Monday, 9 December 2013

Question of the Day

Alternate title:  I am so not equipped to deal with this

Today, at breakfast, Vaughn asked, "Does Jesus live in space?"


Other recent questions:  "Is Jesus magic?"

Well, yes, kind of --

"Do we have to walk in heaven?"

I guess, if you like to walk, you can --

"What does 'sexy' mean?"


"What are these three things in here?"  (guess what he was referring to, and also, please tell me why there are three)


Sunday, 1 December 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Bit Like Christmas

I am amazed by the sense of satisfaction I felt just moments ago, looking back at my cleared driveway, the gentle flurries drifting slowly around me.  It was almost magical, in an I-just-shoveled-the-driveway-and-now-I-want-someone-to-be-proud-of-me kind of way.

It's dark.  It's cold.  I had been dreading taking the garbage out, but when I got out there, I decided that I should probably clear my walk.  And then my steps.  And then shovel a (shovel-width) path from my green bin to the carport.  And then, some kind of energy hit, and I shoveled the whole back driveway.  Well, ok, not the whole thing, but it's now wide enough to drive my car into my garage.  Or would be if I could fit my car into my garage.  Project Cleanout is still underway.

At about the mid-point, I heard some clanking and clicking.  I froze, since the sound was coming, if not from my backyard, then from my house.  Sure enough, I saw the curtains over our back door start to move, and two little heads peered around it.  Uh-oh.  As I had tucked them in and snuck out of the house only about 15 minutes before, I expected that they would be a titch distraught.  They didn't disappoint.

"Mommy!  You're not supposed to shovel the backyard!"

"Go back to bed.  I'll be in when I'm done."

I watched them re-lock the latch and lower the security bar.  I wondered if they had already locked the front door, and, if so, if anyone would get out of bed when I started banging on the door.

But, I digress.  After finishing the rest of the back driveway, hauling the green bin and black bin to the front steps, and having a nice little chat with my neighbour, I took a moment to look again at our little home.

I had used today's naptime (one hour!  no arguments!  go!) to its fullest, and our front entrance now boasts Christmas lights, festive greenery, and a wreath.  In just forty (40!) minutes, I was able to test our two strings of lights, wrap them up each side of the steps, up the posts, across the top, connect them together, run to the garage (at the time, it was through knee-deep snow), get the extension cord, plug the lights into it, feed it around the house, under the side steps, onto the back deck, over the deck box, under the deck rug, and plug it in.

Well, truth be told, that part only took 12 minutes.  The other 28 were spent running back to the garage for the timer, plugging that in, checking out the front and noting that there were 5 wraps on the right, but only 2 on the left, disconnecting them and unwrapping the right so that there were 3, stepping back to realize that there were only TWO on the left, like I first noticed, so climbing back up the ladder to disconnect the strings again and make sure that the wraps were congruent.  They weren't.  I somehow had miscounted (yes, miscounted to three), so had to do it again, then decided to wrap the two light strings around the wreath for extra stability and pizzazz.

All of this was done with incredible awkwardness.  I could picture my neighbours cozying up in front of their windows with nice mugs of hot cocoa, just to watch the ordeal.  Sure, they'd feel bad, just watching me, but not enough to end the show.  But eventually, I was done, and it looked fine.  Just fine!  Stop badgering me!

So, yes, I took that moment, and admired the lights, the wreath, the snowflakes... and held my breath as I tried to open the door.

It opened.

They're slipping.

PS - the two of them were waiting for me, on the stairs, blankies in hand.  "We're scared," they said.  "That's silly," I replied, and led them back up to bed.  "Tomorrow, you can go see the nice hockey rink I've shoveled out for you."

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Tamsin Toonamint the Toddler

Well, it's official.  My baby is not a baby anymore.


Tamsin turned one this week, with a reasonable amount of fanfare (for a change).  Maybe it's the exhaustion wisdom that comes with having a third child.  Maybe it's the fact that I'm at home with three kids and trying to keep all the balls in the air while Chris is in Toronto (he came home for the weekend, though!) and the date that I had picked for her party (ok, ok, it was sort of last-minute) conflicted with absolutely everyone's schedules.  Or maybe, just maybe, birthdays are about more than big, exciting parties involving lots of kids and their parents messing up my tiny house.*  

They're about cake.

"You've been holding out on me.  This cake is awesome!"

And balloons.

(and party dresses - thanks, Uncle Mal and Aunt Lorraine!)

And cousins!  Here, everyone decorates their own gingerbread man to take home.  Our resident ginger supervises with interest.

Other Toonamint factoids:  she is maintaining her 75th percentile height-and-weight stats, but still claims to be my daughter.  She completed her 1-year molaring yesterday (thank god), and surprised us on the day after her birthday by taking 3 steps by herself!  Today, she casually whipped out two new baby signs ("more" and "food") (having mastered "all done" with a tray full of carrots last week!)... all this, of course, means that I am beginning to suspect that she has been coasting along and toying with us for quite some time.

She is a relaxed, funny, sweet little girl, who love, love, loves her big brother, and tolerates her big sister (who mauls her (lovingly) at every opportunity).  Actually, wait.  She is relaxed and sweet until about 4 pm, at which point she embraces her true redhaired persona and loses her mind.  Only dinner can soothe the beastie, unless it involves tomatoes or green beans, which seem to offend her to her core.  She will pick them out of her mouth, look you in the eye calmly, and drop them off the side of her high chair.  Charming.

Until the last few days, she has absolutely hated books, screaming and squirming every time I picked one up to share, and leading me to wail despairingly to Chris on several occasions, "She's going to be illiterate!".  Today, she climbed into my lap with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, and even turned the pages.  She has been pulling Dogs out of the bookshelf to read to herself, too.

She knows it's funny when she puts things on her head, and often tries to put other people's socks and shoes on her feet.  She plays independently (see also, third child and exhausted mom), enjoys going to child-minding at the gym, and is as friendly and social as her brother and sister.  She dances when she hears music, enjoys clapping her hands, and thinks there is nothing worse in the world than being stuffed into first a snowsuit and then a carseat... but then the warmth and coziness puts her to sleep in minutes.**

All in all, we're still quite smitten, and are glad we had her.  Keep growing, kiddo.

But not too fast.

* This will probably not happen again, though - it seemed too under control... we will have to start preparing her for next year.

**Note to world:  Feel free to stuff me into a snowsuit and then a carseat and carry me around, all cozy and warm.  It sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.  Especially if you can also throw in snacks.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Speedy McGee (and the Fey Hufflings Three)

Uh oh... it's happening.

She is so proud of herself.  She was walking on her knees, then up on her feet, all over the gymnasium today at Active Playgroup, grinning the whole time.

Previously:  Walmart was holding a Fairyland photo event.  How could I possibly not go?

Note the look on Tamsin's face as she starts to capsize, and realizes that her wings are just decorative.  Wuh-oh.

Nobody needs to tell Ailsa how pretty she looks.  She knows.

This will, of course, be part of the wedding slideshow.  Heh heh.

Tamsin thinks this frog-kissing is just all too funny.  Why would I want it to turn into a prince?  The frog is much more fun!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Monkeys at the zoo - August 2013

Flashback to August:  We drove Chris to Toronto to get all settled in in his new dorm, and made a weekend out of it, including, of course, a trip to the zoo!  It was a crazy-hot day, but we all did great.

Huffling, Polar Bear, Huffling.

Who's afraid of a Komodo "Perfect Killing Machine" Dragon?  Nobody here!

Fun on the carousel - one last hurrah at the end of a long but happy day.

Vaughn is not/NOT flipping the bird.  I don't care what the photo shows.

All tuckered out...well, two of them, anyway.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

There's a trick to finding joy in the hunt for the treat

Growing up in suburbia of various cities, we took Halloween for granted.  You put your costume on, started at the house next door, and ran up and down every driveway on every street in your x-block radius, complaining about the very few houses that dared be unlit and grinchy with their candy.

Trick-or-treating in our current neighbourhood is such a different experience.  On our street, only two houses give out candy... one of them is ours.  On the adjoining street, in three blocks, there were just two houses with carved pumpkins out.  We knew both families.  But the pumpkins were unlit, as the families were still out, looking for more loot.  "We'll swing back on the way home," I promised.  When we did, they weren't back yet.

"Look!"  Ailsa yelled.  "A pumpkin!"  It was more than half a block away, down another street, but sure enough, there was a lit pumpkin.  A few doors down, a woman sat on her porch, out of the rain, and beckoned us over, inviting the kids to help themselves from her bowl.

"Try next door,"  she said.  "Their porch light is burned out, but they're giving out candy, too."

Other candy-givers, usually one of two or three at most on a street, asked for help in recruiting more trick-or-treaters.  "Tell your friends!" they'd call.  "Happy Halloween!"  A lot of them were hanging out outside.  Many of them gave great handfuls, as they knew that they'd be eating most of the candy, anyway.

One woman was standing at the bottom of her driveway, the stump of a candle sputtering merrily in a glass bowl at her feet.  She held a plastic bag, in which were dozens of little baggies of treats, each tied shut with a ribbon; she had obviously gone to a great deal of work.  She was standing there, in the light rain, hoping to share her Halloween spirit with as many little souls as she could.

I guess I could look at it and think that it's a bit depressing.  Our neighbourhood is turning around, but it's going to take a while, and tonight, I was out there for an hour in the rain with a very determined knight and a stalwart little princess,* successfully trick-or-treating about a dozen houses in total.  Luckily, our kids don't know any other Halloween.**

I've decided to reframe this in a completely positive light:  this way, it's so much more exciting..  The joy isn't just in getting loads and loads of candy (which they did), or in dressing up and being someone--or something-- else (which they loved), but in the hunt.  The excitement of finding a house that actually wanted to give FREE CANDY to them.  Watching their faces when they saw another little family out and about.  Sharing insider tips as to which street has a house or two that's giving out.  And being able to take the time to really connect with the other Halloweenies.

What a wonderful, happy Halloween.

Our wee skunkie rocks the Heirloom Skunk costume at the City Hall party on the weekend.

The Huffling Halloweenies gaze steadfastly at Grandpa as he gives them the pregame pep talk.
Dressed and ready for action, the brave knight and beautiful princess are ready to venture forth through rain and dark of night.

Now, if you'll excuse, me, I have about 90 leftover fun-sized chocolate bars to hide from myself.

* the wee skunkie was at home with Grandma and Grandpa, staying dry.

** somehow, I don't think Barrhaven transplants would be amused.


Friday, 25 October 2013

Fall is falling!

Oh, the leaves!  Our beautiful maple tree is shedding...shedding...shedding.  Luckily, the weather has been incredibly gorgeous,* so the Helpful Hufflings and I don't mind the raking a bit!

Here is what our front yard looks like, once freshly raked:

(hoping that the new landscaping survives the winter)

And here is why the Helpful Hufflings like to help!  I have gotten smarter over the past few weeks, and now put the leaf pile on the driveway, instead of on the lawn, so that when they decide to UN-rake, there is less spread.  However, I don't think they'll be doing that again.  (Mommy was pretty mad....but quite impressed at their thoroughness.)

And of course, this is our lawn, less than 36 hours after raking.  Sigh.  But it's so pretty.

Unrelated, but hysterical:
Hat head + peanut butter as styling aid + "what do you mean, lunch is over????"

*  a little help:  native canadian summer?  first nations summer?  what's the pc term, please?

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Watching paint dry... literally

The time has come, I said, to paint our living room.

To be accurate, I said that more than a year ago.

I can't believe how long it has taken to choose a paint colour, rethink it, overthink it, discuss it with everyone I know, pass it by Fis, and finally make a final, final decision.  Only to find out -- of course -- that that colour has been discontinued.  Or at least renamed.


So, back to the paint samples I went.

I chose another final colour.  I entered it into one of those colour-match applications that let you see what it would look like in your own home, with your existing stuff.  And it looked terrible.  So I chose one shade lighter, a pretty silvery-grey, that was still warm enough to go with the gold sofa, the deep-red chairs, and the dark-grey cushions and throw.

Just to be sure, I painted a test-strip along the trim - window, baseboard, and crown moulding.  I wanted more of a contrast than the cream/white combo that was there when we moved in, and at first, I wasn't seeing it.  After a few hours of drying, it looked better.  "Try another coat," said Chris.  So I did.

And it's calming, you know, sitting there, knitting.  Watching paint dry, hoping and wishing that it will be a little darker, a little different.  And waiting.

The verdict:  I love, love, love it in my dining room.  Huh.  I guess it's lighter and brighter in there, but I was happy with the cream for now.  But in the living room, nope.  So my living room has a stripe of rather odd, light grey (that can mostly be hidden by the curtains -- I was thinking, just a little)... I'm going to have to pick a slightly deeper-but-not-too-dark grey, and hope for the best.

Back to the paint store I go.


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Friday, 27 September 2013

Rory Calhoun

Alternate title:  a Baby in Good Standing

For some reason, my video uploader isn't working, so this is what we get in place of a very cute video.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Down by the river

After a few too many nights of colds and misery, it was a beautiful day yesterday, so I thought we should try to bike to the river after school.  I packed drinks and a snack (the complicated-but-rather-delicious Cook's Illustrated Banana Bread), and away we went.

The kids did amazingly well - it's a little over a kilometre each way, almost entirely on busy sidewalks, but we got there in about 20 minutes.  Within sight of the playground, we stopped for a while to admire the ducks, geese and swans.  The kids have spent so much time at this park with their caregiver, and they really miss it.  It's an incredible green space with NCC pathways throughout - perfect for running, biking, or blading...or just enjoying the green energy.  I often forget how close we live to the river, and would love have adventures there more often.

Tamsin was super-interested in all the birds, including this beautiful pair of swans.  

Next, we found a jungle cat, asleep on a tree.  And if you look carefully, there's another one up in the branches.

Vaughn showed off his amazing spider-skills.

The light was incredible.  We left the park around 5:15 and pedaled (much more slowly) home.
(Not bad for cellphone pics, eh?  You can see how the light changed in just 40 minutes.)

Rematch: Zu-quinoa Soup

Check and mate!

The alterations made a huge difference to last week's creation, and tonight I ladled up four bowlfuls of sweet, fragrant, mildly spicy deliciousness.  I think Tamsin ate more than the rest of us put together!

With it, we had cheddar and apple muffins (I played with that recipe, too, but the "healthening" of them rendered them a bit drier than I'd prefer.  So I buttered them.  :)

Nom nom nom.

Friday, 13 September 2013

DG of Quinoa? Qui, moi?

(apologies for the lame title)

As I have finally driven Chris away,* I now get to make vegematarian meals more often for the Hufflings.

My latest oeuvre** was -- and really, the name is inspiring by itself -- Curried Carrot Apple Zu-quinoa (Zucchinoa?) Soup.


1 tbs butter
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 apple, diced
1/2 a ridiculously massive zucchini, diced
not enough curry powder
3/4 c quinoa
3 c homemade turkey broth (it was in my freezer)
salt and pepper, not quite to taste
goldfish crackers (to add salt/flavour)

Saute all the veggies in the butter, add the curry powder (but use more than I did... I'd recommend at least 2 tsp or 1 Tbs), add the quinoa and broth, let it simmer for... I don't know... a while... and add salt and pepper.

It was fairly bland, but I was coasting on the healthiness of it, and the goldfish really brought it to life... as long as you had a goldfish in every bite.  The next day, however, it had thickened up considerably (the quinoa was looking squiddier than the night before), and the flavours had improved.  It had redeemed itself enough to make me want to try it again, but with the following adjustments:

- 2 apples
- more curry powder and 1 Tbs lemon juice, added to just the onions before adding the rest of the veggies
- using a more flavourful broth, as the turkey was pretty bland (possibly even -- gasp! -- bouillon cubes)

I'm making it again this week, so we'll see how it goes.

Tonight, however, my esteemed colleague Chef Ailsa Encraque helped me make deeeelicious Creamy Green Spaghetti.  She picked lots of fresh basil from our garden yesterday, peeled 2 cloves of garlic, poured in some parmesan, some toasted pine nuts (I did the toasting, of course), and some olive oil,  cracked in a bunch of pepper, and then whirred them around in our little handy blender.  Today, she chose whole wheat spaghetti noodles at the store, and I boiled it up, added (the shame!) 1/2 a packet of white cheddar cheese sauce mix, some milk and butter, and stirred in half of the pesto.  I sprinkled on the extra pine nuts and served it to the critics.

Vaughn took one bite and actually shouted, "I LOVE IT!"   He is insisting that we make it again for Chris when he comes home next.  Awww.  "Ailsa, it's really good," he repeated.  What a good big brother!  Tamsin liked it too, as indicated by her kicky feet and eyes keenly watching the fork's trip back and forth between her bowl and her mouth.

And now, for a whole weekend with no lunches to make.  And peanut butter at every meal!  Huzzah!

* Literally.  I drove him to Toronto.  Ok, it's only for 10 months.  With many, many weekend visits.  But still.

** note to self:  look up "oeuvre" and make sure it means "extremely mediocre dish, lacking in flavour"

Sunday, 8 September 2013

All Growed Up

One down.

The Vaughnster went off for his first day of junior kindergarten on Friday.  

My little man got himself dressed in his new clothes, his new jacket and his new backpack, and got on that bus without even looking back.  Waaaah!

"Smile," I said.  "No, Mommy," he said, "I want to look serious."

At the school bus stop, my brave young man salutes us before he heads off to scholastic war.  The womenfolk look on admiringly.

That made it sound so simple.  I can't believe how challenging it was to simply pack his freaking lunch.  The new school system (at Manor Park PS, anyway), requires not a lunch and two snacks, but two "nutrition breaks".  These are two meals that divide the day into thirds.  Also, due to the litterless lunch policy, you can't send juice boxes, yogurt cups, or anything even in a baggie.  Also, there are no nuts allowed.  And also, the lunches/snacks have to be divided up and labeled so that a hungry, distracted 4-year old doesn't eat the whole thing at 10:30 and be starving and thirsty till 3:38, when he gets off the bus.  Also, it all needs to fit into his lunch box.  With two drinks.

It only took two and a half hours of effort on my part the night before, but I did it.  Of course, both drinks (milk and 50/50 juice and water, frozen to act as an ice pack) leaked in his bag, so when he got home, I had to empty everything out of everything (everything that was perfectly labeled, I might add) and wash it all out.

But!  This amazing kid pulled the stool over to the sink, and climbed up.  I had asked him to just dump all of his empty tupperware into the sink, but he insisted on -- wait for it -- washing each and every piece by hand.

Getting off the bus at the end of the day... and full of smiles!
 He has decided to go back on Monday.  I hope to not cry so much this time.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Taking the Biscuit

Today was a stellar day, parenting-wise.*

Check this out:

We got up at 7 (still not ready for school, but don't worry!  We still have 2 more days!), played outside, went to the train museum on a playdate, went to the fish store (our newest addition, Scuba, needed a house), and came home for a nice lunch of corn soup, crackers, yogurt, and carrot cake (thanks, Grandma!).

Full name:  Scuba Gooding Jr., of course.**

While the girls napped, Vaughn and I cleaned Scuba's tank, built a castle with blocks, and practiced writing our numbers.***  When Ailsa woke up, the two of them, giggling, helped themselves to granola bars, but they cleverly each volunteered a big bite to me, to bargain for not having to share with each other).  I took Miss Tamsin out in the stroller while the kids rode their bikes to the park for a few more minutes of activity before dinner, which was a biscuit-topped casserole that used up the chicken and cauliflower leftover from last night.  Yes, biscuits!  Mmmm, biscuits! All in all, a day worthy of the title Domestic Goddess.

 "Mmmm-mm!  Know who doesn't like biscuits?" I asked the kids.  "Crazy people."

They ate for a while in silence, then Ailsa leaned over to me seriously.

"Mommy," she asked, "Does Uncle Sean like biscuits?"

Now, the obvious interpretation to that question was cemented when Vaughn waited a few beats then asked, "What about Aunt Tracey?  Does she like biscuits?"

It's been three hours, and I'm still giggling.

* What I mean by that, of course, is that all three kids behaved themselves really well without any actual work on my part, and I didn't have to put on my cranky pants.

**  Here's wishing him a happy home with us, like his predecessors, Bellini (2006-2007) and Buddy (2008), RIP (Rest In Plumbing).

***  I'm pretty good.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Mother of the Year

Just a quick one tonight.

Last night, it was past bedtime.  All three Hufflings were tucked in, and were wished "good night, sleep tight, sweet dreams", as usual, and reassured that I'd see them at seven.

They (ok, Vaughn and Ailsa, anyway) know that Mommy does not do well with being roused before seven am.  This is going to become a really big problem in about a week, as Vaughn's school bus (snif) comes by at around 7:45, and I'm pretty sure that we can't all eat, get dressed, and be washed/brushed in under 45 minutes.  I'll deal with that... maybe tomorrow.

Anyhoo, the only reasons to get out of bed before seven are for potty, and lately, for being scared.  Because what kind of parent yells up to a kid who gets out of bed and calls down the stairs, "Mommy!  I'm scared!" with, "No, you're not.  Go back to bed.  And stop yelling.  You're keeping Ailsa and Tamsin awake."

Jeez.  Written down like that, it looks pretty bad, I guess.  But what I didn't say, what I really wanted to add was, "... Besides, screaming attracts monsters."

Monday, 5 August 2013

Home again, home again, jiggety jog

In the past two weeks, I have taken two weekends off.

As in, off from my life, my family, my kids.

And it was awesome.

First, I had the somewhat-annual Girls' Weekend, this time in and around Halifax!  It was lovely, relaxing, and calming.  Ok, except for the fear-leading-up-to-the-ocean-kayaking-portion-of-the-trip.  That part sucked.

Let me back up.
Me and Theodore Too at the Halifax Waterfront.
Vaughn asked me if I heard him "really talking".  Unfortunately, he was too busy taking kids around the harbour to ask him myself, so I just got a quick photo and found a storybook to bring home.

I may have admitted to a slight moderate completely crippling fear of sharks in the past.  Ha!  I faced my fear!  I conquered it!  I... no, I didn't.  I sobbed and shook and ended up in close proximity to a shark, which, for some reason, didn't eat me, but that did little to convince me that I was overreacting.  I mean, it probably had just eaten another small-but-stringy person and was too full to look my way.  Flash forward 6 years or so, and I'm super-excited at the prospect of a morning of ocean kayaking, followed by meditation on an island somewhere, followed by tea.  Happy sigh.  That is, until the night before we left.

"Hey, are there sharks around Halifax?"  I asked.

A smart, kind* friend would have said, "No," denied it vigorously, and made sure that I couldn't google anything before we went.  My friend Lisa (whom I love dearly) said, "Yes, but they're around the corner from where we'll be."

Oh!  That's all right, then.  Everyone knows that sharks don't swim around corners!?!

So, I was kind of gaspy and panicky, but said I'd try my best.  And then proceeded to have a few glasses of wine.

The next morning, 6:45 am came early.  After all, it was my one selfish weekend per year, and getting up before 7 really didn't fit into my plans.**  But, I sprang out of bed, dragged myself to the car, and off we went.  The waiver didn't mention sharks, and when I asked the guide at ECO about them, he said, "Nope, never seen one."  (Aha!  A smart man!)

There were five kayakers and two guides.  Despite my efforts to appear brave and athletic, they suggested strongly that I choose a tandem kayak with Laurel.  I claimed the front, non-steering seat for the first leg of the journey, they gave us a quick tutorial, and away we went... into choppy waters.  Boy, am I glad that Laurel was responsible for the steering.  I was too busy trying to j-stroke, then trying not to j-stroke, because that's not how you kayak (apparently), to worry about directing us anywhere but wherever the boat, wind, and current wanted to take us.  I wasn't even thinking about sharks, it was such hard work!

We ended up getting corralled into a quiet little inlet while the guides discussed the weather conditions.  To my chagrine (but to my survival, apparently), they decided that the weather was too rough for beginners, and as soon as we went around the corner (probably the shark corner, come to think of it), it would be much, much worse.  So, we turned back, fairly exhausted, slightly disappointed, but still alive, and returned to a small, peaceful platform in the middle of nowhere to enjoy 20 minutes or so of meditation.

I was amazed not only that I was able to enjoy it, but that I was able to do it -- to turn my mind down, to concentrate on my breathing, to not fidget, and to actually just be.  It was lovely.  Afterwards, we talked about techniques for overcoming -- or at least dealing with -- fears, and I learned about EFT a wee smidge too late.  We practiced tapping the acupressure points and repeating soothing affirmations.  One of the other participants said, "It's one of those things that it doesn't matter if you believe in it or not; it just works."  Great!  Now if I could only have the presence of mind to try it when I'm paralyzed by fear, I'll be all set.

This should have been an epic photo of Lisa with a giant blue tongue.  Oh well.

The rest of the weekend was delightful and non-terrifying (though nutritionally horrifying), and I even had a lovely, if brief, visit with my grandmother before returning for three hectic days back at home...then Chris and I flew to Bathurst, New Brunswick for a wedding weekend.***

We didn't waste a minute of this one either.  It was a beautiful location for a beautiful couple to (finally) (hardy har) get married, and boy, were we spoiled.  From the cocktail party on Friday night, to the wedding proper on Saturday and the beach/pool/hot tub party on Sunday, I was repeatedly over-served, and was barely able to rally for the actual ceremony.  I tried a fun new technique called "hair of the dog", and I must say, I'm converted!  A bit worried, as it took three glasses of wine to make me feel human again, but converted nonetheless.

The gorgeous couple says their "I do's".
And no, I don't know how to make "I do's" grammatically correct, but I'm sure Captain Grammar will have the answer.

All this to say that I've had two blissful, freewheeling weekends of fun and frolic, but I was so ready to come home today (and not just for the detox, although that will figure strongly in the coming days).  Before we left for the airport (after the Zumba class, of course), Chris mentioned that, with the approaching thunderstorms, we might not make it home on time, and I got all teary.  All went well, though I didn't like sitting where I could watch the propeller turn on the little plane (too freaked out to remember to try EFT, as it turned out).  I have never been a nervous flier until this trip, oddly enough.

It felt so good to walk in my front door and have such big smiles from all three Hufflings.  And the hugs!  Mmm!  Tamsin's hair was thicker than when we left (was it only 4 days ago?), and she's almost crawling now.  She kept turning to look at me with a big smile on her face, as if to say, "It's you!  It's really YOU!"  And both big kids demanded extra hugs and kisses and babbled all over about how they went to the beach and rode on Grandpa's lawn tractor and ate McDonalds and held "really really sharp scissors".  Um, ok.  Poor Grandma and Grandpa went home (probably to lie still for the rest of the week), but they definitely earned it.  We owe them big time.

Not that I believe Dorothy had it completely right, but sometimes, even after the most wonderful experiences with incredible people, coming home is all you want.

Oh, and Laurel just sent me this link:


Tap tap tap.

*  Not an honest friend, but really, who wants an honest friend?

** Unlike the wee hangover I was experiencing, which was totally planned.

*** Ok, ok, I got two selfish weekends this year.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

DG Sets Fires, so Kidlets Take Over

To be fair, this was my first fire ever.  (And now that I've posted that, I'll be keeping a box of baking soda next to the stove at the ready!  Karma enjoys me.)

But, in my defence, how many people out there would expect that an IKEA meatball can go from frozen solid to a mass of tupperware-melting flames in less than 2 minutes????  I was getting Tamsin's dinner ready, changing her, and corralling the kidlets with a youtube video of a Stampede Princess with a lasso*, when Chris shrieks into the house after seeing the fire in the microwave, and panics.

I don an oven mitt, grab the glass plate from the microwave, and take the smoking remnants outside, to spread their noxious gases to the world.  We open every window, every door, and... nothing.  It is so stinking hot and humid here that there is no air movement at all.  At 6 pm, it's so hot that I have to double check that there isn't some kind of wiring fire behind the wall... nope, it's just that the kitchen window (no longer even in the sun) is open.  Ye gads.

But I digress.  I set up a fan, lit some candles, and ... well, I took a walk with Ailsa.  I would have brought Tamsin with me, but she was stinky.  And Vaughn was finishing a youtube segment.  Backing up a bit, I was taking Ailsa for a walk because she wasn't allowed to watch any more computer because of poor behaviour, and for some reason, I thought a nice after-dinner walk with Mommy would constitute a punishment.  Toxic fumes possibly clouded my judgement.  

Anyhoo, we had a lovely explore around the block, smelling flowers, watching squirrels, doing urban gymnastics, and generally getting all hot and sweaty, then returned home 10 minutes later for a nice cool bath before bed.  We opened our front door, to be hit in the face with a nice (but horribly stinky), cool blast of 24-degree air.  Home stench sweet home.

So, from now on, I'll be passing my Domestic Gauntlet to the kidlets, who are showing themselves more than worthy.  Some photos as proof:

We often make deeeelicious smoothies.
Sonny Bono sez:  "I like it too!"

We work together to measure and stir cookies and muffins.
(The key to taking great candid shots of kids cooking together is to take them quickly, before the bloodshed, bowl-flinging and wooden spoon wars)

This recipe, made yesterday, is "watermelon pizza".  They loved making it... and eating it too!
Nothing funny happened.  They did a great job!

* Princesses and cowboys?  Two birds with one stone!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

The Domestic Goddess is Suddenly Keen on Quinoa

A delicious, nutritious blog I follow just happens to be written by one of my Very Talented Cousins.*  Amy is a professional dietitian and a personal trainer, and has tons of great ideas on how to use any healthy ingredient in a multitude of ways.

Last night, I was flipping through it and saw a recipe I simply had to try:  Quinoa Granola Bars.  Technically, Amy took the recipe from another blog, but as she credits it, I feel that I don't have to.  Nor do I need to post the recipe.  This will possibly come across as lazy, but time spent cut-and-pasting recipes takes away from time spent eating quinoa granola bars.

I digress; not only did I have almost all the ingredients already in my pantry, but it would also help me use up some of my soon-to-be-heirloom quinoa.

Let's face it:  quinoa is great in soup!**  Great in salad!***  Great FOR you!  But I have a hard time getting past how it looks.  To me, a non-kalamari-eater, it just looks sort of ... squiddy.  Maybe that's just me.

But, as I inherited a monstrous bag of organic quinoa when our friends moved to Canmore a year ago, I had nothing to lose!  I also had some almonds, raisins, dried cranberries and agave nectar kicking about (as one does), and just had to buy some flax seeds**** to round it out.

Ailsa was my deputy DG today, as Vaughn seemed to have no interest in the kitchen, choosing instead to pore over his flyer for the Star Wars exhibit at the Aviation Museum.  Again.  Anyhoo, she was a great help in measuring, scooping, and dumping the dry ingredients into a big bowl, while I mixed the wet ingredients in a pyrex measuring cup, mixed it all together, and smooshed it over and over (as recommended by Amy) onto a cookie sheet lined with foil.  It baked for possibly five minutes too long, as Ailsa decided that she didn't like the brown edges, but the middle bit is incredible.  I cut them into 1-1/2 inch squares (which held together really well, probably due to the extra smooshing), and Vaughn kept asking for more.  I suggested that we bring a few to his daycare to share with his best friend, and for the first time ever, he said "no."

Now, this is a boy that has insisted I pack up a tupperware full of "Indian food" to share, a thermos of Faux Fraser soup (complete with dixie cups for sharing), and every cookie we've ever made, ever.  But these are apparently too good to dole out to his friends.  High praise, indeed!  Not to mention the incredible healthfulness of all those superfoods crammed smooshed into one big pan.  I feel virtuous in having a second helping.  And maybe a third.

Nom nom nom.

*  There are far too many of us to name, but we're all spectacular.

**  Ok, I made one great soup with quinoa, involving a mirepoix base, chicken stock, and diced tomatoes, but it was completely legendary.  

*** Or so I've heard.  My one attempt at quinoa salad had my ratios woefully off.  

**** As the recipe calls for ground flax seeds, I recommend that you purchase your flax seeds whole, and grind the quantity you want, as needed.  Ground flax seeds are vacuum-packed for a reason; once you open the bag and expose them to the air, they denature incredibly fast.  Also, keep your whole flax seeds in the freezer, with all your nuts, to preserve the flavour for longer.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Domestic Goddess' Complete Parenting Fail...but I blame TVO

I was leaving the childcare at the gym the other day, with just Tamsin in tow, and I noticed that there was a nature show on the tv.*  A few cheetahs were oh, let's say, playing a friendly game of tag with an ostrich, so I signalled to the person in charge that it was about to get messy for the ostrich.  As I left, I started thinking about the reaction that Vaughn would probably have to watching something like that.  And I knew it wouldn't be good.  Possibly Definitely, hysterics would be involved.

THEN I started thinking that maybe we have been over-sheltering him.  He saw a bit of Ratatouille last week during TV Night (one of two half-hour television sessions they get per week), which is cute and funny... except for one scene involving a crazed old lady with a shotgun.  Despite his professed fascination for guns, he was off the couch in a flash, knocking over my glass of water while frantically trying to get to me, and sobbing, while shouting, "that naughty, mean, stupid lady!"  Now, he knows that you never, never call someone stupid, so I could tell this was a big deal.**  We talked him down, explaining that it was just a movie, and all pretend, and how funny it was when she shot her whole ceiling down.  He calmed down, but I decided we need to start exposing him to "real life" a bit more.

(Disclaimer:  the rest of this post is not exactly family-friendly, so you probably shouldn't read it aloud to any children.  Or let your children read it.  In fact, you should probably stop reading now, too.)

So, this afternoon, while the kids were napping, I scrubbed the moss off our side deck (oh, the humidity), then came inside to fold laundry while watching "parent tv".  They woke up soon after I sat down, and I had just flipped to TVO, a program called, "Cheetah vs Lion" or something like that.  Chris and I  had talked about the nature show issue, and had agreed that we would start exposing the Hufflings, as long as we were there to discuss it with them as need be.  Discussion points are in blue.

The first bit involved a female cheetah being chased into a thicket of trees by three male cheetahs ("Hey look!  They're playing!"), and then, for lack of any better term available, gang-raped by all three of them.  ("Um, that's just how they play... practice hunting...")  She's fighting pretty hard, and they're so occupied with their activity (bastards) that, without their noticing, a lion saunters up, takes everyone by surprise, and literally bites the female's head open while the male cheetahs just take off.  (Bastards.) ("Well, lions are wild animals and they need to hunt other animals to be able to eat.")

I was actually rooting for the lion.  And if I was the female cheetah, I think I would have been, too.

The next scene involved MORE jerky cheetahs being so busy forcing female cheetahs to mate with them ("Ha ha!  look at them, still playing that game!"), that they also get attacked/killed by lions.  I have figured out where the plot for every single horror movie comes from.

Then, they showed a sweet little pride of lion cubs:  tiny, wee, adorable lion cubs.  And a big lion, who must be the proud fa--- OH MY GOD HE IS EATING ONE OF THE BABY LIONS!!!!  ("You know how Daddy wrestles with you?"   --I jump between Vaughn and the tv and go "rarr rarr rarr" on his tummy.)  SWEET JESUS, HE IS NOW DISEMBOWELING A SECOND ONE!!!  ("rarr rarr rarr -- Chris, where is the remote???  Rarr... rarrr, oh thank goodness, it's off.")

("Silly lions.")

So, that experiment ended, and the Hufflings are back where they should be: in the dark.  And I am recovering with a glass of wine.  Or thirty.

Any parenting suggestions, moving forward, are welcome.

* Why the heck GoodLife has televisions and videos in their childcare rooms is beyond me; after all, if I'm going there to lift weights, do plyometrics, sweat and strain it all out for an hour, I sure don't want my kids sitting still, watching tv.  Because it's not fair.

** Oh, and the hysteria, too of course.  I know my child.  Kaff.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Cranky Book Review: Silver Wedding by Maeve Binchy

Actually, this is a Cranky Book Review of any and all Maeve Binchy books. 

The first one I ever read (for she is quite prolific as a writer) was The Copper Beech.  I think I was still in high school, and my sister gave it to me, hardcover, as a birthday or Christmas gift.  I read it, I liked it, and I may have read a few more over the years... maybe Circle of Friends?  I really can't remember.  And I moved on.

High school, however, is a few years ago (kaff).  Just before Tamsin's arrival, I scored a bag of books from my friend Andrea, as she was decluttering before her move to Vancouver.  There were a few Marian Keyes (of Sushi for Beginners fame, which I read and loved), and a few Maeve Binchy, among others.

Those books seem to make up most of my "currently reading" list (look to the right) from December to present. 

I picked up Silver Wedding on Wednesday afternoon, in -- coincidentally -- a bag of books that my mom was passing on.  I started reading it yesterday, Thursday afternoon, at 1:20, while waiting for a bus* to take Tamsin and I downtown for a retirement party.**

Let me be clear:  this Cranky Book Reviewer is cranky only because anything, everything else annoys me when I'm reading these books. Like babies who want to be fed. Buses that come. Retirement parties at which it would be rude to sit in a corner and read...with a baby who wants to be fed, no less.  I'm also cranky because I started reading at 1:20 pm, went to a party, fed and bathed my children, put them to bed at 7:45, and finished the book -- and I'm not exaggerating in the slightest, here -- at 12:37 last night. 

I'm tired. 

My eyes hurt.***

Totally worth it.****

* Aside:  the 12 is the worst bus ever, for schedule, timeliness, and, dare I say it, clientele.  But one must do what one must do, if one does not want to walk for 25 minutes in 33-degree weather and heels, pushing a baby carriage.

** No, not for Tamsin, silly.  She has to put a few more years in as an unpaid child labourer first.
*** Mostly because I read most of it on my new, comfy deck couch, in the dark, with fairy lights as my reading lamp.  I love my deck couch.  

****Wait, you want to know why it's so good?  It just is.  Pick it up.  Also, get Up the Garden Path by Sue Limb.  Excellent.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Is it summer yet?

With the ups and downs in the weather, we've done our best to be outside and exploring as much as possible.  I had an awesomely productive day last week that involved Canadian Tire, my garden, the gym, coffee with a friend, and quality T-time (where the T is for Tamsin, of course), but mostly, there's a lot of rushing and bustling and trying to clean up from one meal or snack in time to have the next meal or snack and still actually interact with the kidlets.

And that, your honour, is why my blog is woefully behind.

So, in no particular order, I give you:

Soccer!  There's a bit of a time lapse, as the action is too far away to identify anyone, but at about 14 seconds, you can see Vaughn break from the pack with a clear lead.  He definitely has the fitness and skill, but lacks the ... um.. um... what?  Oh, right.  Focus.  That's it.
But I think we can all agree that I have all the makings of a fine soccer mom. 

CF Family Day:  we had pony rides!  Petting zoo!  Bouncy castles!  Fire trucks!  Snowbirds!  Free ice cream!
But the high point of the day was getting to shoot a storm trooper.  Sigh.  The guy in the orange flight suit was eerily perfect as that guy who gets shot down on the way to the Death Star.

This is Susie.*  We found her in our window well, not nearly feathery enough to fly out, so we scooped her up and put her in the shade, under her family's nest.  Tamsin was gracious enough to share some formula and rice cereal. 
Susie managed to hop/flap her way out, and took up residence behind our composter for about a week, where her mom and dad kept watch and fed her, until she could take wing.**  What good parents!

Druncle Ryan came to visit!  We were all so happy to have him around to distract the kids and entertain the Fis.  Of course, we waited for the rainiest day to go check out the Peace Tower. 
Super-cool outing, by the way.  I think I was the most excited person there.  The observation deck is directly below the clock faces, so you can look right up at them -- it's very Back to the Future.  Also, the elevator doesn't go straight up and down -- it goes up at an angle!!!  How cool is that?

And Tamsin continues to delight and amaze (with her delightfulness, of course).  Many things are awesome.
Like lunch.

* According to Ailsa, all creatures, dolls, animals, etc. are named "Susie".  They just are.

**  I hope.  The daily "pile-o-feathers" patrol hasn't turned up anything to the contrary, at least.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

MacGyver,* Eat Your Heart Out

Humming a jaunty tune, I opened up my Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter that I bought for the low, low price of only $2 at Dollarama.  Easy peasy.  Gently place tomato plant in bottom, fill with dirt, hang, water.

I already had the perfect place picked out:  a double-hanging hook in my garden.  I am a genius.  The squirrels would be foiled, I'd use extra vertical space, and... well, it would be awesome.

First step:  The first issue came with "gently" placing the root cluster in the hole in the bottom.  I should have compared the size of the hole with the size of the tomato pot before buying a tomato plant.  But I didn't.  So, I ended up smooshing and mangling the root ball into the hole, further mauling it as I inserted a sponge around it to hold it in place. 


Second step:  fill with dirt, slowly.  Ok.  With the tomato plant now dangling out of the bottom, I couldn't just put it down to fill it, so I held the planter up with one hand, and scooped in some good dirt...and more...and more...and I-am-not-strong-enough-to-hold-this-with-one-hand.  So I hung it on the hook. 

Well, I tried to, but the hangy bit was too small for the width of the hook.  I laid it on its side, on the dirt, and got a very long plastic-coated twist tie (they're always wrapped around kids' toys), tripled it, and used that to make a bigger loop for hanging.  So I hung it on the hook.

Which started to bend under the weight.  I decided to go out and buy a second planter, to even it out, and plant cucumbers!  (Go me!)  I'm sure it would be fine until I could. 

Third step:  water.  Squelch.  To the trained ear, that is the sound of a really, really heavy Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter bending a hook all the way over, squelching the delicate planty bit into the garden.  Dammit.

I unhooked it, lay it back on its side, and went out to buy a second one.  And a cucumber plant.  (Inspired!)

I started again, from Step One.  Oddly enough, my non-mangling skills hadn't improved with practice (at least the cucumbers won't have an advantage over the tomatoes, anyway).  Step Two went pretty much the same again.  But aha!  I had bought the second one to even out the weight on the hooks, so it would -- Squelch.  Dammit. 

Plan B (I'm not sure if you need to be capable of linear thought to have a plan B, but whatever) was to hang the planters off of the hooks which -- and don't judge me, here -- came with the planters. 

Step One of Plan B:  Drill holes in overhead beam of deck. 

Step Two:  Screw hooks in.

Well, that's what was supposed to happen.  Nothing is ever easy.  The drill, of course, wasn't charged, so the planters spent an extra day lying around.  The chuck on my drill wouldn't tighten enough to allow the drillbit to actually drill into what I am now convinced is industrial-strength steel, not wood.  I had to start by drilling a wee little hole, then a little bit bigger, a little bit bigger after that, and repeat, each time stopping to yank the drillbit out of the beam when it stopped turning.

Finally, the hole was big enough to start the screws.  Unfortunately, the mutant wood made it impossible for me to turn the screws with my sore little fingers, so I put on gloves.  Still nothing.  So, aha!  -- and this is where I fully earned my MacGyver stripes -- I jumped down off the railing (what?  I didn't mention that I was balancing precariously, and climbing up and down to change bits every time?), went into my stool box in the garage, and got The Only Tool That Anyone Really Needs,** a vise-grip.  Clamping that onto the hook, I was able to turn it with ease, and voila!  I could hop down again, climb back up with a very heavy planter...twice... and tadah!  Easy peasy.

Of course, when I climbed back up with my hose, the water went everywhere, is still dripping on the railing and will probably rot out the whole deck, but I don't care.  I am awesome.

* I'm exactly like MacGyver.  If he had power tools.  And no skills.

**  It's such a great tool that, if MacGyver had one, it wouldn't even be a show.  He'd just pull out the vise-grip 5 minutes in, and then they'd roll credits.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Evolution of Ailsa Dance

Same club, new moves.

Dec 2011

Mar 2013

Being upstaged by her backup dancer.  But oh, such poise!