Friday, 29 March 2013

Fancy Pancakes

    We are headed into a four day week-end.  This morning it was so nice to not have to wake up to an alarm clock.  It was nice to not have to be anywhere.  We just started our day nice and slow.  We had a late breakfast, and I made pancakes.

    For a while now I have wanted to try something a little more fun with the pancakes.  This morning I had the time.  I sent Christopher off to our local dollar store in search of ketchup/ mustard bottles.  He came back empty handed.  For a moment I considered giving up, but I'm not a quitter!  I decided to look in the fridge.  Low and behold I found two expired salad dressings.  I poured them out and then washed out the containers.  Next  I made a big batch of pancake batter.  I seperated it into two bowls.  I put blue food colouring gel in one, and pink food colouring gel in one.  

    Very carefully I poured my batter into the bottles.  I heated up the griddle and we were off to the races.  

    I first poured out a backwards letter "L".  I did it backwards so that when I flipped it, it would be the right way.  I have to say that the salad dressing bottle really worked well.  I let it cook for a little while so that when I poured the next colour of batter it would not melt together.

    I tried to make them look like Easter Eggs, but it did not turn out so even.

     I made all of the kids their initials, and Elly insisted on having the letter "L".  I also made a whole bunch of Easter Egg pancakes.  Shockingly the kids were impressed, and excited.  They ate a lot of pancakes, and I enjoyed playing with their food.  

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Easter Lunches/ Treats

    So I am just going to go ahead and say what you are all thinking... "There's is something mentally wrong with that woman that she goes to that much trouble for every freaking holiday!"  I would agree with you, but my mind is still kind of fuzzy from staying up until 1:30 a.m. to finish everything for school.  We were talking about monkeys right?  No, that's right, we were all questioning my sanity.  Oh on night's like last night I question my own sanity.  The problem is that you should never begin a tradition with "one child" that you are not prepared to continue with "five children".  I began all of these crazy things when I just had one.  For one child nothing is too much of a big deal, I mean he was an only child and I had to compensate for the his lack of siblings by being super mom.  Well I more than made up for a lack of siblings (I pretty much spent my 30's pregnant), but now all of the kids expect the same level of lunacy.

    Yesterday afternoon I began baking my cupcakes.  I baked 80 cupcakes last night!  I had it down to an assembly line style.  One batch was cooling on the counter while the other baked.  When the timer said I had five minutes left for the batch in the oven, I would take the cooled cupcakes out and put them on the kitchen table.  I then refilled the cupcake pan afresh.  Oh good times, good times.  All the while I did this, Elly and I were making smelly playdough for the kids in her class.
    Elly has a little girl in her class who is allergic to peanuts and to eggs.  We are unable to bring in home made treats because of the risk to this child.  I thought that maybe Elly and I could make some smelly playdough (remember I shared the recipe for the Koolaid playdough last week).  I bought adorable little plastic Easter eggs at the store, and thought that we could fill them with the smelly playdough... Elly was having none of it.  
    "When are we making the cupcakes for my class?" Elly asked, her big blue eyes locking onto mine.
"Remember your friend Ella is allergic to peanuts and we can't bring cupcakes into your class.  I thought that we could make some playdough for your friends... you can help me.  Mommy bought these cute little eggs and I thought you and I could fill them up with playdough."  I am using my good Mommy voice.
"Playdough is stupid".  Elly tells me, her face all screwed up with disgust.
"You know Mommy, today someone brought in cupcakes to class, and Ella ate one." says the little adorable liar, her face looking sweet and innocent as she turns it up to me.
"Oh did they?  Maybe I should call Mrs. Bailey and ask her... what do you think?" I say feeling smug that I have caught my four year old in my web.
"No, you shouldn't call her, she's really sick." she says without skipping a beat.  I'm not sure if I should be impressed with her new found ability to bold face lie, or be afraid, very afraid... I'm still unsure about it.
    It is shortly after this conversation that my wonderful little helper picks up an uniced cupcake.
"Don't touch the cupcakes please." I say, with a bit of danger creeping into my voice.
It is at this point that my little darling takes a big bite out of the top of it.
"I have to eat this one... someone took a bite out of it."  It was at this point that I decided for the sake of my sanity and Elly's life that I would ice the cupcakes after the kids were in bed.

    After the kids were all tucked up in their beds, I made a batch of butter cream icing and tinted it green.  Very carefully I put a thin layer of icing on the top of each cupcake.  As I ran the icing over the top, the cupcake would pull off and cause cake crumbs to mix in with the icing.  It was dreamy.  I then loaded up the icing bag and began to make it look like a tiny little field of cupcake grass.  It was on my third cupcake that my arm began to ache, and my fingers began to spasm.  I wondered what I was thinking... why had this design seemed like a good idea in my big fat head... oh that's right I'm nuts!

    After I had iced 60 cupcakes, I decided to just do one more.  I had promised Elly one for her lunch.  I felt like I had one Popeye arm at the end.  As if to prove just how crazy that I really am, I decided to make the kids a special Easter lunch for their last day.

    I made their sandwiches and then used a really cute bunny cookie cutter to cut them.  Last week when Christopher and I went to Watertown I had found these really neat "Foodwriter" pens made by Wilton.  They come 5 in a package.  They were just too cool to pass up.  They came in very handy when it came to giving my sandwich bunnies a face.

    I made the big kids deviled eggs (because they don't have egg allergy kids in their classes).  I took the shells off and then soaked them in cold water that I had put food dye gel in.  I let them soak for about ten minutes.  I have to admit they turned out very pretty.  Now the question is did the kids eat them after all of that trouble... I guess I will find out tonight.

    So there you have it, the proof that I am nuts.  I am crazy, but I really do love those kids.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Bully

    I am a glass half full kind of girl.  I like to think the most of people.  I see my blessings and I count them regularly.  This morning I find myself finding that much more difficult to do.  Today I find my head shaking, and muttering nasty things about this world in which I live under my breath.  Today I am disillusioned with this world I am living in.
    Yesterday my tiny little village received national attention again, and once again for all the wrong reasons.
I was not there, I have only read what has been said in the newspapers, and heard what locals had to say about it, but my understanding is a that an adult female punched a teen girl in the face, and then all Hell broke loose.  Another black eye (no pun intended) for Tweed.  The last time my little community drew national and world attention was because of serial killer Russell Williams living in our midst.
    Yesterday was also the day that one of my children came home in tears... she had been bullied, and worst of all her friends had joined in.  I wanted to cry with her.  It was not as much the bullying, but the betrayal of her friends.  They wanted to be in the "in" crowd, to be accepted, and so they had joined in.
   We hear so much about anti-bullying campaigns, and yet do they really work?  I doubt it.  To bully is just human nature and has been since the times of cave man.  To simply say "don't bully" seems as unless a notion as telling someone "don't breath".  It is my personal belief that to stop bullying you must first ask "why".  Why is that individual bullying.  I know that I am sometimes naive, but I just don't think that anyone one would enjoy going around hurting others.  To me it makes more sense that they want the world to hurt as much as they do.  That they are so filled with rage/ self loathing that it can no longer be self-contained, but has to spill out.  Think back and look with fresh eyes on the bullies that you know/ knew.  Most of them had a reason to be a bully.  Either they had a terrible home life, or other's bullied them, or any number of things.
    To change our world I think that we must first hold up that terrible mirror and look at our true selves. What are we teaching our children?  With the hockey situation all too often I see parents that want their children to play out their own fantasies, heck I've done it myself.  We want our children to have all of the things that we felt that we couldn't have.  It comes to the point that you ask is this your child's desire, or yours?  We see those parents screaming at the refs.  We see those spectators screaming horrid things at children.  I think that we have all been a witness to it.  How many of you were brave enough to call those individuals out?  How many of you asked them to stop?  How many of us are brave enough to confront a bully and tell them to stop?  Not many.
    Today I will allow myself to sit and lick my wounds, to shake my head at this world that I live in.  Today I will see my glass half empty.  Tomorrow is a new day... and hopefully it's more sunny with a glass half full.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Our Day Out WIthout the Kids

    Last Thursday Christopher and I dropped the kids at school and then we drove to Watertown, New York for a little cross border shopping.  It is approximately a two and a half hour drive from our house to Watertown.  Normally we take the kids and the two and a half hours feels like two and a half years.  This time we found ourselves at the border in what felt like minutes.  We had spent the drive carrying on complete conversations.  No one interrupted us, no on asked questions, there was not a single "Are we there yet?"
    We did a little shopping.  It is amazing how quickly you can whip through a store with two adults.  At no point in the day did I raise my voice.  At no point did I threaten anyone.  We spent the day just enjoying each other's company.  We don't do that enough.  We are so committed to our children that we forget to invest in our marriage.  I think it happens to the best of us.  We get caught up in being parents and forget that our relationship came first.
    We enjoyed a late lunch at Panera Bread.  Be both ordered the same thing.  We sat in silence.  It was not an awkward silence as though there were no words.  It was the silence that 19 years of marriage brings.  There was no need to speak, we spoke without using words.  We simply enjoyed our meal in peace.  There was a mother and her son a few seats behind us.  The little guy was acting up.  I sat in silent enjoyment, knowing that was not me.  I was enjoying a warm meal, and at no point did my panini get stone cold while I dealt with children.  At no point did I have to gulp down my mouthful of food unchewed so that I could answer questions.  We ate in blissful silence.  We left the restaurant holding hands, practically skipping.
    I needed to pick up an outfit for Riley.  On Saturday she had the zone public speaking competition at the Tweed Legion.  I wanted her to look her best.  So far I had not seen any outfits that had fit the bill. (She came in third for our area by the way.  I'm very proud of her).  We decided to venture to the Salmon Run Mall.  We wandered around the mall, holding hands and ducking into stores.  As we were searching the mall we came across The Easter Bunny.  We both looked at each other, childishness reflected in the other's eyes.  I guess that you can take us away from the kids, but you can't take the kid's out of us.  We silently nodded, and got in line.
    I expected the poor woman who was working at the pictures with the Easter Bunny to roll her eyes at the two middle aged idiots who were getting their pictures taken with the Easter Bunny.  To my surprise she gave us a big smile.  "I love people like you!" she said with a big genuine smile.  We sat for our picture.  While we waited for the picture to print out we told the Easter Bunny and his helper that we were escaping from our 4 children for the day.  As we were leaving the Easter Bunny came up and patted me on the back.  "I am 49 years old" he told us "and a first time Daddy.  I never knew that you could love another human being as much as I love that baby girl." He then gave me a big fuzzy hug and quietly said "Bless you".  
    Being a Mother is the greatest blessing that I have ever had bestowed upon me.  I consider it a calling.  I adore my children and want only the best for them.  They come before everything else in my life.  They did not ask to be born, I chose to have them.  Having said all of that, one of the greatest gifts that I can give my children is to show them what a happy marriage looks like.  It's important for them to see that their parents love each other.  To do that we have to invest in our marriage.  If you don't keep investing in that marriage, it's going to die.  Thursday was a reminder that we need to do that more often.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Not So Relaxing Bath

    I am on my second day of a dirty cold.  I am trying to keep my whining to a minimum, but I'm feeling rough.  Christopher is at work, and I'm a single parent today.  I decide that a nice hot bubble bath might just be the ticket.  
   I poured my Bath and Body Works bubble bath into the tub.  The vanilla aroma fought it's way into my congested nasal passages.  The steam was rolling off of the tub... oh this was going to feel good.   I walked across the room for a fraction of a second.  The next thing I knew there was a black and white dog splashing around in my tub.  I was both irritated and amused at the same time.
   Lesson learned, I closed the door and pulled the plug.  I guess that if there was a good thing about this the tub was only a little bit full.  I re-cleaned the tub, then poured my bubble bath into the tub, shaking my head at the wasted liquid gold.  The tub was re-filled and I climbed in.  It felt like heaven, until that is, one of the kids called up to me and I had to open the bathroom door to hear them.  In like black and white lightening flew Fergus.  He splashed gayly into my tub with all four feet.  Gleefully he threw what was left of my bubbles up into the air, catching them with his mouth.  I lay frozen, afraid of where those excited paws might land on my exposed flesh.
    I am not a little lady, and there was not enough room for a medium sized dog and myself in the tub, guess who won (hint he's the one in the pictures).  I'm not so certain that even were I little lady I would have been cool with sharing a tub with a hairy little monster.  If there's a silver lining to this story, which I am really reaching for right now, my dog smells like expensive vanilla bubble bath... oh and wet dog.

Friday, 22 March 2013

My Failed Bunny Rolls

    I have an addiction... it's Pinterest.  I spend hours on that site creating boards, and pinning things into them.  I know that majority of those things I will never look at again.  I imagine myself doing great things as I pin those things.  I have this demented idea that I could aspire to be like Martha Stewart (without the jail time).  Oh as I pin those ideas I have this mental image of my family's faces when they see that amazing thing that I have just created.  In my imagination they are crying with joy.  They are so impressed with how brilliant I am.  The reality is quite different.  The reality is that if I ever got around to creating a quarter of those things, my family really wouldn't care.  I have a problem.   

     I had pinned the cutest idea for rolls.  This image showed little bunny rolls.  They were adorable.  I made my big batch of dough and got to work cutting them to look like bunnies.  Again I must admit that in my mind, the kids would be squealing with delight as they opened their lunches and saw their adorable bunny rolls.  They would be thinking I was the greatest mother on earth!  I knew that all of their friends would be so jealous of my kid's amazing bunny rolls.  In my head their friends little faces looked so envious.  My kids had huge smiles of delight in my Pinterest induced delusion.
    I made my rolls, and then placed them on my cookie sheet that I had lined with parchment paper.  I took my scissors and cut bunny ears into the dough.  I then took a small bit of dough and placed it on the back, to look like a cotton tail.  I squealed with delight as I looked upon my genius.  I even had the audacity to call Christopher over to look at them, knowing that he would congratulate me on my great brilliance   I think he may have snorted, but that was more because he's smart and knew that his life would not be worth living if he didn't give me something.  Oh I was proud of myself.  I popped them in the oven and set my timer for 20 minutes.  
    The above picture is what my precious rolls looked like when I took them out of the oven.  To say that I was disappointed is to say that the Pope is a little bit Catholic.  No one squealed with delight.  Rowan looked at them with disgust and asked what they were supposed to be.  Indignantly I told him that they "were" bunnies.  "I guess they sort of look like bunnies, ish.  They look more like freaky monsters Mom." he told me giving me the look that suggested that he thought that this time I may finally have lost it.
    Here is what I have learned from this misguided adventure.... Don't believe everything you see on the internet... now that I think of it, that post on Pinterest showed the bunny rolls, uncooked.  I learned that I am not, nor will I ever be Martha Stewart.  I also learned that my bunny rolls look more like monsters, but they are still pretty funny, and that's o.k.  I suppose that I should add as a post script that my kids made no comment when they came home from  school the day that I sent them the cool sandwich that I have pictured below.  When I asked them about it, they merely shrugged... nice real nice.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Maple Baked Beans and Bacon

    I have searched long and hard for a good recipe for baked beans.  Don't ask me why it was so important that I make baked beans.  Somehow making baked beans from scratch proves how much I love my family.  This sounds nuts, but much of what I say does, I admit it freely.  I have tried making baked beans in the past, and they turned out terrible.  The beans were always too crunchy.  Some of this I will owe to the fact that I am impatient, and I discovered this time that to make baked beans it takes a loooooong time!
    After many attempts and failures, I have found the recipe.  The funny thing is that it's the recipe that was on the back of the bag of beans, I just tweaked it a little.  I must warn you that these beans are not for those in a time crunch.  It takes a good deal of planning  and time management to make these beans, but let me tell you they are worth it.
    To make these tasty brown nuggets of joy you will need a 454g bag of white pea beans.  I followed the directions (which is unusual for me).   They suggest rinsing the beans in cold water, and then letting them soak overnight in a bowl of cold water.  If you want to enjoy said beans for your dinner, I would recommend starting them in the morning.  I on the other hand did not read the instructions and began making mine at 12:00 noon.  

You will need....

1 bag of 454g white pean beans                                1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp salt                                                                  4 tsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar                                                    1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp prepared mustard                                              1/2 cup fancy molasses
1 cup ketchup                                                            1/4 pound of bacon (save the grease)

    The package recommends filling a large pot with cold water and the beans and then covering the pot.  I used my dutch oven.  They suggest allowing them to simmer for 30 minutes or until tender.  I tried them at 30 minutes, and they were still crunchy.  I let them cook closer to 45 - 60 minutes.  I should also warn you that my pot boiled over... several times.  It was a mess.  I kept reminding myself that this would all be worth it....I hoped.  I feel like I need to impart some wisdom that the bean package shared. It's important that the beans are the perfect texture now, because they do not soften in the oven.
    While I was boiling the beans I fried up some bacon.  I cooked the entire package (we had bacon and tomato sandwiches for lunch).  I saved the bacon drippings (that's the less offensive way that the cooking shows call the bacon fat).  Oh I saved it all.  This may cause some of the more health conscious to gasp and gag, but to those of us who enjoy bacon, you will be drooling I'm sure.
    When the beans were finally tender I strained them and let them drain in the sink.  I chopped up a medium onion and put it in the bottom of my trusty Corningware casserole dish that I received as a wedding gift all those years ago.  The bean package suggests just dumping the other ingredients on top of the beans, but I mixed them in a bowl with a whisk.  I doubled the liquid ingredients the package suggested (I've included the doubled recipe for you below), and added 1/4 cup of maple syrup, compliments of the Prevosts.  You could adjust the maple syrup to suit your tastes.  I only added 1/4 cup because that's all of the sugary goodness that I had left.  I next did something that will make some of you cring and others salivate... I poured the beans into the bacon fat, and stirred them around.  I know, I know, not very healthy, you can omit this step if you are not as crazy for bacon as I am.  I then poured the bacony goodness into the casserole dish over top of the chopped onions.  The next step was to pour my liquids over the top and my chopped up bacon.  I very carefully and gently mixed it all together.  I slapped the lid on the top, and put it in the oven to bake at 250 degrees for ...wait for it, wait for it 7 HOURS!  I warned you, this is a food that cannot be rushed, it takes patience.

    The house smelled like heaven all day.  My husband kept trying to sneak into the oven to sample my beans.  I kept smacking him and sending him on his way.  I can honestly tell you that the work as all worth it.  The wait was all worth it.  Those beans were a big hit.  I would be a liar to say that everyone in our house loved them, because no one in our house all like the same things... meals are a nightmare.  Rowan and Christopher and Grace declared that "my beans" were the most delicious beans that they had ever tasted!  Elly and Riley thought that they were gross.  You can't win them all.
    I had them for the next night's dinner again.  I put all of the liquid ingredients into a pot and let them just come to a boil.  I then stirred that into the left over beans, and then reheated them in the oven.  I have to be honest, they were even better with the extra sauce and the next night.
    So there you go, if you have the time to spare, make these beans.  They are not quick, but if you wanted quick you would just buy them from the store.  Above all else I like to know what my family is eating.  I like to be able to say "I made that".  I like the fact that I know that I put them in the bacon grease, because who knows what they do to them in the factory.  Have you ever bought "pork and beans" in the can and realized that the "pork" was that little piece of mystery white grossness in the can.  I can assure you that there was no "mystery" meat in my pork and beans.  There was however lots of pride in a job well done.

 Please feel free to take a minute and share your favourite baked beans recipe.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

The Gift of Four

  I am a stay at home mom, who is rarely at home.  My days are spent chauffeuring kids, volunteering at the school, helping with homework, cooking, doing laundry... o.k. you get the point, my life is busy.  I generally fall into bed at night exhausted.  With four kids my life is loud and chaotic.  I am so busy being caught in the whirlwind that is our life that sometimes I forget to stop and appreciate what a gift I have.
    Elly is four.  Traditionally four is my favourite age.  At four they are still full of wonder, life is still new.  Almost everything they see is magical.  Magic is very real to a four year old.  Four is the age of wonder.  I forgot this amongst all the chaos that is my life.  Today I am separating time and fully appreciating what a gift 4 is.
Suzy Wooden
    Elly is a character.  She is spunky (that is code name for spoiled).  She is the last of 5.  You would think that being our last I would look at everything she does as a gift, but I am human after all.  She is the most stubborn, determined child, and sometimes I loose sight of the fact that she is such a gift because I am beating my head against the wall wondering how to get through to her.  She is also the most funny little ray of light.
    Yesterday she insisted on being called Chelsea. She came down the stairs naked as the day she was born.  She walked across the room with a swing of the hips and walked like she was wearing high heels.  "Oh Hi guys.  I'm Chelsea.  Sorry I'm naked, but I'm looking for my hotel room so that I can have a shower."   All of this was said in the voice of a valley girl.  I nearly peed my pants.  This was not an isolated event.  She regularly has me in hysterics ( sometimes it's hysterical laughter, sometimes it's hysterical frustration).

    Elly has had this little Kewpie doll looking baby doll that my parents gave to her some time ago.  It sat in her toy box for at least a year.  Two weeks ago she discovered that doll and fell in love.  She has named the doll "Suzy Wooden".  As in everything that Elly does there really is no rhyme of reason to it.  The name does crack me up.  Sometimes I find myself asking Elly about Suzy Wooden, just so that I can say "Suzy Wooden".  Today she came downstairs with Suzy Wooden and Riley's doll "Ali"(don't tell Riley, but Elly has pretty much taken ownership of Ali) dressed in green.  She was most concerned that they be dressed in green because it is St. Patrick's day.  If you are not dressed in green for 
St. Patrick's day, then you open yourself up to be pinched.  She did not want her babies being pinched.
    I need to slow down and take it in.  Elly will only be four for 7 more months.  She will only be little for just a little while, the blink of an eye really.  The next time that I am fighting her to do something, maybe I need to just stop and marvel at the wonder that she is.  She is our gift, they all are.  

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Rowan And Our One On One Day

    Today was one of those rare one on one days.  Gracie was at a friend's house for a sleep over.   Riley and Elly went shopping with Nana and Popa.  Christopher was at work.  That just left Rowan and I.  I had lots to do, but decided that it was more important that I spend time with Rowan.  Turns out that was one of the best decisions that I have made in a long time.

    I asked the Little Man what he wanted to do today, did he want to see a movie?  He wanted to do a craft.  We opened the craft cupboard and started digging.  Rowan was just digging, determined to find everything that he could need.  I am a control freak, and most times I have a craft planned.  Today we just decided to wing it... another great decision.

    We pulled out wooden clothes pins, paint, glue, felt, feathers, pipe cleaners, googlie eyes, and pom poms.  I suggested that we could make Leprechauns.  "Nah" was the response that I got.  He had a determined look on his face, a crafter hard at work.  I took great delight in making my own leprechauns.

    I  took great delight in painting the bottoms of the clothes pins.  I cut bits of felt and hot glued them into tiny little hats.  I nearly peed my pants laughing when I put the pom poms in half and hot glued them to make beards.  I guess what I am saying is that I sat with my son, and enjoyed him.  I forgot how much fun it is to just let the supplies take you where they go.  I forgot how much fun it is to make crafts.

    Rowan and I spent our afternoon just being together.  We did a craft, then we watched a movie.  We sat on the couch cuddling and watching Dare Devil.  It was PG13, and Rowan felt like a rebel ( I covered his eyes for the extremely tame sex scene).  I let him drink pop, and eat chocolate.

    At the end of the day we had a great day.  If someone were to ask "Oh what was so great about doing a craft and watching a movie?"  There was nothing that was earth shattering.  I gave one child my complete attention, that doesn't happen very often.  When you have 4 children you have to divide your attention.  You always need to stop what you are doing to break up a fight, pick up an injured child, pick up a child from a friend's house.  Add to all the distractions the fact that with four children I am always doing wash, making food (you will notice at no point I said cleaning).  When the rare opportunity presents itself to give one child my complete attention, it is important to seize it.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Maple Milkshakes - The End Of March Break

    Today is the last day of March Break.  The week has flown by.  I had not planned anything, but the week happened anyway.  Although the week has flown, it was a nice week.  I really enjoyed the kids.  I find myself already dreading Monday and the structure that it brings.  
    We are most fortunate to live in a rural area, where many people tap their trees.  We were extremely fortunate, because our friend's the Prevost's gave us a container of that sweet Canadian deliciousness.  As Lisa handed me that container of liquid gold, my mind swam with possibilities.  I could make a maple glaze for that salmon I have in the freezer.  I could make scratch waffles (which I did), oh the possibilities were limited only to the size of that container.  In the end I made an extremely delicious treat!   Maple Milkshakes, the big hit of the week.  We made several batches to much applause.  
    The recipe for this is easy, ice-cream, milk, and maple syrup.  The shakes taste all the better with homemade ice-cream, but for the time crunched, store bought is pretty tasty too.  I used my old school blender, and put in three hardy sized scoops of ice-cream.  I then put in 1/4 of a cup of maple syrup.  I then filled the blender with milk.  We like slightly thinner shakes, so I used more milk to ice-cream.  My mouth is watering just thinking about this.
    Good-bye March Break 2013, I feel like I hardly got to know you.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Kool-Aid Playdough

    Two days left of March Break.  We have done two trips, and one friends day with a sleep over.  Today we made playdough at Elly's request.  Elly and Rowan helped, and had fun.  Instead of my usual playdough recipe, I added a little pizzazz and a whole lot of awesome smell.  I wish that you could smell how good this playdough smells.

    Here's my recipe....

1 cup flour                                                              1 cup water
1/2 cup salt                                                             3 Tbsp cream of tartar
2 Tbsp vegetable oil                                              1 package of Kool-Aid drink mix

Mix all of the dry ingredients together, then mix in the liquids in a large pot.

    Next you want to to heat this mixture on medium heat.  I am warning you right now, your arm is going to hurt from stirring.  You want to keep stirring until the liquid mixture pulls away from the sides.  You are done when it resembles stiff mashed potatoes.  Take your pot off of the stove and let it cool.

    The next step is to kneed your playdough.  I like to kneed it when it is still warm, mainly because I really enjoy the way that it feels.  It really will smell good.

    We made four separate batches.  The kids were a little disappointed because I thought that the blue package would be blue, but it wasn't.  I guess if I'd read the label, "Tropical Punch", then I would have thought about tropical punch being red.  I made the kids wait until I had finished all of the batches before I would let them play with it.

    I you want to have lots of playdough fun, you may want to revisit these past blogs.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

March Break 2- Glanmore House

     I know that I have shared this before, but I HATE routine!  I hate all the "have to's" involved in school days.  I hate having to get up at a set time. I hate having to rush the kids out the door.  I hate organizing my day around school drop off and pick up.  I LOVE March Break, and I LOVE Summer vacation.  I love the flow of doing what you want with a loose schedule.  I love spending time with my kids.

    March Break.  How do I keep them entertained without blowing the bank, and while still keeping the week stress free?  Yesterday afternoon I piled the kids into the car and we headed to Belleville.   Our destination, Glanmore House, a National Historic Site.  The kids have gone with their school in the past, and I thought it might be fun to explore it at a leisurely pace.  

    We arrived at Glanmore and were met by a very friendly lady.  The admission was very reasonable.  For myself and the four kids, it was only $19.50.  The nice lady handed each of the kids a brightly coloured Artifact Hunt sheet.  The sheet contained pictures of different pieces at Glanmore.  The kids were really excited to begin their hunt.

    The first stop on our tour of the Glanmore House was the basement.  A volunteer helped equip the kids with the tools to make shadow puppets.  In the times before television and radio, children still liked to be amused.  Children of the past made shadow puppets.  To be honest I can see how an artistic person could create really beautiful and ornate silhouettes, and be able to really entertain.  To my kids it seems unthinkable that there was ever a time that there were no televisions.  This was a reminder.

    The kids were entertained, and so was I when they put on their show.  They were so proud of their creations, and had so much fun.  It was a link for today's kids, with yesteryears kids.

    After the kids had finished their shadow puppets, it was time to begin their artifact hunt.  We began in the basement.  In the basement was the servant's quarters.  It was neat to see the space where the servants would have lived.  It was also interesting to see how the other half lived.  Downstairs (the servants quarters) were sparse and homespun, while upstairs was rich and opulent.  The same house, different levels, both physically and economically.

    The above was a pre-intercom.  It was really quite ingenious, like a sophisticated tin can telephone.  The people of the mansion could call down to the servants when they needed them.  

    We continued our artifact hunt on the main floor.  The rooms were lovingly restored to resemble the original home.  The ceilings were stunning.  There is no longer that kind of attention to detail.

    The dining room was stunning.  Featured on the dining table (which could expand to accommodate 25 guests.  Can you imagine having 25 guests?) were china wear from the Sir Mackenzie Bowell collection.  Sir Mackenzie Bowell was Canada's fifth Prime Minister holding office from 1894 - 1896.  The beautiful blue and white dishes ringed with gold were a gift from Queen Victoria to Sir Mackenzie Bowell to commemorate his retirement as Prime Minister of Canada.
    The poor kids get an earful of history from me all too often.  I try to make our outings educational, without the kids knowing how educational they are.  When we saw the dishes I told the kids that this may be the closest they may ever come to a Prime Minister.  Sir Mackenzie Bowell was a prominent businessman in Belleville, Ontario.  Actually he was the owner, editor and printer of Belleville's still running Intelligencer Newspaper.  He also owned several tracts of land in the Tweed area.
    The below link is more information about the dishes, should you wish to read more.

    The upstairs of Glanmore House features the bedrooms and library.  The master bedroom was opulent.  The above picture is just the bedroom's sitting area.  I am pretty sure that I could fit my entire downstairs in that bedroom.  There really were only two bedrooms upstairs.  It seems funny in today's society to have a home of that size and really only have two bedrooms.

     The upstairs also featured a glass cabinet that stored a collection of artifacts.  The above doll was housed in that display case.  It gave me the willies.  I am pretty sure that if I were a child of that era I would have slept with one eye open.

     The last stop on our tour was the first.  We looked at the gift shop and handed in our artifact's treasure hunt sheet.  That same nice lady gave each of the kids a little prize for completing their hunt.  I left with smiling children, and without emptying my life savings (ha ha, like I have a life savings).
    Glanmore house really is a local treasure, and we are very lucky to have it in our community.  It is a link to our past.  It tells us a lot about who we are today.  Back then Glanmore house was considered a "mansion".  Today we think of mansions as huge buildings that have dozens of bedrooms.  Back at the time that Glanmore was built there was the poor and the rich, there really was not a middle class.  In those times whole families shared a room.  If you consider that the well to do had a separate bedroom from their children, then yes, Glanmore is a mansion.  The other interesting thing that is very noticeable is the extreme attention to detail that went into the building of that home.  Today's homes are built for economy, instead of beauty.  
    If you would like to read more about Glanmore house I have included some very interesting links below.  

    If you want to find an activity for your children this March Break, or really any time, it's worth a visit to Glanmore House.  If you do not live in the Belleville area, then visit a local museum and explore your own region's history.  Your kids will learn more about where you live, and so will you.