Friday, 31 May 2013

Teaching Grace How To Cut The Lawn - Letting Grace Grow Up

Daddy giving instructions

    I am a smother mother, I admit it.  It is a real effort for me to allow the kids to have some freedom, some independence... in other words to grow up and take chances.  I would bubble wrap them if I could, I hate that the idea that they could ever be hurt by the world.  By doing this, I am depriving them of every life lesson that they could ever learn by failure and by being hurt.  Sometimes I need to just take a step back and a big breath and actually think about what I am doing.  I get angry because my kids seem ungrateful and expect everything to be handed to them, and yet I am scolding them for the very things that I have taught them.  I need to give my head a shake and rethink this sometimes.

Little Girl discovered that it's harder than it looks.
    The other night Christopher was out cutting the grass.  Grace came up to me and asked if she could try cutting the grass.  My first instinct was "No, babies don't cut grass ... it's DANGEROUS!"  I swallowed that.  How often do children ask to do chores?  If she is interested and wants to, shouldn't I respect that and allow her to try?  Yes, cutting the grass could be dangerous (one of my sister's friends mom's had a lawnmower cut off her foot.  They reattached it, but it has always haunted me.), but if we teach her the way to do it safely, it is no more dangerous for her at almost 12 (three more days she would tell you with glee... me I miss the little baby) than it would be for her at 14.

...and that the handle vibrates and
 makes your hands feel funny.
    I wasn't sure what Christopher's reaction to this request would be.  Christopher is very particular about the way that he likes the grass cut.  When he was in university, he worked at a local golf course during the summers.  It was his job to cut and maintain the course.  This early experience branded lawn care into his brain.  He likes that grass to be a certain height.  It must be cut in a diagonal, but harlequin  pattern is really the visually appealing.  He gets upset when I cut the grass (big surprise, I'm all about getting it done.  So what if there are all kinds of patterns on the grass... it's done, isn't it.)  I waited, holding my breath when she asked him.  I was all set to jump in and explain to him why it's a good idea to let her take chances, that this is an excellent growth opportunity for her.  He said yes.  I was pleasantly, but completely surprised.  
    Christopher had said yes, without hesitation... this was a surprise.  Soon he was leaning in and explaining the safety issues.  He walked along side her as she cut, waiting incase she needed help.  She had this big self important smile on her face, this was the proof that she was indeed a big kid.  She only did a few strips of lawn, but it was a huge deal.  She felt good about herself.  We were happy that she had taken the initiative and asked to help.  It was a win win.  Will she "ask" to cut the lawn again, I don't know, but I do know that this was a really big step for all of us.  We as a family stepped out of our comfort zone, and it was o.k.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Pizza Hummus - The Wonder Food!

    I'm in one of my Mother-Earth kicks right now.  I find that I waver between make everything from scratch to it's o.k. to eat convenience foods that are really not that great for you.  With me it seems to be all or nothing.  In fairness to me (you knew that was coming), I have been super busy this last little while.  As usual I over committed myself and my role as Mother - Earth took a back seat to Mother - Not -Enough- Time - In - The - Day - To - Get -It - All - Done!  In my heart of hearts I do like to know what is in the food that I am feeding my kids.  It really worries me that hot dogs, a family rush staple have been proven carcinogenic.  Hot dogs were my go to food when I was pushed for time.  I knew that they weren't healthy, but I had no idea that they were deadly... it really makes you rethink convenience foods,  doesn't it? 
    I have really been trying to think about the things that my kids come into contact with the last little while, both inside and out.  I've begun to make my own cleaning products, and quite frankly I don't think that I would go back to the chemicals.  If you missed those blogs, hit the links below.

    In the tone of wanting to make things from scratch, I have been wanting to make my own hummus for some time now.  Two cans of chick peas (also called garbanzo beans) have sat in my cupboard awaiting the time.  I just could never find "tahina" (sesame paste) sauce.  When I went shopping Sunday, I accidentally found tahina sauce.  It was settled in with the olive oil and the other oils.  This was the universe telling me to take a risk, make my own hummus.  I purchased several more cans of chickpeas just incase this was a wild success.  My Gracie loves hummus.  It's not a cheap dip to buy, it usually is around $5.00 a small container.  It's a healthy snack, and so I usually pick it up for her as a treat. 

    I searched (my go to website for recipes), looking for an easy recipe.  Thank you Emeril Lagasse for the simple, yet delicious recipe, you never let me down!

    My first batch of hummus was wildly successful, now I would experiment (good thing for those extra cans of chickpeas).  My next batch I made the hummus recipe, but I added roasted red pepper.  To roast the red pepper, I just put it in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  I then placed it into a bowl of cold water.  When it was cool to touch I cut it up, took out the seeds, and tossed it into the food processor, skin and all.  Another hit!
    My best experiment yet came was the last.  It was met with huge success, and accolades (it's rare around here, so I took it).  I made "pizza" hummus.  I called it "pizza dip", so that it didn't sound healthy (it is a widely known fact that kids better enjoy foods if they think that they are eating crap).
For the pizza hummus I mixed....

1 540 ml can of chickpeas,                                         1 medium roasted red pepper, 
1 156 ml can of tomato paste,                                     1/4 cup of olive oil,        
 1 clove of garlic,                                                         1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese 
  salt, pepper, and about 2 tsp greek seasoning. 

    I mixed it all up in the food processor until it was smooth.  I then mixed in about 1/2 cup of finely diced green peppers, 1/2 cup of finely chopped chives to give it some texture and a little extra taste.  The total cost is approximately $2.50 for 3 cups of hummus, consider that I had been paying $5 for half of that and had no idea what preservatives they were adding (mine has none). 

    The taste is great, and the health benefits are also great, I did not know just how great until I did a little research into the ingredients that I put in.  I then realized that this delicious "snack" was really a powerhouse for nutrition.  For example, the chickpeas 220 calories per cup, in that same cup they contain 4 grams of fat, 7 grams of fiber, 6% of your daily recommended calcium, and 15% of your daily recommended iron.  They are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids that are thought to promote a healthy heart and also help lower cholesterol and promote blood clotting. 
Tomato paste is 25 calories for 2 Tablespoons.  It contains 4% of your daily recommended fiber, 6 % of the daily recommended vitamin A, 2% of your daily vitamin C, 2 % daily calcium, and 4% or your iron.  One clove of garlic contains 4 calories, 1% of your daily calcium, and 2% of your daily Vitamin C.  The roasted red pepper for 1 medium is 38 calories.  It has 3% of your daily recommended daily fiber, 79% of your daily Vitamin A, 1% of your daily calcium, 380 % of the daily Vitamin C, and 3% iron.  The green pepper is 30 calories.  It contains 300% of your daily recommended Vitamin C, and 22% of your recommended iron, plus 2 grams of protein. WOW.  
    I don't pretend to be a nutritionist, but when I added up all of those calories for the entire recipe, giving you a yield of approximately 3 cups of pizza hummus it is only 1107 calories if you ate the entire  3 cups of hummus at one sitting.  If you divide that so that your serving is 1/4 of a cup of hummus it works out to only 92.25 calories ( I divided 1107 by 12, There are 12  1/4 cups to make 3 cups to get that answer if you're wondering), that's amazing in it's self but then start to add up all of the nutrients. 
If you ate that whole 3 cups of hummus you would have used 1107 calories, but would have 
122.2 % of your daily recommended Vitamin A,  499.4 % of your daily recommended Vitamin C,  23.9 % of your daily calcium, 64.8 % of your daily iron, 63.8 % of your daily fiber, and 22.7 grams of protein.  That 1/4 cup of delicious hummus has given you 10.2 % of your daily Vitamin A, 41.6% of your Vitamin C, 2 % of your calcium, 5.4% or your iron, 5.3% of your fiber and 1.9 grams of protein.  To me that makes it a power food!  Consider that all of those great nutrients are for the hummus alone, just imagine if you dipped veggies or a whole wheat pita.  If you compare that hummus 92.25 calories (that cost you 21 cents for that 1/4 cup) to a lean chicken breast 64.5 (chicken goes for about $4.00 a breast, so it costs you approximately $1.00 for the half cup) calories for a 1/4 diced.  

                                                        Hummus (1/4 cup)                      Chicken Breast  (1/4 Cup)
Cost                                                 $.21                                               $1.00
Calories                                          92.25 cal                                       64.5 cal
Protein                                            1.9 grams                                     9.57 grams
Vitamin A                                       41.6 %                                          .5%                        
Vitamin C                                       41.6                                               0%
Calcium                                           2%                                                .5%
Iron                                                  5.4%                                             7%           

P.S.    I feel like I should share that I have been munching on said delicious dip the whole time I have been writing this.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Taco Bowls, well technically

    I'm not generally a big taco fan.  I find them just too spicy and just too messy (I really hate messy foods).  The problem is that my family loves tacos (it's obvious that they don't do the laundry around here), and so I make tacos.  Most of the time I use a kit.  It's pretty easy, everything is in there.  When I make the kit, I can adjust the taco seasoning to suit my sensitive spice tolerance.  

    Recently I tried a new experiment.  I made taco bowls.  In my head these were things of beauty, not unlike something that you would see in Foodnetwork Magazine.  The lettuce and cheese were placed in a delicious, yet artistically pleasing way.  The reality as it is 99.8% of the time was something just a little different.  The reality was they looked like something Elly made in her junior kindergarten class.  The did not look visually striking, but I have to tell you, they were delicious.  Turns out I like Tacos when they are not too spicy and not too messy!

    I used whole wheat wraps, the smaller sized ones.  I put some olive oil in a jar and mixed in some garlic puree.  I then brushed this mixture onto both sides of the wrap.  I used the beat up old cutting sheet more to contain the oil than to protect my poor beat up table.  After the wraps had both sides coated in a thin layer of garlic oil, I shoved them into little glass bowls (you will notice that I did not say "placed", but instead chose the word "shoved".  The reason for this is that I tried to "place" them into the bowls, arranging them so that they would create a visually appealing bowl.  This did not work so I lost my temper and "shoved" the wraps into bowls).  These glass Pampered Chief bowls are really great.  My sister sold Pampered Chief for a while and talked me into having a party.  Long story short, I bought some of these great little heat resistant bowls.  I'm sure that you could use a muffin tin.  I used the bowls because they were bigger than a muffin tin and would allow for more filling.  I put my little glass bowls onto a cookie sheet and put them in a pre-heated 250 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until they were a little crispy.
   After the shells had cooled a little I loaded them with a layer of guacamole, cooked lean ground hamburger with taco seasoning, a layer of sour cream, cheese and diced green peppers and lettuce (that was what I made for me.  The rest of them spiced their's up with salsa and the likes).  They did not look great, but they tasted delicious!  The shells had the perfect crunch, without the extra crunch that the store bought taco shells have (you know that ones that you take one bit and the whole taco crumbles into dust in your hand).  I was able to eat them like a tart.  It was a win win.
    The next time that you or your family wants tacos and you have a few minutes to shape the shells, I highly recommend trying this.
Not Foodnetwork worthy looking, but really good to eat.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Writing the History of Our Schools ( but not giving myself enough time)

Our current senior school.

    You may have noticed that it's been a while since I have had a new post, and the new posts that I did put up were few and far between.  I promise to make up for that!  My life seems to have (for this particular second in time) slowed down.  I had a lot of my plate, but now my plate is relatively empty.
   Our local schools are being closed and torn down, and we have a brand new school that is currently in the process of being built.  It's on one hand very exciting, but on the other hand a little sad.  I went to those schools.  I felt some pride when I took my children to the school's that I attended in my own childhood.  To celebrate the old schools a group of volunteers met for several months to plan a fitting goodbye.  Guess who was on that panel (I'll give you a hint, it rhymes with Bristan)?

The old Sulphide School

    In one of the original meetings I suggested that it would be nice to have a book made to celebrate our schools and their history, and I offered to spearhead it.  No one seemed all that excited.  I assumed (never assume, oh never assume) that no one was interested in that idea, and so I left it.  Fast forward to one month ago.  Our principal asked if I was still writing "that book".  "NO.  No one seemed interested."  I replied aghast.  She gave me a look of pity, " Quite a few people have been asking how you were making out with it".  "I guess I'm writing a book!" I said shaking my head.  "It's not going to be a big book." I added.

The train once ran through the village

    I began to research the history of our village, and it's schools.  I say this, but I had a full plate (what's new) and did not devote a lot of time to "my" book.  I put it off and caught up on my other commitments.  Two weeks before the school closing event I began to panic just a little.  I had virtually nothing done.  I began to read, and read, and read some more.  I realized at that point that I may have been in over my head, but being too stupid to admit defeat, I soldiered on.  

Tweed's old High School being torn down.

    Stupidly I had thought that our village's history was as small as the village itself... I was wrong.  I found myself fascinated.  It was amazing to look at the current Tweed, and imagine Tweed of the past with wooden sidewalks.  I suddenly felt so insignificant, so small and insignificant looking at my place in Tweed's history.  I wished that I had more time, I wish that I had started sooner.  I wished that I had started sooner, not because of the time constraint that I had put myself under, but because I didn't feel that I could do our fascinating history justice in such a short time.

The young women of the home sciences class
    Two night's before the school closure (my due date because we were going to sell the books there) I could feel cold sweat all over my body.  Frantically I read my research, scribbling notes.  How would I put this all together in time?  I ran into our local Historical Society and begged Evan Morton our town historian for his help.  After speaking to him I felt more overwhelmed than ever.  The history of this village was fascinating and I was going to fail.  I would do a disservice to the history.
   The Friday before the school closure I sat at my computer, only leaving to go to the bathroom.  My legs went numb, but on I worked.  At 3:00 a.m. I asked Christopher to proof read my book.  I say book but it was only 22 pages, really hardly a book.  At 3:30 I turned off the computer and staggered off to my heavenly bed.  
    Saturday morning I woke at 8:30 and went back to the computer.  I didn't feel like I had properly finished last night.  I worked until 11:00.  At 11:00 am I hit the send button and sent it off to my local printer.  The book needed to be at the school by 1:30 p.m. that afternoon.  My legs hurt, my eyes felt strained.  I felt happy.  I had done it.  I had written a book about the history of our schools.

The beautiful stained glass that memorializes
Tweed's fallen soldiers of WWI
    At 1:20 p.m. I went to the Tweed News to pick up my book.  I got there and the poor lovely woman who worked there looked as frantic as I had felt just hours earlier.  "Come and help me!"  Together we folded the pages, and then she would take them back and staple them.  At 1:45 I arrived at the school, books in hand.  I had done it.  I had done what felt like the impossible, and now life can restart.  I say this, but now I am thinking that I might like to try my hand at writing a real book about Tweed.  The more I think about it, the more appealing it seems... I guess we'll see.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Home Made Disinfecting Wipes

    I am a long time user of disinfecting wipes.  I like how easy they are, all premoistened and ready to go.  I use them to clean the kid's lunch bags.  Because they are "chemical" I always felt like they must really clean.  Then I actually took the time to read the warning label...
    On the bottom of the front of the container is a big caution.  "CAUTION - IRRITATING TO EYES  READ LABEL BEFORE USING"... Why have I never noticed this before?  So I read the back.  "NOT RECOMMENDED FOR USE ON UNPAINTED WOOD..."  O.K. I'm with them so far.  I mean maybe it would ruin the wood.  Now here is where the "caution" begins to worry me... PRECAUTIONS KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.  Harmful if swallowed or inhaled.  Do not swallow.  Do not inhale vapours.  May irritate eyes.  Do not get in eyes or on clothing.  Avoid contamination of food.  Do not use or store near heat or open flameNot for personal cleansing.  Not for use as a baby wipe.  Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling.
   So if I have to wash things after I have used this wipe, why am I using it again?  Oh that's right, I'm not anymore, because I have found something better.. cheaper... SAFER!

    I started by cutting up squares of flannelette.  I then folded them and put them into my airtight container.  Remember my telling you about my new cleaning love?  I love to put lemon rinds in a large mason jar, and then fill the jar with white vinegar.  I then put the jar in the window, and wait a week.  At the end of the week, the vinegar no longer smells like vinegar, but fresh lemons.  It smells clean.  I mixed my lemon vinegar 3/4 vinegar and 1/4 water in a mug, then I poured it right on top of the clean flannelette squares.  I made sure to wet it, but did not soak it.  I then put the lid on the container.
    So now I have pre-moistened clothes that will fight germs, but not harm my family.  When they are dirty, I just toss them in the wash, not the garbage.  Honestly they work better than the store bought wipes, at least in my opinion.  The lemon and vinegar kill germs naturally.  Why did it take me so long to think of this?

Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Dreaded Desent of the Cottagers

    I have said this too many times before, but I live in a beautiful part of our country.  I am surrounded by fresh air, fertile farmland, and rivers and lakes.  We are half way between two big cities, and could travel to either within 2 hours.  I live here by choice.  I choose to live a slower lifestyle.  I choose to breath fresh air.  I choose to know my neighbours and know them by name.  I grew up here, but I left in my early twenties.  I chose to come back, not because I had to ... but because I wanted to.
    This week-end signals the cottagers descending upon my bit of paradise.  I know that the cottagers mean extra revenue for my local businesses.  I know that they come here in the summer for the same reasons that I live here all year round.  It's an amazing place to live.  I dislike the extra traffic in my small village, but I can live with it.  My problem is with the bad attitude and rude behavior that many of these cottagers bring with them.
    These strangers come here with their noses up in the air, thinking themselves to be so much superior to the poor country bumpkins.  I admit, that they are not all like that, it just feels like it.  They come here and expect that we should all admire them.  They feel like they the city dwellers are so above the lowly country folk.  They share little jokes about our community.  What they do not realize is that many of us "poor country folk", have the same levels of education that they do, if not higher.  What they do not realize is that farmer they are snickering at has more money tied up in farm equipment and livestock than their fancy houses are worth.  They do not know that many of us have lived in the big cities,  but chose instead the beauty of the country.
    O.K. I think I feel a little better for that rant.  I feel this way every year at this time.  I need to take a deep breath and feel sorry for those people, those ignorant people.  They are so blinded by their own importance that they do not realize how blessed we "poor country bumpkins" are.  They come here on week-ends to get away from the rat race, we live in this paradise all year round.  We visit the rat race to boost our excitement, but then come home to the quiet, fresh air, and feel fortune to call this home.  

Friday, 17 May 2013

Beach Volleyball ...

    It stood before us, pristine, untouched.  It shouted to us words of promise.  "You can do this!", "This will be fun and so easy!"  It looked so innocent that beach volley ball court, but alas it was the master deceiver.

    One of my face-book friends put up a post asking for teams for our local beach volleyball league.  I was assured that it was more of a "beer league".  That would be perfect, because my athletic ability is like an individual who has been on a 10 day bender.  I imagined my husband and I sharing a laugh with our friends.  What the heck, I'm going to put together a team I thought.  In my faulty imagination Christopher and I were all tanned (and maybe 40 pounds lighter, and looking like we were in either a Coppertone ad or a beer ad), we were throwing back our heads laughing, sometimes my head would gently touch the head of one of my friends in shared laugher.  Oh this is a good idea.  I signed us up.
    I was feeling gleeful thinking about all the exercise and good fun we were going to have.  I then received my emailed copy of the roster.  I took notice of the familiar names that the same roster had been mailed to, the young, physically fit team captains.  A sense of foreboding began to niggle into my blissful delusion.  My brain revisited the earlier fantasy of volleyball.  In the new revised fantasy I looked the way I do in real life.  My husband who is competitive and believes himself to be a star athlete, pushes me out of the way to return the ball, knocking me down, face in the sand.  Sadly this is a more accurate fantasy, than the Coppertone one.
    Wednesday night my friend, and fellow teammate emailed me "Instead of our usual Thursday morning coffee, how about we go to the volleyball pit and practice."  I could hear the panic in those typed words.  Apparently she was feeling a bit of fear.  Thursday morning my friend picked me up, and then we picked up our third friend / teammate and we headed over to the beach volleyball pit.  We pulled up.
    The court was beautifully groomed, untouched.  The wind gently blew the net, inviting us to play.  Trepedatiously we walked over, all three of us in flip flops.  We scanned the sand looking for glass, it was all clear.  Slowly we took off our shoes, the cool sand pushing through our toes.  The court was so much bigger than I thought it would be.  It's four on, how could all four of us cover so much territory?  We decided to practice.  I served the ball, hey I was better at that than I remembered.  The ball flew strongly over the net.  Maybe this would not be quite as hard as I thought, and then the ball came back at me.  I squealed like a little girl, flinching and running from the ball.  Oh dear, we were in trouble.  After practicing for 10 minutes (and panting for breath) or so we decided that that would be enough, we could go for our coffee.  I'm no athlete, but I rock at drinking coffee!
    Our first game is in two weeks.  I hope that our team, aptly named "Last Place" will not irritate the other teams too much.  Hopefully they will find us to fun and entertaining.  Hopefully they will not hurl insults and rocks at us... I guess we'll see in two weeks.  In the meantime, I think that maybe we should have a team practice.  So we will not be winning any awards, the best that we can hope for is perhaps a participant ribbon.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

My New Panini Press

    I have a new obsession... PANINI!  My little brain is spinning with the different possibilities.  I have wanted a Panini grill for a few years now.  I would look longingly at the flyers, and touch and ogle (that sounds a little dirty) in the stores.  I could touch, but never have.  Those Tim Horton's adds would taunt me "Try our new panini's".  "I would like to try my own panini's" I would shout at the screen! (o.k. I never really did that, it just sounds dramatic, which is the effect that I'm going for here).  

    This year for Mother's Day I opened my gift from the kids (their Dad), and there it was, all shiny and perfect... a Salton Panini Grill!  I was over the moon!  I have a theory.... for my birthday Christopher bought me a cast iron frying pan, something that I had been wanting for years.  This Mother's Day,  he got me a Panini grill.  My theory is that he is trying to build up enough points so that if he does something really bad, really dumb, he can erase it with the thoughtful gifts.  Now you may not know this, but I think that men have a points system, something that they have formulated.  It is a well known fact that men love sports, and would bet on old men fighting each other with sticks.  It is also a well known fact that men like to assign point values to things... sports, betting.... you get the picture.  I think that they attribute good deeds to a points system.  In their minds so many loading the dishwashers equal, points.  The higher the deed, the higher the point value.  In their minds forgetting an anniversary can be canceled out with enough points.  We all know that women don't abide by a points system, but I don't think we need to tell them that, besides my husband would assure me that he is not going with a points system.  He would assure me that he made those purchases based upon great love, and respect.  He just wants me to be happy... but I think we all really know that he is going with the points system.  It could also be that this is the NHL play-offs and the stupid Chicago Blackhawks have made it.  But I will just play stupid, and pretend I don't know about the points system, so that he can keep racking up those points (ie doing chores, and things that I like).

    So now I have this great panini grill, and the world is open to all of the possibilities.  For Mother's Day dinner I decided that we would have panini's.  That afternoon I took my Mother, and we set out for the big metropolis of Belleville, and purchased panini ingredients (we also fit in a trip to Starbucks).  I purchased chicken breasts, roast beef, baby spinach, red bell peppers, as well as avocados, and onions (which I later sautéed).  Oh his was going to be a gourmet feast (well as gourmet as I get).

    I put my red bell pepper in the oven to cook at the same time as my chicken.  I just placed it on the oven rack.  I would like to pretend that I am an expert at this, but really this was my first time.  I have had roasted red peppers on my restaurant panini's countless times, but have never attempted roasting my red peppers in my own home.  It turns out it was pretty easy.  I roasted it for half an hour.  I took it out using my oven mitt, let it cool, then gently and easily peeled the skin off.  It was too easy.  I then sliced it into smallish slices.

    I was extremely daring and I made avocado spread.  Generally I have a very boring taste palette.  I like what I like, and don't like to deviate from that.  Recently we were invited over to my friend Jane's house for dinner.  She is constantly trying to entice me to try Indian food.  I have the stomach of a tiny baby, and Indian food would spell ambulance trip for me.  That night we had Mexican food (a risky move on my part).  It was delicious.  One of the things that she served with our Mexican Pizza was an avocado spread.  It was really nice, I don't like avocado's, but I loved this spread.

    I called my friend Jane Sunday morning to wish her Happy Mother's Day, but more importantly to get that avocado spread recipe.  She told me that when picking out an avocado to look for the dark green ones, that means that they are ripe.  Give it a squeeze, it needs to be soft, but not mushy.  
After purchasing the avocados (I used two), cut them in half, and take off the skin.  Put them in a food processor, add two tablespoons of lemon juice (to stop them from going black), one clove of garlic, salt and pepper, and 1/2 a cup of sour cream, and diced green peppers.  I am pretty sure that for her family she adds a lot more heat!   Then mix it up.

    For dinner I set out all of my ingredients like a buffet.  I let everyone chose their own bread / roll, and stuff the ingredients that they wanted into their sandwich.  I then grilled everyone's panini.  Oh my goodness they were good!  I went with a panini roll, buttered, roasted chicken breast, roasted red peppers, baby spinach, provolone cheese, oh and bacon, beautiful bacon (which I fried in my new cast iron frying pan).  It looked beautiful, and tasted like heaven.

    Panini's are a hit at our house.  Last night I made Pizza panini's.  I used a sub bun, with pizza sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese... a resounding success!  I keep coming up with new and creative ideas for sandwiches.  Don't tell Christopher, but this gift really did earn him some points.  I mean, not enough points that I would be cool with him forgetting our anniversary, but enough points that I don't care if he watches the NHL Playoffs.  Don't tell him that though, because then my being cool with him watching the NHL earns me points in his points game!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Mom's Can Move Mountains

Our Victory Pose

    My friend Theresa posted a funny post on her facebook page recently.  The post said something like "I can change the world, and here's my plan".  She then put my name at the bottom.  It' funny, but it's true, I really do think that I can change the world.  I even call it my "I can change the world complex".  Can I let you in on a little secret, with the above group of women, I am 100% certain that we could do pretty much anything that we wanted.
    Back, last year we had a school talent show.  It was a huge success.  The kids felt important, and the parents felt proud.  We had lots of people who came just to watch the show, they didn't even have any children or grandchildren in the school.  We were beyond capacity in our gym.  We decided that for the next year (this year) we would move to a larger venue.  Now fast forward to this year.  Our community was selected to receive a brand new school.  This is great news, but it puts extra stress on our principal. She just felt that her plate was too full for the talent show this year.... and that's where we came in.

Grace and Riley singing "Lean on Me"
    Back in the late fall, a group of us Moms got together to plan this year's talent show.  So often if you are involved in groups, there is one person who takes credit for everything (and does nothing), and then there's one person who does the majority of the work, and then there are the people who look busy, oh and then there is that individual who just loves drama and likes to stir things up.  Guess which person I usually am?  Here's the hint, I don't really need to take credit, for me the a job well done is reward enough.  That was not the case with this group of moms.  Every single person rolled up their sleeves and dove in, and because of that, our talent show was a HUGE success.  It was refreshing to work with a group of really committed women, who were so driven.  Everyone played nice, everyone did their share.  There were no people who did no work, but took all of the credit.  There were no people who looked busy, but did nothing.  There were no people who stirred it up.  It was just nice, and I think that we all quite enjoyed the challenge, and each other.
    All of this brings be back to the statement that I am pretty sure that Mom's can move mountains.  I know for myself, that if I want something badly enough, I poor pity the fool who tries to stand in my way.  I know that no matter what this group of committed Mom's puts their minds to, we will do it, and make this world a better place in the meanwhile.  I am very proud to call myself a member of this group of amazing ladies.
Riley and Rowan's Dance group

    I think that we all have the capability to make this world a better place when we leave than when we came in, it just takes courage and stubbornness.  If we work together, we can literally move mountains!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Greek Influenced Grilled Pork Chops

    This year spring felt like a bit of a flirt.  The weather would warm up a little, only to snow the next day.  I still have the snow tires on the van, because every time I would think about getting them off, it would snow again (before you roll your eyes, I have an appointment to get them off this Friday).  I was beginning to wonder if I would ever be able to wear a t-shirt outside again, or see the grass for that matter.  Finally, after lots of false starts, spring has sprung!  Glorious, beautiful spring!!!!!

    The nice weather signals the beginning of barbecue season.  That season where you walk down the street and the smell of the neighbours barbecue makes you drool like a teething baby.  You smell the air like Scooby- Doo, trying to play guess that meal.  Stupidly you keep hoping that your spouse has beat you home and that amazing smell is coming from your back yard.  You arrive home, and make something stupid like mac and cheese because everyone is starving.
    To celebrate the beautiful weather I decided that it was time to kick the barbecue up a bit beyond hot dogs and hamburgers.  I pulled out my cookbooks and began to search for delicious pork chop recipes (can you tell that pork chops were on sale).  I came across this picture of lovely little bits of pork nuzzled in a pita, on a bed of sliced red onions, tomatoes and what I assume was tzatziki sauce (you know that delicious yogurt/cucumber sauce that you get in Greek restaurants).  This is what I decided I would make for my family.  I scanned the list of ingredients, I did not have most of them, and many of them looked too spicy.  I decided that I would adjust the recipe.  This usually spells disaster.  I am famous for substituting and then being surprised at the less than stellar outcome. 
   Normally I make my marinade as I am putting the meat into the oven, then I wonder why the meat is not tender or tasty.  This time I broke with tradition and made the marinade in the morning.  I got a bowl, and mixed 1/2 tsp chili powder (the recipe called for more, but I just can't do spicy), 1 garlic clove that I grated (the original recipe called for 4 cloves), 4 tsp honey, 6 tsp extra virgin olive oil, 6 tsp lemon juice,  some freshly ground pepper, 2 tsp Greek spices.  I whisked them all together, and then put them aside while I put my pork chops into two Ziplock bags.  I then poured half of the marinade into both bags, placed them on a cookie sheet, and put them in the fridge.  I made the marinade in the morning and let is soak in the fridge for the day.

    As the barbecue heated, I took the cookie sheet with the meat out to the deck.  I then handed off to my husband.  The barbecue is his domain at least that's what he keeps telling me.  I'm not going to complain, it's one less step for me, and honestly he does a really great job.  Having said of all of that...
have you ever noticed when you have people over for a barbecue, you spend hours in the kitchen,  making hundreds of salads.  You make a marinade for the meat that you purchased.  You make a delicious dessert.  You buy all of the supplies, see to every little detail.  Your husband grills the meat.  Everyone compliments your husband on the wonderful meal.  They rave about what an amazing job he has done on the barbecue.  Oh it burns, and I'm not talking about the meat.

    The chops were delicious!  Christopher cooked them to perfection.  None of my kids declared that they hated them, in fact they actually all raved.  This recipe is definitely a keeper!  The meat was tender and flavourful.  The ingredients in the marinade are all things that I have readily available in the house.  It took just a few minutes to make the marinade, and then it just soaked until dinner.  These bad boys were a hit, and will be making the summer meal rotation!

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Scroll down until you see my shoe, then click the pink vote button.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Parenting Pre-Teens Ugggggg

   Growing up I came up with all kinds of things that I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wanted to be a police lady, and then I thought about what that work entailed, granted I was 5.  Then I wanted to be a nurse, but realized that nurses have to sometimes hurt people to help them, not for me.  Then I wanted to be a physio therapist, until I learned that you needed to be good at math, that wasn't for me.  I really wanted to be a journalist.  I wrote a column through high school.  I loved it.  I applied to university for it, but was offered a general bachelor of arts.  I decided on majoring in psychology.  I loved it, but there was so much freedom at school, and so many new and fun people to hang out with.....  The only continuous long standing choice in all of that was motherhood (although being a published author is on my bucket list).  Motherhood was my go to career, and it is the one that I have stuck with.
   When you think about motherhood, at least when I did, I thought about babies.  It seemed so hard.  Go to the bookstore sometime, and look at the parenting section.  You will find a huge section devoted to pregnancy books, and baby books.  Now look at the "parenting" section, it's maybe a row.  We all think about babies, but it turns out that babies are the easiest part of parenting.  If your baby is crying, he / she is either hungry, thirsty, tired, or gassy.  When big kids cry it can be any number of things.  Most times instead of crying (which may be easier to take) its' anger.  Nothing really prepares you for the pre-teen years, have you noticed that.  You know that part where parenting begins to get genuinely difficult, where there are no easy quick fixes.
    When you have a tiny baby, people are quick to offer you advice (even when you don't particularly want it).  Try asking someone about colic.  You will have a ton of people offering you help and advice.  Some of it will work, some of it is garbage, but that's not my point, you get help.  I'm not sure when it exactly happens, but somewhere between infant and toddler we stop asking for help and advice.  After your child is a toddler it somehow proves that you stink as a parent if you ask for advice.  When you do ask for advice, I can guarantee that what you get back will stink (much of this is also unsolicited).  "I'll tell you what that kid needs is a good smack!", " If that child was mine, I'd take him in hand!".  Most of the advice you get after your child is a toddler, is directed at the fact that you stink as a parent, and that's why you are having problems.  Maybe that's why we would rather struggle in silence.
    The pre-teen years are really tough I am discovering.  You are dealing with a child, who is not exactly a child, but also not a teen yet.  They want to be grown up, but are just not ready for it.  They are one big coursing hormone, and as volatile as gasoline and flame.  It's like walking through a mine field everyday.  Gone is that angelic little face that used to look up at you like you were some kind of demigod.  In it's place is the look of absolute revulsion, and rolled back eyes.  It feels like there is no winning with the pre-teen (I can only speak of pre-teen, because God help me the teens are a few years away).  Right now my pre-teen seems to only have one emotion and that is anger, well at least that's how it feels.  The smiling little face, that warm little hand that used to fit so easily in mine seems to be gone.
    I find myself using angry tones more than I should.  I do not use that sing song loving voice with my pre-teen the way I do with my pre-schooler.  I know that my attitude it contributing to the over all anger.  I know I need to swallow back the hurt and anger and act like the grown up, like the mother I would like to be, but alas I am human, I am a work in progress.  I know I need to use more patience.  It's just practicing all of these things with all of the other things constantly going on in my life.  I look at my pre-schooler and realize that her sense of wonder, her innocence lasts for just the blink of an eye.  I need to remember that I will only have my preteen in my home for just a few more years, and then she's off of to university, and life.  I am making memories with her, and if I don't smarten up, they will not be memories that I am proud of.  No one ever said that motherhood was easy, they just mislead me about what the difficult parts would be.
    I find comfort in other Moms.  The Moms who are brave enough to admit that they too are having a rough time in this stage.  There is something beautiful looking into that frazzled face of a friend who's face mirrors your own.  We have not come up with strategies that work, like you do when you compare toilet training notes.  Instead we enjoy sharing the misery.  We enjoy comparing notes.  In other words we don't judge, we commiserate.  We do not feel like a failure, because we know that this unfortunately par the course.
    As mother's  we often put too much work into pretense.  We feel like we need to "act" like a super mom, instead, of acknowledging that we would "like" to be super mom, but that we're just human beings doing the best that we can.  When we judge other moms or criticize other moms (unless they really are making a huge mess of it, and then you should be trying to help her out), I think that what we are really doing is the old, I feel better about myself because I made you feel worse game.  I cannot imagine how difficult this time in this parenting stage would be if I didn't have these great women.  I cannot imagine how alone I would feel, and like such a failure if I thought I was the only one feeling like this.
    I'll get through the pre-teen years, and I will gain more wrinkles and more grey hair, I have three more kids waiting in the wings to put me through the wringer.  I need to make my mantra, "Make these years count, she's just confused".  I need to rember how quickly time can slip through my fingers, to take a deep breath, and turn that grimace upside down (ok that might look even more scary).  I also need to book more coffee (or wine depending on how tough the week has been) Mommy beaks.  Those Mommy breaks might just be the difference between happy childhood, and visiting Mommy in prison!

Friday, 3 May 2013

Learning the Art of Disappointment From My Four Year Old

    For the last week all Elly could talk about was her class trip.  Her class was going to go on a school bus!  For Elly the bus was much more exciting than the actual trip itself.  They were going to go to the Madoc Skate Park and have a picnic, and then they were going to see DINOSAURS!  "and you're coming too, right Mommy?"  "Yes, Elly, Mommy's coming on your trip."  We're going to sit together on the school bus... right Mommy?"  "Yes, Elly, Mommy's going to sit with you on the bus."  "Daddy, Mommy and I are going on a fun trip.  We're going to sit together on the school bus, and we get to go to the park, and have lunch together!"  "Wow Elly, that sounds like fun!"  The whole time she spoke, her eyes were huge with excitement.  

    Yesterday afternoon I went into Belleville, Old Navy had a great sale.  I bought Elly a comfy little dress to wear for her trip.  It was white with navy stripes.  Unintentionally I bought a similar dress for myself.  When she came home from school I showed her the new dress.  "Daddy!" she was too excited "Daddy, Daddy, Mommy and I are going to wear matching dresses!!!!!"  She was almost nearly shaking with excitement.  Just for the record, I had no intention of us wearing matching dresses.

    When the kids were tucked into bed, I pulled out my hot glue gun.  I had picked up a bag of plastic dinosaurs at the dollar store when I was in Belleville.  I hot glued dinosaurs onto hair elastics, and then hot glued a dinosaur onto a large safety pin.  As I burned my fingers, I smiled thinking about how excited Elly would be to wear my dino art.  I would give her adorable pig tails topped off with dinos.  I ran my burned fingers under the cold water, still smiling (that may have been a grimace from pain, but I was smiling in my head).
    This morning Elly climbed into our bed.  She was burning up.  I got out my bright yellow thermometer, and looked at those digital numbers, 102.  I was not looking forward to telling Elly that her trip was off.  I stalled.  Finally I just bit the bullet... "Elly I'm sorry sweet heart, you have to stay home today, you're sick".  She did not flinch.  I expected tears, but there was not one.  "Can you make me lemonade Mommy?"  That was it.  After the week of build up, I thought that she would have been devastated.  She was o.k with it, she just wanted lemonade.
   Turns out I could learn a thing or two about disappointment from my four year old.  She lives in the now.  It didn't matter what she was missing out on, she had lemonade.  I'm not sure I can do that, I just wish I could.

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Thursday, 2 May 2013

Fully Loaded Mashed Potatoes

* This is my disclaimer.  The recipe that I am about
 to share is not for the health conscious. 
 If you are looking for a DELICIOUS recipe,
 look no farther.  If you are looking for healthy,
 you have been warned... this is not it~!

WARNING... the recipe listed below will cause excessive drooling, groans of delight, family members begging for seconds, and then begging you to make it again.

    I feel better for having given you the above disclaimer, and warning.  My arteries are clogging up, just from writing this!  It is however sinfully good.  Now that I have shared the side effects and the health risks, lets get on with it.

You will need...
1  5 pound bag of russet potatoes (or any potato that you like, I just really like the dry flavour of russet)
1 250 ml container of sour cream                                       1/4 cup of butter
1/2 a brick of cream cheese                                                1 1/4 cups of old cheddar cheese grated
1/4 cup Asiago cheese                                                        1/2 cup of finely chopped chives
salt and pepper                                                                    bacon, lots of delicious bacon (or half pack)

    For many years now I have really wanted a cast iron frying pan.  Many times I have picked one off of the self of a store, and stood there thinking about it.  Eventually I would put it back (I don't really know why, but I think that we have established that I have mental problems).  For my birthday this year, my wonderful husband bought me one for my birthday (I think he was tired of me picking them up and sighing in the stores).  Through trial and error I have cooked a good few things in that pan.  I have discovered that it is a thousand times better than any pot or pan that I have ever owned.  It cleans up easier than teflon, and makes everything taste better.  I don't know the scientific reasoning for this, but honestly it makes food taste better.  This is most especially true for bacon.  It frys up bacon to perfection... and you will want lots of bacon for this recipe.  It is that amazing mixture of crispy and soft, in other words pure perfection.

    When I make mashed potatoes I really like to use russet potatoes, you know that ones that come all wrapped in foil for baked potatoes.  I prefer russets because they hold together better.  I also really like that nice dry taste they have.  I make them in my dutch oven, and use most of the 5 pound bag of potatoes.  I cook mine with about 1 teaspoon of salt.  As to how long to cook them, that I'm not sure of.  I think it takes about 15 minutes, I just keep going and poking them with a fork to see if they are tender yet.
    While the potatoes are cooking you may want to grate up some cheese.  You could cook your bacon while the potatoes are boiling, but I like to do mine before I make the potatoes.  Be sure to save some of the bacon drippings (this sounds disgusting, but oh Mama is it good).  While my potatoes are boiling I grate up some old cheddar cheese, and a little bit of Asiago cheese.  These two are strong tasting cheeses and really bring the flavour to the whole thing.  I grated about 1 and a half cups of cheese.  You can adjust this to suit your cheese tastes.  When the cheese is all grated up, pop it back into the fridge (other wise it gets all soft and gross looking).
    When the potatoes are all cooked, drain them.  I like to put 1/4 cup of butter in the bottom of my dutch oven, and then pour the potatoes on top of that, it really melts well like that.  I use my potato masher and then my mix master to whip them.  I add about 250 ml or half of a container of sour cream.  I then add half brick of cream cheese, and mix it all up with the mix master.  Using a wooden spoon I then mixed in the crumbled bacon, about 1/4 cup of the bacon drippings (sounds gross, tastes great) and the chives, salt and pepper, and last but not least the cheese.
    I get rave reviews from my family when I serve these potatoes.  I don't serve them too often because basically they are a heart attack waiting to happen, but they are sinfully good.  Make them for your family and let me know what they think.

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Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Never a Dull Moment Around Our House

    There is never a dull moment around our house.  With 4 kids we are kept hopping.  Our house is loud and boisterous and honestly I would not have it any other way.  To be honest, I love the noise, but I also really bask in the quiet (on days such as these where all 4 kids are at school.  Turns out my clock makes a ticking sound, I didn't know that until this September).  There is lots of yelling and screaming, but also a really heavy dose of hysterical laugher.
    My kids honestly keep me in stitches on a regular basis.  Sometimes they are intentionally funny, other times they just are.  This week end they were especially funny.  Sunday afternoon Elly came in with a dead lady bug in her hand.  "Do you like my new pet?" she asked her father.  "Honey, I'm pretty sure it's dead."  Elly acted like she hadn't heard her father, and walked right past him.  "Mommy do you have something I can use for a home for my new pet lady bug?"  I looked around and found an empty muffin liner container.  She thought that it was an excellent home for her new pet, and skipped back outside to play.  I was assigned baby-sitting duties.
    I got busy in the kitchen, and when I turned around Riley was sitting at the kitchen table with a tube of mini-M&Ms.  She had been to a birthday party the day before, and they had been in her loot bag.  Riley and I began chatting while I worked.  In an act of goodness, she poured some of her M&Ms into a dish she had found on the table.  "Here Mom, I want to share these with you."  I looked at the container.... it was Elly's ladybug home.  "No thanks sweetheart.  That is so nice of you to share, but you poured them into Elly's dead ladybugs home."  She and I had a giggle.  "I'll see if Daddy wants them, he won't care if a lady bug was in there."  Almost on cue, her father walked in the door.  "Hey Daddy, do you want these M&Ms?"  Before either of us could say anything about the dead ladybug, Christopher had tipped the container into his mouth like it was a shot.  "Thanks Riley" he said while chewing a mouthful of mini M&Ms, and possibly a dead ladybug.  Riley and I exploded into peels of laugher.  "What... What... WHAT?" my confused husband asked.  Riley then shared that the container had been the home of Elly's ladybug.  "Oh God, did I eat a lady bug?  OH GOD DID I EAT A LADY BUG?"  His eyes were huge, a look of disgust on his face.  I couldn't answer him, I was laughing to hard.  Tears were pouring down my face, I literally almost wet my pants.  We still don't know if he ate the lady bug or not.
    I try to do as much work on Sundays as I can to get ready for the week that lies ahead.  I make muffins, cut up fruit, if I'm really ambitious I will pre-make sandwiches.  Sunday's fruits were cantaloupe and pineapple, two fruits my kids love.   I was about to put the lid on my large tupperware containing fruit, when Rowan swooped in and stole some cantaloupe.  He then ran off.  It was an hour of so after that that Christopher came downstairs.  He had just had a late shower.  He walked into the kitchen, "Hey Rowan.  Hey Rowan?"  Rowan materialized from wherever he had been.  "Buddy, the next time you are eating cantaloupe in the shower... don't drop any... o.k."  In his hand was a bit of mushy cantaloupe.  Rowan just shrugged and ran off to return to whatever he had been doing before his summons.  Those kid's crack me up.
    Last night I was relaxing in bed watching t.v.  Christopher had been in the living room watching his beloved Blackhawks.  I had enjoyed the quiet, just watching whatever I liked.  After the game was over Christopher began the nightly ritual of "shutting up shop".  This involves, turning down the heat, switching of the computer router, and then going upstairs to make sure that the kids are all covered up and that the lights are all out.  He had just made it to the top of the stairs, and then came down in hysterics.  "You have to come and see this."  he gasped.  I was mildly irritated.  I had been comfy, but I got up anyways.  The site that greeted me at the very top of our stairs, was the picture I snapped at the top.  There was a our little boy, passed out, face down on the carpet.  I have no idea why he was lying there fast asleep.  I did know that I needed a picture.  As I took the pictures, most of them did not turn out because I was shaking too hard with laugher.  No, there is never a dull moment at our house.

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