Wednesday, February 27, 2008


It's been relatively quiet around here mainly because I'm still spending everyday feeling like crap, trying to clear my very clogged sinuses and still wiping Hope's dripping nose and comforting her when her little body is racked with terrible coughs.

Worst cold we've ever had by far.

I'm going to the doctor tonight because clearly I have a sinus infection and it isn't improving.


Friday, February 22, 2008


I've never had this happen before that I can remember, but the cold that was on it's way out has come back with force and for Emily too. Hope is still in a bad way although the doctor confirmed last night that it wasn't pneumonia. Given all the other 18-month-olds sitting in the waiting room with the identical cough and bleary-eyed look, I think something might be going around.

I feel like getting a pressure washer and Lysol-ing the entire contents of my house.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A poster girl for Nyquil

I had my recipe all picked out and the ingredients ready to go for What's Cooking Wednesday but last night was the registration for preschool for the spring session and Hope wouldn't leave my arms due to the onslaught of the Plague in our house.

I was sick all last week and I'm still not quite done with the cold. Emily got it on Friday last week and she still is fighting it. Hope got it three days ago and it is the worst cold she's ever had. Her little body is racked with coughs, she can't breathe through her nose and she is clearly feeling very bad. If I leave the room, she cries. If I leave the house without her, she sobs and throws herself on the floor and eventually hides behind something for a while: the toilet, a living room chair. It's pretty bad.

So, John cooked supper last night and he also registered Emily for preschool.

I sure hope she is better soon. I feel so bad for her (and yet through all this she has continued to sleep through the night!) and also a bit for me as my choices for a social life or even regular outings are severely limited right now.

If children could take cold medication, she'd be up for one of those swollen red-nosed parts:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Winter fun

On Saturday we finally went out Winterluding. Yes, in Ottawa Winterlude is now a verb. This year I was determined to take Emily to Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques Cartier Park on the Hull side of the river. It's a kids' winter wonderland with big snow slides, giant snow sculptures, this year a small historical village representing Quebec City 400 years ago, and of course Beaver Tails.

Above is Hope in the pink coat. She loves walking on snow, which made it a bit slow to get around, but she had fun (for awhile).

As always, I was amazed at the detail the sculptors could get in such large works, and made of snow, at that.

I couldn't convince Emily to take a ride down there or even the kiddie-sized version not seen here. Oh well, maybe next year.

Last year we stuck to skating but this year I wanted to make it to the Park before Winterlude was over so Emily could really enjoy it. There is still lots of time for skating and at this point, that's really for me, not her or Hope.

My dad and Donna were with us for the weekend. The weather was great, a bit brisque but sunny. It went well for a while but then Hope got really cold. It took me a while to figure out that that was the problem. You'd think I'd have some of this stuff figured out by now. So, we only stayed for about an hour and a half and then went home. It was time enough to see everything and have a hot chocolate and Beaver Tail.

Later that afternoon, Donna decided to take Emily back outside to shovel off the back deck. This is the third time we've (or Donna has) shovelled the deck this winter and yet look how much snow was back there! Emily tried to find her play equipment.... and the stairs.

After all that frolicking in the great outdoors, Emily was left a little red-cheeked. I could stare at that beautiful face for the rest of my life (and plan to) and never get tired of it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Show and tell

I've been doing a lot of knitting since Beth taught me how to knit over Christmas. And a few weeks ago I started a knitting class with my friend Dawn so I've learned a few new tricks in the last few weeks, making me feel a bit more competent and daring. Anyway, I feel it's time for a show and tell of my creations. It will likely be more show than tell.

I've made several of these baby hats for people I know having or just had babies. I can spin them off pretty quick now and I like the change I made to the pattern by adding stripes. In my most recent version, not shown here, I use the contrast colour to do the decrease and i-cord on the top as well as the stripes, which looks even better.

After the first baby hat, I made this bag to hold my current knitting project. It's felted, which means you knit up a big floppy bag and then shrink it in the washing machine. So much fun!

This is the scarf I just finished for my knitting class. It is unlikely I will ever knit a scarf again. Sooooo boring. I became very good at colour changes though.

I just finished these leg warmers for Emily. She likes to put them on for a few minutes at a time but has yet to show interest in wearing them for real. They might end up in the dress-up clothes. Knitting these taught me a couple of things: I'll never knit with acrylic again or eyelash stuff; and how to do ribbing.... properly.

Last week I decided to learn how to cable. I taught myself to do it by making this dishcloth. Little expense and not much time. Turns out that cables are very easy. I plan to make a cable sweater someday for yours truly and probably the girls too. Oh, and cable socks.

That's the end of my current show and tell. I'm going to be making Easter bunnies and eggs for the girls soon and a sweater for Hope and Emily and then I really have to turn my attention to some sewing.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The reason I love him should be self-explanatory

This is the Valentine's Day gift that I woke up to this morning from my wonderful, hysterically funny, gorgeous life partner:

And that is why we are perfect for each other.

There is a story behind this that is worth telling. It isn't why this is the most amazing gift ever. That should be evident. It's how John got it.

He wanted to get me one but they're only available from NBC and rather costly at that. So, he settled on something else but hadn't actually bought anything yet and then he saw the Dwight bauble-head in one of his grad student's offices. He admired it, said how much I would love one. Grad Student told John that NBC had mistakenly sent her 4 instead of 1 and did he want one. Hell, ya!

In John's words, karma was on his side that day. And so, I am now the proud and enviable owner of a fully ceramic (no plastic in sight!) Dwight bauble-head.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What's cooking Wednesday

This is Week 2 of my dip back into The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines: China, Greece, Rome. I realized after last week that I really didn't give an introduction to the book beyond my personal history with it. That was an oversight and one that will be corrected tonight. But I'm taking the easy way out and copying this right from Jeff Smith's introduction to his book. Bare with me, it's a lengthy paragraph but worth reading to understand this cookbook.

The necessity for giving credit to previous cuisines, thereby helping you understand your own cuisine, is the reason behind this book. The three ancient cuisines that most influenced the West were those of China, Greece, and Rome. The Chinese did it first. Everything from the first cooked meat to the first domesticated animals to the first metal cooking pot must be credited to the Chinese. And the Greeks! They taught us to make mayonnaise, baked pasta, basic white sauce (Béchamel), fancy breads, the frying pan as we know it today, the stewing pot brought to perfection, the Dutch oven [and here was me thinking it was the Dutch], and the packed lunch. They even taught us to dip our bread in wine, though the Italians and French think it is their custom. Finally, the Romans took a whole style of cuisine from the Greeks, made some wonderful improvements upon it, and then, through their wild and warring travels, took this cuisine to the rest of Europe. When Catherine de Medicis moved to Paris in 1533 to marry Henri II she brought her Florentine cooks with her. The cooking of Paris was radically changed. Credit must be given.
I'm sure you can see why I love this book. He has a way with words that few cookbook authors have. Also, it's not just about food, it's about learning and that's never bad, no matter what Alexander Pope says.

Last week I did some Chinese recipes, this week I wanted to do something Roman and I had chicken so I needed Roman Chicken. There wasn't much to choose from. Seems the ancient Romans didn't eat a lot of meat. I did finally find something that was just right for what was in the cupboard.

Chicken with Sweet Bell Peppers

1 3-pound chicken, cut into serving pieces
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, diced fine
6 flat anchovies, rinsed
4 sweet red bell peppers, cored and cut into 2-inch squares
3 large ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped very coarsely
3 tbsp chopped parsley
1 cup dry white wine
1 tsp whole marjoram

Cut up the chicken. Pan-brown in 1/2 of the oil. Place in stove-top casserole. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Sauté the garlic and anchovies in remaining oil. After about 2 minutes you can mash the anchovies and mix with the oil. Add peppers and sauté a bit. Put all in a casserole along with remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer until tender, 40 minutes.

Recipe notes: If you're shy about anchovies, don't be. They literally melt away and no one will say "hey, I taste anchovies!". In fact, I don't think anyone will even say "hey, I taste fish!". Because you don't. It's just good and easy and the anchovies just add a little something. Watch out for that garlic. Don't burn it and it is easy to do so.

I have a bad cold so I can't really say how this tasted. It seemed pretty good. John said it was okay but not a "wow". The kids wouldn't even taste it but I don't really count their opinion lately because Hope would eat and old tire if it had ketchup on it. I thought it tasted warm. Beyond that my taste buds were a bit dead so I'll just have to rely on John's opinion. Not extraordinary but okay. It was easy, so there's that.

Next week it will be all Greek to me. And if you think that's the last time you've heard that lame joke, you are so mistaken.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Catching up, Volume II

On Saturday morning we went to Cumberland Heritage Village Museum, east of Ottawa, for their Heritage Winter Fun Day. I was desperate to do something outside. I've felt cooped up. We've been playing outside occasionally but not enough and last week I had a touch of cabin fever.

The day was absolutely beautiful. It was only about minus 5 or so, there was no wind and there was light snow falling. Entry was by donation and everything else was entirely free: sleigh rides, cookies and hot chocolate, snow shoeing. There were a couple of exhibitors: a trapper and a dog-sled builder. For me, it was the joy of being outside in winter with our family, walking through the village and just enjoying being together in the big, wide world.

We took our sleds to pull the kids around and it worked perfectly. We really had a great time and now that I've come down with my annual cold (although it is only once a year, it is always a biggie) I'm glad we took advantage of going out because I have no desire to leave the house for quite a while now.

Yes, I know. The hat is awful. Remember from last year? Crime doesn't pay.

I will knit a wonderful, colourful, beautiful hat for myself for next year. For now, I'll continue to live by my winter motto: Sanity, Not Vanity.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Catching up

I feel I'm behind a few posts. I always feel I'm behind a few posts but these posts are the newsy kind, the kind of want to get down so I can look back in years to come and say "yeah, I remember when we did that" or "wow, that felt like a big moment" or "glad I don't have to relive that again!". You know the kind.

The biggest news of last week, aside from the loss of John's bike to some hooligan thieves, was that I registered Emily for Junior Kindergarten. If you're reading this from Canada's Pants, then you might be confused. Up here, in Ontario anyway, we have kindergarten starting at age 4, called, you guessed it, Junior Kindergarten, oft shortened to JK. At age 5? Yup, Senior Kindergarten, oft referred to just as Kindergarten, sometimes SK but that just doesn't roll off the tongue for me.

So, next year is Emily's first walk through the doors of a real school. She was NOT interested in this. NOT wanting to register, NOT wanting to go to the school, NOT wanting to leave Mummy or our house at any point in the future. That pretty much sums up her interest in doing anything outside of the house right now. Each day is a battle if we have something planned where there might be strangers (ACK! STRANGERS! STRANGERS WHO SHE'S MET AT LEAST THREE OR FOUR TIMES BEFORE!). I'll tell ya, 3 is not my favourite so far. My response to all this agraphobia is to ignore, cajole, point out the fun stuff - particularly the fun stuff she is missing out on by sitting in the cloak room for almost the entire morning of preschool (yah, it's that bad) - in no particular order. I'm having some baby-step success. Today at the library program (ACK! BOOKS!), she sat and read books outside the little program area which was fine until she started wandering the library. I gave her one of my usual ultimatums which went something like: "You join in the program or we go home. [whine, yell, protest by Emily] Fine, we're going home. Get your coat. [NOOOOOO! I WANT TO DO THE PROOOOGRAAAAM!] " And then she sang, danced, played instruments like there was no other place she should be at that moment. Karen 1, Emily nada. For today.

And if you think I'm being harsh, that I should let her work it out, sit in the corner if she wants, well, you're wrong. I've tried that. She sits and whines or mopes and she's missing out and sometimes so does Hope and it affects the other kids in some situations. The thing is she isn't really shy, she isn't scared. I think she gets excited and then misinterprets those feelings for fear or shyness. That's my theory after about 3 weeks of this anyway. And I am seeing some progress and no tears. It's just taking a whole lot of patience, consistency and persistence on my part.

All this to say, I had to apply it all again when we got to her school. Her school is beautiful. It is fairly new, has a beautiful atrium at the entrance. The kindergarten kids have their own hall and playground and equipment. There were glass cases of school work and projects in the atrium. That's where I led her after the paperwork was done. And that did the trick. She was into it after that and is positively excited. For now.

It was a big deal for me, signing her up for kindergarten. I didn't think I'd get very emotional but when the secretary asked me "morning or afternoon?" and I choked out "afternoon", I realized it was emotional and actually deciding what part of the day she'd spend away from me made it more absolute, firm, something that would really happen. I'm not sad. It's only 2 and a half hours a day. I'm really excited for her. It's just that it's a big step, a rite of passage, a new path for her and me and all of us.

I haven't yet explained to her that she'll be on this path for the next thirteen years at least, likely more. I'll save that gem for later.

Oh, and on the subject of university. On the way to her school I explained to her why it was important to go to school (she was trying to convince me that she didn't need to go). I ended up talking about how she could go to university one day if she wanted.

E: I go to Carleton someday! With Daddy!
Me: Sure you can.
E: I go in the morning on the train with Daddy. Then I eat lunch every day with Daddy and Jim.
Me: Daddy would love that. That sounds great.
E: I'm going to have pizza.

This whole experience of setting the wheels in motion to have Emily in the public school system, had me quoting one of my mum's favourite quotes to myself all week:

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education ~ Mark Twain

You could say that she lived her life by that, although she certainly was well-schooled, was a teacher by training and vocation, and thought higher-education was something everyone should aspire to. But, I knew exactly what she meant and I hope to guide Emily through her school years with the same philosophy. We won't be letting schooling interfere with your eduction, Emily. But don't think you'll be home-schooled either. Nuthin' doin'.

Well, this catch up post is turning into a doozy so I'm going to end here and give you volume 2 tomorrow.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Goodbye, Friday

Today could have been better. It started out with potential. Julie was going to meet us at the Museum of Civilization and sign us in (she works there when not on maternity leave) so Emily and Hope could wreak havoc in the Children's Museum. Julie was running behind but called to say she'd left her name and that would be enough to get us in if she wasn't there. We went out to get in the car and as I was buckling Hope into her seat I felt something was missing in the garage. I looked up to see an empty bike hook in the ceiling. John's bike was gone.


So, off we go, me feeling so crappy that I have to break this to him and hoping our deductible is less than the usual $500. We got to the museum to find out the parking garage was full. The people denying us entry sent me across the street to the hotel that had parking. I parked the car there, noticed the hideous rates, and then started walking, Hope in my arms, backpack on, clutching Emily's mittenless hands down the street and back to the museum. I didn't have a stroller. None of us had mitts on and I didn't have a hat. The day was not improving.

We went in without a hitch but what the heck were so many people doing there on a Friday? Ottawa doesn't have this many homeschoolers, does it?

Yeah, turns out today is a P.D. day and being that I don't have any kids in the school system yet, I'm not tuned into these things. I vowed last time this happened to me to never go to CMC on a P.D. day.

Again, shit.

So, I chased Emily and Hope through the Children's Museum, heart-pounding whenever we were separated. I saw other parents with the same panic-stricken looks on their faces calling out their child's names, stress lines etched into their faces. There's got to be a better way to do this. Or, we all need to calm down. It would be easier if none of us ever saw an episode of America's Most Wanted.

After a lunch of cold french fries in the cafeteria with Julie (she found us amazingly amongst the other families), we headed back to the car. I paid the parking ($12!) at one of those pay machines which promptly told me I had fifteen minutes to leave the parking lot and went down to the car, loaded the kids in, drove to the exit where I was supposed to stick in my ticket that I was SUPPOSED to have retrieved from the machine when I paid.

Shit, shit, shit!

I threw the car into reverse and somehow navigated the 1960s car park with Austin Mini-sized corridors back to a parking spot. At this point, I may have been testy with Emily's one thousand questions about what we were doing. I may have.

I unbuckled both kids, picked up Hope, grabbed Emily's hand and ran, yes, ran, back to the machine. Remember, I had 15 minutes to be out of the parking lot. I got the ticket (thank my lucky stars it was still there), ran again back to the car, buckled both kids in (I really wish I was a mother in the 1970s today, when I could have thrown them in the back seat and made that El Camino sing!) and drove like the Dickens to the exit where miraculously I made it out before my 15 minutes was up.

We drove home. Hope went to bed and I sat down, called my insurance company and the Police to report John's bike stolen. I called John and told him. He was extremely relaxed about the whole thing which is a lot more than I can say about the way I was feeling right about then.

And, our deductible is $500. So, we're getting a cheque for $580. John had a nice bike.

The sun will come out tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What's cooking Wednesday

This is a new month and therefore tonight I start a new cookbook. The cookbook for February is The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines. This was the first cookbook I bought with my own money. I was in Grade 13 when I bought it. It was the year I really got interested in cooking something other than chocolate chip cookies. My mum and I often watched The Frugal Gourmet on American PBS together that year and this was the cookbook based on that season's show.

I haven't used it in years but it is a great cookbook and I'm really excited about getting to know it again, read the comments I wrote beside the few recipes I tried, and get to know these "three ancient cuisines" (China, Greece and Rome) better. It should be a lot of fun.

Given that tomorrow is the start of Chinese New Year, I figured it would make sense to do a Chinese recipe first. In fact, I did three of them since I saw that he has a whole chapter called Dim Sum (!). When I bought this book, I wouldn't have even known what Dim Sum was. Things have changed since then and now Dim Sum is one of my favourite meals although I've never tried to make any of the dishes at home.

So, tonight I made Pork Shu Mei, Shrimp Boats and Spare Ribs with Black Beans and Pepper Sauce. I bought barbecued pork buns at the Chinese grocery store because it isn't Dim Sum without them but there's no way I was going to make those, too.

John and I thought the spare ribs were the best out of everything, although we loved it all. Emily and Hope wouldn't touch any of it, which blew me away because the last time we went out for Dim Sum I was completely wowed by how much they both ate. I guess it was an off night or they missed the ambiance of the restaurant.

Here is the recipe for the ribs:

1 pound pork spareribs, cut into 1-inch pieces


3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp dry sherry
1 tsp ginger, freshly grated

Blanch ribs in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain well. Soak in marinade for 20 minutes. Heat a wok and fry the ribs until lightly browned. Remove from wok and drain the oil. Add 2 tbsp fresh oil, 3 cloves chopped garlic and 1/2 tsp salt. Fry until the garlic browns just a bit and then add 1 tbsp ferment black beans, rinsed, pinch of sugar and 1 tsp red chili paste. Return the ribs to the wok and toss in the sauce. Place in a steaming dish and steam for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the ribs are very tender.

These went beyond my expectations. I made one major change to the recipe; I didn't steam the ribs. Instead, I let them simmer in the sauce in the wok for about 20 minutes. They tasted amazing and I would do them the same way again. The sauce stuck to them better than it would in the steaming method. I know this because the steaming method is how they do it at Dim Sum restaurants and the ribs are great, but these were better.

Happy Year of the Rat everyone (coming from a Rat herself)!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Forgive and forget

I've mentioned before Emily's complete and total obsession, nay, addiction, with Veggie Tales. It is kid entertainment but as they themselves say, it is also "Sunday morning values. Saturday morning fun." Most episodes are based on an Old Testament story. Each episode ends with "what we learned today." Through Veggie Tales Emily has grasped some moral concepts that can be challenging at three years old. The idea of forgiveness, for example, has taken hold lately. Or so I thought.

We were baking cookies on Saturday. I turned my back for a second. In that second, Emily poked a hole in the bottom of the little bag of cocoa.

Me: Emily, did you just poke that hole in there?
E: Yes.
Me: What do you say?
E: Sorry, Mummy.
Me: I'm not very happy, Emily.
E: I forgive you.
Me: Uh, I'm supposed to forgive you.
E: You forgive me.

Right. Maybe she gets it after all.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Why you should never touch unrecognizable things on the floor when there are kids in the house

Not more than five minutes ago, the following happened.

The girls are in the bath tub. I'm chatting with John in our bedroom just a few steps away (all safety concious out there can rest assured that I could see the girls the whole time). He looks down on the floor and says: "What's this?"

He picks up the unknown object. He screams: "Ahhhhh! It's poop!" and immediately drops it like it was a ball of fire (which it kind of was).

"Whose poop is that? Why is it on the floor? I can't believe I just touched poop. With my bare hands. I'm going to have to burn them now. I'm so disgusted."

I am laughing. I can't talk. I'm laughing that hard.

"It's not funny! Stop laughing!"

I keep laughing. I probably didn't have to tell you that.

"I feel sick. Seriously, I think I might need to vomit."

For those of you who haven't bred yet, welcome to the romance of parenthood. Hey, at least there are some good moments of schadenfreude.

Still laughing.

Digging out

After a relatively easy and mild January, we got dumped on again yesterday. It seems like we got more than we did in the big storm in December, but it could just be because there was still a decent amount leftover from before making the piles seem bigger.

To be honest, if I'm going to live in a winter city, I want it to seem like winter so I really like the occasional big snow storm, as long as the power stays on. We (or John) spent a good part of the morning shovelling.

Here he is post-shovel:

And the pile on its own, revelling in its own formidableness:

Friday, February 01, 2008

Photos of last week

That has to be my most unoriginal post title so far. But, it's only 8:00. I haven't had a latte yet. And I'm listening to Duke and the Great Pie War on the t.v. for the tenth thirtieth fiftieth time.

Last week Omi was here. And what a blessing it was. Not just for Emily and Hope but for me because it turned out to be a crazy week with me running around getting things organized for the new refugee family who had just arrived and our church is sponsoring.

Omi spent most of her week doing crafts, playing store or doctor or Food Network (I wish I had got pictures of that one). Here are some photos from the week: