Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What's cooking Wednesday

The washing machine repair guy was here this morning and he says we need a new timer so we'll be without a washing machine (ACK!) for a week while the old timer is being fixed (thus saving us $100). I will be paying timely visits to friends and family in the area during the next week.

After a two-week hiatus from WCW, I'm back. Last we cooked, I was pulling recipes from the pages of Eat, Shrink and Be Merry by Janet and Greta Podleski. I have at least a couple of weeks left in this book. I might even extend it to publicly try out a few more before moving on to another cookbook.

Today was a soup day. Sure, the sun was shining but the wind was chilly and the temperature hovered around 12 degrees. A while back, my chiropractor told me she loved the soup recipe below from EDandBM. Today was my day to test it out.

Rome on the Range (Roasted tomato and red pepper soup with mini meatballs)

8 large plum tomatoes (about 2 lbs)
2 large red bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp each minced fresh thyme and fresh rosemary (or 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning)
2 cups beef broth, divided
1 cup V8 juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves or 2 tsp dried
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp each salt, freshly ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes

12 oz (340 grams) extra-lean ground beef
1/4 cup minced onions
1/4 cup unseasoned dry bread crumbs
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450F. Coarsely chop tomatoes and combine with red peppers, onion, garlic, olive oil, thyme, and rosemary in a very large roasting pan or on a very large rimmed baking sheet. It's best if veggies are in a single layer. (I roasted these on convection at 400F so was able to put in two trays at a time.)

Place roasting pan in oven on middle rack and roast veggies for 15 minutes. Remove vegetables from oven and give them a quick stir. Return pan to oven on middle rack and turn on the broiler. Broil veg for 10 minutes (so they say. I took them out at 6 minutes. If I'd left them for 10 they would have been burnt).

Meanwhile, prepare meatballs. Combine all meatball ingredients in medium bowl and mix well. Using your hands works best. Form 48 or so mini meatballs using 1 tsp or so of meat mixture per ball. Set aside.

Remove veg from oven. Transfer half the veg to a blender or food processor, along with 1 cup beef broth, and puree until smooth. Transfer pureed veg to a large soup pot. Chop remaining veg into bite-sized pieces and add to pot along with remaining beef broth, V8, basil, balsamic vinegar, sugar, s&p, and crushed red pepper (which I didn't use due to small kids who have not yet developed the palette for hot peppers in any form). (I put all the veg in the food processor and processed until well chopped but not totally smooth. There were still little chunks. This saved time and I really liked the texture.) Bring soup to a boil. Add meatballs. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve with a sprinkling of fresh Parmesan for extra pizazz.

This was a winner in my books. The taste is really nice, although I think it would be even better with fresh basil, which I didn't have. I really, really liked it. It had lots of flavour, was fairly easy and really warmed me up on a cool day. I loved the little meatballs in there. I had two bowls.

This was not a winner for Emily or Hope. Hope refused to try it (she generally shuns all soups) and Emily tried a bite, declared it good but then refused to eat any more.

Eh, what do they know?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Elbow-deep in shit water

As I noted earlier, things have been hum-drum normal around here with little to report that wouldn't bore you to the point where your eyes bleed. I made the mistake of reporting that below and then the gods who oversee Murphy's Laws and the like decided to hit me with some excitement. But not the kind I like. More like the kind I hate.

The cloth diaper pail was full this afternoon so I put them in the washing machine and set it to cold/cold rinse. I always do a cold rinse before I do a hot wash. My old-timer washing machine doesn't have a "soak" cycle so I have to go old school. Anywho, I left them to do their thing and went upstairs to relax and do some knitting while the kiddies slept. I found it odd that almost right away I didn't hear the distinct sounds of our washing machine grinding away. After a while I went downstairs to check on things, hoping to add the soap and send it on to the wash cycle. What I found instead was a washing machine filled with diapers, shit water and making a click, click, click sound as the agitator kept trying and failing to move, spin and drain the water. I sent it back to the start and noticed that it would add more water (I quickly put an end to that) but still would only click instead of drain.

A quick check on the friendly internet told me.... well, that I had problems. Could be a number of things: jammed hose, sock down inside the agitator mechanism, jammed basin, blah, blah, blah, basically I'm screwed.

I left the problem for a while. Okay, okay.... I left it for several hours during which time the Government decided to inform me that I still owe over $300 on my taxes because they're charging me interest for not prepaying my taxes. That is a rant, and boy, will it be a rant, for another day. In fact, my hands are starting to shake typing this I'm that rant-ready.

Back to the story at hand. I donned rubber gloves, got an old Brita jug that will clearly not be used for drinking water again, pulled out all the sopping wet still slightly poopy diapers and put them back in the diaper pail, then started to bail until I could at least see the bottom. I felt around the bottom of the agitator. Nothing obvious. I pulled on it. I pushed it. I may have kicked the machine. Nothing will move. There is no clear way to remove the agitator.

I think we're seriously scah-rood washing machine and laundry-wise and smelly very wet cloth diaper-wise.

Of course this had to happen: (a) when I was washing diapers; not when I was washing regular clothes with no poop adhered to them and (b) during a time when I am trying not to spend any money. Yes, I do note that I haven't mentioned that little project since I first announced it and that could be because I'm not being as strict with myself as I should be see Exhibit A bag full of new yarn upstairs, $10 baby doll bought for Hope today, little shopping at Ikea last week.

John is currently asking for the manual. This could get worse before it gets better.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

It's been a while

I was so on my game with blogging last week, what with all the cool stuff we were doing in Texas. Since I've been back I've been noticeably absent. I just haven't had much to say that would interest anyone. I certainly didn't find myself terribly interesting.

The kids are back in the swing of things although for the first time we're struggling getting them readjusted to our time zone. They still do best getting to bed and getting up late. That needs to change.

I had a bit of a cold coming home but it seems to be gone now.

Emily's preschool and the rest of her programs are winding up now.

John leaves for his major annual conference on Saturday. I have to teach Sunday School with both Emily and Hope in tow next week. Eek!

See? Not interesting. Not interesting at all. That was my week. Just normal. Normal is good too after a big adventure.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Home safe. Tired. Accidentally stole Beth's flip flops.

More tomorrow.

Outlet shopping, hot weather: Austin Day 7

This will be a quick one.  Last night was much better sleep-wise.  I kept the girls up later, which helped Hope go to sleep quickly but Emily was beyond tired; that meant meltdowns.  They are still sleeping now and it is heading towards 8:00.  Hope was only up once and I didn't have to get out of bed to get her back to sleep.

Yesterday we went outlet shopping in Round Rock, a suburb of Austin.  I bought a lot of clothes at the Carters outlet.  We also stopped at Ikea.  We spent the afternoon at home.  It was stinking hot yesterday and too hot to play outside.  At the end of the day I cracked pecans on the front porch and that was that.

Today is all packing and getting ready for the big plane ride.  The kids are so excited to see John.  Me too.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hiking, burgers, swimming: Austin Day 6

My kids wore me out to the point last night that I had no energy left to write. The kids, no, the kid, has been really hard to put to bed the last two nights. Emily is consistent as usual: stories, bed, look at books on her own, go to sleep. Hope is a pain in the ass. Last night it took me an hour and a half to get her to sleep and with Emily and Hope in the same room it presents some serious challenges and frustrations. Hope jumps in her crib, talks or yells, cries, screams. Emily, after about 30 minutes of this was screaming at Hope and it all just sucked. After all that, I was done. No energy for anything except some wine and t.v.

Yesterday morning I grabbed Beth's big red bike, my favourite bike in the world, and went out to get milk and some treats for breakfast. Afterwards I took the kids to the park and we let Kate have a good morning nap. After Kate was back up we went to Turkey Creek for a hike. I had no idea how Emily would fair on a real hike that wasn't flat and root free and would require her to actually walk instead of ride in a stroller. She did so well. She walked almost the entire way only requiring to ride on shoulders for the last five minutes or so. The creek was really cool. We walked in the creek for a good way. It was a limestone bottom so it was easy to walk on and the water was really clear and shallow. It felt so cool on our feet. As we walked in it we found a lot of tadpoles that were pretty big. Emily loved finding them camouflaged against the bottom.

After the hike we drove over to a local hamburger joint in the area. It was right on the "lake". It's actually a river but everyone here calls it a lake. Odd, that. Lining the lake were huge, enormous houses. Seriously big. And parked in front and all around the restaurant were the big ski boats owned by the Richie Riches who own the houses. The restaurant seemed like the place to be on the river and the food was pretty good. I went local and ordered a basket of fried okra. Way better than fried zucchini by the way. Hope was really into the onion rings.

Oh yeah, and Beth dyed her hair purple. Ta-da!

After filling ourselves with hamburgers, pizza and okra we then drove over to the bigger part of the "lake" and swam at the park. There were tons of families there who clearly parked themselves there for the day. I saw one family who had brought their giant baby swing with them. Most families were having serious barbecues. There were lots of Mexican families cooking amazing-smelling food. Every kid in the place was in the water. It was fun but Hope thought the water was too cold so I couldn't really enjoy myself in the water with Emily because Hope was in my arms the whole time. If I put her down, she made a run for it.

There were some opportunities for people watching. I had to take sneak some photos because.... yeah.

We were all pretty spent after that. All three kids fell asleep in the car. Kate woke up first but my two kept sleeping in there long after we'd arrived home. The rest of the evening you already know. Kate is essentially making Hope look bad by being easier to put to bed and staying asleep longer, at least last night. I think Hope has also scared Beth and Graeme into being a one-kid family. She's funny, cute, a real character but also AGH! makes a person want to drink.... a lot. This post kind of reads like a slam on poor Hope. I love the kid to death.... you all know that. She's just proving challenging the last two days and nights. Right now though she is happily playing make-believe in our room with Emily and life seems just right.

Today is going to be lower-energy: some IKEA shopping, the Carter's outlet, maybe take Emily's kite for its first flight if the winds are right. Beth's friend, Marlene, is coming for supper. Should be a nice day. I have a new plan for sleep tonight too: no naps today, later bedtime, and if necessary, solitary confinement.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Mini-putt, a nap (!) and barbecue: Austin Day 5

Today started off a bit rough.  I may have tripped over the power cord of Beth's laptop, sending if flying off the coffee table and crashing onto the floor.  It is dead.  I killed it.  Apparently it is repairable but.... oops.

After that things got better.  This morning after a beautiful walk to Walgreens and through the Intramural Fields, we all, and by all I mean Graeme this time too, took part in a competitive game of mini golf.  And by competitive I mean no scores, balls thrown by hand through various hazards, Hope eating raisins on the greens, the usual when playing any sport with children.  Yes, I just referred to mini golf as a sport.

Emily and Hope had a lot of fun mini-golfing.  The grown-ups did too.  Graeme and I particularly liked watching Beth attempting to get her ball anywhere remotely near where it was supposed to go.  Okay, she had a couple of holes in one but so did Emily.  

After a few holes Hope got tired, gave up her stick (what we aficionados call the golf club) and her ball and sat down for a mid-round snack.  Luckily no one was playing behind us.  We may have irritated a few people had that been the case.  

The course was heavily used by families with young children.  I almost beaned a couple of them with my wicked swing.  I did have to intervene at the end when I saw two boys peering into the ends of some PVC tubing that is the exit point of the balls on the last hole.  I think I saved them some expensive reconstructive surgery.

After a sno-cone, which caused great friction between my two girls, we headed home for lunch and naps.  Yeah, right.  Naps.  I live in such a delusionary state.  However, today Hope napped!  It took  thirty minutes of persistence on my part but it paid off today.  Emily stayed in her room over an hour so at least I got a decent break.

After everyone was awake, a few of Beth's friends joined us and we all headed en masse to the official barbecue captial of Texas: Lockhart.  Specifically, Kreutz's Barbecue in Lockhart.  Lockhart is a small town known for two things: barbecue and the filming location of that blockbuster hit Screen Door Jesus.  Yeah, I'd never heard of it either.  Actually, a lot of films were made their according to the Lockhart website, including What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Waiting for Guffman.  All the others I think are in a similar category to Screen Door Jesus.  The category of "WTF?"

During all my other visits to Austin we go to the Salt Lick for BBQ and we love it.  But this place kind of makes every other BBQ joint seem a bit bush-league.  The BBQ pits at this place take up an entire room.  The room is smoking hot.  The open fire is right near your feet.  The meat is carved on a middle table, weighed, laid on butcher's paper and handed to you.  No utensils, no sauce, just meat.  In their words, they have nothing to hide so they don't give you sauce.  But, you don't need it.  The meat is seriously tender and full to the brim with smoky charcoal flavour.  You know it entering the place.  You step out of the car and your nose is filled with the smell of charcoal and burning wood.  Your mouth begins to water immediately.  Well, unless you're a vegetarian.  Of course, if you're a vegetarian it is unlikely you'll find yourself in Lockhart.  Or in Texas, for that matter.

We filled ourselves with meat.  Well, most of us did.  My girls filled themselves with Wonder Bread and pickles.  And strawberry ice cream.  I mean, why eat succulent ribs when you can eat spongy white bread?  I guess it was a treat for them since I deprive them of the stuff.  Emily once asked me: what's white bread?  At that moment, I felt I'd succeeded in parenting.  Emily did eat some pork ribs.  She really liked those.  Mostly she liked the ice cream and bread.

That's it for our day.  It was another great one.  I know it was because the kids were filthy by the end of it.  Have no idea what's on for tomorrow but you'll hear about it here.   

Friday, May 16, 2008

Dino dig, Amy's ice cream, lack of sleep: Austin Day 4

Hope only got up once last night and briefly so thanks for your good wishes. If only it would extend to naps. There must be some invisible force field around Texas that wards off naps of any kind. It's working on my kids.

This morning we went to the Nature and Science Center in Zilker Park. It's an animal sanctuary for rescued animals (small and medium-sized) and has a lot of hiking trails and preserved areas to encourage the snake, turtle and fish populations. It was great. The kids loved it. There were lots of animals to see and great trails that led us around the Center. At the end of our tour we ended up in their Dino Dig area. It is a large series of sandy pits in which are buried replicas of dinosaur fossils and bones. There are plastic shovels and brushes laying everywhere for the kids to use to uncover and discover the fossils. Emily LOVED it. It was hard to get her to leave, in fact. Hope had fun too but wasn't as effective at unearthing the fossils. The Center had an added bonus: admission is free.

From there we went to Amy's Ice Cream, an institution in Austin. We went to the location with a playground. By the time we got there Kate and Hope were sound asleep so Beth stayed in the van with them while Emily and I had some alone time eating ice cream and playing on the climbers. Okay, she climbed, I sat.

After that it was lunch at home, the ongoing struggle to get my kids to nap (I'm failing miserably and I don't know why) and then we walked to Central Market for groceries and some more playground time. There is a big playground right beside Central Market so parents can grab a glass or bottle of wine, sit on a bench and watch their kids climb. Seriously, the patio is fully licensed and the playground is pretty much part of the patio. A sweet, sweet deal and one that definitely needs to be replicated in Ottawa.

Our only firm plan for tomorrow is barbecue in Lockhart. We still have to discuss other ideas. My idea for the rest of the night is a bit of knitting and a lot of sleeping.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ladybird's flowers, taco time, storm cleanup: Day 3 in Austin

There was a crazy storm here last night. I woke up around 3:00 to lots of thunder, lightening, wind and lots of hail. It lasted a while. I didn't get out of bed to have a good look but I wish I did, since I was out of bed trying to coax Hope back to sleep anyway. Beth went out to the porch and saw a piece of hail the size of a baseball. This morning there were big branches down in the back yard and all over the streets nearby. Leaves are covering the streets like carpet. We didn't have internet access all day. I told Beth we were living like pioneers, no internet and all that. I mean, how did they cope? Turns out we were better off than 10,000 other people in Austin who were without power most of the day. 8,500 people are still without power and some people had drifts of hail two feet high in their yards. Crazy Texas storms.

Anywho, this morning we went to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. It was really great, better than we expected. Beth and I both expected meadows of wildflowers but it was actual gardens that were very naturalized. There were some really interesting flowers, all native to this area of Texas. The butterfly garden was devoid of butterflies today. I think they were still in hiding after the storm. We did see a bunch of very cool caterpillars though. Emily ended up seeing most of the garden in her socks because she has so many mosquito bites on her feet that it hurt to wear shoes. It was a bit funny actually apart from the nerdy tragedy of it.

From there we headed to Maria's Taco Express, Beth's and my favourite taco place in Austin. Hope spilled juice all over herself. Emily and Hope ate nacho chips and sour cream for lunch.

Neither of my kids napped today. After I tried in vain for an hour to get either of them to sleep, we went out and cleaned up the damage in Beth's back yard and then cracked open pecans on the front porch. From there we went to the playground nearest Beth's house. It's a great playground. It's fairly small but it rules. It's completely shaded, the climber/equipment thingy has 4 slides. Four! Both my kids love it. It will probably be our routine at the end of each day before supper.

I made ugly rice paper roll-ups for dinner but they tasted good. At about 4:00 things went a bit awry around here after another great day. The kids, after pushing through missing their naps, started to get whiny and squirrly. Emily stayed in decent mood but decided to contribute to the growing mayhem of Hope and Kate by asking me for something, anything every 15 seconds or so until she went to bed at 7:30. Let's just say that by bath time, I was feeling a bit testy. I tried to be understanding with Hope seeing that I discovered two canines popped through during the last 24 hours. Seriously, I could use one full night of sleep though. That would make this vacation perfect.

I'm not sure what we're up to tomorrow. It's still under discussion but be rest assured, it will be great!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dentist, Children's Museum and Farmers' Market: Day 2

This morning Beth had a dentist appointment so I was on deck with all three kids and you know what? Not so bad. In fact, it went great. Granted it was only an hour but still... it was actually fun although I don't think I actually sat down the entire time and I may have forgotten to put on deodorant in the midst of the activity and running between kids. It did give me a glimpse of what life would be like with three kids albeit for a short time. Hope would be the typical problem middle child: jealous, cranky, just out of sorts. With two kids, she's gold. Not sure what that means for our future but it was interesting anyway. I spent the time playing train, singing train songs along with a Kindermusik CD I had with me and then feeding them snack. Under me, Kate's breakfast was Mum Mums and Veggie Booty. She seemed to like it though.

After Beth got back we went to the Austin Children's Museum. With a membership to the Science and Tech Museum in Ottawa, we all got in free. With parking the entire morning cost us three dollars. Sweet deal all around. The Children's Museum was just the right size - not too big to be overwhelming but big enough to give the kids lots to explore. They LOVED it. There was so much to touch and push and pull and bang. It had the best craft area I've ever seen; even Mr. Dressup would have been jealous.

From there we came home for lunch. Hope and kate took giant naps. Emily refused and drew, played, lounged and then she and I played outside for a bit. After everyone was up, we walked to the Farmer's Market. I love that place. We went last fall when I was here after Kate was born and I was happy to find the ice tea people were there again. I stocked up on my stash of Hibiscus Mint tea to take home.

There is a sprinkler pad in the park where the market takes place. I stripped Emily and Hope down to underwear/diaper (I forgot the bathing suits) and they went to town. Well, Emily went to town. Hope didn't like the big spouts of water. Emily? She went berserk for it as you can see from the action shot. It was great. It wasn't as great that we also forgot towels. Ah well, with the hot weather, she felt cool anyway as she drip dried.

After the splashing, I bought ice tea, tacos and rotisserie chicken and bread and we had a picnic. Kate didn't get any of the chicken, at least not until later, but she went kooky for the ice tea. After eating we walked back home. Our transportation arrangement on foot is Emily in the Chariot, Kate on Beth's back and Hope on mine. Needless to say, I sweat a bit. The market was really fun. I loved today. I loved it as much as yesterday. And, Hope and Emily successfully fell asleep a few minutes ago in the same room. Same room! I only had to go back in twice. Some kind of record for this wee family.

Tomorrow we're thinking of making it an adult day and dragging the kids along and making them thing it is all for them: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Maria's Taco Express, and yarn shop. Ooh aah.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Flights, delays, arrival and Day 1

We're here. It took almost 10 hours, instead of 5, but we're here. We got through security and customs easily this time, unlike last time, although Emily was freaked out by walking through the metal detector on her own. After that it was just big adventure for her. Hope was put out, to put it mildly, that she didn't get her own seat like Emily did. She got over it when she discovered the in-flight magazine. She loved that thing.

When we got on board we sat on the runway for a long time. When we finally took off, Hope had a full tantrum in my arms. She had fallen asleep for only a few minutes but woke up with a start. That sent her over the edge. She was scratching me, hitting me, throwing my glasses. She hated that I was holding her through her rage. She wanted down; unfortunately we were going up so I had to hang on to her. When we finally were done the initial take-off, I put her on the floor between my legs and within two minutes or so she was done and watching a DVD. She was asleep in another five. She slept on me for the next three hours. My ass was so sore and numb that I was biting my lip to divert the pain. My arm was killing me from propping up her head. Having a 20-month old on your lap for a 3-hour flight sucks. On the way home, I'll be looking for an empty seat and carrying that extra car seat wherever I have to go to get that seat. It will be so worth it. Yeah, and then we all slept like crap last night because I accidentally turned off the ceiling fan and it is damn humid here.

And now the complaining will end because today was great. Really great. Really, really great. After a leisurely start to the day, we headed to Zilker Park and rode the Zilker Zephyr, a little train that runs through the park. The kids, but mostly the adults loved it. Emily even brought her own train whistle with her which completely tickled the train driver guy. I hesitate to call him an engineer. He steered.

From there we shared the biggest snow cone I have ever laid a spoon on. After that sugar break, the kids played on the expansive playground and then we walked down to the Creek (Barton, to be exact) to see the turtles. After scaring them into the water, the kids stripped naked and splashed around for a long time. It was amazing to watch them and their white little bums frolicking in the water.

After that it was lunch at home, naps (although Hope refused that) and then off to Beth's local park for more play before supper. Everyone is quiet now; Beth and I are knitting and I may have a glass of wine at some point before heading to bed to catch up on the sleep I missed last night.

I did take a bunch of pictures but my card reader is in the suitcase in the bedroom where the girls are sleeping so I'll post them tomorrow instead as an edit to this post.

Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy so we'll probably go to the Children's Museum and then to the Farmer's Market at the end of the day for a picnic. All is well in Texas. And hot. Beth says this isn't hot but coming from Ottawa, this is damn hot. My hair is all frizzy, Hope's is adorably curly (more than usual), Emily's curls are back, I'm always sweaty, the air smells like blossoms and barbecue. Life is good.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Happy Birthday, self

I had a great birthday on Saturday. We went to the Farm, one of our family's favourite spots in Ottawa, I got a bunch of time to myself to do some errands ahead of going to Texas today, I did not have to feed the kids lunch or put them to bed for their naps, and then John and Emily made me a great birthday dessert of homemade strawberry shortcake. I took a picture of it but my camera is now deep inside my suitcase.

For Mother's Day yesterday we went to John's brother and sister-in-law's house for an amazing Brazilian churrasco. Cibele's dad who is visiting from Brazil with her mum, grilled all the meat and her mum made all the accoutrements. It was amazing. I was so full I didn't eat supper.

I am now in the last stages of packing for our flights this afternoon. I plan to blog everyday and post photos so keep checking in for a daily vacation log.

Until Texas....

Friday, May 09, 2008

My fallible memory

My memory is getting short, shorter by the day it seems and thus I am very thankful for this blog. I need to record things, family moments mostly, so that in a few years, let's be honest a few months if not weeks, I can see what we've been doing and relive the best moments and even the worst of our days. Mostly, I want to be able to read about my most special times with John and the girls because lord knows I can't trust myself to remember even when I think, in the moment, that I'll never forget "this very moment, right now; I'll commit it to memory and never forget." A few days later, it is likely filed away and starting to fade. I hate that. I hate that about fatigue. My memory is the first to go.

I feel lately like I'm living in a fog. I can't quite see behind me as clearly as I should. I want to relive special moments from Emily's babyhood but they are blurry and that bothers me so much. And so, the blog and my thankfulness for it. Of course it's usefulness as a memory jogger actually requires me to use it to record things, certainly more often than I do now. Like yesterday when I was walking with Hope to the sand box just a short walk down the path behind our house. She was holding my hand like she almost always does when she walks beside me. Her hand was cold. Her fingers were pointed up towards my arm. All four of them. Her thumb was squeezing the back of my hand. She was wearing her blue fuzzy Guess hoodie jacket that I bought used for Emily when Emily was tiny. It has matching pants that make her look like a teddy bear. Hope loves that jacket, even though it is a little too small for her now, and always wants the hood to be up, which it was yesterday. Her hair, her luscious curly, corn silk hair, was sticking out the front all around the hood. Her cheeks were framed by the tight hood making them seem even bigger than they are, which seems almost impossible. They are huge without the hood. They were rosy. Her eyes were glued to the sand box in the distance as she tottered along in her traditional sideways slightly pigeon-toed gait. She walked the entire way without asking me to pick her up. That was the first time she walked the whole way. When we got there she made me pretend hamburgers and stew and dessert and whatever I asked for. She climbed out through the window of the sandbox house. I carried her home and she buried her face in my shoulder because of the cold wind and I nestled my nose into those wisps of hair escaping from her hood.

I never want to forget it. I will though and when I do, I'll read this and enjoy that I loved that moment and planned to remember it for the rest of my life.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

What's cooking Wednesday: the Thursday edition

Last night I stood in line at Wal-mart for twenty minutes after trying on virtually everything in the store and finding only t-shirts that fit me. I guess I deserve that for trying to buy clothes at Wal-mart. Following that I waited at Shoppers Drug Mart for twenty minutes for a prescription to be filled. After all that, I was too dang tired to post for WCW and so today we have What's Cooking Wednesday: the Thursday edition.

Before I get on with that let me draw your attention to two new items I just posted in my Etsy shop. Very cute, very for sale!

All right then, on with Week 2 of Eat, Shrink and Be Merry, the newest cookbook pulled off my shelf though often ignored and the newest cookbook from my favourite Polish sisters, Janet and Greta Podleski. I have to admit that this recipe is now a standby for me. I haven't used this cookbook often but when I do it is probably for this recipe. Put simply, it's hamburgers. But these hamburgers are perfection. We love them. I don't try any other recipes. And with a bit of tweaking, they are now perfected, in my humble opinion.

Cowabunga Beef Burgers

1 1/4 lbs extra-lean ground beef
3/4 cup fresh whole wheat bread crumbs or 1/3 cup dry unseasoned bread crumbs (if you have left over bread, save it, stick it in the blender or food processor and make your own fresh bread crumbs. They are way better than the dried fine ones.)
3 tbsp hickory-flavoured barbecue sauce (don't use a regular bbq sauce - it has to be hickory or smoked. It's the secret of this recipe.)
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (eh, optional in my opinion)
2 tsp prepared horseradish (to be honest, I rarely have it so it often doesn't go in but I've used it once and it was good, but not really necessary if you don't have it)
1 egg
1 tsp minced garlic
chopped cooking onion or green onion, as much as you like (this isn't in the recipe but it is a must. It makes the burger even better.)
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
extra bbq sauce for basting while they grill

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix gently using your hands. Shape meant into 4 large patties, about 1 inch thick.

Preheat grill to high. Grill burgers about 5-6 minutes per side. Baste with extra sauce last two minutes of cooking time. Do not press down on burgers during cooking or you'll end up with dry burgers.

Serve on whole-grain buns with favourite toppings. We add cheese while on the bbq and I serve them on the awesome PC thin hamburger buns.

Juicy, flavourful, delicious. Welcome summer!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Tulip time is happy time

It's tulip time in Ottawa. That usually means tourists driving very slowly (not considering that people actually live here) on the Queen Elizabeth Parkway, bus loads of Japanese tourists, lemonade stands charging $3 a glass, and rainy weather. Of course, it also means loads and loads of beautiful tulips; tulips so overwhelming in their colour that your eyes have trouble processing it and I can never get a photo that really captures how beautiful it is. I'm going to subject you to my feeble attempts nonetheless.

We decided to go down to Dow's Lake last night, the main site of the Tulip Festival, since it was great weather and it seemed we wouldn't really get another chance before I left for Austin (just six more days!). We had an early-ish supper and headed out hoping the crowds and parking wouldn't be too difficult. We were right on both counts.

The tulips were beautiful. The National Capital Commission never fails to impress me with the stunning colours and variety of tulips they plant. The beds look like ocean waves swelling through the park. It is truly amazing every year and probably my favourite festival for its shear beauty (although the Beaver Tails at Winterlude make that festival a contender for top spot).

This year Emily was wowed by the tulips, stopping to sniff each bed, point out the ones we were coming up to, running ahead to get to them first. I love her enthusiasm for life. Going to an event like this is a showcase for that part of her personality and I look forward to it every time we do something special or out of the ordinary. I can't wait for our trip to Austin and her first ride in a big plane since she was a baby. I imagine she won't stop talking for the full five hours it takes to get there.

I took several decent photos but as hard as I tried neither kid would allow me to get a family photo in front of the tulips. In fact, I really don't have any good photos of a parent with these two. It's a pipe dream. This is as good as it got:

Emily however hammed it up a few times for the camera.

One of my favourite little games at the Tulip Festival is to spot the imperfections in the beds: a tulip bulb moved by a squirrel or a few mixed up with the wrong variety. This year was the winner; look at this tulip:

One loan red petal on a yellow tulip. So cool.

And I did find one bed with a few adoptees. These little surprises remind me of Old Order Mennonite quilts. The women who make them purposely place one piece of fabric in the wrong direction or in the wrong place because, they say, that only God can make anything perfect. I really like the beauty you find in things that are considered to be imperfect.

Hope practised her sniffing which I had to capture on video. Do you hear that snort? (Admittedly, it is a little hard to hear.) That is Hope's method of sniffing.

Emily walked the whole time we were there. Hope begged to be carried most of the time. So, Emily and I were both tired at the end but I managed to stay awake on the ride home. I can't say the same for her.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

I'll knit for money

I've decided to throw caution to the wind, put myself on the line and open an Etsy store.

Please shop there. I need the cash. The stuff I make isn't so bad either. If you're not picky.

Here is my first offering:

Okay, so I only have one item up there so far because I took a seriously crappy photo of a very funky bag I made. Must redo that to do it justice.

Here is my Etsy shop. I kind of like the banner. Not bad for 30 minutes work.

Now I get to brag about the other things I've knit lately. Check it out:

This is the first (and only) sweater I have made, so far. It's for Hope when her birthday rolls around in September. Me? I like to start early.

And this is the funky bag photographed really badly. Still, I wanted to show it off. I love how the little cell phone/iPod holder turned out.

That's my Bring and Brag for tonight. If you know a newborn who is crying out for a strawberry hat, you know where I am.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The first story for her wedding

Last night was the second of three birthday parties we have been to or will be to this week. Last night it was Emily's best friend Nevan's 4th birthday party. We love Nevan's parties because it is just as much for the adults as it is for the kids. It is always intimate - just three kids and their three siblings, parents and last night Nevan's grandparents were there, too. It was a lot of fun for everyone.

The adults were enjoying the dinner table to themselves, having wine, laughing, engrossed in their conversation while the kids, who had finished eating, were in the basement playing superheroes etcetera when I heard John beside me gasp "What the?" Silence hit the table. I looked beside me to see Emily, pants and underwear in a heap beside her on the floor, bent over, ass pointed at me, hands grabbing each cheek spreading them wide saying: "Mummy, can you check my bum? I went poop."

It was one of those moments where you think "this can't be real. This is a Dave Barry moment. It doesn't really happen, right?". And yet, there we were.

I scooped Emily up and took her down to the bathroom where I did the requested check. (As a quick explanation, she is just learning to wipe her own bum after the twosies and needs a little check to make sure everything is as it should be.) She kept asking me what was so funny. I couldn't stop laughing. I told her that the grown-ups just told a joke that I hadn't heard before and it was really funny. That satisfied her. I wasn't going to use that perfect, universe-stopping moment, that moment I will remember the rest of my life, that will most definitely be talked about at her wedding and told to her own children, to give her a lesson on appropriate behaviour in front of other people. It was too good to ruin it with that sort of thing. She bought the joke answer.

I'm guessing everyone else will remember it, too. I'm pretty sure they all thought it was one of the highlights of the evening.

Until I fell asleep last night I kept spontaneously laughing. The only thing that would have made it better would be if I could tell my mum about it. She would have loved that one.