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There are times that I really do feel like The Little Old Woman Who Lived in the Shoe. I even call our little house "The Shoe". I am a stay at home mom. I do really think that was my calling. My kids are 13, 10, 10, (yes they are twins) and 5. Our life is an adventure, most times it really is a beautiful adventure.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Cheese Please Scalloped Potatoes

    Traditionally I am not a fan of scalloped potatoes.  I think it's the sauce, I just don't like the white sauce.  I will make them on occasion for my family (when begged to do so).  I will not however eat them!  I feel a bit like the Doctor Seus character from Green Eggs and Ham.  "I will not eat scalloped potatoes here, I will not eat them there, I will not eat them anywhere!"

    My view of scalloped potatoes took a 360 after Elly was born.  Christopher's sister Cheri came for a visit.  She brought us M&M Meats.  She told us that she did not care to be "that" domestic, and why should she be when M&M Meats makes such delicious food.  Heck who am I to argue with her.  M&M Meats makes restaurant quality meals.  One of the things that she had brought for us were their Supreme Scalloped Potatoes.  I took perhaps two to be polite (planning to spit them into a napkin).  My mouth danced for joy.  These were not the scalloped potatoes I had come to expect, no these were like a little bite of creamy heaven!  "I will eat M&M Scalloped potatoes on a boat, I will eat them with a goat... O.K. you get it".
    From that day forward I set out to discover what makes those scalloped potatoes so delicious.  It's like I'm a food detective.  I have scoured my cookbooks, ladies magazines, the internet, all a dud.  Finally I took it upon myself to experiment.  Although not quite as good, these bad boys are actually really good.  Being the nice lady that I am, I have decided to share my scalloped potato saving discovery.
    The first thing that I do is begin with my sauce.  I melted 1/4 cup of butter in a sauce pan.  When it was melted, I added 1/2 an onion diced really finely (because my kids think they don't like onion, when in fact I put it in just about everything, but I chop it fine so they just don't know).  When the onion was soft, I added 2 table spoons of flour, and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper, and stirred like crazy.  Next came two cups of milk.  I whisked this over a medium heat until it was nice and thick, but not too thick.  Next I put in 1/4 cup of cream cheese, 1/4 cup of old cheddar cheese and the secret ingredient..... a brick of Maple Dale Cheese's Mediterranean Cheddar Cheese.  
I suppose that you could use another flavored cheese, but good golly Miss Molly!  The taste in and of itself is incentive enough, but if you need more incentive, it's a local cheese maker, an award winning local cheese maker.  When all of my beautiful cheeses were melted into a heavenly sauce I took the sauce off the element and began stage two.
   Stage two begins by taking out my stoneware lasagna dish (oh I love it) and spraying it with olive oil so that clean up will not be a nightmare.  When the pan is sprayed, I began to slice my potatoes, right into the dish.  I really love my mandolin.  It slices the potatoes thinly and effortlessly in seconds.  I love anything that gives me great results with minimal effort, but then, don't we all?   When I had sliced about a layer of potatoes, I poured some of the sauce over the top, just enough to cover them.  I repeated these steps until the pan was filled.  When my pan was filled I poured the last of the cheese sauce onto the top of the potatoes, and covered it with foil, then put it into my preheated 350 degree oven.
    I let this cook for about an hour.   At the hour mark I took the foil off the top and checked to see if the potatoes were tender yet.  I then poured a handful of old cheddar (by old I don't mean cheese I found in a dumpster, but rather the cheese strength, but if you want to use dumpster cheese, who am i to judge) cheese over the top of the dish and set it on broil for a few minutes.

    My experiment was a huge success!  The kids (and the biggest kid) ate the whole large dish of them that night, there were no left overs for dinner that night!  It was like watching a pack of hungry dogs as Christopher and the kids fought over the remaining potatoes.  I have not found the illusive M&M Meat's scalloped potato recipe, but I did create a huge hit, so I guess it was a success.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Peterborough Zoo Trip

    "I am going to make this an awesome summer.  I am going to make this an awesome summer.  I am gong to make this an awesome summer."  This is my summer mantra.  I've decided to make a game of finding low or no cost activities for the kids to do this summer.  So far we have visited the Trenton National Air Force Museum http://themiddleagedwomanwholivedinashoe.blogspot.ca/2014/07/the-national-air-force-museum-of-canada.html and we have been treated to a free movie in the park
The next trip was to the Peterborough Zoo.  

    My family LOVE the Peterborough Zoo.  It is this amazing zoological park http://themiddleagedwomanwholivedinashoe.blogspot.ca/2012/08/the-peterborough-zoo-keeping-my-vow.html and it's just an hour away from us.  It is far enough away that it seems like a destination, but it's close enough that it's just a jaunt.  Over our many years of visiting the zoo we have seen many amazing changes.  There has been new beautiful playground equipment, a splash pad, and many more smaller things.  It just doesn't seem like a summer unless we make a trip there.

    I don't want to brag or anything, but I am blessed to have some of the best friends in the entire world!  We share the same values, and make each other laugh.  I truly consider them to be a blessing.  During the school year we try to get together for coffee dates once a week.  It is the best!  The faces are not always the same (I have a large group of amazing friends), but the constant is what an amazing group of ladies this is.  The other great thing about this group of friends is that we all have kids around the same ages.  This means that although not school friends, they all get along beautifully which makes get togethers really nice.  We decided to try to get together once a week with the kids and share some low or no cost summer fun.  The kids have a blast together, and we get to catch up.  It's a win win! 

    As you may already have deduced, we visited the Peterborough Zoo.  The kids all paired off and we explored together.  The really nice thing about this group is that we do things often enough that we all know each other's kids, and the kids all know each of us.  That means that I don't have to be in constant vigilance watching my kids, we all watch each others kids ... it's a great system!  The other nice thing is that two of us have older big girls (13), and they are nice girls and they act as a surrogate big sister to the other little ones.  It was common place to see one of the big girls carrying one of the little ones, everyone with a big smile on their face.

    One of the can't miss highlights of the zoo is the little train.  We all pay two dollars and cram ourselves into this tiny little red train.  The kids love it.  It would not seem like a trip to the zoo unless we took a ride on the train.

    On this visit there was a thunder storm, and the train was closed.  See the above picture.  We walked back up the hill, the kids all a little sad, well at least for a few minutes until they began to laugh together, their disappointment forgotten.

    This visit's highlight was hands down the big fountain.  You would think with as many visits that we have made to the zoo we would have remembered coins, but no, no I did not.  At one point Elly got a little teary eyed because she wanted to make a wish.  Big sister to the rescue.  I looked over to see Gracie balanced on the side of the fountain, rummaging for coins.

    She had a handful of coins and she handed each of the little kids a coin.  Soon there were excited little faces, and it rained coins.  The little ones got carried away and began to shout out their wishes, only to have the big kids remind them that if you said your wish out loud it wouldn't come true.

    The favourite animal from this zoo trek was the baby meerkats.  It was pretty funny because the kids had their faces pressed up tightly against the window.  There were a chorus of "awwwwwws".  Some of the awwwwwws came from my friends.  Ever the awesome friend that I am I made fun of them.  That is until I got to see the baby meerkats.  OMG they were adorable.  The kids were all soon begging for baby Meerkats as pets (yeah like that work out).

    We looked at all of the animals, made wishes in the fountain, and then we hit the playground.  By the time we hit the playground the crowds had thinned out, and it allowed us to not have to be uber vigilant.  The playground was soon filled with the rambunctious squeals of our children.  It was so nice to see them all playing together and having fun.

    After the playground we headed over to the splash pad, where again we had pretty much the run of it.  We Moms got to sit and watch the kids and really get to talk for the first time that day.  We happily chatted while the kids blissfully played in the water.

    No day at the splash pad would be complete without all the little boys pretending that they're peeing, yup I have a super classy kid.  Having said that, I nearly peed myself laughing at him.

    At the end of the day we wrangled the troops and tried to set off for home.  We were met with many cries of "Just one more minute ..... PLEASE".  To me that is the sign of a good day.  They had a great day, we Moms had a great day and it cost us gas money.  The best part of the day was to come that night when I tucked in four tuckered out kids... ahhhhh.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Gracie's Wall Thank You

    Christopher and I decided it was time to decorate our bedroom (I will give posts soon).  For a while our bed sat in the middle of our bedroom, while our bedroom furniture was in the living room.  It was a beautiful sight to behold.  There came a point when we did the floor that we had to move out of our room.  Gracie to the rescue!

    We asked Gracie if we could sleep in her bed, and she could sleep in Elly's bed, and Elly could sleep with Riley... deep breath.  She was not in love with the idea, but she's a really good kid.  We had promised her something to make it up to her.  We also made jokes because Elly's room used to be Gracie's room.  We kept asking her if was like old times, did she want to move back to her old room.  The response was always a sarcastic look and an eye roll.

    After what seemed like eons with the family tossed around the house, our room was finished and we could move back in.  Our something nice for Gracie was to clean her room top to bottom, and to add something special for her on her wall.  For some time she has been asking me to make her a board that has a phrase on it that she loves.  Life for me is busy, and I kept telling her that I promised that it would happen, but that in fairness to her and to me, I could not give her an absolute time frame.  It occurred to me that this would be the perfect thank you to her.

    I began by typing out the phrase by Mark Twain in a font that I liked.  I then took it to my local print store and had it enlarged.  Back in the day when I loved folk art ( I still love to do it, I just don't seem to make the time to do it),  I had purchased some carbon paper to transfer patterns.  I'm not even sure if you can purchase it anymore.  I had originally planned to use my exacto knife and cut out a stencil onto clear plastic.  The more I thought about this plan, the more I became exhausted.  In theory it's awesome, but the reality is very labour intensive.  I decided to use that carbon paper and trace it onto her wall.
    It took a few tries to get the pressure right on the carbon paper.  In the end the markings were faint, but distinguishable!  I climbed up on a chair and began to paint.   When I had finished,  I took a step back and looked at my work.  I looked at it with my critical eyes (I'm a perfectionist).  I decided to highlight it with some white, knowing that I would probably over do it, like I usually do.  In the end I could only see the faults, but I had to give myself permission to be less than perfect.   I had forgotten how much I enjoyed painting.  It felt like half an hour, but when I wandered downstairs, it had been 4 hours that I had been up there!  My arms felt stretched like monkeys.
    When it was all done we took Gracie up to see her room.  She had been anxious to see what her surprise would be.  She was delighted.  Her little face just lit up when she saw the phrase.  "It's exactly what I wanted!" she said, her face glowing.  She just stood there smiling looking at the wall.  It was a very nice feeling to know that something so inexpensive could mean so much.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Birthday Waffles

    I'm not going to lie, I was kind of going for the "Your Mom's AWESOME!" award with this one.  My kids think I'm a dork, but hopefully I can steal some love and admiration from other peoples children.  The above picture that you are looking at is the post sleep over breakfast from the twins birthday.  I dished out what seemed like an endless supply of those bad boys.

    Rowan asked if for their sleep over breakfast they could have waffles and ice-cream.  My immediate internal answer was "NO".  On this one occasion (write it down on your calendars folks) I thought before I answered.  My knee jerk reaction was NO, but then I thought, it's one day.  No one is going to get scurvy, or malnutrition from one morning.  My answer was "I don't see why not" (you don't want to give them an enthusiastic yes, because then they will start asking for everything.)

    I own three, count them, three waffle makers.  I have my first one, which is run of the mill and quite frankly, boring.  I own a Cinderella one that makes giant waffles (and is my personal favourite), and I also own a Sesame Street one.  Why so many waffle makers you may ask.  I own three because quite frankly it makes life easier.  I quite often make huge batches of waffles on a Sunday afternoon and freeze them for the week for school morning breakfasts.  It takes no longer than toast to heat in the toaster, and the kids love them.  I normally add wheat germ, and whole wheat flour to the waffles for school mornings, but not for these birthday bad boys, oh no, it was straight up white flour.  Having three waffle makers going at the same time really cuts down on the time it takes to crank them out.

    My waffle recipe is super easy and comes from the best cookbook around, the Company's Coming Series.  I usually triple the recipe, but here it is...

1 1/2 cups of flour                                  2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder                             1/2 tsp salt

Mix all of the dry ingredients together, and make a well in the middle.  All of these recipes call for you to do this, but to be honest, I'm a rule breaker, and I always just toss it all together.  The recipe calls for you to mix the wet ingredients separately and then pour them in the well.  I always just toss them all together, although I do mix my dry ingredients first because there is nothing worse than eating something homemade and getting that bitter bite of baking powder/ soda, it's the worst!

2 eggs beaten                                             1 1/2 cup milk
1/ 4 cup melted butter or margarine

The recipe calls for the eggs to be beaten until frothy, but again, I am super lazy and never do this.  I just add all the wet ingredients over top of the dry ones.  The key thing is not to mix the batter too much.  You want it to be "just" blended in.

    When I make waffles for the normal size waffle maker I pour in about 1/4 cup of batter into the hot waffle maker.  I have found this to be the perfect amount, after many disastrous attempts that led to a lengthly clean up of waffle batter that had run out of the sides of the waffle maker, and down the edge of the kitchen counter.

    My first choice for pancakes and waffles is corn syrup, but my family prefer maple syrup.  My first choice for maple syrup is the real stuff.  It's full of nutrients and it's natures gift.  Having said that it is labour intensive and because of that it comes with a pretty big price tag.  For that reason I generally make my own syrup for my family.  I mix 2 cups of packed brown sugar to 1 cup of water.  I let it boil for a few minutes then take it off the heat and add 2 tbsp of maple syrup extract.  It's a huge hit at our house.  They all love it warm.

    The birthday sleep over guests were pretty excited about eating waffles and ice cream for breakfast.  I have yet to recieve my "AWESOME Mom" award, but I'm sure they are just waiting for the engraving, right, right?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Birthday Sleepover

    The day was full of blissful, riotous noise.  There was the high melodic giggle of the girls with the odd snort.  There was the low snorkle of boys laughing at gross bodily functions.  It was pure unadulterated bliss.  I marveled at the beauty of it all.

    Frickie and Frackie turned 10.  My tiny little babies are quickly approaching their pre-teens.  I can't believe how quickly time passes.  The two of them decided to have a sleep over with their friends to celebrate their birthday.   Although they are twins they make it very clear that they are individuals.  They both had different foods for their party (Riley chose pizza, Rowan hamburgers), they had two cakes.  Although they fought so hard to have two different parties, in the end it was just one.  The kids just all gravitated together.  In the end we had 7 extra children.  At one point I looked at Christopher and said, "You know, if this was a daycare we'd be shut down!"  The girls all traveled as a pack, a giggling pack.  The boys were bouncing around actively as boys do.

    It was interesting to sit back and watch the differences between the boys and the girls, and yet how beautifully they blended.  The boys were always playing some kind of a sport, while the girls would play something for a little while, but much preferred to be social.   The boys bouncing on each other as well as on the girls.  The girls always touching, heads together in discussion.  As I sat back watching I was very proud of my twins.  They have chosen for themselves really nice friends.  They made sure to include Elly, even when Riley would have rather not.  They all played together beautifully, seamlessly.
    To end the evening we went over to my parents for a fire.  It took three trips to transport them all.  They all sat around the fire, contented faces on everyone.  There was no screaming or running around the fire.  At no point did I ever have to speak to any of them.  They sat around and played our campfire games and roasted marshmallows.  There were several flaming marshmallows and the warm night air was filled with laugher.  My favourite point in the evening came when Gracie got up and led them all in this silly dance that she had learned at camp.  To begin with only one or two joined in.  As the reluctant ones saw how much fun the handful were having they began to trickle over.  When we were finished there was a chorus of "Thank you Nana and Papa".
    That night after our three trips back home my living room floor was covered in sleeping bags and giggling girls.  The boys had gone up to Rowan's room.  All night there was a quiet muffling of talking girls, interspersed with giggles.  I loved lying in my bed, quietly listening to them.  I fell asleep with a smile on my face.  This is what life is about.  Life should be filled with the giggles of girls and the rude but funny jokes and bodily noises of boys.
    When I told people about the twins birthday they inevitably shook their heads and uttered "you are either brave or nuts, or both".  Perhaps I am a little of both.  I loved it though.  I love the comfort level that the kids friends have with us.  Riley has had this group of friends since kindergarden and some from nursery school.  To me there is not greater compliment than have people feel comfortable in my home.  They are a really nice group of kids that my twins have, a group I hope that they will carry with them through life.  Right now my life is my children.  It is a life that I love.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Sunday Night Movie In The Park

Anna Lounsberry, Michelle Langevin, TJ Hopkins and Nicole Labarge

    I sat in the warm building, savoring the breeze that came in through the screened windows.  All around me sat adults and children, there were children sprawled on the floor on blankets.  The air was full of children's giggles as Spanky and his gang got up to some slap stick antics.  I looked at the faces of my children, that look of utter contentment on their little faces, life was good.  Life was good, and yet I felt a little uneasy.  You know that feeling that you've forgotten to do something, shut off the stove, lock the front door, there's something that you were supposed to do.  It was when the bright energetic ladies who were hosting this event came around to ask if the kids would like some popcorn that I knew what that feeling was.  I was at an event for my children and was actually able to sit with my children and enjoy it.  I had nothing to do with the organization, I was just a participant.  That thought set me free.  I was able to slouch a little, enjoy where I was, that very moment in time.  I sighed a deep breath of relief, and utter contentment.

     So here is the beginning of the story.  A while back I began to notice facebook posts from a group calling themselves "More for Our Kids in Tweed".  This group wanted to make activities available to our children.  So often in this rural community we need to seek fun in other communities for our children.  This group of go-getters was trying to remedy this.  I began to notice posts like "we are trying to get movies in the park for the kids".  I silently clapped my hands thinking how great this would be for the children in our community, but most notably my own!  Then came the messages that "Kiwanis would be sponsoring this event, and it was a go".  My kids were giddy with excitement as they counted down the days until the movie in the park.
    Finally the day came.  It rained all day.  My kids kept asking "If it rains it will be canceled."  I kept telling them "wait and see",  hoping against hope that the day would clear, that if we chanted Rain Rain Go Away enough times it may take the hint!  The message appeared on facebook that the movie was a go and would be happening in the pavilion, no matter what.  With that the rain stopped.  The rain stopped and the humidity began.  Now I did not fear the rain, but sweating to death.  The kids were elated.  

    All afternoon the kids were excitedly discussing what the movie might be.  The ladies had kept it a secret to build the excitement.  "Do you think it could be the Lego Movie?  Grandma says that is what they are playing in Acton's movies in the park."  I silently prayed that it would not be the Lego Movie.   They exchanged ideas all afternoon.  The time finally came to gather them all up and head over to the movies.  It made it all the more exciting because Nana and Papa were coming too.  Our whole family would be able to enjoy this together.

    We entered the pavilion and were greeted by this really friendly, dark haired lady.  I was disappointed to see a small crowd.  That's too bad I thought to myself.  These ladies have done so much work to bring this to our community, and this is the thanks they get.  I tried not to get discouraged,  I hope they don't get burned out (like happens to so many of us Change The Worlders) but I instead focused on my children's excitement.  Soon we were all lost in the movie.  The kids were laughing at the movie filled with timeless kids humour.  A cool breeze had found it's way in to fight the humidity.  At one point one of the friendly lady who had greeted us came around and asked if we would like some popcorn.  A free movie and free popcorn!  The kids all sat there, their little faces lit up, happily munching away on their popcorn.  Life is good.

    When the movie had finished, the audience erupted into applause.  I looked around and noticed that there were a lot of people who had found their way in.  I also noticed happy faces on children as they staggered out, clasping their parents hands.  The movie was a success.  I saw that look of hard won achievement on all the faces of the ladies who had worked so tirelessly to bring this to Tweed for us.  I overheard one of them telling the others that she had counted "60 people in attendance, not to bad for the first night."

    It just goes to prove what I have long believed, there is no mountain too large when you have a group of like minded, determined Moms.  If we work together, there is no end to what we can do.  What the world needs is more moms like this group of ladies.  

    Thank you ladies for giving this gift to our children.  Thank you for your hard work, it did not go unnoticed.  Because of you, many children in our community are adding to their summer memories.  When they are adults and telling tales of their childhood, they will talk about going with their families to see movies in the park.  Thank you.