Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

It's 10:25 pm. The girls are both asleep (just). John has gone to bed to read. I'm catching up on some blog reading and taking a break from my knitting, which has quickly become my newest obsession. If you read here often, you're probably realizing that every few months I have a new obsession. Knitting. You'll hear about it often for a while.

We spent the evening over at Ron and Meredith's, good friends of ours who we just don't see as often as we'd like anymore. They live in Chelsea, surrounded by deep snow, starry skies and silence. And the occasional bear. Who could ask for more on a New Year's Eve? We tobogganed on the hill in their back yard, ate delicious meat pies and made ice cream sundaes for dessert. We drank Bailey's and coffee in the basement beside the wood stove while the kids played until we packed them into their pyjamas and headed home. It's my favourite way to spend this night of the year: with good friends, nothing fancy, at a warm house, with kids around and home by 9:00.

I'm reflecting on the past year and how many things I've done in the past year that are new to me or newly rediscovered. I just started thinking about the past year, how much time I've spent learning or challenging myself or just doing things I enjoy. It started me thinking about the "new" in New Year and I started to wonder how many new things I've done in the past 12 months. There probably aren't too many but enough to feel that I still crave new experiences and challenges. I know I always will. It's my nature. I need to keep moving, to keep heading somewhere, even if I don't know where that is.

In the past year I've learned how to parent a 3-year-old. I started back to school. I'm (slowly) learning to live on one salary. I started to knit. I learned to make a lot of different kinds of bread. I learned to use a Mac. I learned to manage my blog and put together better posts. I learned to listen better (I think). I learned to better say what I mean. I learned to keep my mouth shut more often and speak up when I need to. I cooked more vegetarian meals. I decorated a Dora cake. I started to stay home more with the kids. I started to play doctor, camping, restaurant, grocery store and learned to do all kinds of crafts. I learned how to involve a 1-year-old in all of these games. I learned how to split my time and my lap with two kids. I learned to control my temper better. I figured out how to talk to a three-year-old. I learned English grammar.

Not bad for twelve months. I wonder what I'll learn, what new things I'll do in the next twelve. I look forward to finding out.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Has anyone seen my husband?

I found a ransom note tonight that read like this:

I have your husband. He's mine forever now... as long as I'm in town, anyway. You just better hope I never become resident at your house or he'll never come out of the basement.


Looking back at 2007

I just saw this meme on Dani's site and really like the idea so I'm playing along. If you want to play too, just leave me a comment so I can come and read about your year, too.

Just post the first sentence of the first blog post of each month of 2007. As simple as that.

January: Maybe it isn't a real word, but I use it every year at this time.

February: This morning, before Hope's doctor appointment (nose is on the mend, by the way - or so says my doctor), we made a stop at Mountain Equipment Co-op.

March: I've mentioned before that Emily's current obsession is Curious George.

April: Beth is here!

May: Well, actually, it isn't hell so much as hellish.

June: Yesterday we met my very good friend Marnie, who was my roommate through most of university, and her daughter Molly and all trekked to the St. Jacobs Farmers Market.

July: We're back from a glorious, if rainy, week and a half at the cottage.

August: My ankle swelling reached its peak while we were at the cottage.

September: I took Westley and Hope for a good walk this morning.

October: Today is my and John's eighth anniversary.

November: 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.

December: Today is the first Sunday of Advent.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tidings of comfort and joy

We had a wonderful, wonderful Christmas. It was filled with laughter, joy, lots and lots of noise, great food and drink; everything that makes Christmas magical for me. This year especially with my kids 1 and 3 years old I better understood why Christmas is better with kids around. You see things through their eyes and their excitement and joy is contagious. I love the din they add to the day; and then I love the quiet after they are in bed and we can all sit around with glasses of wine or scotch and laugh and talk and laugh some more.

Here's a wee photo montage of our day:

I hope that your day was as filled with love and laughter as ours was. Merry Christmas all.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I remember that restaurants can actually be pleasant

It's been a busy couple of days here.  Yesterday we finally left the house and went to the Byward Market for some good old-fashioned cheese shopping.  There are two amazing cheese shops in the Market.  Both specialize in Quebec cheeses.  I made some good, stinky purchases.  We also got some amazing lamb that Beth turned into lamb stew later that night.  After the Market, we headed to dim sum at my favourite dim sum place in Ottawa: Mandarin Ogilvie.  We haven't been there in about 8 months I'd guess.  It was so great.  And what made it even better was that the stars aligned so that all three kids were great during the meal.  Emily ate her weight in dim sum, Hope ate her weight in barbecue pork bun and the grown-ups were able to gorge themselves, talk and essentially ignore the kids.  You may recall that around the time I was in Texas in early September, Hope lost all ability to be in a restaurant without me wanting to stab myself in the eye with a utensil.  It's been almost that long since we've tried a full meal in a restaurant.  It just wasn't worth it.  But the meal yesterday was bliss.

Today we went to the Nature Museum and explored the dinosaurs and other galleries there.  Then we continued our culinary tour of Asia with bowls of Vietnamese soup for lunch.  I figured we were pushing our luck with the kids but they stepped up again and rewarded us with a great time.  Hope covered herself in rice, Emily spent her time with a jackfruit shake.

We deserved a couple of good days.  On Friday, we went into the Glebe, one of Ottawa's busiest shopping neighbourhoods, at 4:30 pm.  This was, in a word, stupid.  What was more stupid, on my part, was that I lost Beth and Graeme.  They were in another car and we got separated.  I then drove around the side streets like I had completely lost my grip.  Which I had.  I couldn't find parking, I couldn't find them, I couldn't find my sanity if it bit me in the ass.  I finally parked after 15 minutes.  Then, I got Hope loaded in the backpack, Emily out of the car and we started trudging down an unplowed street looking for Beth and Graeme.  Emily fell in the snow a dozen times at least.  She was great about it luckily.  We made it to the store where we were supposed to be going and I was told that no one had seen them.  We started walking down Bank St.  I hoped I would spot there car.  Nothing.  I looked for a pay phone.  The only one was back down the unplowed street.  Emily started falling again.  "This is where I had problems last time!"  She was melting my heart, if not the snow.  I called John who was pretty much no help.  He wanted to be but what could he do?  We headed back to the store.  If I didn't find them we were going to head home and hope Beth and Graeme could get back.  I walked around the store again with Emily saying "I thought this was supposed to be fun, Mummy" and "Mummy, you happy yet?".  I was about to walk through the door and back down the street when Beth walked in the door.  Thank God.  I hugged her and almost cried.  She'd seen me as they drove by on their way back to our house.  Beth had been in the store.  The staff just were idiots.  I won't tell you the store.  My advice is don't rely on the people who work there for eye-witness accounts.  Lesson:  choose a meeting place before driving into the Glebe in separate cars at the end of the afternoon on the Friday before Christmas.  You know, I'm not a stupid person generally but I play one convincingly.

The last two days have been really fun but Beth and I are looking forward to staying home tomorrow, maybe going for a walk and getting ready for the Big Day.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Where have I been?

John is on at me about how infrequently I am posting right now. I do feel bad about it and wish I had more time right now to post. This week has been pretty busy though.

My sister, Beth, and her husband, Graeme, and four-month-old Kate arrived on Tuesday evening. My dad and Donna arrived on Tuesday afternoon. Since then our very small house has been, well, kind of crazy. A little bedlam here and there. Emily and Hope love it. More specifically, they love Kate. They love touching Kate, poking Kate, rubbing Kate. Anything to do with Kate, they love.

We had a mini-Christmas this morning for my dad and Donna. They are spending Christmas in Edmonton with our family out there (hi Alberta family!). So, they opened their gifts from us this morning and we opened ours from them. I am very pleased to say that they bought me just what I wanted: a new winter jacket. The exact green down ski jacket from LL Bean. I've already worn it a couple of times and I LOVE IT.

Emily has run Donna ragged reading and playing in the snow. The first day Donna, Emily and I created a super slide down the giant snowbank that is our front yard. It was so much fun. I really felt like a kid again and it reminded me of the great things that winter can be.

Beth has recently learned to knit and she's taught me the basics, enough that I am currently knitting a dish cloth. I'm very impressed with myself since the only thing I've every knitted before was a bad scarf in high school that was full of holes and the sides were all wavy and oh yeah, I didn't finish it. This will do me well when I start my knitting course in January. I'm planning on being the star pupil. Oh, and speaking of that, I got my final grade for my course. My brown-nosing, front-row-sitting, answering all the questions scheme paid off with a 94. Don't you hate me?

Tonight we took a sleeping Kate and camera-happy Emily (she got a new camera of her own from Pappa and Donna for Christmas and it hasn't left her hand since) for a walk to look at the lights in our neighbourhood. We returned home to find Hope sportin' a look. She'd found a pair of my underwear (clean, at least) and put them on. She wore them until bed time. A good look, don't you think?

Tomorrow we're going to Parliament to see those lights after take away shawarma. Hopefully we'll be out a little more over the next few days seeing the sights and enjoying the snow. Don't you just love Christmas?

Monday, December 17, 2007

A new normal?

It has been over two weeks since Emily took an afternoon nap. She still has her Quiet Time in her room, looking at books and talking to her animals. But never sleep. Never.

It's been tough. I miss the two hours to myself. We also have a cranky, tired 3-year-old to deal with at the end of each day. Last night we hit our limit with that and I insisted on actual sleep for her today. I told her that if she didn't close her eyes after she looked at her books, she wouldn't be allowed to take her books in bed with her anymore.

Guess what?

She's been up there, silent, for almost two hours now. And it feels so good. It might not ever happen again so I'm relishing every single second that I've spent mopping the floors in peace!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I may open my front yard as a ski hill

Our front yard, tiny as it is, is looking distinctly like a bunny hill at a ski resort. The snow piled there from many drive way shovelings is approaching momentous and it is only December 15.

Environment Canada is currently predicting a major winter storm to hit most of Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick tonight and tomorrow. Ottawa is going to be walloped again. Here is some of the language from their current warning for Ottawa:

A near-crippling snow storm...A massive winter storm...Copious amounts of snow...the potential to cause near-paralyzing conditions...

And in case I doubt their accuracy: There is a high degree of certainty with this storm as the concensus of weather model data is virtually unanimously forecasting this event.

So, should you be coming here soon from, say, Texas... well, you won't be having to dream of a white Christmas and you might just have to toboggan here from the airport.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Stepping out of my usual role

This blog is primarily about me, my kids and our domestic bliss. What you don't know about me is that I'm a bit of a political junkie. I love politics. Okay, it's more love/hate. I love to talk about it, read about it but I hate what most politicians do and I certainly hate what this current government is about. I started to become a junkie when I started working at Foreign Affairs. When your job is closely tied into what the government is doing you can't help but pay attention and form opinions. That's doubled or tripled when you are working in Ottawa. And when you start working, almost directly, for a minister of the Crown. Even on leave I'm still into it although I pick my issues of interest a little more selectively now.

What I don't do so far is write about it. Lately, I've been wanting to change that but it is a bit intimidating to put my political stripes out there. So, I'll start small: with our municipal issues at the moment.

Ottawa has captured the nation's interest with the fact that our mayor, a total and complete dimwit and, it seems, political moron (I could go on and on listing his faults, but who has that kind of time?) has been charged with two criminal counts in relation to bribing a mayoral opponent to drop out of the mayoral race held last year.

I did not vote for Larry O'Brien. If I had had the time, I would have been out there campaigning for the Anyone But Larry O'Brien Campaign. I dislike him that much. He has no vision for the city. He cancelled light rail, the one thing the city seemed to be doing well in regards to having a plan for our future. He stupidly promised a 0% tax freeze (how can you really have 0% when there is any inflation? That actually means that the city will then spend less than it did before) and then cried victory when taxes were raised by almost 5%. His only platform was 0% and he couldn't even achieve that. He's a terrible mayor. He's up on criminal charges. While it is permitted to continue to hold office while in court, I hope that in some way the city can use it as an excuse to get him out of there. Because.... he stole the election, he tried to use contacts to get his opponent a plumb federal appointment and he offered his opponent $30,000. If he's willing to do all of this when he isn't mayor and doesn't have the job to lose, what has he done while he has been mayor and what is he willing to do to keep the job?

As for the people who voted for him (and there were lots), we told you so. Lots of us saw the potential for this kind of thing in this guy. How didn't you see it? And how could we be so right?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A glimpse of my first grandchild

We're in the habit around here of playing hospital/doctor's office. I'm often ordered to be the doctor. Emily is almost always the patient and Hope is my eager assistant.

Yesterday, Miss Emily the Patient told Mummy the Doctor that she had a sick tummy because she had a baby in there. As I examined her I asked her if she knew if it was a boy or a girl:

E: It's a boy.
Me: Have you chosen a name for him?
E: Yup. Mustache. Because he has a mustache.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What's cooking Wednesday

My plan was, for the month of December, to put up a recipe each Wednesday for some sort of favourite Christmas baking of mine. Since I didn't get around to posting last Wednesday (or really much since then), I'll start with this week and try to keep it up until the end of the month. And then I have great plans for WCW 2008! Just wait and see!

Last Christmas I had these cookies at my friend Pam's house. My mum used to make these occasionally and I loved them. Turns out I still do. So, Pam handed me the recipe and I made them this week. They are delicious but a bit fussy. I generally stay away from fussy but at Christmas I make an exception. Often the fussiness is worth it and I have more patience for it at Christmas when you want something a little extra special.

Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1oz square semi-sweet chocolate
bit of milk

Okay, first thing to do is melt that chocolate and let it cool. If it is too hot, it will melt out the butter in the dough. It can cool while you mix everything else. One other note is that I doubled this recipe because I knew it wouldn't make as many as I wanted. The recipe above is the original amounts so you may want to double it, too.

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Sift together dry ingredients (I didn't) and mix into creamed mixture. Divide dough in half. Mix cooled chocolate into one part. On parchment or waxed paper roll out each half. I rolled it about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Trim each piece so that they are approximately the same size. Brush one layer with milk. Place the other layer on top. Using waxed paper like a sushi mat, roll the dough into a long log. Slice about 3/4 inch thick. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes.

Two recipe notes: First, since I doubled the recipe I had to roll out each colour three times. Otherwise the dough would have been too thick. Second, I found it easier to place the white layer on top of the chocolate layer when I put them together because the chocolate is a little wetter. This meant that when I rolled it the chocolate didn't crack like the white layer did making it better to have the chocolate showing on the outside.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Emily's letter to Santa

Last year I posted Emily's letter to Santa. I'm going to do it again this year and hopefully every year that she writes to him. She dictated her letter to me last week sometime. I'm putting it in the mail later today.

Dear Santa,

My name is Emily Walsh. I am 3. I eat really well. I love baking with Mummy. I love making up stories. I'm a good big sister. I help Mummy. I love my daddy. I've been a good girl this year. Ho Ho Ho!

I want a white marker for Christmas. I would like a camera. I would also like a Dora toothbrush and some Dora socks.

My sister, Hope, is 1 year old. She already had her birthday. Hope would like a book for Christmas. She loves books! She loves eating supper. She likes playing with balls. Hope would like a duck squeak toy for in the bath tub.

Merry Christmas, Santa!

Love, Emily

Busy, busy, busy

You have to say that title like the bad magician in Frosty the Snowman. It makes it much funnier and seasonal to boot.

My Dad and his wife, Donna, were here most of the week thus my lack of posts. When people are staying at our house I don't post as often because our basement is transformed into a guest bedroom and our computer is located right beside the bed. At least, that's my excuse anyway.

It was a whirlwind of activity around here. As usual, Donna tackled all kinds of house projects: fixing our leaking laundry tap, fixing a leaking shower stall, replacing a toilet seat, playing with Emily in the snow and reading lots of books. My dad did his share too: he put up two new light fixtures and read to Emily until the cows came home (or until he was hoarse at least). It was a lot of fun and really nice to see them since I haven't seen them since August before they travelled to Australia.

Donna bought for us a great new sled for tobogganing this winter (no, it does not have a porsche symbol on the front). Emily had her first ride across the monumental amount of snow we have and only dumped twice.

I'm sad to say that I failed at something this year that I take pride in doing every single year in early December. Since 1991 my good friend Tamara and I have been exchanging Boot Day gifts. What is Boot Day, you ask? Well, it's our name for St. Nicholas Day, which is December 6. In Germany, kids leave out boots on December 6 and St. Nicholas fills them with gifts and treats. Tamara, being half German, got sent a St. Nicholas Day gift by her Oma during our first semester as roommates at university. Then we each left out a boot for each other when the day actually came, renamed it Boot Day and ever since with only a few misses (usually by me). Even if we're half way around the world, we send Boot Day gifts to each other. I failed this year. No Boot Day gift is currently in the mail. I still have hope though that I'll get it done in the next week. Sometimes St. Nick is a little behind. I hate to be the one to break the tradition but I figure having two kids buys me a bit of leniency. At least I know what is going to go into the boot. I just have to finish it all. I'm going home-made this year, which can go one of two ways: either people are wowed by my skills or people say "Oh, it's homemade!"

As I sit here half-dressed, listening to the kids getting wound up upstairs, I realize I should probably join the party and get us all out of the house. Pants are probably in order first.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Snow Day

Finally Environment Canada called it right. Normally when they call for a big storm and everyone starts to panic prepare, nothing happens. Maybe a flake or two, but that's it. This time it turns out they were right. And then some.

It snowed all last night. It snowed all day today. It's still snowing now.

John shoveled the driveway twice and probably could have even done it twice more. Two of our neighbours were stuck in the middle of our street. I foolishly took Emily over to the Community Centre on the sled and dumped her twice because of the tire ruts on our street. We laughed. Well, mostly me.

So, for all of you who are in a more tropical climate and are, just for a second, wishing for a white Christmas, here's a little taste for you. I'm sure this will be enough to satisfy you. And then you'll be very happy to walk out your door, feel the sunshine on your face and know that the only shoveling you'll be doing this Christmas will be in your garden.

This is a photo of our patio table. Notice we were lazy caught unawares this year and still have our umbrella on the deck and the chairs arranged as though we're about to have after-dinner drinks. Yeah, we meant to do that.

Anyway, that's a damn lot of snow. Want some?

There are stairs under there somewhere.

Last year we barbecued our Christmas dinner. I'm thinking we'll be cooking indoors this year. Oh, that's the barbecue if you were wondering why I was going on about last year's dinner.

I really wanted the photo below to turn out better but I'm limited by my sub-par technology. There is a very cool snow drift on our roof just below our bedroom window. I'll see if I can get a better shot of it during daylight, although I really like the back light from the house lights.

Although our winter tires are still in the garage, I realized again today that good winter driving is only partly about tires. Mostly it's skill. Luckily I seem to have some of that (my dad would be proud to know that) but some of my neighbours definitely do not. Those would be the ones who were stuck in the middle of the street and at the ends of their own driveways. It's called a gas pedal, friends. Think about using it.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The first big whopper

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. I do love December for the anticipation of Christmas at home and at church with each Sunday marking a new theme during Advent. Today, appropriately, was hope and I have a lot of Hope this year.

In further anticipation of Christmas and all things wintery, today is our first Major Storm Warning put out by Environment Canada. They are promising us snow, ice pellets and freezing rain. Good times, good times.

Meanwhile, our garage is still full of bikes, strollers, a Christmas tree from Ikea, sand toys, SNOW TIRES, and absolutely no room for a car. Can you guess what I'm doing this afternoon?

My reward, albeit a few days late, will be on Tuesday, which I am forever going to call Tim Tam Tuesday because BECAUSE my friendly neighbourhood Loblaws man promised me over the phone last week that he was ordering in (now and forever) Tim Tams. Yay Mr. Loblaws Man! Christmas comes early this year!