Wednesday, December 31, 2008

And now vacation starts....

As of December 27 I felt like myself again mostly. The other adults in the house were much better too. So, the last day of Omi's visit was more energetic.

In the midst of some nasty rain, we drove around Parliament to look at the Christmas lights. The following day we went for a long walk beside the canal and out for lunch to one of our favourite burger places, The Works.

On Monday morning, Omi left Ottawa quite early. Knowing the girls would be in a funk for the day because of that, I took the lot of us (minus John) to the Nature Museum. Last year we spent a lot of our mornings at museums or swimming pools or preschool or the library. Since Emily started school we haven't done much of that. A 12:00 start time means there isn't time in the morning for big outings. Even a trip to the library makes it difficult for her to get to the bus on time.

It was so nice to spend the morning seeing a museum again. We had a great time. This was the first time Hope has been able to walk around the entire museum without being held or pushed in the stroller (clearly it's been a while since we've been there). We lingered in the cafeteria and checked out all the bugs and creatures that had been watching us snack. We watched the movie about the asteroid that led to the demise of the dinosaurs. The girls made a jelly-fish craft. They spent time playing in the wild bird rescue centre. All in all, it was a blast.

And as much as they missed having Omi around, they were happy as could be.

Yesterday morning we had a play date with friends. It meant that I got to drink lots of coffee with my friend Dawn while our girls played.

Today I think we'll head to the swimming pool after a stop at the fabric shop for me.

I do love having no afternoon obligations! And Emily hasn't mentioned missing school in days.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas under a rock

It seems I spoke too soon. This flu is still in full swing although I feel marginally better today. Yesterday, Christmas Day, was not what I had hoped it would be. In most most wallowly moments I feel that I ruined Christmas. More for me than anyone else though I suppose.

There are a few good moments I want to share however. On Christmas Eve, the girls put out the milk and cookies and carrots for Rudolph. After they were in bed, one of the logs from the fire rolled forward and smashed one of the glass doors on the fireplace. We decided to blame it on Santa, wrote a note from the big fellow apologizing to Emily and Hope and thanking them for the cookies. Christmas morning we all came down and I put on my best actress and was shocked by the state of the fireplace door. Emily ate it up. She was amazed that Santa's fat tummy broke the door. I think we'll talk about this for years to come. It was great.

The girls loved their gifts and we had a good time opening them as usual. The girls' favourites were:

  • the water colouring book from Beth
  • The Leapfrog LeapPad from Santa (I actually bought it used)
  • the princess wand and dress-up jewellery from Omi
  • the pirate ship from Papa
  • the cash register from Papa
The grown-ups did well too. In fact, I'm still wearing my new pyjamas which I love, love, love. Not only because they came with a scarf!

After lunch things turned sour for me health-wise. I was in a lot of pain. I limped through Christmas dinner but didn't even taste the turkey or stuffing which looked awesome. I was in bed by 6:30 and slept until 8:00 this morning (save for 2 wake-ups by Hope. Grrrr.).

I'm trying to dwell on yesterday's good moments. However, the downer of today is that Omi has now contracted our illness making us all feel doubly worse. I guess misery loves company.

Let's hope for a better Boxing Day.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Out from under my rock

One by one we have fallen. First Emily. Then John. Then me. Last night, Hope. We just weren't strong enough to battle this one. The stomach flu won.

And in fact, there still seems to be some sort of minor battle going on. Mainly in colons and what not.

Happily it seems we'll all be well enough by Christmas Day and you can bet none of us will be putting on the typical Christmas poundage.

I'm better now. The kitchen and other house surfaces are disinfected and life, and baking, goes on.

Rose, my MIL, is arriving by train as we speak and I am going to go upstairs and do a bit more cleaning and some gift wrapping. And likely have a cup of peppermint tea as well.

I hope that you are all winning your battles, colon-related and otherwise.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas underway

Last day of school? Check.

Basement cleaned? Check.

Upstairs mopped? Check.

Kitchen and main floor tidied? Nope.

Presents wrapped? Nope.

Baking completed for home and for sale? Nope.

Father and wife currently on their way to my house? Check.

Yikes!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What's cooking Wednesday - Ultimate Party Meatballs

I pause in this moment of baking to re-join, at least for this week, Shan's wonderful What's Cooking Wednesday club. I haven't been a stellar member lately, but I'll be back once the baking slows down.

But this week, I'm posting on behalf of Mom Central. I've been asked to review the Ultimate Party Meatballs (disclosure: I am receiving a $20 Amazon gift certificate for this and also the free ingredients to make the meatballs - minus the frozen meatballs. That would have been a pretty nasty treat in the mailbox.)

This recipe is definitely intended for cooks short on time but high on guests or needing a quick (really quick) but yummy meal or hors d'oeuvre. I'll give you the recipe first and then let you know my thoughts below.

Ultimate Party Meatballs

1 16-oz can Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce
1 12-ounce bottle Heinz Chili Sauce
1 2-pound bag frozen, pre-cooked, cocktail-sized meatballs (I used PC Angus Beef meatballs)

Combine sauces in large saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth.
Add meatballs (frozen). Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until meatballs are heated through, stirring occasionally.

There is also a slow-cooker method: place meatballs in slow cooker. Combine sauces and pour over meatballs. Cover and cook 4 hours on high.

Makes 30 appetizer servings.

That's it!

I'm not normally a fan of frozen pre-cooked meatballs but the PC ones I chose were actually pretty good and the sauce really made this dish delicious. The sauce is sweet but a bit tangy. Heinz Chili Sauce is one of my favourite condiments so I knew I would be a fan. The thing about this dish is how fast it is and how great it would be as an appetizer for a crowd. Throw in some toothpicks and you're done. I expect that you'll get rave reviews and won't stress about getting something hot out to your guests before the main event is served.

As for the kids? Hope is all about the ground meat. She devoured these.

John and I also commented on how easy it would be to tinker with the recipe for different tastes: add a bit of vinegar for a sweet and sour meatball dish, add a bit of dried chilies for something zingier.

You can find more recipe ideas from their website: http://www.ultimatepartymeatballs.com/

Our first school Christmas concert

Yesterday afternoon was Emily's first school Christmas concert. It was simply billed as the Kindergarten Concert, understandably, as Emily's class is so wonderfully multicultural, at least half of the kids being Muslim. The songs focused on winter, hibernation, bears and gingerbread - all themes they've explored recently. It was everything I hoped for and more, with that perfect kindergarten moment of one kid stealing the show.

That kid wasn't mine.

Emily's usual modus operandi in situations like this was in full play. She sat without moving, eyes glued to Mrs. B, singing really well but not doing too many actions to the songs. She was just so intent on singing and listening. She was very serious through it all. She's always been very serious in these kind of situations. If you didn't know better, you'd think she was scared or unhappy but no, she's just really focused. She was having a great time.

Not quite as good a time as her little friend Rebecca though. Rebecca is enthusiasm personified and I love it. Let me give you two videos to show you Rebecca's influence on the group. The first video, you'll notice they are all very serene. In the second video, Rebecca picks it up and the crowd follows. It was a great, great moment.

I laughed, in spite of myself.


video


video

The concert followed with a party in the Kindergarten room. It was really nice to have all the families together celebrating our kids and their achievements so far. At the end of the day, when it was time to go, Emily, the creature of habit and full-on bus-lover, insisted on taking the bus home. Since we're only a few minutes away, I decided to let her have that and not argue about it at all. And so, we left her there to climb aboard the bus.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

This and that

It's been quiet in this space. You know why. Bake, bake, bake around here. It's going well but this week is my busiest so I will likely maintain a bloggy silence for a while.

However, I will have a post up for tomorrow as I'm part of Mom Central and was asked to review a meatball recipe that I will post for What's Cooking Wednesday tomorrow.

Today is a big day for Emily and for me. Today is her first school concert. The Kindergarten kids are performing for parents/grandparents etc in the library today at 1:30 and I am so excited to see her up there. I fully expect to be weepy and hope I won't be the only one. I get very emotional when I see Emily successfully doing something new. I can't explain it but I also know that I'm not in a minority when it comes to this. Shan has talked about it herself with her daughter a few times.

Hope's sleep in the big bed has improved. She's sleeping great at night and in the day, if I stay in the room until she is asleep, then she'll nap. I hope to be able to start to sneak out before she falls asleep. For now, I bring a book light and something to read.

And now, a sink full of baking dishes awaits me upstairs.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Taking the easy way out

I'm about to head upstairs to start rolling truffles, icing squares etc before I start cutting and boxing five orders of baking to be delivered to the other end of the city in the middle of a transit strike to a location that is heavily targeted by striking transit workers. So, I'm taking the easy way out of a post.

One hundred things done or undone. Done are in bold.

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped (and never will)
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch ~ knitting (with help from Beth and Dawn)
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping (every summer since I can remember)
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person (not difficult to achieve when you grew up 20 minutes away)
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language (enough so I could read what it said on the Russian street signs anyway)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted (drawn by one of those Disneyworld chalk artists. Does that count?)
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (okay, not the top. We weren't willing to pay the 20 euro but we stood at the bottom for a long time)
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business (very recent!)
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen (sadly, no and I plan to change that)
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching (didn't see any)
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (fish, does that count?)
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous (Eartha Kit. Kind of B-list)
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person (no but I will in the next year or so)
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Exam and baking business equals offline

Yikes, I have a lot of little things I should be blogging about but instead my time has been spent either baking, baking, baking or studying for my exam. I was taking one course this term towards my Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language. The exam was yesterday morning at 9:00. Yesterday morning at 9:00 the city was sitting under 27 cm of snow and in the first hours of a full-on transit strike. It was not the ideal time to be making my way to Carleton to write an exam.

Luckily, the student union arranged school buses to pick up students (I guess I am one) at locations around the city so I was able to enjoy a school bus ride up bank street with thousands of other cars through crazy amounts of snow.

School buses were cancelled yesterday due to the snow and freezing rain so John drove Emily to school and I walked there with Hope in the stroller to pick her up. We walked on the street since the sidewalks weren't passable yet. Apparently I'm a bit faster walker than I thought because we arrived at Emily's class fifteen minutes before we should have. Hope was thrilled to go into Emily's class and play with some of the toys and games. Emily was less impressed.

My whole idea yesterday of walking during Hope's normal nap time comes from the fact that aside from the first day in Hope's new big-girl bed, she has refused to nap in there. She climbs out, bangs on the door, plays with her toys and books and generally wreaks havoc with the room and my nerves. On Tuesday I gave up and said that from now on I would walk during her nap and she could nap in the stroller and I would get some exercise (much need exercise).

Is anyone surprised to find out that Hope fell asleep on Emily's shoulder five minutes before we reached our driveway yesterday? and then again last night in the stroller when we we for a walk to look at the Christmas lights? Ugh.

Today I'm going to try her bed again but have no hopes for success. Any ideas? I've tried taking away things she likes, I've tried laying in bed with her, I've tried sitting on the floor, I've tried being very stern with her, I've tried everything I can think of. I'm ready to call it quits, walk with the stroller and not care too much whether she sleeps or not.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Griswald Family Christmas continues. This time with mouth injuries.

The weekend started on a huge high for me. On Friday morning I had my first ever parent-teacher interview. Without patting Emily on the back too ferociously, it was a huge love-in. In Mrs. B's words: "Emily is a delight to have in the class. We all just love her so much." I almost wept right there. Not that I was expecting much different, to be honest. If a kid loves to go to school as much as Emily does, chances are she is doing really well there, having a great time, and is being shown a lot of praise and love from her teacher(s).

She is doing really well in all of the usual kindergarten stuff: writing and phonetics and playing well with others and participating. Apparently she is the kid that Mrs. B turns to if no one else has the answer. She said it is great to have a student like that in the class, the one you can count on. That was nice to hear. However, my favourite part was this: Mrs. B noted that Emily has a "strong sense of justice." I had to laugh and tell her that that is much more diplomatic than the way we put it: bossy, mother-hen, battle-axe. Mrs. B said that she keeps Emily in check but has to laugh when Emily is telling the other kids to listen or get in line or clean up.

So, that day was a good one.

On Saturday, as per our 25 days of Christmas instructions, we went to get a Christmas tree. Emily wasn't herself. She looked a bit pale and was tired from the get-go. We drove south of the city to Thomas Tree Farms. It was beautiful. The snow was lightly falling; we were taken out to the field on a tractor-drawn wagon; we wandered through the trees looking for the perfect one; Emily cried and complained the whole time. It kind of sucked. Hope had a great time though and loved it all.



We headed back with our tree. John went to load it on the car while we had our free hot chocolate and homemade cookies. Emily spilled hers. She cried. Finally we headed to the mecca: the playground. I thought this might turn things around. I was sooooo wrong.

Emily had been whining wanting to go there the whole time. Emily took her first go down the slide, took a step away from the bottom, hit shear ice and her feet went out BEHIND her, her teeth, chin and lip hit the ice. I grabbed her right away, scooped her up and saw the blood pouring our of her mouth and skin lodged between her top front teeth. It was yet another moment when my heart was in my throat. I couldn't have stopped it from happening but I wish I could turn back time at that moment. Her teeth were all there, thankfully, but it was awful. She was in a lot of pain, crying terribly and Hope was about to come shooting down the slide. I grabbed the closest mother, who was a bit shell-shocked from watching all of this and asked her to catch Hope and escort her off the treacherous playground. We then walked to the car as quickly as we could and I nursed Emily out of her tears, out of her snowsuit and into her car seat where she fell asleep. The poor girl. Not only was she under-the-weather, now she also had a serious mouth injury and was caked in blood. She has a terrible scab on her lip and has only started to eat again tonight when we bribed her with her favourite food: pizza.


Getting the tree had the potential to be one of those perfect family days but it turned into one of those should-have-been-perfect-but-of-course-it-wasn't kind of days that are inevitable when you have two kids under the age of 5. Next year John and I might leave the kids with someone else and make a date of it. Or maybe we'll just go to Ikea.

Things got better that night when we decorated the gingerbread house. It was good fun and the girls sailed into the evening on a sugar high.


On the Hope front, it was a big weekend for our littlest family member. On Sunday afternoon, John took apart the crib and put together her big girl bed. She was beside herself excited. Of course, it took me until 8:45 to get out of her room but miraculously she stayed in bed all night and even napped in there today (a downright miracle; I thought she would never stay in the bed during the day but she surprised me again). Tonight was better. All was quiet by 8:30.


Today we had a great day. We put the tree up and decorated it. We played Christmas music. We were all happy. I hope it lasts beyond today and Emily doesn't get too much attention tomorrow due to her lip. That would make things difficult for her.


And now, onto more cookie baking. I've actually had to stop taking orders for Christmas because I can't handle anymore and still enjoy time with the girls. I have 23 orders to complete by Christmas Eve! Amazing! I've decided to only accept new pie or tourtiere orders now for Christmas and start accepting New Year's orders (and beyond). I never expected this kind of response. Now I have to figure out how to repitch things for post-Christmas.

And how was your weekend?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Our few days of Christmas so far

I decided to go ahead and participate in Andrea's 25 days of Christmas. I came up with a bunch of fairly low-key activities, typed them up and put the slips of paper into each box of our Playmobil Advent Calendar. Since we were away on the 1st and 2nd, the activities started yesterday.

Yesterday was mistake number 1. It actually felt a bit Griswaldian, truth be told. I made the mistake of thinking that a 2 and 4 year old would enjoy watching me decorate the house for Christmas. Uh, no. They did not.

I saved it though by having some cookie decorating at the end of the day.


Today our activity is to hang up the Christmas lights. Given that I feel like crap, I'm not sure it will actually happen.

However, to make things more festive and buoy up the decorating fiasco, I received my wreath last night that was part of a fundraiser for a girl's hockey team and I love it on the door. So big and full and piney. Very nice.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Home

Home.

Great weekend.

Great, great, great to spend time with friends and family.

Glad to be done driving.

Glad to sleep in our own beds.

Laryngitis.

So many Sugarplum Fairy Homebaking orders to get in the book and start baking for. Big thanks to Andrea and the little elf who posted an ad about me on the City of Ottawa ad board!

So much news to read.

Ingredients to buy.

But just one thing to really say:


If you can, please be there.

Monday, December 01, 2008

A couple of important notes noted from away

First, I can't let the news develop any longer without commenting, knowing as you do what a political junkie I tend to be (although I don't mention it or discuss it here very often). The stuff going on on the federal political scene is (a) inspiring (b) a long time in coming (c) scares the shite out of me because I'm afraid, deftly afraid, that the Conservatives will pull the stuff we've become accustomed to and prorogue Parliament simply because they are unwilling to allow the will of the people to become reality. For those of you who will argue that a coalition government made up of the Liberals and NDP with the support of the Bloc that declares that Parliament no longer has confidence in the government is not the will of the people or democratic let me say this: about 54% of Canadians voted in the election of October 14. More than half of those people voted for a party other than the Conservative Party, proven by the fact that the Conservatives have a minority.

And yet a number of callers, commenters, pundits and Conservative Party members call this move by the new coalition and those who support them undemocratic.

Really, it is the most democratic move I've seen in Canadian politics in years.

Second, Andrea at A Peek Inside the Fishbowl posted a review of my package Christmas Done For You that is for sale through my business Sugarplum Fairy Homebaking. Go check it out!