food. You'll just have to imagine. Mainly imagine this: six adults enjoying a lovely meal while the two toddlers were at the kids' table and then ran around in the basement while we continued to sip wine and be able to hear each other talk. It was heaven.

We had Mike and Cibele, and our very good friends Pam and Jim and their kids Nevan (Emily's best friend) and Celia (soon-to-be Hope's best friend) over. It was a lot of fun, and extra nice in that we were able to introduce Mike and Cibele (John's brother and sister-in-law who just recently moved to Ottawa) to Pam and Jim.

I did no studying last night so today and tonight will be busy (tomorrow is the first quiz in my course) but it was worth it for good food and time with good friends.

Before I forget it for all time (a good likelihood lately), I have to get this down: yesterday on our way home from church, Emily and I were talking about how we're giving away some of her relatively unused and ignored toys and books to charity. All week I've been explaining how there are kids who don't have many books or toys because they're families don't have much money or they live in a place that doesn't have many of these things and because we have so many, we need to share with them. She's been asking me about it everyday, as though looking for a loophole. Yesterday, I think she found it.

"We giving my books to the kids who has no money?"

"Yes, we are."


Friday, October 05, 2007

Baby steps

I forgot to mention a while back that during the weekend at the cottage with John's family, Hope took her first step. She stepped. She fell. It was amazing. And, to make it more perfect, I just happened to have caught it on tape.

Since then she hasn't really advanced into walking. Occasionally over the last week or so, she'll take one or two steps and then go down, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not.

Tonight things changed.

She started trying. All night tonight she would purposefully take three steps and then lunge for whatever she was aiming for. I think it's happening. My baby is becoming a toddler. True toddling is right around the corner.

I love to watch her learn new things and celebrate her achievements with that sparkle in her eyes, her chin turned up at me saying: "See me, Mummy? What do you think? Wasn't that great?" But at the same time, I lament how fast time is going. I miss the baby. It's all going so fast. These last two months especially seem to be changing her into a new person. A person I love but a new person who can do so many more things, understand more of what I say.

She's also a person who loves hugs, gives great kisses, wants to be held (a lot) and is simply love in human form. That hasn't changed one bit.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A bit of a grammar grouch

I've mentioned in passing a few times that I'm taking a course at Carleton University right now, where John teaches. It's the first course towards me getting a Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language (CTESL). The course I'm taking is called Major Structures of English. It's a grammar course. As many of you know, my job is essentially this: editing and reviewing for content (almost) all the briefing materials and memos that go to our Minister of Foreign Affairs. It turned me onto grammar and, specifically, wanting to know more about it. Hand-in-hand with my love for grammar is my love for proper punctuation (although you wouldn't always know it from this blog). Since I started working in my current job I've become much more attune to grammatical and punctuation mistakes. I'm not really a true "grammar grouch." I don't go into stores to point out the mistakes they make on their signs, but inside I am fuming a bit. And each time I pass the sign, I get that much more annoyed.

My greatest annoyances are from the Ottawa Citizen, our daily paper. It is a good paper but they could use a few more copy editors on staff. One of today's headlines had me laughing. I didn't go all grammar grouch about it. I just laughed because, well, the headline writers there, I think they're just stupid.

Man hit by bike, car in stable condition

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Feeling hungry? We've got breakfast

Emily woke up at 5:30 having peed in her bed. It doesn't happen often. She tried to sleep with me for a while but we gave up by 6:15. Since I now have all this time on my hands, I immediately came to the computer to have some time with my frequently-ignored little buddy, the blog. I mean, who really needs a clean house anyway right? If you were here right now, you would loudly pronounce: Not you, obviously!

Before going further, I just want to thank the Academy, my family, my favourite bloggy buddy, Shannon, and most importantly, her masochistic brother, Dave, who successfully completed his 100-mile Ride for Africycle yesterday (still time to donate, see the post below!) for the support and opportunity that enabled me to win the Dell Ditty MP3 player! Yay! I know a certain father who will be getting an MP3 player for Christmas this year.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that a favourite past-time in this house is baking. And Emily is always in there helping me with her sleeves rolled up, ready to crack eggs, stir, knead or do whatever she is allowed to do. Sometimes, if we're not actually baking or cooking, she's in the kitchen using the utensils and bowls and pretending to make supper. Yesterday morning Emily decided to "make salad" while I went to get Hope up for the morning. This still involved breastfeeding Hope so it takes, all told, probably about 15 minutes or so. When I was almost finished Emily came upstairs and told me she made her salad. "It has milk in it," she declared.


"Did you put real milk in your salad, Emily?" I asked. "Yes. And flour."


I gave her the spiel on wasting food, going into the fridge (a no-no), you know, the whole deal. She said "Sorry, Mummy. Don't look down there."

Of course I looked down there. I found, sitting in the middle of the floor, although surprisingly without a giant mess on the floor itself, this:

Through conversations throughout the day I ascertained that it actually contains the following ingredients (you may want to note it down if you were considering making this yourself, based on how delicious it looks): milk, flour, flax seeds, vanilla (and she didn't, of course, go for the cheap artificial vanilla, oh no, she poured half of my real vanilla in there. She's a foodie.), balsamic dressing (realized when I went to use it at lunch and wondered who put the empty bottle back in the fridge - "That was me. I needed it for my salad."), and finally, an egg (realized when I saw a puddle of egg white on the floor). As the day went on I found it funnier and funnier. I think Emily knows not to do it again, to really pretend next time. She may have suspected how funny I thought it was (although I'm still getting over the loss of my vanilla).

We've been sticking around home more recently. Today will be no exception. Our neighbour, Lan, who runs a daycare out of her house, invited Emily to the playground with her kids today so Emily will likely do that while I get the house ready for the carpet cleaning tomorrow. That in itself is a full-day job. There is a lot of crap on the floors of our house. And what is that lingering pee smell in Hope's room? I've looked everywhere for a diaper or something, but ick, I can't locate. Probably good the carpets are getting cleaned.

It's now the late hour of 7:00. Time to get Emily her breakfast before she starts watching Thomas the Tank Engine. And time for coffee #2.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Helping out

[Note: This post is a sticky. Scroll down to see recent posts. This post will stay here until October 2, 2007]

My friend, Shannon, over at Tales from the Fairy Blogmother is doing a great thing. She is helping raise money for a terrific cause that is being supported by her brother. Her brother, Dave, is doing a Ride for Africycle. Dave needs to raise $10,000.

Here is in the information on Ride for Africycle taken from Dave's site: Africycle is a grassroots organization that uses the bicycle to impact not only the economic growth of Malawi, Africa, but also the lives of individuals living in Malawi. On Tuesday October 2, 2007, Dave will be riding his bicycle 100 miles (or 160.9km’s) from his house in Peterborough to the grand town of Bloomfield, Ontario, to raise money toward the ongoing work of Africycle in Canada and Malawi.

Here's how you can help, and I strongly urge you to if you can: you can donate directly through Dave's site, or if you're wanting to get some nice jewelry on your wrist or feeling in a gambling mood, go to Shannon's blog and buy one of Grandma Sandi's homemade bracelets or donate for a chance to win a Dell MP3 player.

Go now.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Goodbye to the seven year itch

Today is my and John's eighth anniversary. It seems strange to put that down. I can't believe we've been married eight years, together for ten. But when I think back, it seems so long ago that we had our wedding, so much has happened since, very good, very bad. Through all of it I have had the funniest, most loyal and loving companion and friend I could ever have dreamed of spending my life with, raising these kids with.

I told John yesterday that the thing I am most thankful for about our relationship is how much we genuinely love spending time with each other. We can spend the evening just talking and laughing. When our kids are older, into their own lives, I know that we'll relish the time on our own again just to hang out, laugh and talk. Isn't that a great thing to look forward to and know it's waiting for you anytime you need it?

Happy anniversary, love of my life.