Friday, February 27, 2009

Holy crap, I'm featured on Blogher!

Being a person who generally forgets she even owns a cell phone sometimes bites me in the ass. Like today for example. I forgot to even take my cell phone with me when I left the house this morning. For those of you who have sprained thumbs from all your texting or a bluetooth headset as a permanent part of your ensemble, this is probably downright shocking. Here's the thing: I don't really like cell phones and I sure as heck don't like my cell phone. But, as I said, sometimes it bites me in the ass. Because while I was buzzing around town this morning delivering baking to Andrea, something was happening.

Elana Centor from Blogher was trying to get ahold of me.

No, I have not won an all-expenses paid trip to Blogher '09. But she did want to interview me about starting a new business during a recession. Of course, by the time I checked my messages and called her back it was too late for an interview. She did tell me however that I'm featured in her Blogher story regardless. Holy crap.

I can't say thank you enough to Elana. This is great. Just for the shear coolness of it for a little-old-me like me.

Not a bad way to end a week, I'd say!

More baking, more photos

The last couple of days around here have been a tornado of flour, sugar and butter as I prepared for this morning.

This morning Andrea is taking more food photos for me for my other persona, Sugarplum Fairy Homebaking.

I've spent the last couple of months, baking-wise anyway, recuperating from Christmas and coming up with some ideas for Easter and Mother's Day as well as some year-round offerings for baby and wedding showers. I should have some photos to show you in a couple of days.

For now, if you want a taste of what will be new, see the Sugarplum Fairy blog.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What's cooking Wednesday

I was inspired by Shannon's recipe today for her puffy Dutch pancake so I pulled out the frying pan and whipped up some pancakes for breakfast this morning. Rather than using my usual recipe, which I really like, I tried something new. The girls and I liked it so much, I might stick with it.

The recipe is from Canadian Living. It's called Blueberry Yogurt Pancakes although if you're not a blueberry fan, you could just as easily leave them out or replace them with something you do like. The recipe also notes that you can make these into waffles using the same batter. I may give that a try next time.

To make our breakfast extra fancy this morning, I put out the good china and silverware and lit candles. The girls loved it, of course. The result was that they ate their breakfasts really well and it kicked off what ended up being a great day with two very happy kids.

(As an admission, I may have used the candles also because when first used this morning, the switch for the dining room light fixture started to smoke. And therefore we did not use that light for the rest of the day. I may be going to Home Depot tomorrow.)

Blueberry Yogurt Pancakes

1 1/2 cups flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs, separated
3 tbsp butter, melted
3/4 cup blueberries

In large bowl, mix together four, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir together yogurt, milk, egg yolks and butter; mix into flour mixture with a few quick strokes. Beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry, peaks form; fold into batter. Fold in blueberries.

Melt some butter in frying pan and add 1/4 cup for each pancake. Cook the usual way. Slather in butter and maple syrup and enjoy.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Dear Hope

For too long now I've had a post due, a post to one of the two most beautiful children this planet has every seen.  No, I'm not referring to one of Brangelina's twins; I'm talking about our Hope.

Tonight we had a very rare "episode" with her that has finally pried my fingers off of a very comfortable mug of tea to write a love letter to her that was "due" when she turned two in September.  If this was the library, they'd have confiscated my card long ago.

You see, tonight Hope was "caught" about to poop in the bathtub.  She's only done that once before when she was a baby.  Then, it was gross but a bit funny as we yelled "EVACUATE! EVACUATE!" at Emily.  At 2 and almost a half, it isn't so funny anymore.  John reacted as he would have with Emily, sternly but totally appropriately.  However, this is Hope.  She doesn't really get in trouble, simply because she doesn't do too much that warrants it.  When she does get in trouble, she usually capitulates.  If not, she gets a time-out, cries.... and then capitulates.  That's pretty much it.  She doesn't have tantrums (anymore - they were short-lived and pretty tame).  She doesn't scream at us.  She rarely hits Emily or pulls her hair (anymore - she was pretty fierce for a while there and Emily has the scars to prove it).  What she isn't good about however, especially if she's tired or a little sickly like now, is stern talk or the threat of big trouble.  And that was what she perceived to be coming her way tonight, I believe.

The result was that she sat on the toilet crying and crying and crying.  The best I could make out was that she was scared to go back in the bathtub for fear of pooping while she was in there. In then end, I coaxed her back in (read: forced) but she had to hop out two more times to try to sit on the toilet.  As an aside, she did end up peeing on the toilet which is a HUGE first and caused much celebration and helped reset the switch, as it were.  In the end, she had the quickest bath in the history of our house and lots of snuggles and an early bedtime.  What it really did for me was remind me of how amazing she is, how resilient and yet delicate as well.

My Dearest wee Hopey,

You are two and almost a half and this letter is long overdue.  I meant to write it right after you turned two but things are busy around here and sometimes they don't get done when they should, as evidenced by the large pile of dirt in the corner of the kitchen that just didn't make it into the garbage can today.  Or the unfolded laundry in the basket or the unmade lemon squares that I said I would bake or the long unfinished Grow Chart I've been working on for you for the past two months.  

But tonight something happened that made me sit down and finally write this letter, well, two things really: (1) you reminded me how sensitive you are to criticism from Daddy and I and it made me want to capture "you" so I don't forget your amazingness in this moment and (2) you were in bed by 7:15 so I actually have a few more minutes of spare time tonight.

You are truly an amazing kid.  I was lying beside you tonight kissing you over and over (something we do a lot - you have become a kissing and hugging fanatic.  I'm not complaining!) and wondered who will be the person lucky enough to spend a lifetime with you.  You are strong, resilient, stubborn, hilarious (an actual ham... you love to make us laugh and make yourself laugh) but also so sensitive to making sure that people love and like you and that you don't get into deep trouble with us.  When you do, when we have to talk to you really sternly, you are crushed and call "Mimi snuggle me!" if you can get the words out through your tears.

You love to play, with Mimi, with Daddy and me, or just by yourself.  You have so much imagination for a 2-year old.  You can easily play any of Emily's make-believe games, you make up your own (right now your favourite is pretending to either be a dog or take care of a dog - your dog flashlight actually or your telephone which you pretend is a dog.  Go figure.), or you play along while we all play camping or grandpa or Thanksgiving or some crazy game we have going on.  You also are getting into board games.  You've almost mastered Candyland.  You rule at puzzles - regular ones, not those wooden ones anymore.  Elementary for you.  One of the things that really amazes me is your dexterity.  About two months ago you drew your first happy face and are now onto happy suns and other "happy" things.  You've been adept with scissors for about 4 months now, easily cutting around curves and other shapes.

You have outgrown, slightly, your need to be attached to my leg in any unfamiliar situation.  You will now freely give hugs to people you've only seen once before, and kisses too.  You make friends easily with adults after only a minute or two of shyness.  This is so different from a few months ago when I couldn't pry you off my shoulder in a new situation.  I give a lot of credit to preschool for this.  Your favourite morning of the week is your preschool class, Terrific to be Two.  I remember distinctly making a blog promise to you when you were a baby and you were lugged there every week when Emily was in this class.  I promised that when you were two, you'd get to go and get my full attention.  I'm so happy I've been able to keep that promise.  The best decision of my life, aside from marrying your father and having the two of you, has been not to return to work after you were born.  I haven't regretted that for one single second.  

The first morning you were in preschool you were pretty unhappy and kept asking to leave.  I wondered if it was going to work out, but now, six months later, you often ask through the week if we're going to your "class" and I have to keep reminding you that it is only on Tuesdays (not that that means anything to you).  I'm so thrilled that you love it so much, as much as Emily did.  And it's provided me with a chance to become friends with a great group of women. I loved going when Emily was two and I love it with you.  You are totally your own person when you're there.  You love it when I play with you but you don't need me to.  You keep Darcy, your teacher, laughing, even when you still get grumpy during circle time.  You fein doing the actions to a few songs but mainly just pout until it is over and we move on to snack.

You're easy to put to bed, you nap well, you love books and crafts and snacks (as long as they are fruit, crackers or chocolate).  You're still not a great eater but I've seen some minor improvements just in the last week.  You've had two new meals put in front of you and you didn't cry.  And you actually ate one of them.  Call the Vatican!  I've witnessed a miracle!

I love, Hopey, that you are so different from Emily in lots of ways but also so similar in others.  And I love how much you and Emily love each other.  Today as we drove across town, Emily turned to you and said "I love you Hopey" and you said "love you too, Mimi."  I was overcome.  How did I get so lucky to have the two most perfect children in the world?  Thank you Hope for being you.  I love you so much.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

The cake in its final form

I finished the cake, I delivered it without dropping it on the way into the hall, the icing didn't melt (thanks to a walk in fridge in the gigantic - no, really... imagine gigantic and then multiply it by 5 - kitchen in the rental hall). I felt like a real caterer standing in that kitchen with the other caterers building my cake. It was a very cool moment for me.

So, below is the cake. Now, if you're some kind of awesome cake decorator this will seem like a pathetic attempt but for me, the anti-cake decorator, this is a masterpiece. Please don't rain on my parade. In case you can't tell, it's supposed to be building blocks that spell a name: Saurav, the name of the boy whose birthday it was. Of course, if I had to tell you all that, chances are my cake was not much of a success.

I'm VERY thrilled with the cupcakes. The cupcakes are on my roster to stay. I plan to offer these for sale year round in any colour of icing (real buttercream only). I'll offer marble, as these were, banana, carrot and chocolate. No white. Know what? White cake sucks. These marble though? They RULED.

And you know, of course, that these did not come from any mix and that makes them nothing like anything you've ever tasted before unless of course you've tasted homemade cakes before in which case, yes, you've tasted something like them before. But wait... the pretty icing and sprinkles! Only $1.50 each for your next party. What a steal!

I think I need some sleep. And some Nyquil.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Cake update

Looking not too bad.  This could work!

Feeling very nervous

So I've got a baking order through my business, Sugarplum Fairy Homebaking, for a birthday cake.  The cake order is for a 1-year old's birthday.  The cake is intended to look like wooden play blocks spelling out the child's name.  

I'm scared.

In general, I've declared that I suck at decorating birthday cakes.  I did very well with the Wilton Dora cake pan but I've had some disasters too.  So, right now, I'm in the middle of a practice cake (I won't be making a lot of money on this order but I will learn a lot so I think it's worth it).  I sure hope it goes well.  Otherwise, I'm in big trouble.

I'm thinking that it might be worth my while to take a course in cake decorating.  I can see a market in this but I want to feel more confident in my abilities.

So, aside from taking care of a sick Emily today, I'll also be working on this cake.  Any tips for successful decorating?  

I'm thinking there may be some liquid courage consumed later to help me through the process.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Quick review of the week

I scrounged up an old and not very good card reader but it did the trick so now I have a few photos to share.

So, last we left my week with Beth, we'd finished a day at home playing in the snow.  On Tuesday morning, we all (Emily included - she took Tuesday and Wednesday off school) got onto the bus and went to Parliament.  Beth (shockingly, given how many times she's been to Ottawa now) had never been inside the hallowed halls so we went in.  We did not do the tour but we did go up the Peace Tower and look around the rotunda.  

After that, we went over to the Tea Store (a must-visit every time she is in town) for tea and treats and to load up on more loose-leaf.  

On Wednesday, dear Julie got us passes to the Museum of Civilization.  We took a (very) quick tour of the totems and Canada Hall before spending the rest of our time in the Children's Museum.  The kids loved it.  We then finished off with lunch in the cafeteria.  Good thing too. Our bus ride home was the longest on memory because of an error by us.  We stupidly decided to take the 8 all the way to Billing's Bridge instead of switching at Hurdman.  Clearly, we didn't know that the 8 past Hurdman becomes a milk run and no kidding it added an extra hour (a full hour!) to our trip home.  The kids handled it well.  Emily declared she had to "hold the poop in her bum" at one point.  But hey, who didn't?

Thursday was an at home day since Emily had a dentist appointment in the morning and chiro after school in the afternoon.  As an aside, the kid amazed me again at the dentist.  At one point I found myself wondering what I did to get such an amazing kid.  She was so excited to get into the chair.  She loved being shown all the instruments.  She got to choose a movie (she chose Dora) and then her attention was taken with that the entire rest of the time.  She didn't even mind the flouride treatment (I remember actually spitting it onto the floor when I was her age).  
My dad and Donna arrived that afternoon and stayed until Saturday.  On Friday, a P.D. day for Emily, we went out to Stony Swamp and attempted to feed the chickadees.  My dad had several land on his hand.  His luck was due to removing himself from the busy toddlers.  Those of us stuck with the under-5 set had no chickadees land on our hands but they came close.   That afternoon Beth and I went to the Chateau Laurier for tea.  We had to beg for a seat as they were all booked up or so we were told.  The hostess made us agree to be gone by 3:00.  We sat down at 2:15.  At 3:30 when we left, the place was still half empty.  Not sure if we were lied to or if there were lots of no-shows but the lesson was two-fold: (1) beg for mercy and you'll get some and (2) make reservations.

On Saturday morning, Emily had swimming and a big crowd watching her from the viewing gallery.  After that we all headed out to Mandarin Ogilvie for Dim Sum.  Awesome!  We ended that Valentine's Day with a nice meal and some chocolate fondue.  Yum.

On Sunday we went down to the canal so Beth could get a taste for Winterlude.  We didn't skate but the ice was pretty nasty anyway.  We pushed the strollers on the canal and ate Beavertails.  It was a totally gorgeous winter day.  A great way for Beth to end her visit.

Smashed stuff, Obama, and birthday cakes

Yesterday I went to upload all my photos from last week only to find that my card reader is a mangled remnant of what it used to be.  Asking around, Hope admitted that she did it but of course couldn't really expand on that.  I don't know what happened but it took a beating and I can no longer insert my memory card in it.  Ugh.  And I can't find my USB cable to hook up the camera so for now, I linger here with no posts about our week with Beth.  

So, we'll move on for now.

Emily is sick.  I'm sick.  John was sick.  Kate was sick.  I guess it was inevitable.  I had a date with a new friend today to go to the Science and Tech Museum but had to cancel.  I'll also have to cancel our chiro appointment which probably isn't a bad thing given that driving across Ottawa today will be a nightmare due to.... you-know-who.

Obama is the big news here today.  He lands around 10:30 and leaves around 6:30 I believe.  The time in between will be a complete frenzy in Ottawa of road closures and hoards of people trying to catch a glimpse of him.  

No, you can't.

We've been told that the best chance is to go to Parliament Hill where, if the mood strikes him, you might get a wave from a car but there is no plan for him to show his face.  Instead, people are just celebrating his arrival with concerts, marches over bridges and the like.  Which I think is very cool.  I'll be at home listening to the radio or watching the CBC when I get the chance.

I have a lot of posts swimming in my head that I need to get down.  I'm determined today to do some of that while my sicky languishes in front of Treehouse or lays in bed.  However, I have to also spend time working on a new baking order.  I've been contracted to do a birthday cake, something I swore I would never do.  Today I'm making cupcakes and doing a trial run on the cake.  I hope it turns out better than some of my other birthday cake attempts (Dora and the sushi cake excepted).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More to come

I realize I have a lot of catching up to do.  I fizzled out blog-wise after Beth's Visit Day 1.  We had a great visit and did lots of fun stuff.  I will document it all.  Right now I'm kind of feeling crappy so I'm going upstairs to make tea and breakfast for the girls.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Beth's visit, Day 1

Oh man, I can't believe my last blog post was on Wednesday of last week.  For some reason, things have been pretty busy around here.

I volunteered in Emily's class on Thursday and Friday last week so my bloggy time was done-for on those days.  On Saturday, we had morning swimming lesson and then a pot-luck lunch at a friend's and then Mike and Cibele were over for dinner.  On Sunday morning, we had church and then Beth arrived on Sunday evening.  Wow, no wonder I haven't blogged in a while.

Beth (and Kate) are here for a week.  Hooray!  It is just a smidge colder here than it is in Texas but so far Kate has handled it well and we even had her out in the sled today.  This morning we went over to the library.  Beth and I made cauliflower-sour cream souffle for dinner (so yummy).  Basically, we eased into our week.  I'm keeping Emily home from school for the next two days so we can venture a little further out (by bus, now that the strike is over!).  Tomorrow we're planning on the Nature Museum and stop at the yarn store.  

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

What's cooking Wednesday

Around here, supper is often a showdown lately.  Like so many families with toddlers, we battle over food.  I try not to make a big deal of it and offer alternatives but I'm getting pretty tired of the small handful of foods that Hope is willing to eat.  Not to say they aren't healthy choices.  Tonight she asked if we were having broccoli for supper: "Broccoli my FAVOURITE!" she declared.  She's not kidding.  She would easily eat broccoli three meals a day, seven days a week.  So, I can't complain about her vegetable intake.  My complaint is that she won't try anything outside of her comfort zone; she won't try anything new.  

Last night we had a major showdown which resulted in me feeling like a contender for most craptacular mother of the year and her crying in her room and refusing to try what was on her plate in the dining room.   And she is so stubborn that she ended up going to bed without eating anything.  Apparently she has at least one of my traits, according to John.

Tonight I decided to ensure that everything we ate was in her list of "favourites": sausage, oven baked potato wedges, and of course, broccoli.  However, I switched it up a little.  I made the broccoli a little differently, in the way my SIL Cibele makes it.  And it was AWESOME.  And so, if you have a broccoli monster in your house and are tired of steaming or boiling or whatever you normally do, I highly recommend you try this week's feature for my contribution to What's Cooking Wednesday.

Scrumptious Oven Broccoli

Take a head of broccoli or however much you think you'll eat and cut it all up in bite size-ish pieces.  Put it in a loose pile on a large piece of tin foil.  Squeeze about half a lemon on top.  Sprinkle on some good sea salt, some freshly ground pepper, one or two cloves of chopped garlic and half of a finely sliced onion.

Cover that tin foil with another large piece of tin foil and create a packet by crimping the sides together so steam won't escape.  Put it in the oven at about 350F.  Check it after about 20 minutes.  I like it firm but not crunchy.  Just keep it baking until it is how you like it.

Delicious!  and simple and full of vitamins.  Hope ate it all up with no complaints of course. Right before she lit the oven mitt on fire.  More on that tomorrow.

Time to do some serious catching up on the best show on tv: Battlestar Gallactica.  Woot!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Muscles I've ignored for too long

Last night I did something wonderful.  I went cross-country skiing in Gatineau Park with a group of women, most of whom I know very well and two who I didn't know at all.  We had a great time.

We skied a trail that was ENTIRELY UPHILL for the 45 minutes or so that it took to reach the cabin.  It was a gradual uphill but uphill nonetheless.  The cabin is one of several in the Park.  There are lots of picnic tables and a woodstove, outhouses, pretty much what you need for a warm break during a ski.  We brought great food for a lovely supper together there including a good amount of wine.  

After filling ourselves, we skied back down the long uphill.  That ski back was a lot of fun and took only about 20 minutes if that.  Thankfully most of us came equipped with headlamps.

By the time we reached the cabin I knew I was in for some pain today.  I was wondering why my ovaries were aching when I knew I didn't engage those muscles for skiing.  It later occurred to me that those would be my groin muscles and they were screaming at me.  

By the time I crawled into the car for the drive home, I knew I was in trouble.  As soon as I got in the house, I ran a hot bath with my wonderful Aveeno Oatmeal Bath stuff and soaked until I could no longer keep my eyes open.  

I did well on the ski considering I haven't skied since Emily was in utero.  Before that point in my life I'd spent a lot of time on my XC skis.  Luckily it came back pretty quickly.  My muscles don't have the same memory (or strength) apparently.

All this blathering to say that I plan to spend way more time on my skis for the rest of this winter and reap the benefits of the beauty of Ottawa in wintertime and the benefits of getting this body back into shape.