Thursday, January 29, 2009

The noise! Oh, the noise, noise, noise, noise!

There is something lovely about being in a very warm bed under a thick but light duvet in the dark on a winter morning listening to someone else's snowshovel scraping their driveway of the 25 cm of snow that fell. I actually don't mind being woken up by that sound. It reminds me that this is Ottawa. This is our experience. As neighbours we share it together. But I have the luxury of not having to do that before going to work because my work is right here in this house.

I was dreamily listening to that sound this morning when it was interrupted by the whine of a machine. It was a pretty loud machine and in my dozy fog I wondered why someone was running a chainsaw or a lawnmower at 6:00 in the morning. And it didn't stop. It continued to interrupt the sound of the shovels outside and, more importantly, my sleep.

It took me at least 3 minutes to realize that my neighbour, who recently bought a snowblower, thought it was okay to run it at 6:00 am.

Our street has been free of snowblowers until last week. It was an idyllic existence I now realize. Why do people think it's okay to run thouse things so early? They are helpful I'm sure but they are so downright annoying to the senses. I can see the need for them if you are quite old or at serious risk of a heart attack or if you have a crazy long driveway but if you live on my street, a street of attached houses and shared driveways, the last does not apply.

In too many cases, the snowblower is an exercise in laziness.

This year I've enjoyed shovelling the driveway. On a snowy day I go out there and do it several times and the kids play in the snow while I do it or help me with their little shovels. It's lovely. And would not be lovely at all with a snowblower.

And that is the end of my curmudgeonly rant of this morning. Time for porridge.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The cost of making a swimmer

We had an uneventful weekend, which sometimes is the best kind. Our major event lately on weekends is Emily's swimming lessons. Emily had her second swimming lesson on Saturday morning. Last week went really well, much better than I expected. She's taking her lessons at Carleton. The class is small - just four kids and often two instructors. The kids stand on a table in the water. Emily fell off the table twice, went under, was caught by the instructor and thought it was the best thing that she dunked under water.

This week was a bit different.

She started to get frustrated that she couldn't do everything really well, like swim for example, after two weeks. She started to get anxious about dunking with her instructor. She didn't like the splashing that one of the boys is constantly doing and in her defence, even as a pacifist, I would have given him the 'ole knuckle sandwich at that point. Just before it was her turn to dunk she turned to me and said "I don't want to do swimming lessons anymore." I went to talk to her "poolside" to tell her how important it is to learn to swim and how she had fun last week and just tell G to stop splashing you. And then it was her turn to dunk. She looked at her teacher, started to cry and said "I don't want to dunk!".

It was clear that at that moment, her instructor's heart melted just a little bit. I could see it in her face. She just hugged Emily and said "We don't have to dunk" and then just put their faces in the water instead. Class ended shortly after that but not before Emily got to swim around with her pool noodle. That restored things. A little bit.

Afterwards she seemed to get how important this is in life and that we've paid for these and we'll keep going. I did agree that she can skip the week during Beth's visit (yes, Beth's visit!). I also told her I'll try and take her swimming once this week to practise dunking and floating. Just the two of us.

I have some bad memories of swimming lessons. Although I'm a good swimmer and love to swim lengths for exercise I have a very healthy fear of the water that started when I was a kid. I still get it sometimes when I can't quite get my breath. I spent a lot of my time crying in swimming lessons and begging to go home with my mum. I remember one particular time I was supposed to swim halfway down the pool, turn around and come back with my friends. My mum was sitting in the on-deck gallery at the other end of the pool. I just kept on dog-paddling past the mid-way point right to the gallery with my instructor wondering what the heck I was doing. I was making a break for it.

I don't want Emily's memories to be the same as mine. I want her to have fun and look forward to swimming lessons. I told her about my memories a little bit of swimming and how I was scared and sometimes sad but now I'm really glad my mum made me go because now I'm a great swimmer and really love it. I hope this helps her and doesn't scar her for life.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hope's first haircut

I know. It's a little hard to believe. Hope is almost 2 and a half and until Wednesday had not had a proper haircut. She'd had a few little snips off the bangs. But that's it.

She has beautiful curls. Gorgeous in fact. She gets comments from strangers whenever we're out. But it was starting to look pretty bad if she had a hat on (which is every day right now) or just woke up or if, ahem, someone forgot to brush it that day. She was starting to look like THOSE KIDS. Those kids whose parents don't realize how bad their hair looks and why don't you just CUT YOUR KID'S DAMN HAIR ALREADY. Yeah, that was me. This parent. This parent with the kid with the really straggly hair that was always in her face and looking totally wild.

Which isn't totally inconsistent with her personality really.

Wednesday was the big day. We were all booked in. Me first. Then Emily's turn in the chair. Emily is the prefect hair-cutting role model. I've said it before and I'll say it again: this child doesn't move a muscle when she is getting her hair cut. From the beginning she has been amazing at it. Since she had her first haircut at age 1, she only has cried once. And she really loves it.

Hope watched but still was pretty resistant. Of course, knowing Hope, I knew I could force it without too much complaint. She knows now when I mean business and will generally bend to my will (unless it has to do with food or the toilet. Then I'm cooked). So, after pouting and complaining for the token two or three minutes, she agreed to sit on my lap. Her hair-cutting genes kicked in and she obeyed Michel's every instruction and earned herself the coveted lollipop. She didn't let the event go by without giving Michel the evil eye a couple of times. She's an expert at the evil eye and the pouty lip.

Since I was trapped under Hope, Emily was the photographer and didn't do too badly, I'd say. Of course, I gathered some of her baby curls from the floor and tucked them away for safekeeping.

I'm happy to report however that the curls are still there. In spades.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What's cooking Wednesday

Officially it is Thursday morning just after 6:00. The last two mornings Hope has decided to a previous habit of getting up really early. It's not as bad as when she got up at 5:15 or so every morning for about a month but it's still too early for my liking. I got sucked into Lost last night and decided to forgo putting up my WCW post but now here I am at 6:00 with no paper, most of the house still slumbering and having read most of the blogs I read every morning. So, here is my recipe from this week.

I'm into soup and other comfort foods right now. I'm trying to expand my soup repertoire beyond the one recipe I always make (squash soup). This week I tried a pumpkin concoction that I knew wouldn't be a winner with the kids but appealed to John and I. It's from Eat, Shrink and Be Merry.

Gourdian Angel (silky pumpkin soup with apples and ginger)

2 tsp olive oil or butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp grated gingerroot
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups peeled, chopped Granny Smith apples
2 cups canned pure pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling - that would be very gross)
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3/4 cup evaporated milk or light cream

Heat olive oil in soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook and stil until onions begin to soften about 3 minutes. Add gingerroot, curry powder and ground cumin. Mix well and cook for 30 more seconds.

Add broth, apples, pumpkin, carrots, salt and pepper. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until carrots are tender. Stir occasionally.

Working in two batches, transfer soup to blender and puree until smooth. (I just used an immersion blender right in the soup pot - way easier.) Soup will be very thick. Return soup to pot and stir in milk or cream. Serve hot.

Thoughts: I really liked this soup. It wasn't nearly as sweet as squash or sweet potato soup. I could taste the curry and ginger really easily (so if you don't like those flavours, don't make this). It make a lot so we have a meal (for John and I anyway) in the freezer which is great. One of the best things about this soup is how fast it is from start to finish. You could easily have dinner on the table in 30 minutes.

And now, time for a coffee and a check on the paper again!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A different winter

I realized yesterday how much more I am enjoying this winter compared to last year. It is no surprise I guess. The shear amount of snow we had last year made it difficult to avoid being edgy and a little depressed at how long it would take for the grass to show in the spring.

We have a good amount of snow this year but it is a normal amount. The grass has probably a foot and a half in the back yard. Of course, our front has the usual mountain from shoveling but that's our play area and we had a lot of fun with it last night.

After supper the girls had more than the usual amount of verve and it was driving John and I a bit batty. The driveway needed one more shoveling so John suggested I take the girls outside with me (interesting how he suggested that I take them outside while he stay in the nice warm house. Hm. Nice one!). We had a great time out there. We climbed and climbed and laughed and fell.

I've never taken them out to play after supper before during the winter. Usually that's our wind-down time but I'm going to do it more often. It set them up to have a great sleep and be totally worn out.

Me too, actually.

I'm also finding more ways to enjoy this winter myself. I've developed a nice routine of skating the canal of Monday evenings with Julie and Meredith. Even if the ice conditions are crappy, like last night (there were actually three guys mountain biking on the canal if that tells you anything), we have a great time together and it is wonderful to be outside on a winter night. This weekend I hope to go cross-country skiing for the first time in years. My ass will feel it the next day without a doubt.

How are you enjoying this winter?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mom Central Review: Special K Crackers

Disclosure: I'm part of a Mom Central blog tour for Special K Crackers. I received a free sample and will receive a $20 Amazon gift certificate in remuneration.

As part of Mom Central, I'm sent a number of offers to try different products. I'm very particular about what I'll try. When the Special K Crackers came up I knew this would be one suited to my main audience of a two-year-old and a four-year-old who both LOVE crackers. I buy a lot of crackers but I'm quite particular about what I'll buy. They have to be whole grain and they have to be made in a peanut-free facility so Emily can take them to school.

I had no real idea what I was getting from Special K. The box I received contained one box of lunch-sized packets of Multi-Grain Crackers and a traditional-style box of Italian Tomato-Herb Crackers. I tore open the Multi-Grain first and handed them over to two ravenous children. Within minutes they were both upstairs asking for more. A ringing endorsement to be sure.

The Special K crackers are small, perfect for a child's hands and to ensure they don't eat too many in one sitting. I also appreciate the snack-size packets. It's a very easy snack to pack when leaving the house. The flavour is great. It is slightly sweet but not sugary and it is crunchy, almost like a Wheat Thin, and has the nutty flavour of whole grains. I'll definitely be buying this for our snack cupboard.

And for those of us trying to lose a few Christmas pounds, a serving is 17 crackers and only has 90 calories. Additionally each serving has 8 grams of whole grains.

The Italian Tomato-Herb wasn't a hit with the kids. I liked it but did prefer the Multi-Grain. However, I think the Tomato-Herb would be an excellent cracker to go under herbed brie or any kind of sharp cheese for that matter and excellent to use with a dip. I'm thinking a warm artichoke dip would go really well with this cracker.

And now that I've got a craving for some crackers, I think I'll head upstairs for a snack. Too bad the kids ate all the Multi-Grain!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My morning laugh

Last night I had a bath and left my discarded clothes from the day in a pile in the bathroom (it was late). This morning Emily found them.

E (letting my bra hang from the end of her finger with her other hand on her hip): And whose might this be?! Shouldn't this be on your boobies by now?

That is a word-for-word transcript. That's exactly what she said. "Whose might this be?" How old is she?

My word, where does she get this stuff?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"People will pay you to be inhumane!"

Yesterday was Emily's first visit to the dentist. Yes, I know, some doctors and most dentists tell parents to take their kids when they turn 1. My doctor and a dentist-acquaintance both told me not to take the kids until they are 4, when they're more likely to sit with their mouth open and listen to instructions.

My plan was to take Emily soon but the date was moved up by her face-plant during our Christmas tree cutting. About a week after that accident one of her front top teeth started to turn grey and she complained of pain in her gums above that tooth.

She was very stressed about the idea of a visit to the dentist. I promised her to find her a kids-only dentist and, on her insistence, it had to be a woman. After an Internet search I discovered Kids and Teens Dentistry in Bells Corners, pretty much the only show in town dedicated to pediatric dentistry. It was a pretty good drive from our house but as you'll see, totally worth it.

Well, as usual, Emily surprised me completely. She was really excited to go. When we got there, the two girls headed into the Kids Room to watch Dora and play with the toys (which included a full Thomas Train Table). By the way, they also have a video game room for older kids and teens with an XBox 360 I'm told. After I completed all the paper work and Emily had her photo taken for their records, she went into the examination room, the Playground Room (all of the rooms have hand-painted murals of different themes). She jumped into the chair ready to go. First thing was x-rays. I personally hate dental x-rays but Emily was perfect. She didn't complain and held perfectly still. When the dentist came in to count her teeth and examine them quickly, Emily held her mouth open and answered all the questions. By this time, Hope had found us and was begging to sit in the chair too. The wonderful dentist put both of them in the chair and gave them a ride up and down.

The x-rays showed trauma to the root but the dentist said that we'll wait and see. It could repair itself; it could get worse. We'll go back in 5 weeks to have more x-rays and a cleaning and find out what's going on.

In the meantime, the dentist recommended that Hope have her first appointment soon. I agreed since she seemed happy to be there and keen to have her turn and so she'll get her chance in April.

The end of the visit meant each girl got to choose a treasure from the purple treasure chest. Why aren't there adult dentists like that? I think a lot people would be more willing to go if they gave us toys out of a purple treasure chest.

Meanwhile, I notice that our insurance company won't cover us for the x-ray of Emily's front teeth. WTF? That's $40 this time and $40 next time. I'll be calling them today to complain. It probably won't do any good, but I want to know the why.

All in all, it was an amazing experience, which I've never said about a trip to the dentist before. I like my dentist but I don't like going at all, like most people. While Emily will now have good thoughts about the dentist, for me, I see the dentist a bit more like this:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bake me up: a search for some new and not-so-new recipes

I'm back at it in the kitchen. The Fairy is looking through her collection for some new and not-so-new recipes to add to my repertoire for Sugarplum Fairy Homebaking for Valentines and Easter.

There are a few specific things that I've learned through my Christmas experience to look for in a new recipe (and ones that I've made for our family as well). They are:

  • price of ingredients: I now know by looking through the ingredient list whether the recipe will be costly to sell or not. I'm willing to have a few higher priced items in there but I do like to keep my costs low so that I can sell for a competitive price.
  • fussiness: I'm a good baker and I don't mind a few steps to get to the end product but if there is a high element of fussiness, the recipe isn't likely to make the final lineup. I can't spend too much time on single recipes in the kitchen. I just don't have the time as a one-person operation and that alone eats into my profit.
  • good looks do matter: to me, at home, taste is everything but the reality when you are selling baking is that looks do matter. I test every recipe for looks. This is particularly important for squares. If I can't cut it and have it look good, I won't sell it. For example, I made a new square the other day, a chocolate marshmallow concoction. It tasted very good but it was uglier than a hedge fence. It will not be seen outside our four walls.
  • freezing capability: I have to make things that freeze well. This is for two reasons: the first is so that I can make a pan of 36 squares, sell some fresh and freeze the rest for another order. If I'm not able to do this, I won't make any money and I'll gain a lot of weight eating my leftovers. The second reason is so that customers can freeze the baking until they need it or freeze their leftovers. I've found that people really value this.
And so, right after this I'll be back upstairs trying out something new. There will be new photos to follow as well and I hope a new logo and, at some point, a proper website. For now though, I'll be focusing on some great spring recipes that will take us through to the fall. I talk about some of them on the website. Should you want to place any orders in advance, just drop me an email (contact info is on the Sugarplum website).

A couple of unrelated updates:

I went and talked to my neighbour about the cat/bird problem. She was really good about it and sympathetic to the birds. Her problem is that one of her cats, the one Emily has named Mr. Sylvester, won't use a litter box and so scratches at the door to do his thing outside. She's tried collars with bells but the cats get them off somehow. She's going to talk to her vet and try to limit their time outside during the birds' feeding time. Summer won't be an issue since I won't have feeders up then. For me it is a winter thing.

It seems Emily has a couple of admirers in her class. Apparently one little boy, Karim, brought flowers to school for her. Emily, being Emily, said she couldn't take them until she asked her mummy if it was okay. When she asked me I tried to get a sense of what was going on here (I mean she's getting flowers in JK?! Maybe they were crayon on paper) but made the assumption that this was all typical cute 4-year old stuff. She assured me the flowers were real and he'd bring them back the next day so she could get them. I told her they'd probably be dead by then. She insisted they'd be fine (Emily knows everything or didn't you know that?). When I asked her why she didn't take them the first time she said that Mrs. B has told them that they shouldn't give away their things to the other kids because then they wouldn't have anything of their own (JK kids are very generous I've noticed. Sometimes.). And Emily is stickler for the rules. Remember her "sense of justice"?

Today I found out more of the story from my neighbour, Selma, who is Emily's best friend Mohammed's mum. She said that Mohammed wants to bring Emily a gift because Karim did and now Mohammed is all put out because Emily sat with Karim on the bus one day and not Mohammed (as is the general practice). Good Lord Almighty, did I suddenly drop into a Sweet Valley High novel?

I found this all hilarious, as did Selma, if not a little odd for JK... I mean I expected this in a few years but not quite yet. What is so funny for me is that I know that Emily is completely and wonderfully oblivious to all of this, to Mohammed being perturbed or even why he would be. I know she would say that "it's nice to sit with different people" or "I like to be friends with everyone." I love that about her. I love that she doesn't get caught up in stuff like this so far. I hope that doesn't change. And she is generally unaware of her own appeal so that she would have no idea that kids would be apt to challenge each other over her attention.

And lastly, the toilet training is on hold. Hope is so far from ready and I promised myself not to relive the showdowns I had with Emily. I'll wait a couple of more weeks and give it another try and then just keep trying that to see how it goes.

It seems that I've significantly eaten into my baking time. It looks like I might have to have a junior assistant at my side today, after she gets off the bus, that is.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A backyard for the birds

During our 24Days of Christmas, one of our activities was to feed the birds. In preparation for that I bought a Nyger seed birdfeeder at Lee Valley. It declared itself to be squirrel-proof and given our resident squirrel population that was a must in any birdfeeder we put in our tree.

And so, I hung the birdfeeder in mid-December hoping for the best. It was chalk full of Nyger seed.

The first three weeks there was nary a bird on that feeder. I was disappointed. Moreso than the girls for sure. When we lived for a short year in Peterborough right along the Otanabee River, one of my greatest pleasures was watching all the birds at the feeders and in our garden. I even kept a journal to record all the different birds that visited. There were a lot. I didn't do any of the work of attracting them. That was due to years of work by the neighbours.

Since then, I've wanted birdfeeders but hadn't done anything about it until this year. And then, nada.

Until a week ago.

I was in the kitchen when John told me to look out the window. The feeder was covered in birds. They were mostly sparrows I thought. Nothing against sparrows but I wanted something more interesting as well. And then, when I looked closer, I realized that many of them were finches, their bright yellow bellies dimmed by the winter sun. Hooray!

And then the squirrels knocked the feeder down. Twice. Off to Hope Depot to buy chain and clips and things that squirrels couldn't break. I re-hung the feeder and put up another one: a suet feeder. Now I was getting greedy. Could I actually attract a woodpecker in my urban back yard?

The suet feeder sat unused for the last several days. This morning a chickadee inspected it but swung back to the Nyger feeder.

To add to the complication, my neighbour's free-to-roam cats parked themselves above the feeder in the tree today scaring off everything for a couple of hours. When I finally hit bottom about the cats, I called the city to make a complaint. As I was on the phone with the attendant, I looked out the window. No cats but lots of birds. And then, lo and behold, a bird came out of nowhere scaring off the small birds. The larger bird landed on the suet feeder, its bright red head gleaming in the sun. My first downy woodpecker.

It must have improved my mood because I told the attendant on the phone that I would go over and talk to my neighbour about her cats before I make a formal complaint.

Let's hope she is reasonable and concedes about keeping her cats inside during the day so the poor birdies can feed without being pegged off. Unfortunately her cats have a killer instinct.

So, today I am celebrating my woodpecker in the city. So lovely.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The new Dr. Chapstick

Emily and Hope are suffering from very chapped lips this winter. The result is that I have a large supply of lip balms stashed in various places in the house, the diaper bag and my coat. Emily has a big preference for the orange-flavoured Kids Kiss My Face Organic Lip Balm in my coat.

She retrieved it herself this morning out of the pocket of my ski jacket. About 30 minutes later it was time to leave for church, I had my coat on and she needed a re-application. We couldn't find it in my pocket where it should have been.

Me: Emily, where is the orange lip balm? Did you put it back in my coat liked I asked you to?
E: Um.
Me: I asked you to put it back, remember?
E: (thinking for a while and then.... ) Put your hand in your pocket. Do you feel something round?
Me: No.....Did you put it back in here?
E: (said as though her eyebrows were fully raised and very matter-of-factly and with great enthusiasm) No!

It loses something in the transcription I think but John and I were almost peeing our pants.

Almost as funny as.....

Friday, January 09, 2009

A protesting body

This week I've done something, twice in fact, that I haven't done in a very long time: exercise. I've wanted to exercise and had grand plans but either I didn't have time or found excuses not to find the time.

On Tuesday I went to a new yoga class that I've registered for at our local community centre. I've taken a good amount of yoga over the last several years and never considered it exercise, per se. This class was different. I was aching by the end, in a good way. I broke a sweat. This wasn't even deemed power yoga. It was hatha yoga. I would not want to be in a power yoga class led by her. I would have been crawling out the door. Having said all that, I did enjoy it. It just wasn't what I expected but it will do me good if not give me the relaxing evening I expected.

And then last night I joined two friends on the canal for a skate. Armed with a flask of Bailey's and dressed in three layers on legs and torso, we had a great time and were fully prepared for the minus 20 temperatures.

I really love skating the canal at night. The canal isn't very busy with skaters, I enjoy the quiet of the city at night (and yes, Ottawa is quiet at night. We're a sleepy city), and of course, I like the risk of the cracks you have to navigate with no lights. Okay, that actually is a bit scary for an iffy skater like myself. And I did have one wipe out but no injuries.

I can't wait to do it again, especially now that the canal is open, as of this morning, almost the full length. Welcome, winter!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

What's cooking Wednesday

I made trifle for dessert on Christmas Day. It was awesome but I was left with some scrap pieces of pound cake. Since I had already started to think about reusing things more effectively I put the pieces of cake in the freezer. John pulled them out yesterday and we collaboratively came up with the idea of a Karen and John Pound Cake Pudding, essentially a bread pudding without the bread. Tonight I pulled it all together and it RULED. Here is the recipe:

Pound Cake Pudding
  • 3 cups broken up pieces of pound cake (if you don't have that laying around you can use old bread but I think this was WAY better than bread pudding made with bread. Much less mushy but still soft with custard. Heaven!)
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/8 tsp (or so) ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp (or so) cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 500 ml half and half or light cream
  • about a 1/2 cup dried cranberries
For topping: (I didn't make this but I'm sure it would be good. Instead, I used a caramel sauce made by Emily's teacher that I got as a thank you gift. Delicious!)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup pecan pieces (toasted and chopped) - I didn't use this either. Instead I toasted some pistachios I had left from Christmas baking. It was a great combination.
In large bowl, stir together white sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Whisk in eggs and vanilla. Measure and set aside 1 tbsp of half and half. Add all but that one tbsp of half and half to the egg mixture and whisk. Stir in cake cubes and cranberries. Let stand 15 minutes.

The recipe that I used to guide me through the custard mixture for this soaks some raisins in bourbon. I elected to leave out the alcohol tonight and replaced the raisins with cranberries. It was a great substitution. Next time however, I might soak them in Grand Marnier which John and I agreed would be great with the cranberries. If you choose to go the raisin/bourbon route, just soak them in 2 tbsp bourbon for about 15 minutes and then add in to the mixture when you soak the cake/bread.

Preheat oven to 325 (300 convection). Pour bread mixture into a greased loaf pan (recipe said an 8x8 cake pan but I chose the loaf pan and it worked great for slicing and serving). Bake 45 to 50 minutes (43 minutes convection) until knife inserted near centre comes out clean. Cool on wire rack 30 minutes.

So to make the sauce above that I didn't make, the recipe says: In 1-quart saucepan, heat reserved 1 tbsp half and half, brown sugar, butter and corn syrup to boiling over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in pecans. Serve pudding drizzled with praline sauce.

As I mentioned above I used Mrs. B's caramel sauce. First, I whipped some whipping cream. I put a thick slice of pudding in each bowl, put a good sized dollop of cream on each piece, sprinkled on the toasted pistachios and then put a spoonful of caramel sauce on top.

I don't think I have to tell you how good this was.

I love anything with custard in it. The pound cake was creamy with the custard but not too mushy. The cranberries offset the sweetness of the pudding and caramel really well and I loved the crunch of the pistachios. This was such a winner that I can see myself making a pound cake to have in the freezer just to make this again.

But first I'll have to get a gym membership.

A smattering of Christmas photos... mostly for John

John mentioned to me that the blog has been sparse on photos for the last while. I realized that I hadn't put up any Christmas photos. Seems almost past the time now but John is needing some for his computer at work so I'll put them up here for all to see. Whether you want to or not.

Hmmm. I think I know why I didn't post any photos. Most of them were crap. The good ones were taken by my dad and his awesome camera putting my pathetic point and shoot to shame. Add to that that for most of Christmas I was huddled in a nauseatic ball of misery and the result was very few photos. And so, this is what we're left with.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

That's more like it

I don't know who that kid was the other night that pooped on the potty but she was nowhere to be found around here yesterday.

My very good friend, Shan, just blogged about her potty struggles with her daughter Maya. Seems we may be in the same boat after all as Hope is almost as stubborn as Shan's description of Maya.

Yesterday I pulled out the underwear. Hope was thrilled to wear it but also didn't seem to mind peeing in it and then pooping in some training pants. Too gross for words.

And so, since it was naptime by that point I put diapers back on and gave up for the rest of the day. I know, that is a no-no in the world of potty training but I don't care.

My other problem is Emily, the mother hen to defeat all mother hens. She can't help but scold Hope or give her opinion and continue to tell Hope how to do it or interrupt me when I'm trying to talk to Hope about the potty and how to take underwear off etc. Emily is very excited about this whole process and can't help herself but it really makes it more challenging for me.

And so, Shan, seems we're in the same boat but as the saying goes, misery loves company, right?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

This kid keeps surprising me

Hope often surpasses my expectations and tonight was no different.

I've been telling her, almost everyday this week, that she'll be starting to learn to use the potty this week and that if she has any successful deposits, she'll earn Smarties. She's been excited. The girl loves her Smarties.

She has occasionally asked to try the potty but her only successes so far, barring one accidental pee, has been some resounding gas. I keep telling her that toot-toots don't equal Smarties.

Tonight she walked over, sat down, grunted a few times and dropped a bomb in there. Like it was an everyday occurrence. And excuse me, but where is my Smartie?

You could say I was floored. You could also say that no toddler has every received such praise and adulation.

For her, she was more interested in why that Smartie was not yet in her hand.

And so perhaps it won't be the trial that I experienced with Emily. I'm not making any bets though. I'm expecting some hard times ahead but so far, as with most things, Hope has surprised me and surpassed my expectations and made life a little easier.

What a gal!

Resolving to reuse

I've never been one for New Year's Resolutions. Every year in public school, I remember having to write New Year's Resolutions in January and racking my brain to think of something worthwhile to write down. It seemed to me even then that if I needed to change something in my life I would just do it when needed. I didn't need the start of the year to tell me that.

And so it has gone since I was in public school. I can't remember any year in which I made a New Year's Resolution.

That all changes in 2009. I have one this time.

Just one.

It dawned on me as I read an article in the Ottawa Citizen in late December that Western culture has lost the practice of reusing. We're pretty good at recycling. We're getting better at reducing (although still need to work a lot harder in that department). We used to be good at reusing before recycling or reducing were given any thought.

The article I read was about the 1930s and how families, particularly women, dealt with the depression. Although it wasn't a main point of the article, what spoke to me most was how much better families were at reusing clothing, food, anything they had that could be used another day or for another purpose.

I often recycle tin foil that could easily be reused. I'm good at reusing plastic ziploc bags but not good about saran wrap. I have very neat piles of fabric that I could be using to make clothes for the girls. I have a set of curtains that will make two very cute sundresses. I throw out too many leftovers that would be great in soup or make a nice meal for the birds and squirrels. Too many craft materials are put in the recycling bin when I'm sure we could use them for another craft.

I'm really very poor at reusing water. I let the tap run to get the hot water going when I could be catching that water for use in the cappuccino maker or to water the plants or make the next pot of tea.

I'm sure there are ideas I haven't thought of yet and if you have some, I'd love to hear them.

And so, I resolve to work very hard this year to reuse. I'll do my best to keep track of my successes and failures here so I can review next December. Please feel free to throw your ideas or your successes and failures in reusing my way.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Two nights, two movies

Being the social animals we are, living the high life here in Canada's capital, frequenting all the hippest, coolest parties, rubbing shoulders with Canada's political elite, you KNOW that we had to turn down all kinds of invitations for last night in order to stay home, put the kids to bed and watch a movie. And that the movie must have been GREAT in order for us to say no to so many great chances to ring in the new year. And so, I must tell you about the movie we saw last night as well as the one we watched tonight (which we watched right after getting home from a great family-style party at our friend's, Pete and Julie's.)

Last night we watched Run, Fat Boy, Run. It was lighthearted and hilarious but had a great heart. A perfect New Year's movie. And, to make it that much better, it had that guy in it whose name John always has to tell me and that I could find on IMDB for you but really, who wants to do that? He's that guy from Hot Fuzz and Spaced. Not the fat guy. The other guy. You know. He's realized that the girl he left pregnant at the alter ten years earlier was the ONE and to prove to her that he has changed and is responsible he decides to run a marathon. Cue hilarity.

The movie we saw tonight was Ghosttown. It had one huge thing going for it: Ricky Gervais. He plays a similar character to the one he played in Extras. Almost as big a dink and just as funny. Maybe funnier. No, that's not possible. Anyway, he's a guy who undergoes surgery, dies for a few minutes and wakes up to find that he can see all the ghosts of Manhattan. The ghosts figure it out quickly too and start asking him to get closure for him. It's absolutely hilarious and sweet. Very sweet.

So, there are two great movie recommendations for you for the next time you have to come up with an excuse not to attend all those parties that I know you too have all over your calendars.

Happy New Year

I did this little meme last year and it was fun so I'm doing it again to ring in the first day of the year.

Below is the first line of the first post of each month from the last year.

As I was glancing over my large cookbook collection just before Christmas, I had one of those moments I occasionally have, an angst moment, when I wish I spent more time in more of my cookbooks.

That has to be my most unoriginal post title so far.

Tonight John and I are going out.

Hope has a little Jerry Seinfeld in her or so I thought.

Last night was the second of three birthday parties we have been to or will be to this week.

John left very early yesterday morning for his big annual conference "The Learneds."

I'm sooooo frustrated!

All right, so today is actually The Civic Holiday.

And my brain doesn't really move that fast.

First off: Beth and Kate are coming tonight!

We've been sick around here.

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).

And what did I learn from this year's exercise?

I really need to work on my opening lines. YAWN!