Saturday, November 29, 2008

Destination: elsewhere

I'm currently sitting at a desk at a slightly crappy Best Western (isn't that kind of the definition of Best Western) in the northern extremes of Toronto.  We just arrived.  The girls are colouring.  John is flipping through the channels.  Our end destination is Kitchener for our friend Greg's surprise birthday party.  He's turning 40.  

We had grand plans to leave Ottawa early and get to Toronto in time to go to the Ontario Science Centre.  Hah!  We left later than we planned of course but made good time and although we won't be going to the Science Centre today, we did go to the Sandy Lion sticker outlet that is mere minutes from our hotel.  I spent $50 and supplied us in stickers for a very long time to come.  Like years.

Tomorrow we'll try and get to the Science Centre before visiting family and friends in Toronto before heading to Kitchener.  It will be whirlwind visit but we're billing it as a family adventure.  The kids are buying it so far.  

And now, to the pool!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

She makes me look so good

Today I had the thrill of meeting live and in person Andrea of A Peek inside the Fishbowl. First of all, she's as nice as all get out and we had a great chat over some good coffee.

This wasn't a chance meet-up however. Andrea contacted me about a week ago and asked if I would be interested in a barter of sorts: baking from me for food photography from her. My answer was:

Um, yeah. In a heartbeat.

Andrea blew away my expectations. She is truly an artiste with a camera. She took many, many beautiful photos. I'm just giving you a taste of them below.

I'm not going to introduce each one. I'll just let them speak for themselves in regards to her skill as a photographer and the baking that I'm offering through my new business, Sugarplum Fairy Homebaking. All of this could be yours! My price list and list of recipes is on the site.

Thanks, Andrea!

All photos by Andrea Tomkins

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What's cooking Wednesday

Hmmm, what's cooking?

A heck of a lot of cookies. And sorry, not sharing the recipes this time. If you live in Ottawa and want cookies, I'd be happy to sell them to you.

And the camera is upstairs but I'll post a photo tomorrow so you can see the cookiepalooza that went down around here the last two days.


Monday, November 24, 2008

The ups and downs of starting your own business

You know, the romance of starting your own business dies after your fourth or fifth night of being up until midnight designing business cards, searching for inexpensive business labels, costing out recipes, and developing price lists and packages.

So far, I really love the creative process of this. I am also excited by the responses I'm getting from people. I'm also feeling a bit overwhelmed by the realization that, damn, I'm going to be doing a lot of baking between now and Christmas. I had grand plans to adopt Andrea's Christmas Challenge and bake our own gingerbread house (rather than buying a pre-baked version from Loblaws) but I'm thinking that those things, particularly the gingerbread house baking, aren't going to happen. I still want the lead-up to Christmas to be really special for the girls and not be dominated by a mother who is covered in flour and frazzled nerves barking demands for "more baking soda, damn it! Stat!"

This weekend we're heading to Toronto and Kitchener and I'm really looking forward to a few days away to mull everything over, make some mental lists and get my head around the way I'm going to organize my time to manage this well and still be a really good mère Noel, as my friend Julie says.

And for tonight, as the first batch of shortbread bakes, I've promised myself a good veg in front of the tv before I head to bed exactly at 10:00 and no later.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Welcome to Sugarplum Fairy Homebaking... now with prices and products and stuff!

I'm all set. I feel like I should cut a ribbon or bust open a bottle of champagne or do something other than sit alone in front of my computer. Alas, tis the life of a new entrepreneur.

So, without further ado, I now officially declare Sugarplum Fairy Homebaking open for business!

Is that the phone I hear ringing and people knocking at my door? Oh, nope. Just the t.v.

Seriously, please do go over to the website of Sugarplum Fairy Homebaking and check out what I have to offer, the prices and descriptions of recipes. And, if you're in the Ottawa area, I'd love to do some holiday baking for you!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Prices are done!

And people out there are going to get a good deal, I think. In then end, in the Christmas Sampler, people would get 9 dozen cookies (that's about 108) for $50. That's less than .50 per cookie and there is a great variety, lots of decadence, all yummy, lots of chocolate. I think people would be really happy with this.

I'll post full prices sometime tomorrow with the whole lay out and seriously start my marketing campaign.


Almost there

I'm almost done figuring out my prices for Sugarplum Fairy Homebaking. Wow, it takes more time than you'd think. But thanks to my sweet friend, Mathieu, chef extraordinaire, I'm almost done. Chefs have formulas and spread sheets that we lay people don't have. Thank goodness he likes me enough to share with me! Thanks, Mathieu!

So, in a day or so I'll have the price list up and start getting word out to friends, ex-co-workers etc. Exciting!

And tiring.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What's cooking Wednesday

A few days ago I found myself with one really nice steak defrosted from the freezer. It would have been enough on its own for John and I as it was really thick but I wanted to stretch it out in a different way so I didn't just have a big slab of meat on my plate (which I don't mind sometimes but I didn't want that night). I had the brilliant idea of grilling it, slicing it and turning it into my own version of Philly Cheesesteak Pizza. Good idea, eh?

I didn't take a photo. I really didn't have time as the pizza was gone so fast!

Karen's Philly Cheesesteak Pizza (sort of)

1/4 cup pizza sauce
1/4 cup barbecue sauce of your liking (I used a smoky one I brought home from Texas last time)
grilled steak (make sure it is decent quality)
1 green pepper, sliced thin
1 onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper
shredded cheese (I used a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella because that is what I had)
one pizza crust (I made my own from my standard recipe which is upstairs in the kitchen right now so I'm not going to be providing it since I don't want to run upstairs. Sorry. Use whatever pizza recipe or store bought version that you like)


1. In small bowl mix pizza sauce and barbecue sauce and set aside.
2. Season steak on both sides with salt and pepper and put on hot grill.
3. Saute peppers, onions in hot pan. Season with salt and pepper. Add oregano. When almost done (but still a bit crisp) add garlic and cook one more minute.
4. Preheat oven to 425F.
5. Remove steak from grill when done to your liking. Cover and set aside.
6. Roll out pizza crust. Cover with sauce mixture.
7. Slice steak thinly and in bite-size pieces and spread all over pizza.
8. Spread pepper mixture over steak.
9. Cover with shredded cheese.

Now, I know this isn't really Philly Cheese Steak. It's more like a steak sandwich on a pizza. But I like the title so I'm sticking with it.

This was REALLY good. John and I both raved. Emily ate it up too and she doesn't normally like steak. Hope won't touch pizza. Raving lunatic.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Geology would be a lot more interesting if Emily taught it

A couple of weeks ago, we were driving home from somewhere when the following conversation took place:

Emily: Mummy, what's IN the world?
Me: What do you mean?
Emily: We're on the world, but what's inside it?
Me: Well, there is dirt, and then under the dirt is lots and lots of rock and then in the middle it is really hot and filled with liquid rock called lava.
Emily: And that's where the robots live.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

New business venture!

Hey ho, I just decided to open my own little business! Maybe nothing will come of it but if something does then I at least added a bit to our meagre coffers.

My business' name is Sugarplum Fairy Homebaking. For people out there who either don't like to bake or just don't have the time this Christmas/Holiday Season, I will do it for you. I have great recipes that are tested and loved, I'm a darn good baker, and I love to do it, so I figured, why not offer my services to others (for the right amount of money of course).

If all goes well, I'll continue past December and do as my mum did with her baking business and cater for whatever people would need me for.

I'll deliver to your door, through December and New Years if you're in the Ottawa area.

I've set up a little blog to give people more information. I hope this works. I have no idea what to expect but if you're in Ottawa and you need some baking, please forego Loblaws and contact me. My email is on the right or check out my new blog at

So, if you were doing this, how would you get word out? I have some ideas but I'd love to hear yours!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Letters to Santa

We're ahead of the game over here. Today the girls wrote their letters to Santa. We want to be the first and second on that mail stack. As in previous years, here they are verbatim (oh, this is Hope's first year writing to Santa. Okay, I did the writing and she supplied a few words):

Emily's Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

Happy Christmas!

This Christmas I would like a toy airplane. I would also like a boy dolly to play with, please.

I would also like a new Christmas decoration to hang on our tree.

Do you have a red lights or any bells? How do you make brown? Where do you get your reindeer?


Hope's Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I would really like a big girl bed, please. I would also like a blue princess dress. My sister Mimi (Emily) would like a crown. She forgot to tell you.

Do your reindeer draw?

Merry Christmas!

Love Hope

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What's cooking Wednesday

Emily's teacher, Mrs. B, asked parents to make play dough during the year for the students to use in her class. I did September and I used her play dough recipe. It is by far the best play dough recipe I've come across so far. In fact, this week I made three batches for home and the kids have been using it every day. Rose, my MIL, and I kept commenting how smooth and pliable and soft it was. It isn't gritty at all. So, here is the recipe for all of you to use, too, thanks to Mrs. B.

Best Play Dough Ever (my own title)

1 cup water
1 pkg. unsweetened Kool-aid mix
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup flour
1/4 cup salt
2 tbsp cream of tartar

1. Dissolve Kool-aid in water and add oil.
2. Mix together flour, salt and cream of tartar in cooking pot.
3. Add water mixture to pot and stir.
4. Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until it thickens and forms a big lump in pot.
5. Remove from pot and knead on floured surface (you may need to use approximately 1/4 cup of flour to get right consistency).

Makes approximately 2 cups. Store in air tight container.

As clarification

For those of you who below commented that you would have ordered the photos or thought they were pretty good, I realize now that the detail of the photos didn't show up well in the scan. Also, if you haven't met Emily in person or seen her in a long time, you also don't realize what she's doing there. She doing her odd posed smile. Here are instructions to replicate: place the very tips of your front top teeth on the very tips of your bottom front teeth. That is the smile she's got there. Of course she's cute. She's always cute. But that smile is weird. I love her, I tell her all the time how awesome she is but I'm not paying $15 for a set of photos where she's smiling like she just floated an air biscuit.

I kinda just thought it was really funny. The retakes will likely turn out the same. Yes, she'll still be cute but I'll have to think hard about whether that kind of funny and cute is worth $15.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

School photo or sly spy standing in for my daughter?

Emily had her school photo taken a couple of weeks ago and brought it home on Friday. When I got home from my class that afternoon John said "Wait till you see Emily's photo. Try not to laugh in front of her."

Emily has this habit of putting on this odd stacked-teeth smile when she sits for a posed photo.

Her odd photo-smile comes naturally apparently. I worked hard on mine at the same age.

I specifically remember my mum trying to get me to smile "normally" which of course I demanded I was already doing. Similar to what Emily told me this morning when I told her we were having her photos retaken. "But the man told me to do that with my teeth!"

So, we're retaking the photos. I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that they'll turn out exactly the same. Oh well. At least she can show it to her kids one day after they come home with their first school photo looking like an incognito Maxwell Smart or a very irked librarian, continuing a long-standing family tradition.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Back to her old ways

For some unknown reason the time change resulted in Hope sleeping later in the morning rather than getting up earlier, which was a huge blessing because she was routinely getting up at 5:30 every day. With the time change that changed to 7:00 for the last few days.

Until today.

Up at 6:00. I think she's figured it out and is getting back to her old ways.

Ugh. It was wonderful while it lasted. Now I'm back to bleary-eyed coffee making and spreading jam on the back of my hand.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A black mark

As enthused as everyone is about Obama's win, a black mark will appear beside this election in my mind now after California voted yes to take away the right for gay men and women to marry.

So sad.

Listen, I'm not naive enough to think that Obama is the answer to all of the US's problems. He's not as liberal as the media make him out to be. A Canadian newspaper recently said that Clinton would have fit well as leader of Canada's old Conservative Party (Joe Clark's version). I think the same could be said about Obama.

But he's the most liberal they've had in a long time.

He still doesn't believe in same sex marriage. There still won't be truly universal health care. There still will be many, many places that women cannot access safe abortions.

Having said all that, he's going to do lots of great things and it is a move way beyond where the country is now.

However... California. California!? I thought that state could be counted on.

Yes you did

USA, you did it. You voted for change and we respect you for it.

Now show us all that you can follow through and seal the deal.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

This and that

We've been sick around here. Thanksgiving weekend Emily came down with a nasty cough that lasted two weeks and then morphed into a cold as of this morning. The cough seems to be gone but her little face is a candidate for a Nyquil commercial. I don't think she'll be at school tomorrow.

As of about 3 days ago John and I got the cold and we're feeling pretty miserable. At least this year since I am neither pregnant or breastfeeding I can dose up on the drugs, sweet drugs. Still, I feel like crap.

Hope has miraculously avoided it so far.

Tonight we're spending our evening flipping between the major networks (Canadian included) covering the US election. We plan to have popcorn and make a night of it. I continue to be stunned by the ineptitude of the actual machinery of voting in the US. All these electronic machines hooked up to computers and they have a multitude of problems and still don't get numbers very quickly. Here, we do it the old fashioned way: X marks the spot. A #2 pencil. Bob's your uncle and, I'm not joking, within 1 hour of polls closing the final numbers are in. Never a problem, never long lines, never questions about hanging anything. It works great. It's simple stupid. How does the world's most powerful nation screw this up? It's so damn easy.

I'm am so far behind in writing a birthday letter to Hope. And she so deserves it. She is amazing right now. And after 6 months of worrying that her language was way behind and there was a problem, she has proved me wrong and is talking up a storm, stringing words together and is ultra-cute through it all. She's funny, goofy, playful, sweet, loving, affectionate and strong-willed. Very strong-willed. But I'm getting her to bend to my will more often now without to much trouble. She will be mine!

Have fun watching the results! (Assuming you are political junkies like we are.)