Archive | March, 2011

A poem

31 Mar

My mom passed on this beautiful poem to me and my sister to remind us, when life gets busy, frustrating, tedious, etc. with kids, just how special it is to be able to be a stay-at-home mom.  She found this poem among my grandmother’s belongings while cleaning out their house for sale, clipped from an old Ann Landers column, yellowed but preserved in a little plastic frame.

To put it in perspective, my grandmother had 7 children in 12 years, not counting those that were taken before birth.  She lived on a farm, washing all the laundry by hand, baking bread to sell to neighbours just to get by, heating water for baths….yet she felt she could have taken more time for the little things in her children’s lives.

If she could do all that and still think there was more time for play, I certainly have no excuse of being “too busy”, and this poem reminds me that it really won’t matter to my kids in the long run if the laundry was always done promptly, dinner always ready at the same time, cookies on the counter, shelves always dusted…what they will remember is whether I made them feel special, important, loved and worthy of my time.

I pray they will indeed remember me for that.

“To My Grown-up Son”

My hands were busy through the day;
I didn’t have much time to play
The little games you asked me to.
I didn’t have much time for you.
I’d wash your clothes, I’d sew and cook,
But when you’d bring your picture book
And ask me to share your fun
I’d say, “A little later, son.”
I’d tuck you in all safe at night
And hear your prayers, turn out the light,
Then tiptoe softly to the door…
I wish I’d stayed a minute more.
For life is short, the years rush past…
A little boy grows up so fast.
No longer is he at your side
His precious secrets to confide.
The picture books are put away,
There are no longer games to play,
No good-night kiss, no prayers to hear…
That all belongs to yesteryear.
My hands, once busy, now are still.
The days are long and hard to fill.
I wish I could go back and do
The little things you asked me to.

Thmooches and thnuggles

30 Mar

Sometimes I get more than a little annoyed when Gemma comes out of bed 8 times an evening…even though I know it is a side-effect of me wanting her to continue napping for my own quiet time, since napless days see her totally out by 7 pm at the latest.

But she sure knows how to work me, that one.  After managing 3 more bathroom trips and an extra song, when she knows I am about to lay down the line, I hear her little voice from her bedroom doorway.

“Mom? Moooooom? Mommy?”

“Gemma, if you have to go to the bathroom do it yourself.  Otherwise GET BACK in bed.”

“But Mom, pleathe…I just need a thmooch and a big thnuggle.”

“Oh. Ok.  And then you can come sit on the couch with me and watch TV and eat ice cream and candy because you are my favourite girl ever.”

Parenting may not be my forté.

But I do love my thnuggles.  I better take ’em while I can.

Double Chocolate Cookie Cookies

28 Mar

I love Oreos, and even more I love President’s Choice brand Mr. Creamy cookies.  Not only is it fun to say to people, “Would you like a Mr. Creamy?“, they are also just yummier than Oreos…and cheaper too!

But perhaps they can be better?

What if we chop them up and use them instead of chocolate chips in a soft chocolate cookie?

Yes, that is what we should do.

If you don’t have Mr. Creamy handy, go find him today.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE COOKIE COOKIES

1 cup butter, softened

1 ½ cups sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

½ cup cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

2 cups crushed or chopped chocolate sandwich cookies (about 1/2 a standard box)

Cream butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and add to creamed mixture, mixing until well combined.  Fold in chopped cookies (and throw in a big handful of chocolate chips if you want extra chocolatey-ness.  You know I did).

Refrigerate dough for 2 hours (or more, until you’re ready to bake).   To bake, preheat oven to 350, roll dough into balls and bake for 10-12 minutes.

All I wanted was some granola.

23 Mar

When I set out to make some granola, little did I know granola was such a touchy issue!  I don’t think I’ve ever had more recipe results to wade through than when I googled “homemade granola“.  Granola is dear to people’s hearts it seems. Some like it crunchy, some don’t.  Some like it sweet, some don’t.  Some insist it must be served on yogurt, others eat it as a snack or on ice cream.  Some gathers in bunches, some is lots of loose oats.  Some use quick oats, some use traditional rolled oats.  Some use all sorts of dried fruits and nuts and seeds that I have no idea where I would find or what I would do with the leftover half bags.  Etc. You get the picture.

Pre-baking paleness

After careful consideration (ok, mostly I just read the baking times and temperatures) I just made granola with what I thought granola should be made with.  That is to say, things I already had in the house.  Not including that horrible bag of dried apricots that followed me home in a moment of bad judgement – those will be dealt with another day, possibly to pelt children who push mine on the playground.

I’ve included a recipe but really, as long as you have your oats base and something to stick those oats together a little, toast it for awhile and you’ve got granola.  You can throw in any nuts or dried fruits you like, which is the beauty of things like granola.  Of course, if you follow this recipe you will have GREAT granola, if you like crunchy granola that is both exceedingly healthy (applesauce and honey, no oil or white sugar) and also exceedingly delicious (chocolately) this is the granola for you.

Personally I like my granola on yogurt or in my palm, so I like some crunch, and stirring the chocolate chips in when it is fresh out of the oven makes a very little bit of chocolate melt into deliciousness through the whole batch.  Also, honey is gross and I don’t want my granola to taste like honey.  If you like honey, you’ll probably like this just as much without the chocolate chips.  (I jest, there is no way this is better without the chocolate chips.  Obviously.  But I like to give options.) Cook some today just for the amazing smell it fills the house with!

All toasted and crunchy!

CHOCOLATEY CINNAMON GRANOLA

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

3 1/2 cups rolled oats (NOT quick-cooking if you want crunchiness)

3/4 cup sliced almonds

2/3 cup applesauce

1/2 cup honey

1 tbsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 250.  Coat 2 small or 1 large baking sheet(s) with cooking spray and set aside.

Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, oats and almonds in medium bowl.

In large bowl, mix applesauce, honey and vanilla.  Stir oat mixture into applesauce mixture until everything is coated and granola is beginning to gather into clusters.  Spoon evenly onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake in preheated oven, stirring every 20 minutes, for about 1 hr – 1 hr 20 minutes, until lightly browned and just crisp (it will crisp up quite a bit more as it cools).

Remove from oven and stir in cranberries and chocolate chips.  Allow to cool to room temperature, then store in airtight containers.

Other notes:

If you want your chocolate chips to stay whole, stir in the cranberries and chocolate chips after the granola has cooled to room temperature.  Then they are pleasant surprises, not an all-over flavour.

I threw some in the fridge and some in the freezer since this makes a lot of granola if you’re the only one eating it…I don’t see how freezing could hurt it, I’m hoping if I thaw it in the fridge it will be as good as fresh and not get soggy, but I’ll have to report back on that one.

This is great in yogurt and fruit, added to plain cereals, or on it’s own as a super satisfying snack!

Things that go bump in the night

21 Mar

Last night Gemma’s very clear sleep-talking allowed us insight into what nightmares keep waking her up so scared and upset and wanting to come into our bed.

1) She does not want to go to the party if it means playing with other kids.

2) She does not want to share her balloons.

3) She does not want her bun cut in half.

4) She does not want her bun squished.

5) Sometimes she remembers, and sometimes she just forgets.

How does she EVER sleep at night??  We will be working on these in therapy.

We better get this party started

17 Mar

Our Gem is constantly wearing items around the house on her head and declaring them “party hats“, and we all obligingly sing happy birthday to every stuffed animal and person around, shout “Hip hip hooray”, pretend to blow out candles and eat (usually real – that’s how she lures me in) cake.


The only problem with this fun is that the items are never designed to be hats, and inevitably fall with a gratingly loud CRASH to our highly-dentable bamboo floor or hard-as-tile tile floor which has the ability to break anything, even plastic containers and tea towels.  Don’t believe me?  I dare you to tile your house and let children or clumsy adults run around.

SO, in the interest of preserving the party spirit, the floor, my ear drums and sanity (in that order), I bought some party hats.  It is a good thing they come in a large pack because we have a lot of party-ers, many of whom are camera shy (yes, father of my children and Winnie the Pooh, I’m talking about you).

Kafe was a little uncertain at first.

But with a little gentle encouragement…

…he catches the party spirit 🙂

Dear old piggy needs a turn or ten too.  That pig has more birthdays than any pig I’ve ever met.

She is just all-around cute.

And so is this one, getting a horsey ride from Babu.

If I do say so myself.

Le Jeggings

16 Mar

I would never have thought I would publicly declare my love for jeggings, but there it is.  I love them.  If you don’t have some, I strongly suggest you get some – no one I’ve talked into them has regretted it for a second.  Comfy like sweats, cute like skinny jeans…I don’t care if they go out of style, I will probably still wear mine every day.  They make my bum look cute.

Sorry, no pictures of that, you’ll have to take my word for it.

Black Forest Cake

14 Mar

Carl loves Black Forest Cake, so for his birthday I decided to attempt to make a homemade one.  I think this is one of the easiest cakes in the world to make, so remember that if you’re ever tempted to buy one again…and this way also happens to taste better, if I do say so myself.

I love cake mixes for angel food cake but that wasn’t the texture I wanted here, so I made this moist, dense cake, which should quickly become your go-to chocolate cake when you need a basic cake, or when last minute guests are coming over and you only want to spend 5 minutes putting something in the oven – this is as quick as a cake mix and you can pronounce all the ingredients, and mix it all in one bowl!  Win, win, aaand win.

5-Minute Chocolate Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

2 cups cold water

2/3 cup vegetable oil

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp white vinegar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Heat oven to 350.  Grease two 8″ round cake pans or a 9×13” baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.  Beat with electric mixer on medium to high speed until well combined.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Serve with ice cream and chocolate sauce or ice as desired…or make Black Forest Cake!

To complete Black Forest Cake you need:

4 tbsp icing sugar (more to taste)

1 500 ml carton whipping cream

1 can cherry pie filling

Directions:

Once cakes have cooled, slice any bulge off the top of the bottom layer to create a flat surface.  (If you’re really good with a knife, slice both cakes horizontally in half and make a 4-layer cake with cherry filling between each layer.  I know what happens to bagels when I attempt to slice them down the middle so I opted out of this step). Reserve a few cherries on paper towel to decorate the top of the cake and top the bottom layer with the rest of the can of cherry pie filling – the juice will run down the sides a bit but it will all be covered by the whipped cream eventually.

For “icing”, combine whipping cream and icing sugar in a large mixing bowl and whip on medium-high speed until it holds fairly stiff peaks.  Spread all over cake and decorate as desired…I just grated a square of baking chocolate to sprinkle on and topped with some extra dollops of whipped cream with cherries on top.

If this all sounds like too much work you could just make the cake in the 9×13 pan and serve squares topped with whipped cream and cherry pie filling and I’m sure it would be just as delicious!


Teriyaki Beef on Lettuce & Quinoa

11 Mar

I love when I find recipes that are a little different from my usual and still delicious, and this definitely qualifies!

My sister and I have been exchanging meal plans for just over a year now and it has definitely resulted in a huge stack of new “regulars” in my cooking schedule.  One day when we were talking about how low we both were on cooking inspiration in our teeny tiny kitchens (I couldn’t even fit  a 9×13 pan in my apartment oven), we decided to give this a try and it is still going strong!  (Although I definitely owe you a meal plan, Smels. I’ll get on that).

This recipe is adapted from one sent by Chelsea, and the whole family loved it, minus the lettuce for the 2-year-old.  She always realizes after chewing several pieces of lettuce that this is not something she will able to swallow and if there’s one thing that ruins my pretty unflappable appetite it is watching chewed food make a reappearance on her plate.

I’ve been experimenting with quinoa (keen-wah) lately, it being the latest in an ever-changing line of “super-foods”, and I like it better than rice.  Having said that, I don’t think too highly of rice, the uglier cousin of the belle of the ball, pasta.  However, you can’t eat pasta EVERY night, so sometimes you have to have potatoes, or rice, or bread, or….QUINOA! (I don’t know who makes these lousy rules, but hey, rules are rules.)

But really, it’s a cute little ancient grain, a complete protein packed with iron and fiber and other good things, and it cooks exactly like rice does, at a 1:2 ratio of grain:water, with the addition of a little rinse before cooking to take away any bitterness.  This recipe can just as easily be made with rice (I know because the original recipe tried to talk me into rice), but it’s a delicious way to try out quinoa for the first time!

Unfortunately, I got halfway through my meal before I remembered to take a picture of the deliciousness, so I apologize for the half-eaten look, which , although realistic, does not capture the beauty of the dish when you bring it to the table, which is downright ooooh and aahhh worthy.

Teriyaki Beef on Lettuce & Quinoa (or rice)

Serves 4

1 cup uncooked quinoa (or rice), rinsed and drained (I use a sieve, since obviously it will fall right through a colander)

1 ½ lbs lean ground beef

1 ¾ cups water (2 cups if you like your rice or quinoa a bit softer/stickier)

1 ½ cups milk

½ cup thick teriyaki sauce

2 large carrots, shredded

1 clove garlic, minced or finely shredded

1 tbsp minced, peeled gingerroot, or 1 tsp dried ginger

2 green onions, sliced

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

½ tsp ground black pepper

8 leaves romaine lettuce, or a bunch of shredded lettuce

Optional garnish: Toasted sliced almonds or toasted sesame seeds

DIRECTIONS:

Combine rice or quinoa with ½ tsp salt in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15-17 minutes, until tender and water is absorbed.  Fluff with a fork.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add ground beef and brown, breaking up, until no pink remains, about 7 minutes.  Drain off any excess fat.  Stir in milk and teriyaki sauce and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.  Stir in shredded carrots, garlic and ginger.

Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until sauce is slightly thickened.  Stir in green onions, lemon juice and pepper.

Place lettuce leaves on serving plates, 2 per person, and top with quinoa/rice and beef mixture.  Alternatively, pile chopped or shredded lettuce on a large serving platter and top with quinoa and beef mixture.

If desired, garnish with sliced almonds or sesame seeds for a bit of crunch.

Things I learned in school today

10 Mar

1) Monkeys have insight

I think this is pretty interesting…not sure I’d call it insight, but that monkey is definitely doing some thinking!

2) “Groupthink” is dangerous but can be funny

3) I always use the handicapped stall

The handicapped bathroom stall is NOT, unlike handicapped parking spaces, only for handicapped people.  I think the common misperception is that this is the case, as I always get some dirty looks when I head for the handicapped stall in a row of empty stalls.

That stall is there so that there is a bathroom area large enough to accommodate a wheelchair if necessary.  It is NOT there so handicapped people will never have to wait in line to use the bathroom.  I like the roominess, and the fact that the door swings open outwards, and they are usually the cleanest since no one is using them except the handicapped people and the moms with strollers, who wipe things down since they know their kids will touch everything they can reach.

Perhaps I shouldn’t share this with you or I may see a decline in the cleanliness standards I have come to expect from handicapped stalls…but really, I’m not taking their parking spaces, which is definitely tempting when you’ve forgotten your stroller and face lugging 35 pounds per arm into a far off store, so enough with the dirty looks already, they will have no effect on me.

4) End on a positive note.

Ok, this has nothing to do with what I did at school today, but this video just cracks me up.  I love watching other people laugh, and know this feeling oh-too-well of being unable to compose yourself at a crucial time no matter how hard you try.

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