Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Friendly Giant has nothing on me

It has been a kids' wonderland around here lately, if I do so say myself. I've been on my game. I've taken it a step beyond where I was with playing with the kids and dived in whole hog. I always made sure I played with them as much as I could while still getting things done around the house (to a point where I was satisfied, which is probably well below the satisfaction level of other people, admittedly). Playing with them often meant playing store once in a while, doing lots of reading, taking them to the library or to a museum and doing lots of crafts with Emily. It didn't often mean doing a lot of pretend games with them.

I've changed that.

Now, the house is dirtier to be sure (although still tidy at the end of most days), but I spend my day playing store, bakery, restaurant, doctor, hairdresser and house. Often all in the same day. We haven't left the house nearly as much. We haven't been to a museum in a long time.

Damn, we're having fun.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What's cooking Wednesday

I came across this recipe the other day when I was preparing to make bread. The book kind of just opened to this recipe so I figured it must be a sign that I should make Brownie Cake Pudding for dessert. Now, I never make dessert usually. Normally, we have yogurt or some fruit or, if we're lucky, a cookie. So this was going to be a special event.

The recipe was very easy to make. It is very chocolately and tastes similar but better to those cake puddings you buy in the box. Although I don't understand how it works, pouring the hot water over the cake batter creates a pudding layer underneath while it cooks.

I think (normal) kids would go crazy for the recipe below. My kid said it was "yucky." Of course, she didn't actually taste it so there's that.

I apologize for the poor photo. I couldn't get my camera to focus on the cake itself. I think it was the fault of the bowl. John would agree. He hates those bowls.

This recipe made me think of a very funny story from several years ago. It was my dad's birthday. My mum asked him what kind of dessert he wanted her to bake. He said "That lemon cake you make that has the sauce underneath it." She spent the next few days repeatedly rifling through her recipe box looking for the recipe he was talking about. She went through several of her cookbooks. She checked and re-checked but just couldn't think of or find the cake he was talking about. And then it dawned on her: he wanted her to make a Sherriff pudding cake. My mum, the baker and cook extraordinaire, who had wowed countless friends and family with her recipes, always home-made, owned her own catering business, had been asked by her husband of 30 or so years to make him a birthday cake from a box (although he didn't actually realize that). If you knew my mum, you can imagine her reaction: there was high-pitched protests, flabbergastations (good word, eh?), general put-out-edness, shock, laughter of course, and then, there was a Sherriff pudding cake.

Brownie Cake Pudding

2 tsp instant coffee granules or powder (optional)
2 tbsp plus 1 3/4 cups boiling water
1 cupe all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup milk
4 tbsp butter or margarine, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (we didn't have any but if you have some, definitely plop some on top - it would take this dessert to a new height)

1. Preheat oven to 350. In cup, dissolve instant coffee (if using) in 2 tbsp boiling water.
2. In medium bowl, stir together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt and 1/2 cup cocoa. In 2-cup measuring cup, combine milk, melted butter, vanilla, and dissolved instant coffee, if using. With spoon, stir milk mixture into flour mixture until just blended. Pour batter into ungreased 8x8 glaass or ceramic baking dish.
3. In small bowl, combine brown sugar and remaining 1/4 cup cocoa; sprinkle over batter. Carefully pour remaining 1 3/4 cup boiling water over batter; do not stir.
4. Bake 30 minutes (batter will separate into cake and pudding layers). Cook on wire rack for 10 minutes. Serve immediately or pudding will be absorbed by cake. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Alien Life Form

I was walking through one of the many buildings at Carleton University tonight on the way to my final class. A female student was talking on a cell phone right behind me.

"Yeah, we were supposed to watch Alf tonight."

Aside from being shocked and appalled that someone actually owns Alf on DVD, the topping on this proverbial cake was how clearly disappointed she was that she was forced to miss it because of something as annoying as a university education.

Is this goodbye to a precious friend?

I think Emily's naps may be coming to an end and I'm mourning even the suggestion of the loss. Yesterday, after our usual round of arguing, she took a two-hour nap (which I used to cook swill, apparently. Time well spent). I was very happy because she was clearly tired after lunch. She went to bed last night as usual but it took her until 9:30 to fall asleep. We could hear her talking and singing from 8:00 until 9:30. And then this morning she was up at 6:30. I'm afraid this might be goodbye to my afternoon solitude.

How extraordinarily sad.

Monday, November 26, 2007

That was a bust

While the sentimentality of my post below was commendable and certainly worth my efforts in the kitchen, the food did not produce the results I had hoped for.

Emily literally wiped her tongue with the back of her sleeve when she tasted the cider pork. That, my friends, is worthy of the Iron Chef judges, don't you think?

Smells like Mum

I just finished a day - with play breaks, pick up from preschool breaks, lunch breaks, nap breaks, tea break - of cooking. The kitchen smells amazing right now; like crock-pot cider pork (a new recipe) and rising oatmeal bread; and it has a warmth generated by all the kneading and stirring and chopping. And, I've got a hankering to make a real dessert - not just rice pudding out of a tub.

It smells and feels like my mum's kitchen and that is enough to perk me up on any day.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A little under the gun

I know, I know... I haven't posted in a few days. I need to post about Omi's visit complete with photos and our first full frolic in the snow. But, more importantly, I need to STUDY. My last quiz is on Tuesday and I must, must, must get another A+. Okay, so it's not a live or die kind of 'must' but I've got a solid A+ going in and the over-achiever in me has kicked into overdrive.

So, I must leave you now, pathetically, to study my grammar. That was a verb phrase with a modal followed by a to-infinitive clause. Just in case you were wondering.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Seems that Mother Nature has screwed me again

Yeah. Remember this post? If you haven't read it yet, go ahead. I'll wait.

Okay, so now that you're up to speed and know that I didn't get winter tires put on my car two days ago, this is what I woke up to yesterday morning:

Yeah, that sucked. And this morning I came downstairs to find there is more falling. A LOT MORE.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What's cooking Wednesday

It's become a tradition that when Omi/Rose comes to visit, I make tourtière. I got this recipe from my dad of all people. I say "of all people" because my dad isn't exactly known as being a master of pastry or meat pies or cooking in general, unless you're talking about chili, and then he's definitely the man to go to. He gave me this recipe when our family was still living in Fonthill, a small town in the Niagara Peninsula where I grew up. He got it from a guy at work. It was the guy's wife's recipe. Her name and address are in fact on the bottom of the recipe: Betty Leveille, 250 Division St, Port Colborne. So, if you're ever in Port Colborne and needing a good recipe, I recommend looking up Betty. She likely has more gems in her repertoire.

Apple Tourtière

(I'm going to transcribe this exactly as Betty had it down)

Use Tenderflake pastry recipe for 9 inch double crust pie.

3/4 lbs lean ground pork

3/4 lbs lean ground veal (I always use extra lean ground beef as we're not veal eaters around here - okay, so that wasn't in Betty's recipe)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped celery

2 tbsp flour

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp thyme

1 tsp salt

2 small apples, peeled and sliced small.

Prepare pie crust. Line 9 inch pie plate with bottom crust. In large pot, brown pork & veal, with onions & celery. Stir in flour. Add chicken broth, mustard, thyme and salt; cook and stir until thickened.

Place sliced apple in bottom of pie shell. Spoon pork & veal mixture over apples. Cover with pie crust top. Seal and crimp edge. Make small steam slits with knife. Bake in pre heated 400 degree oven for approximately 35 minutes or until pastry is golden and filling is bubbly. Makes 6 servings.

Back to my story with this recipe. My dad gave a copy to both my mum and I one day when he came home from work. I was a university student at the time. I think it must have been the term when I was at home when I couldn't get a job for my work term (thank you recession of the early 90s). I held onto the recipe but didn't make it until a few years later. I made it for friends who said it was great. Not being really "into" meat at the time, I don't even think I tasted it. I pulled it out again several years later to make for John and I. Wow. It was the best tourtière I had ever tasted. Fast forward to now. Essentially, the one wonderful thing about summer being over is pulling out this recipe again and making it until the crocuses push through the soil again in the spring. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

New me

I spent two glorious hours at the salon this morning, alone, reading and sipping coffee and being pampered by my other favourite man, Michel. And I think the result is glorious! A new me! I love change.... in small portions.

Michel put in blond highlights (although it is hard to tell from the photo below, they are actually quite obvious) and gave me a nice bob with a cool sculpt at the back.

Here is the before (a couple of weeks ago anyway):

And here is the after:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Don't blink

I realized tonight that next week is my last class. I can't believe my first foray back into a university classroom is almost over. I also can't believe I only have one week to prepare for the final quiz (I swear I thought I had more time!). This week will be, in a word, ugly.

Getting winter tires put on in this city is turning out to be a bit of a pickle, a little like trying to get my hands on the holy grail, something of a pain in the ass. Apparently everyone in the city is after the same thing. I figured it would be busy but I had arranged with Rose (my mother-in-law who is visiting this week) to look after the kids this morning while I got it done. I took Emily's car seat out of the car, folded down the seat, carried the four (large) snow tires with wheels out of the garage, loaded them into the trunk, drove over to the tire place, found out that everyone in the waiting area had been waiting for over an hour, found out that one of their balancers (whatever that is) had just broken, left and went to do other errands, drove to their other location across town arriving around 10:30 am, was told they were booked the rest of the day and to come back at 8:00 am another day and leave the car for the day.


So, I'll be hunting down that holy grail next week when my dad is here. Let's hope that the weather stays happy until then.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Welcome, Omi

I've been looking forward to today for several weeks.

Today, Omi arrived.

John's mum, affectionately known by Emily's generation as Omi, is here until Friday morning. Emily was beside herself with anticipation. I picked Omi up at the airport while Emily was at preschool and then Omi (Rose to me) went with Hope and me to pick Emily up. Typically, when I get Emily from preschool, the routine is that all the parents go into the class where all the kids are pretending to sleep on the mat and then they all yell surprise and jump up (like we're somehow surprised they woke up?). Emily peeked open her eyes for a second, saw Omi standing there and ran over yelling "OMI!" and jumped into Rose's arms while the other kids were still snoring. It was such a pure moment. I loved it.

Since then Emily has kept Omi hopping - reading, doing crafts, playing store and more store and more store. Emily has also made a stark realization: Hope is now a factor and she has to share Omi with Hope.

Apparently she doesn't like this development. She asked me tonight what we're doing tomorrow. I told her I have to do a few errands in the morning while she plays with Omi.

"You taking Hope?"
"No. Hope is going to stay home with you and Omi."
"NO! I don't want Hope!"

When I told her she has to share Omi... well, that went down like bad medicine. Poor Hope. Only one year old and she's going to be in for the fight of her young life tomorrow. But there is no way in heaven or hell I am taking any kids with me tomorrow when I have the rare chance to go somewhere without them.

Even if it is just to get the winter tires put on the car.

Also, on Wednesday night, John and I get to go out! Alone! No kids! The last time we did that was in August when my Dad and Donna were here. We have no babysitter in Ottawa and no real options to speak of so far. It really does make us appreciate even more the opportunities to go out when they come up. I just wish they would come up more often.

So, what to do? Dinner? Movie? You know what? It doesn't even matter.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The comedian

Emily has been coming up with some gems lately. They're not really gems because they're comedic gold; I mean, these are things that you would hear everyday; it's just that we don't always expect to hear them come out of a three-year-old. But when she delivers one, we struggle not to laugh out loud. She knows, too. She knows we think she's funny and that's why we try and stifle our laughs. We don't want her to stop saying these things and we don't want her to lose the spontaneity of it.

Yesterday we were driving home from Farm Boy, our favourite local grocery store. We were talking about how it would be nap time (or dodo time in our house) when we got home. "Because you really need a dodo today." says I. Emily: "That's for sure!"

And then today at lunch, she got up from the table without asking to be excused. John called her on it, she asked, I said: "I guess so although next time you should ask before you leave the table." Emily: "It's a little late for that now!"

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Right, I was supposed to do that

It's 11:23 pm and I just realized I haven't posted yet today. Not that that has stopped me from missing a couple of posts during the last week or so but since I actually realized it this time, I thought I should stop in and put some inane words down on paper... erm, screen. So, here I am.

Let's see, what did we do today? We went to the mall. Perhaps a tactical error on our part as everyone else in Ottawa seemed to have decided to head to the same mall.

I did get Emily a winter jacket at Children's Place for 40% off. Nothing remotely interesting happened.

Then we came home. I cleaned. We cooked dinner. Mike and Cibele had dinner here. Something funny happened that I can't remember.

Good night.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Five minutes of your life you'll never get back

About a month ago we decided to change our internet service provider/phone company because Primus, a competing company, was offering an amazing deal: local phone, long distance and high speed DSL for 59.95 a month, which was almost $50 less per month than we were paying at the time. So, I called Rogers, our then ISP and phone company, to switch. They told me I would lose my phone number because we had a digital phone line and to switch to Primus (or any other phone company) I would have to change back to an analogue line. So, that was hurdle and annoyance number one. The savings were big enough to allow me to see beyond that and make the inconvenience of a new phone number worth it.

Our new modem arrived in the mail with the installation disk. I popped it in to find out it was not Mac compatible. I called the tech help line and was on hold for 35 minutes. Luckily it was a 1-800 number because I'm pretty sure I was talking to someone in India. I was told to call back several days later when my account would be "activated."

I called back several days later. A woman walked me through the set up. I won't give you the play-by-play of the set-up but it did involve me furiously burrowing into a box in our storage area looking for a phone cord that would allow me to stretch the modem across the basement to our computer (we've been wireless for too long, obviously). Again, good thing I wasn't paying for that call to India because she was on the phone with me for a while, not just because of the phone cord buried amongst skates and squash racquets but also because I'm a complete tool when it comes to any technological hardware.


So, the set-up didn't work I soon found out. Yesterday, I finally called back after reaching my limit with paying two ISPs. I got a really good tech-support woman on the phone. Within 3 minutes (no joke) she informed me that the set-up would never work because I was 4.9 kilometres away from their thingamajiggy. I pointed out that when I initially phoned Primus their customer service person told me I was within the range of the thingamajiggy and it would all be fine.

I was transferred back to customer service where a man waived (oh, how thoughtful) the cancellation fee of $100 to get out of my contract. When I told him I also wanted out of my phone contract since I had signed up as a bundle to save money, he informed me that it would be $40 to cancel that.

That's when Karen went a wee bit postal. I managed to keep things under control at this point (John would confirm that in this situation it is nothing short of a miracle that I didn't tear Mr. Guy at Indian Call Centre a new one) and asked to speak to someone who could waive that fee being that I only moved over to Primus to save money and now they aren't honouring their contract so




I got the fee waived. Yay me.

So, that was how I spent the two hours I get to myself while the girls are sleeping on the rare day now that Emily chooses to sleep. Not so yay me.

Aren't you glad you spent the time to read this whole post? Did it change your life? Maybe not, but I'm betting you're not going to be signing up for Primus anytime soon.

And with that, my work is done.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Books, books and more books.... and sometimes more than once

I was over at Postcards from the Mothership yesterday, one of my daily stops. Dani wrote a post about books that Britons have re-read and asked Postcards readers to comment on what books they have re-read. Instead of commenting, I thought I would list them here instead.

I re-read a lot of books when I was young. I do it less so now because I have less time to read and so many books I want to read. Given that my memory isn't so hot anymore, I probably can't remember all the books I re-read as a child/teen but I'll do my best to pull a decent list together here.

1. Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
2. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
3. Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Trease
4. The Tripod Trilogy by John Christopher
5. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
6. The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
7. The Three Investigators series by Robert Arthur Jr.
8. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
9. This Can't be Happening at MacDonald Hall by Gordon Korman
10. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Okay, so this is not an exhaustive list at all. I re-read a lot more than those when I was little - Ramona the Pest, Trumpet of the Swan, The Tower of Geburah all come to mind rather quickly and I know that there were many more. But, I'm seeing a trend here. There are only two books or series on that list of ten that I read and re-read as an adult: numbers 1 and 2.

Well, I'll just chalk that up to "so many books, so little time" rather than "so little time, very little reading." That would just be too depressing a notion to face.

What books have you re-read?


The last few nights of letting Hope figure it out for herself - letting her cry and fuss during her 3:00 a.m. wake-up - paid off last night. She slept from 8:15 p.m. or so until 7:00 a.m. It was so sweet. And then after feeding at 7:00 she went back to bed until I woke her up at 8:45. And now she is napping. It is just so good.

I just hope it lasts for a while.

Now I can turn my attention to things like what we're having for supper when I so don't feel like making anything and changing light fixtures and getting our DSL connection set up. Don't you wish you were here right now?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What's cooking Wednesday

I knew it was risky to make this dish; not because John and I wouldn't like it, but because Emily might not like it. Turns out, my reservations were well-founded. Emily did not like it. John and I however were pretty pleased with it. So, I probably won't be making this one again in the next while because I do like to please everyone at our table if possible, but if you like Thai-style food and something fairly easy and quick, this might be just what you're looking for (with the added twist of mango in there!). This is another recipe from the palate-pleasing Podleski sisters.

Thai Beau

1 1/4 cups light coconut milk (they are all about the low-fat)
1 tbsp grated gingerroot
tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp minced garlic
pinch crushed red pepper flakes (I omitted this because of Emily; turns out I shouldn't have bothered)
2 tsp oil
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used two and it was enough)
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
4 green onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
3 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
1 ripe medium-sized mango, peeled and sliced
hot, cooked basmati or jasmine rice

Whisk together first nine ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large wok over high heat. Add chicken pieces. Cook and stir until chicken is lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Remove chicken from wok and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium-high. Add red pepper and onions to the wok. Cook and stir for 3 minutes, until red pepper begins to soften. Return chicken to wok. Add sauce, peas, basil, and cilantro. Continue cooking and stirring until sauce is bubbly and has thickened. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Stir in mango and cook 1 more minute.

Serve over rice.

The sisters say that if you like things a bit on the hotter side you can substitute the red pepper flakes for some green curry paste. If I didn't have kids to serve, I would totally do that. This was good as it is but it would be even better with the curry paste.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Some progress

Last night I had to take serious action with Hope. I left her to figure it out on her own. The previous night when she woke up crying around 3:00, I waited for about 15 minutes. She complained most of that time. I went in at that point and she went postal. It was after the next hour or so of sitting in her room while she screamed at me and then simply kept herself awake that I decided my presence was making things worse. So last night I didn't go in. She woke up around 3:00 again and screamed bloody murder when I didn't go in (not what I predicted but things did work out in the end). I'm surprised you couldn't hear her wherever you are. After about 10 minutes she went back to sleep and didn't wake up again until 5:00 at which point I fed her. So, there was progress. I'm hoping that tonight it is even better although the complication tonight is my class and she won't get fed before bed.

I'm really enjoying my class. In fact, I'm loving my class. I love the obligation of leaving the house once a week, turning my back on whatever is going on here and leaving John to take care of it. I love that I sit with a bunch of other students and learn. I love that i'm not the oldest in the class. I love that I'm immersing myself in English grammar. I love that I've met new people. I love that I am getting kick-ass grades. I love that I'm one of those annoying mature students that sits at the front of the class and answers lots of questions. I love that I don't have to pay tuition because John works there.

In short, I love it all.

In my short foray back into higher eduction I've noticed a few changes in (gulp) the eleven years since I finished my undergraduate degree. First, every second person you walk by is talking on or texting on a cell phone. When I was doing my undergrad no one even owned a cell phone. I think most people knew what they were but no one had one. No one considered getting one. Hell, in my residence (granted it was Mennonite) we still had rotary phones. Second, there is a much bigger age range in the students in my class than there was way back when. I am not even close to the oldest person in my class. There are at least three, maybe more, who are probably collecting their CPP. It could be particular to the class I'm in. I'll have to keep note as I take more to come up with a hypothesis.

Before I started the class, I think on my first night, I asked John if students still took notes the old fashioned way: with pen and paper, or would I be a Luddite if I didn't have a laptop. He confirmed it was still done by hand, for the most part. He was right. Of course, all the classrooms are wired and profs can link to the internet right from their Powerpoint slides. I like this so much better than the nasty overheads they all used to use (not that long ago really).

Anyway, really, I should be up there reading for my course as I'm a few weeks behind now instead of assuaging my guilt for missing two posts already during NaBloPoMo.

Do I care? I really don't.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Will it ever end?

After Hope burned her hand a couple of weeks ago, the advances I made in getting her to sleep through the night went out the window. That was followed by a nasty head cold. I was back to getting up with her about two or three times a night and often fed her at least one of those times.

The last few nights she's gotten up around 3:00 and wanted to feed. Without a clock in our room (long story) I was left to guess what time it was and often guessed (wrongly) that it was past 4:00 and fed her. (4:00 is my line after which I will feed her.) Well, last night the clock was back and I realized it was just before 3:00 and the feedings likely had been around 3:00 for a few nights. So, it was time to take action. Emily was sleeping well after a few nights of not (thank you, UTI) so I figured I could only concentrate on one kid for the night.

Well, according to Hope, life had come to an end as she knew it. Screaming, jumping, shaking the crib, more screaming and screaming and screaming until I left her small room just to save my ears.

To make a long story short (or LSS, as John would say), John, Hope and I were up from 3:00 until 5:00 at which point I was on a mattress on her floor with her beside me. She fed, she went to bed, woke up a few more times but I ignored her and then I slept until 8:00. Now I'm in a minor panic because I'm teaching Sunday School this morning. I'm prepared but I hate to rush around and I feel like I'll rush around a bit.

I know that this is only the beginning of a string of nights like this. My motivation is high however because Hope is still eating almost nothing (besides breastmilk) during the day. I am so happy she has been such a great breastfeeder and that she is attached to it and that it is a source of comfort and security for her. But I need less of it now and I want more other food going into that pie hole of hers. I'm sure that the breastfeeding is contributing to her pushing away other food.

I missed posting yesterday. I'm a NaBloPoMo failure. But, I feel I have a good reason: God. S/He's contracted me to teach Sunday School and being the slacker very busy mother that I am I prepared my lesson last night which involved running out to get eggs at 9:00 to bake muffins for the snack, cutting out masks, cutting up pieces of paper and gathering craft supplies from around the house. The Art Attack going on in the basement and the muffin baking was prefaced by a great birthday party at our friend's Pam and Jim's for their wee one, Celia, who just turned one. I said to John before we left for the party that I love going to Pam and Jim's for dinner because all our kids play so well together (Emily and their son Nevan are the same age as are Hope and Celia) so we only have to really supervise occasionally AND we don't have to cook AND there's wine. Emily summed it up best when we were loading her in the car to go home and she said to John: "I was delighted to come to the party."

Me, too, although I probably wouldn't have sounded so eloquent saying it.

Friday, November 09, 2007

A lovely day

We had a great day today. I took the girls swimming this morning at the Plant Pool (one of the city's newest pools). Cibele, my sister-in-law, came with us. We all had lots of fun. I got to swim two lengths while Cibele fed the kids their snack (and let me say, man, I'm out of shape! Time to get to the pool more regularly), Cibele got to float and swim (something that seems to relieve her icky nausea and make her feel great at 3 months pregnant), Hope got to splash and squeal and Emily jumped off the side of the pool into my arms again and again (and swam with her beloved Dora ring, too).

After the pool we went over to PGI for lunch, one of my favourite cafe/bistro/patisseries in Ottawa. I think I introduced Cibele to a new vice.

The kids had a great nap. I was supposed to end the day with some good shopping at the Ten Thousand Villages sale at the church but instead I took Emily to a walk in clinic to get diagnosed with another UTI. Poor kid. It burns when she pees. I kind of figured that's what it was when she yelled from her bed two nights ago: "MY GINA HURTS!"

So, I'll be going to the sale tomorrow instead.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The most important words in the world

Emily, typical 3-year-old, takes what Hope has a lot. Tonight Hope was in the bath tub long before Emily and was happily (no, joyously) playing with all the favourite toys with no competition. She was thrilled to be able to have the plastic man (Noah, actually) and plastic woman (Mrs. Noah) figurines to herself. Finally, Emily showed up and was perturbed to find that Hope had Mrs. Noah tight and secure in her chubby little fist. She ripped it out of Hope's grasp.

Me: Emily, give it back to her right now, please. (Emily gives it back.) Emily, what do you say to Hope?

Emily: Sorry you took my woman.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What's cooking Wednesday

I lived at a Mennonite college when I went to university. Conrad Grebel College, one of the church colleges at the University of Waterloo, was my first exposure (I'm not sure that's the right word exactly) to Mennonites and Mennonite culture beyond what you see in the coffee table books. Of course, the Mennonites I lived with were all modern Mennonites but the food culture was just as strong among the modern Mennonites as it was and is among their Old Order cousins.

In my second year at Grebel, I started to date a guy whose family was Russian Mennonite. That was my real entry into Mennonite food because Russian Mennonite food is the food culture people refer to when talking about Mennonite food - serious Mennonite food. Since then I've been making tonight's entry for WCW: borscht. Mennonite borscht has some very specific characteristics: first, no beets; second, lots of cabbage, tomatoes and dill; and third, it is all built around a smoked pork hock. And that friends will be one of the finest soups you've ever tasted. Add a bit of sour cream and you've got a little bit of heaven. Mennonite heaven.

Mennonite Borscht

Cover a smoked pork hock with cold water in a large pot and I mean large. The hock can be bought pretty much anywhere in Kitchener-Waterloo or, if not in that locale, at a European deli. If you can't find one, don't make this soup because this soup only exists with a smoked pork hock. Add some peppercorns, 2 or so bay leaves, an onion chopped up, a carrot chopped up and some celery. You can also add a star anise and a couple of cloves if you want but you don't have to. The hock gives unbelievable flavour and doesn't really require anything else. Simmer for about 2 hours partially covered.

Strain out the vegetables and pork hock. Remove all the meat from the hock, chop and add back to stock. Add some water to the stock if it has boiled down a lot. Add some sliced carrots, two diced potatoes, a small head of cabbage sliced and chopped, lots of dill, and one can of diced tomatoes. Simmer until the vegetables are all cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add more water if there seems to be too much "stuff" and not enough stock. Adjust seasoning again.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream in the middle of your bowl (a must) and some fresh bread. The bowl pictured above already has the sour cream stirred in. I adapted this recipe from one I pulled out of the infamous Mennonite Treasury of Recipes (the Bible of Canadian Mennonite food).

Trust me when I say that you'll thank me again and again for this recipe.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

If you know me well, you won't be at all suprised by this

You know those times where you're asked about your most embarrassing moment? Since I was about 22 I've always used the same story and nothing has ever come close to replacing it.

Until today.

I was trying to set up our new DSL connection (which, by the by, may prove to be an egregious error on our part. The $50 a month we were spending on a high-speed cable connection is now starting to sound like it was worth every penny but I digress.). I was having problems. I won't go into all of it now, but I got to the point where I didn't have an internet connection and I needed to get the phone number of our router manufacturer. In the midst of all this, two things were happening that are crucial to the story: Hope was crying through the monitor and I had to pee. Pretty bad.

I really needed the phone number so I called John at work. When he didn't pick up after the first ring, I assumed he wasn't at his desk. For those of you who don't know, John is a professor. As professors do, he has his own office with a closed door - no cube farms over there. So, when he doesn't pick up right away, he isn't going to pick up. I quickly ran to the bathroom, sat down on the toilet and got ready to leave a message.

He picked up the phone.

Here's what happened next:

Me: Oh, I was going to leave you a message! I'm sitting on the toilet right now!

John: (Silence) Um, this isn't John.

Me: Uh, what? Oh my word. Oh God. I AM SO EMBARASSED! I AM SO EMBARRASSED! [Yes, I said this]

Me: Who is this?

Unknown person sending me to an early grave: I'm John's T.A.

Me: Oh God, Oh God, Oh God. I'm so embarassed! I can't believe I just said that!

UPSMTAEG: I didn't hear anything. I don't know what you said. It was so fast. I didn't hear anything.

Me: Really?

UPSMTAEG: Really. I didn't. I don't know what you were saying.

Me: Okay, let's just say that.

UPSMTAEG: Yeah, let's just say that.

We went on to have a conversation about ISPs and the like and pretended that he didn't just hear me tell him that I'm on the toilet. And oh, by the way, I totally finished peeing while I was talking to him. What was I supposed to do, after all? I was in the middle of things. I did refrain from flushing though since we were both pretending that he didn't know I was on the toilet. I didn't want to spoil the false ignorance.

And this, friends, is the real me. If you didn't know me well before, you just got a glimpse of the kind of thing I do. This is for sure more embarrassing than barfing in front of all the ushers at the O'Keefe Centre during a performance of the Nutcracker. For sure.

And, if you know me, you'll also know that while I was embarrassed, I told everyone I could as soon a possible because damn, it's funny.

Monday, November 05, 2007

If only I could "magically" make it disappear

Emily lately has been applying nicknames to people and at age 3, she doesn't have any understanding yet of what is appropriate and what is not in regards to nicknames. Unfortunately she has a father who is king of the nicknames: he loves to give them to everyone... well, everyone in this house anyway. I once counted how many nicknames he's had for me since we met and it was well past 10.

When Hope was a wee thing she was on the plump side, in a nice, chunky baby kind of way. John called her (among other things), Chubs. Emily started calling her Chubs, just once in a while, and while Hope was really small, it didn't seem to matter. Now it does. Especially since Emily has erstwhile applied it to both John and I on occasion.

So, last week when she started to call other kids at preschool "Piggy" (and she hasn't yet delved into Lord of the Flies, that'll be a whole other conversation), I had to have a talk with her about nicknames. She was telling me about preschool and said "so I talked to a little boy and I said Hi Piggy and I laughed and laughed. He's a nice boy." When I told her that wasn't a nice name, she burst into tears. Clearly she had meant it in the nicest possible way (I'm sure his mother, who apparently was with him, missed the subtle nuance of niceness she was trying to convey). We talked for a long time about names, what's nice, what isn't and that when you call a person Chubs or Piggy, it's like telling them that they're fat. She felt a lot better afterwards and I think I made her feel better. She didn't do anything wrong. She just didn't know. And the fact is, she's too young to give people nicknames. I hope I got that across.

Well, since then Chubs has been pulled out a couple of times at home. We keep on top of her about it and re-explain about the whole Chubs=fat thing. She gets it now. As you'll see.

So today after preschool she looks at me and says: "Look, it's magic!" PAUSE. "Magic means you're fat."

She outright insisted that it meant a person is fat, although we argued back and forth like an old married couple for several minutes. I think she won. I gave up.

Maybe this means I can conjure up dinner with a wave of this chocolate bar I'm eating.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Well, that didn't work

Emily was up at her usual time this morning, which means with the clock change it was actually 6:40 instead of 7:40. Oh well. Hope, same thing. I pretty much expected that.

And it's not that it matters much. It's true that it is only one hour after all, in the big scheme of things that doesn't matter at all. But for a person like me, who is up two or three times a night and has been for well over a year now, the difference of one hour in my sleep seems pretty big. One extra hour can sometimes mean the difference between being someone who wants to play grocery store for the fifth time that day and and someone who wants to gouge out the eyes of the Doodlebops.

We're off to church in a couple of hours. All of us. This is the first Sunday in a while that we're all going together. Hope is completely done with a morning nap now so there is no reason we can't all be going. We'll see how it all shakes out. Hopefully the littlest won't mind spending a lot of time in the nursery or cruising the halls. I predict it will be fine.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

One extra hour that means so much

When it's time to change the clocks, forward or backward, we're always faced with how we keep the kids on the same bedtime and rising schedule. I don't want them up an hour earlier in the morning or going to bed an hour later at night for weeks to come. When Emily was a baby, I remember the first clock change where it mattered to her schedule. We were lucky enough to have been in Texas when it went down. Texas is an hour behind us anyway so it all worked out even steven. After that, it always seemed to work out for us. Emily almost seemed to know that she needed to catch up to the new time and blessed us with a terrible bedtime or night the night the clocks changed so that she was extra tired the next day and easy to change to the new times.

That hasn't happened this year. We've just rolled with it so far. Tonight, I imagine will be similar, although we decided to keep the kids up an hour later hoping they'll sleep an hour later tomorrow. I know this is unlikely however. Often when they're up later, particularly Emily, they still get up at the same time. Well, at least they'll be easy to put to bed and I get an extra hour of sleep. And that extra hour to me means so much with a 1-year-old who is still getting up multiple times a night.

What about you? What are your strategies for changing your kids' schedules over to agree with the new time?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Girls Gone Wild

It's only Day 2 of NaBloPoMo and I'm already shamelessly posting videos of my kids. I make no excuses. I embrace my cop-outed-ness.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hallowe'en on our street

We had a great day yesterday: the spider cake (see below), pumpkin carving with Julie, and then the big event last night.

My friend Julie and her son Max come over to visit every Wednesday afternoon. Being that my skin, for some reason, reacts really badly to touching raw pumpkin innards, Julie did the mucky work of pumpkin carving and I got to do the fun part of face carving. Emily was right in there to supervise.

And then the main event that Emily has been asking about for weeks (Is it Hallowe'en yet? When's Hallowe'en?). Emily started to gear up for the big event right when we sat down for supper and kids started to arrive at the door (supper was a bit late last night). She was about to push her supper away and get right to it until I told her there was trick or treating if there was no supper.

We ate up, had some spider cake and she donned the Baby Bop costume one more time. Emily was just as thrilled with it as the first time she wore it. I can't say enough how proud I am that I spent $3 on this costume second-hand and it couldn't have made her happier.

We just did our own street, which was more than enough. Emily was even more thrilled by all the comments she got from the big kids (14-year-olds: the original Barney generation) who recongized and LOVED her Baby Bop costume. At 14 I would have had no idea who Baby Bop was. That would be because she hadn't been invented yet.

After the candy collection, Emily had a great time handing out the candy, sorting her loot and then it was off to bed.

Another one down. Now the real challenge begins: how to responsibly dole out the candy. For those of you with kids who have a basket full of candy right now, how do you decide when and how much they are allowed to eat each day?

Oh, and you may have noticed I've completely lost my senses and decided to participate in NaBloPoMo. Yeah, I know, I'm not sure what I was thinking given that sometimes my posts are sporadic at best. Expect some photo montages.