Monday, 26 August 2013

Decorating Riley's Big Girl Room

    Do you ever notice the older you get, the faster time gets?  I was pretty sure that we had just decorated Riley's room, it was 5 years ago.  Back then 4 year old Riley LOVED princesses.  I was so proud of her beautiful room.  We had painted soft blue paint on the bottom, and peach on the top with a Cinderella border, princess curtains, princess carpet, and princess bedding.  I just thought it was beautiful, and so did she.  When she turned 7 she began to express her desire for a panda room.  In an effort to stall her, we gave her the finite age of "9".  When she turned "9", we would give her a panda room.  From that time forward she would tell everyone that when she turned 9, she was getting a panda room.  
    Why would we put her off until she turned 9?  Have you ever decorated a room?  You think, oh a can of paint is only $30.  I can decorate that room for $30, and then you begin to think about how much nicer that room could be if you "just".  That "just" is a money sink hole.  "Just" usually turns into bedding, carpets, curtains among many, many other things.  The age of 9 seemed like so far away when she was 7.

    This year Riley and Rowan turned 9.  Riley remembered our promise.  "Princess rooms are too babyish" she declared "I need a big girl room!"  She agreed that her birthday gift this year would be a new room, man did she get a good deal.  For her birthday we gave her two cans of purple paint with ribbons on top.  We had decorated Rowan's room in Spiderman.  His room was royal blue and red.  We asked if he would like his room freshened up.  In typical Rowan laid back style, "Nope, I like my room.  I would like a white board though."

    I was luckily able to talk Riley out of the "panda room".  I told her that we would not be 
re-decorating her room until at she was at least in high-school, so she should pick something that she will not outgrow.  She is a smart little cookie and she agreed to this.  We let her pick out the paint colours, but that is the end of what we allowed her to have a say in.  We wanted for her to get a big surprise.  The big surprise is that it took Christopher and I almost a month and a half to find the time to finally tackle her room, but in the end, we did.
    We started by removing the wallpaper boarder.  I used a cloth with a capful of fabric softener, hot water and a cloth.  I soaked the boarder, then went back and pulled.  Nothing is ever easy, and wallpaper removal is especially true to this.  In the end, it was not as tough as many wallpaper removals that I have done.  The key is to really soak the under paper.  The top came off pretty easy, but that paper underneath was a little tougher.  With a good soak, and using a credit card it came off pretty easily.  After the wallpaper boarder came off Christopher washed the walls with TSP.  Then I taped the walls.  Taping the walls is time consuming, but really important for clean lines.    We did several steps in taping.

     Riley's room has a sloped roof (so does Grace's).  To maximize the space I knew that I wanted to put her bed in there.  I also knew that I wanted that area to be a focus wall.  To achieve this,  I knew it would take hours.  Christopher loves to paint, and so I decided to be lazy kind, and allow him to do that job.  We taped off the centre where the border had been.  We used a level to try to get it as straight as possible.  He painted the bottom the darker purple, and the top the lighter purple.  To ensure that the two purples matched,  I used one of the paint strips that has the five or six different paint samples on it.  The bottom colour was about two shades darker than the top.  I asked Christopher to paint the sloped wall in all the lighter purple.  After he had finished that painting we re-taped the wall with the delicate painters tape (the kind that does not peel off freshly painted paint).  We wanted to make the metallic stripe approximately the width of the roller.

     Next came the taping of the sloped wall.  I really wanted the sloped wall to be a focus wall.  In my head I saw an argyle  pattern.  In my head it looked really, really sharp.  I began the process stupidly, trying to free style the tape.  I am unable to draw a straight line, so I'm not sure why I thought that I could tape a straight line.  This was an epic failure.  What I did in the end, is purchase a piece of bristol board and cut it into the sized strip that I wanted.  I then used the bristol board as a ruler, and taped out my harlequin pattern.  This was a time consuming process, and at the end of it, I could not use my arms anymore (ok it just felt like that).
    I can not make any pretenses, I am not that clever at patterning.  To eliminate mistakes I used small pieces of tape to tell me what parts would be dark purple, and what would be silver.  If I hadn't used the tape markers, I can only imagine the mess I would have made.  In the end I did make a little mess, and went over the tape lines a few times with my small roller.  To correct that I just used a fine brush and fixed the mistakes.  When it is all said and done, the pattern does not look like the pattern that I had envisioned, but it does really make that wall stand out!

    We used a Martha Stewart paint that is called precious metals for the silver stripe.  It was expensive!  It cost almost $30.00 for a tiny tin, and for optimal effect we needed to use the Martha Stewart roller.  We discovered our mistake about the roller early on.  I am a bit of a cheapskate (as my children are all too happy to share with you).  I thought that any roller would have worked fine, it didn't.  Regular rollers left the finish streaky and unfinished looking.  The Martha Stewart roller really did a nice finish, and made it shine like real metal.

    I had really wanted to make Riley's built-in book shelf pop.  My plan had been to use black and white accessories.  I really wanted to find a black and white wallpaper.  Apparently I have not shopped for wallpaper in a very long time.  I nearly pooped kittens when I looked at the price of the wallpaper that I had fallen in love with.  It was $32.00 a roll!  I was not going to go with wallpaper.  I then had a pretty clever idea (I have to give myself credit because I don't really have an awful lot of really clever ideas).  I found beautiful wrapping paper at Walmart that was Halmark brand and $4 a roll.  I bought two rolls.  I then bought a small container of Hodge Podge.  I used the Hodge Podge to carefully stick my precisely measured and cut pieces of wrapping paper.  I then put a second layer of Hodge Podge over the top of the wrapping paper.  Is it perfect?  No it is not, but it is really pretty good.  I covered the wall behind the  book shelf, and then decided to carry that theme over to Riley's dresser.
    Originally I was going to paint Riley's dresser white.  She made it very clear that she did not want her dresser changed, she liked it just the way it was.  I had picked up that dresser at an estate sale, and thought that it really didn't owe me anything, but Riley thought differently.  I decided to take a chance (knowing full well it could be a real fail), and papered four of Riley's six dresser fronts.  It really tied in it all together.

    One of the last things that I did was to make a valance for the window.  I went to Fabricland and found material that was almost a match for the wrapping paper that I had just modge podged to the wall and dresser.  I also found an embellishment of tiny drop crystals.  It would have been more cost effective to simply buy a valance from the store, but I was really able to customize this to Riley.  In the end the material was $20 a metre, and I used half a metre.  The embellishment was $9 a metre and I took a metre.  The black ribbon was $4 a package.  In total the valance cost $23 to make, but it is exclusive to Riley's room.
    When we had finished all of the painting and all of the little finishing touches we moved all of the furniture back into Riley's room.  We carefully placed everything to maximize her space.  Christopher carpet cleaned her old carpets.   I put the new bedspread and skirt on her bed.  We then just made sure that everything was just right.  In the end we paid $25 per large can of paint (there were 2), $28 for the small tin of Martha Stewart Paint, $20 worth of painters tape, $17 worth of paint rollers and paint trays, $8 for wrapping paper, $7 for Modge Podge, $23 for a valance, $33 for the Bed -in- a bag (I know that is a total steal).  This is a grand total of $178.00 (before taxes... $201.70), that's really not too bad for everything when I lay it out like that.  

    We blindfolded Riley to take her up to her room.  To say that she was delighted would be like saying that the Pope is only a little bit Catholic!  She squealed and shrieked and giggled.  I had been holding my breath praying that she liked her new room.  I let the air finally escape.  As Riley threw herself onto her bed she let out a happy little sigh, "This room is just so me."  We had done it.  The room was finally done, and Riley was happy, it was a good day!  This is a big girl room that is not too big girl for a 9 year old, but not too childish for a teen, I think we nailed this one.  The problem is that we may have nailed this one too well, because now Gracie is thinking about some changes for her room.

Thursday, 22 August 2013


    I lay in bed this morning, not really wanting to get out of bed, but feeling like I really should.  I smelled the air, no Christopher had not made a pot of coffee before he had left for work this morning.  Ugh I would have to brew my own coffee.  It doesn't really take long, but somehow the very idea of it seemed distasteful.  A spark of an idea formed in my sleep dull brain, I would go to Tim Hortons!  I slothed out of bed (I say 'slothed' because to crawl seems more energetic than what I actually did).  I stood at the foot of the bed like a zombie debating my next move.  Maybe I could just go in my pjs.  I had car keys in hand, my purse and was walking towards the door when I remembered... "Oh yeah, the car is not equipped with a cloak of invisibility!"
    How often have you been stuck in traffic and looked over only to see your car neighbour picking his or her nose? (you will notice that I make no mention of picking your own nose and getting caught, because no one admits to that dirty nose picking thing).  I cannot count the amount of times that I have been getting my groove on in the car to a really great song, only to discover that I have a laughing audience in the car beside me.  Why do we all think that because we are in our car we are invisible?  I don't know of anyone who does not think that they are invisible in their car.  The funny thing is that we all know that no one else's car is invisible, and yet we still stupidly think that our magical car is.
    The fact that my car is not like Wonder Woman's invisible plane has been a hard lesson to learn.  Add to that false sense of security that fact that the back windows are tinted, therefore giving me more false hope.  I cannot count the amount of times I have had the children change in the back of the car in parking lots.  I myself have changed back there countless times.  To me tinted means that I can see out, but no one can see in (I still can't believe that I have never been invited to join MENSA).  It is staggering the amount of people that must wish now that they were blind, or have been blinded by the sight of me in the back of the van.  It was not until a family vacation to of all places Sesame Place in Pennsylvania that I learned the truth about tinted windows.  We had driven through the night to get to Sesame Place.  The kids were all still in their pjs belted in the car when we arrived.  I told them to go into the back of the van and change into their bathing suits.  I made sure that I put a blanket between the two front seats to block the back off.  I mean the back windows are invisible, but the windshield isn't and I didn't want anyone in the crowded parking lot to see my children undressed!  The kids were all changed and lined up outside of the van so that I could sunscreen them.  Christopher had gone into the back of the van to change into his suit.  "Make sure that you have that blanket up so that no one can see you!" I shouted into the car.  The parking lot was a flurry of excited families bursting at the seams to get into the park.  I had finished sunscreening my last child when I just happened to glance into the back of the van.  Waves of cold terror washed over me, as I saw my husband's full frontal through the not so invisible back window.  OH GOD!  I started to shout through the front door "OH MY GOD! Christopher cover up, I can see your business, OH MY GOD, I can see your business!!!!!!!!!  YOU CAN SEE THROUGH THE TINTED WINDOWS!!!!!!!"  He staggered out of the van a shade of grey.  Lesson learned... tinted windows do not offer invisibility, just shade from the sun.
    You would think that after the Sesame Street incident that I would have wised up and realized that vans/ cars offer no invisibility, it didn't.  I mean I no longer change in the back of the van, but I am still pretty sure that the invisibility button is somewhere near the cruise control.  Recently I rolled out of bed and went through the drive- thru in my pjs.  I was paying at the window, when I noticed a person that I know waiting for their breakfast item.  Then they waved to me... busted.  The girl at the drive through could barely contain her laugher as she passed me my coffee.  I was to learn why when I got home.  I looked in the mirror, only to discover that one side of my hair was completely flat, and the other side was standing completely on end.  As if the hair was not bad enough, the sleep creases in my face had not yet fallen out, it was really not a good look (maybe my MENSA invitation was lost in the mail).  Oh dear, everyone at Tim Horton's had seen me!
    So there I stood this morning in my pj's, hair standing on end, purse over my arm, keys in hand  poised at the front door.  My embarrassing car adventures flashed before my eyes.  I turned around, got dressed, checked the mirror, wet down my hair and then went out for coffee.  Hey listen, if you're talking to the folks at MENSA, could you let them know that I still have not received my invitation?

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Peach Betty/ Meeting Grandma Gordon

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE this time of year!  The kids are still on summer holidays, but all of that beautiful fresh produce is making it's way to the road side stands, farmer's markets and grocery stores.  I just picked up a large basket of peaches for $2.99, try doing that in the winter.  It truly is one of my most favourite times of the year.  It is also that time of the year where my husband begins to make requests for special treats.

    I love fresh fruit, but I really, really hate peaches.  The fuzzy skin makes my skin itch and rash, and I don't like the taste either.  They however, happen to be my husband's very most favourite type of fruit.  This week he has been giving me a whole bunch of hints about peach brown betty.  They are not so subtle hints either.  "WOW peaches are only $2.99, that would be pretty inexpensive if someone wanted to make PEACH BROWN BETTY".  Being the loving wife that I am I finally relented, and made him peach brown betty ( o.k. less loving wife and more he wore me down).  He was kind enough to allow the kids to have a small bowl, but essentially ate the whole thing by himself (I am a little surprised that he didn't growl at the kids).  For Christopher I think that the love of peach Brown Betty/ peach crisp is not just about how good it tastes (to him), but also it means love.  His grandmother was not a very demonstrative woman, but she would make peach crisp for Christopher as a special treat.  Peach crisp means Grandma's love.

    As I stood making Christopher's peach brown betty I cut up the peaches with a big smile on my face.  I cannot see a peach without thinking of Christopher's grandparents...
    Christopher and I had only been dating for a little while.  We had met at York University.  He was from Acton and I was from Tweed.  Three and a half hours separated us.  Ours that summer was a long distance relationship filled with those long phone calls and those silly "no you hang up, no you hang up" ends of conversations.  We tried to see each other as much as we could during that summer.  I had only met Christopher's parents a few times and they were very nice and very welcoming.  I think it was my second or third visit to Acton when Christopher announced that we had been invited to his Grandma and Grandpa's house for dinner.  I felt nervous about meeting them.  What if they didn't like me?  I checked myself in the mirror several times before we left for that short, yet almost endless drive to Guelph.  
    His grandparents were very nice and welcoming.  I tried not to smile when Christopher's Grandmother was on the phone and told the person on the other end that she would have to call them back because Christopher had brought his "friend" over for dinner.  We sat down to dinner and were served little dimpled glasses of grape juice mixed with ginger-ale.  Dinner was lovely.  We sat and chatted for a minute after the dinner was done, and then Grandma announced that she had made some dessert ... peach crisp.  The unspoken words said that this was a special occasion.  Christopher had never brought a girl to meet them.  This was something special, and should be celebrated with Christopher's favourite dessert... peach crisp.  "Oh that looks lovely" I said politely.  "Just a little for me please", and I think that I gave some lame comment about watching my weight (I was thin back then).  Out came a dish heaping with peach crisp.  I silently gulped, I HATE peaches.  I swallowed the peach crisp whole, trying not to allow my tongue or taste buds to come into contact.  I pushed the bits around dreading the next mouthful, but knowing that to make a good impression I had to eat it.  I ate the whole plate, barely stifling a gag.  "Oh that was delicious... thank you so much" I said.  I am pretty sure that the best actress award should really have gone to me that year.  Grandma gave me a sweet smile, "Then I will get you seconds."  I could feel the panic set in, Oh God no.  It had taken all of my strength to eat that first mammoth plate of it.  "Oh no, I couldn't eat another bite.  I wish that I could because it was so good, but I just couldn't".  I hoped that the panic was not heard in my words, or in my bulging eyes.  Oh she insisted, and out came another heaping plate full of peach crisp.  I could feel the cold sweat all over my body, and hoped that no one else could see it.  I tried to smile between gulps.  Oh please don't let me throw up.  I ate it all, every last bit.  I guess that should have been my first clue that Christopher was a keeper.
    I can't look at a peach without thinking about that very first meeting of Christopher's Grandparents.  It wasn't too funny at the time, but it sure makes me giggle now.  Grandma and Grandpa Gordon are no longer with us, but they will live on in my memory of that peach crisp.

    Tonight I will make Christopher Peach Brown Betty for dessert.  Here is how I make it....

I pre-heat the oven to 375.  I then cut up one whole basket of peaches and put them into a casserole.  In a medium large bowl I mix 1 and 1/4 cups of flour, 3/4 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup of butter and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  I mash them all together until they are one big clump.  I then spoon the mixture onto the top of the fruit (normally I make it with apples).  When the fruit is all covered up I pop that into the oven.  I have been known to double the topping.  That  brown betty is going to cook at 375 for 40 minutes.  Let it cool and then serve.  I like to serve it with homemade vanilla ice-cream.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Self is More Than A Number On The Bathroom Scale

    Standing there looking at me was this giant blob of a thing looking like it might cry.  I shook my head, the thing shook it's head.  How had it come to this?  How had I allowed myself to become that blob that was looking back at me from the mirror?  I changed out of my dress and walked away in disbelief.  This was my special day, our special day and I had all of these great plans to look beautiful walking down the isle and I had really let myself down.
    This is not the first time that I have felt like that.  All of my life I have hated my weight.  It has always been my achilles heel, even when I was perfect.  I look back at pictures of myself and the self loathing that I felt and I shake my head.  I was never happy in the skin that I was in, never.  I always knew that if I was just five pound, ten pounds less then, and only then I would be perfect, then I would be happy.  I never really developed a weight problem until I was in my 20s, it was almost like a self- fulfilling prophesy.  The weight slowly snuck up a pound at a time.  By that time I was married and it didn't really matter.
    These days I don't really think about my weight, I simply am.  I like who I am, I like my life.  I have a husband who adores me, I have kids who love me, I have amazing friends, really what else is there in life?  I don't really look in the mirror, when I need to I merely glance.  I don't really give too much thought to my shell.  I know that I am over-weight, but normally it doesn't interfere with my life.  Most times I think about my weight the way I think about my freckles, or the colour of my hair.  Sure if I could change them I would, but I have come to accept them as who I am.  I say all of this and yet, I am talking about me in the first paragraph.
    We are a week away from Christopher and my renewal of our vows.  I had planned to loose all kinds of weight and wear a beautiful airy fairy dress.  In my head I looked beautiful as I floated down the sandy isle.  In January I had made a solemn vow to myself that I would loose weight and take better care of myself.  I began by counting calories.  I was doing great, I lost 10 pounds.  I began to calculate at that rate how much I would weigh by August, it was amazing.  It was so easy to count those calories, I did not feel the least bit hard done to, as a matter of fact I was feeling great!  I could do this!  Then I stopped losing weight.  It didn't matter I told myself, I was feeling great, the weight would come it was all good.  Then I had stress, and fell off the wagon.  In times of stress I eat comfort food.  I knew that I could get back on the wagon if I wanted to.  I didn't.  Now I find myself back where I began, well a few pounds short of back where I began... literally.  All of the progress that I have made for my self esteem.  All of the self acceptance, now gone.  I have found myself back in the mind of that person I was all those years ago who knew that if I could just loose 10, 20, 50 pounds I would be happy.  All of this because of a dress.  A dress that represents my love and happiness of the last 20 years.
    The real truth is that as I walk down that sandy isle next week,  I will be met with overwhelming love.  Every face that I will see will be smiling and beaming back love at me.  The people who are coming to celebrate with us love me, love us.  The man who I am walking towards has loved me for 22 years!  Love does not adequately express what my husband feels for me.  Together we have had 5 beautiful children, which tells the world that he still finds me desirable, even if I am not the perfect weight, he loves ME.  He loves the entire me, the whole me.  As I walk down that isle, it will come as no surprise to anyone that I am over-weight, that is the me that they know and that they love.  The people who love me put no condition for their love on my weight.  Why am I allowing myself to pour such self hatred upon someone who is so loved?  Why, because I am a woman, and unfortunately there are very few woman who like the way we look.  Most of us feel that if "we were just ........." then we would be happy.  Happiness is not a number on the scale.  I know this, and I need to remind myself this.  Yes I would have liked to be thinner to walk down that isle, but I am not.  I could beat myself up and berate myself, or I could enjoy my day as what it is... a celebration of Christopher and my love.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Loghrin Family Vegetable Stand

    Marlbank Road is not the road for those who suffer from car sickness.  It is a winding roller coaster of a road.  As a child I would beg my Dad to speed up, Dad was the master of hitting the hill at the right speed so that it would induce stomach flips.  I am only a grasshopper to his master of the Marlbank Road hills.  There is a bit of trick to it I have learned (everyone knows that to be the 'cool' parent you have to make your kids all puke on weee hills).  The trick to the most stomach flips on that road is to speed up at the hill, then take your foot off of the accelerator at the top.  I can almost hear the echo of my sister and myself behind those of my kids begging, "Do it again!  Do it again!"  

    Marlbank Road is not only the king of the roller coaster hill (my sister and I named them "WEEE Hills",  because you scream out "weeeeeeeee" as your stomach does flips and threatens to empty it's contents of the day), it is the home of a local treasure.  For the last five years or so there has been a signal that the good food has arrived.  It sits there at the side of the busy road, very humble.  It's bright orange tarp gives hint to those in the know that fresh produce has finally arrived.  

    That  bright orange tarp that covers The Loghrin's vegetable stand makes my mouth water on sight.  It signals to me that the time for good eats is upon us.   Beautiful freshly dug potatoes, just picked field tomatoes and corn, juicy cucumbers are all there, begging for purchase.  I find it so difficult to choose which vegetables to buy that I usually end up buying one of everything.   I stand there in awe of the selection coming up with dozens of possible dishes to make with those beautiful fresh veggies.  Those tiny red potatoes would be wonderful if I cooked them and then made a dill sauce with new peas.  Maybe I should make some cheesy scalloped potatoes.  Those cucumbers would be perfect in cucumber salad.  In the end I generally can't seem to make myself sully those fresh wholesome veggies.  I resort to their purist form and just cook them and slather them with butter, glorious butter, and a shower of salt.

    The thing that I love the most about the Loghrin's stand is not the fresh picked goodness, nor is it even the really reasonable prices, (although I do love both of those things) it's the trust.  There is no one guarding that stand to ensure that no one steals.  You are guaranteed to see dozens of people all lined up to get fresh produce.  Sometimes you will see a member of the Loghrin family replenishing their stand with more freshly picked produce, but you will never see them just standing around guarding their stand.  They trust you to do the right thing.  They trust you not to rob them.  Where in this day and age to you see trust like that?  I really respect that.

    If you find yourself traveling along the Marlbank Road, then you will see that beacon of goodness glowing orange in the distance.  You will also know the right place by all of the cars line up on either side of the road.  You should stop and see what all the fuss is about.  If you are not as fortunate as we Tweed folk, then do yourself a favour and find out when your local Farmer's Market is.  I can make you a guarantee that it will have so much more flavour than anything that you could buy in your local grocery store.  You are doing yourself a big favour, and you are supporting your local farmers, and telling them that you respect what they do!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Polynesian Hamburgers with Pineapple Relish

    This has been the summer of unpredictable weather.  The summer really has not been able to decided that it is supposed to be warm.  Having said all that, I'm loving the summer!  The lazy carefree days of summer.  For me summer means freshly picked corn on the cob, new potatoes and hamburgers.  It means kicking back and just drinking it all in because before you know it it's back to school.

    When I make burgers I really like to make them from scratch, nothing tastes quite as good or quite as juicy as hamburgers made from freshly ground beef.  I could have just plain old hamburgers pretty much every day of the week, but the kids start to complain that they are bored by my limited summer menu.  That's where I get creative!

    My favourite summer burger is the Polynesian Burger.  They still taste like burgers, but with a little extra flavour boost.  Christopher declared it to be the best burger that he had ever eaten, and that is high praise from my husband the burger aficionado!
    I like to start with a family sized regular ground beef.  I know that we are supposed to be buying "lean" or "extra-lean" because it is healthier, but let's face it you can't have a juicy burger without some fat.  Besides, the fat burns right off, it's a win win (at least that's what I tell myself).  So here is the rest of what you will need....
1/3 cup of bread crumbs (I like the Italian)                 3 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove of garlic, minced                                            1 sweet onion diced thinly (or my kids won't eat it)
1/4 of a green onion diced really small                       1/2  tin of pineapple tidbits (save the juice)

    In a big bowl mix in the above ingredients.  Mix it all up really nicely (by nicely what I am saying is make sure everything is all blended in), making sure that you save the pineapple juice, and half of the can of tidbits, because you are going to use that later.  Christopher likes to baste the grill with olive oil before he starts to grill.  He swears by it, saying that it stops things from sticking.  Now slap those bad boys on your barbecue, and slather them up with the pineapple juice.  It's tempting to push down the burger with the spatula, lets face it we get bored and it feels like it might speed up the process... DON'T DO IT, you're squeezing all of that beautiful juice out.  Just be patient (I know easier said than done), don't over flip them, just let them sit there.  When they are done to your liking, serve those burgers up.  They taste AMAZING on a pretzel bun, but honestly what doesn't?

    I made my husband a special treat to go on top of his Polynesian burger, pineapple relish.  I saved the other half of my can of pine apple tidbits.  In my trusty cast iron frying pan (honestly I don't know how I ever live without it) I poured in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil,  and when it was heated up I poured in half of a sweet onion.  I fried them up until they were slightly browned, and then I poured in the pineapple and 1 tbsp of soy sauce, 1 tsp of garlic powder, salt and pepper.  I let them gently simmer for about 10 minutes, and then let it cool.  Christopher raved about it, making it a hit.

    So there you have it my summer burger boredom buster, Polynesian Hamburgers.  

Monday, 12 August 2013

The Meteor Shower / Reminding My Preteen I Love Her

    The news boasted that for the next four days we would be treated to a celestial treat.  Two nights ago Christopher went out and stood out of the deck for a few minutes and declared that there was no action!  Last night was supposed to be the last and best night for viewing the meteor shower.  At 9:30 p.m. we dressed the kids in warm clothes, packed snacks and headed over to my parents house, with Fergus.  My parents live out in the country where it is unpolluted by light (Christopher's words, he took an astronomy class in university).
    Mom and Dad had set up a small tent with mattresses and their kitchen tent.  The kids settled into the tent, looking upwards.  The sky was of course overcast, there was not a star to be seen.  I was tricked twice by fireflies, but no meteors.  We had fun anyways.  We sat and chatted and the kids fought played in the tent.  At 10:30 there was still no celestial light show.  We told four disappointed kids that we had to pack up and head home.  There was a lot of whining as we loaded them in.
    We tucked the kids all into bed.  Before he headed off to bed himself Christopher went out and checked one last time for the supposed show.  Nothing!  He headed to bed and I watched the end of my reality t.v. show (pure garbage, but I watched it anyway).  I put the dog out one last time and decided to take a peek in the sky.  I was rewarded with falling star.  I stood out there in the quiet coolness, and was treated to two more falling stars.  The little kid in me was pretty excited.  I ran upstairs to see if any of the kids were still awake, did I mention that it was 1:30 a.m.?  They were all out like a light, I turned off their night lights and made my way downstairs.  I then stopped and turned back.  I walked into Grace's room and woke her, "Do you want to see the Meteor Shower?"  She was a little sleep drunk, and then slowly her mind understood what I was asking.  "Yes" she sleepily slurred.
   I grabbed a quilt and a blanket.  We felt our way outside (I kept the deck light off so that the stars would be more clear), her not so little hand in mine.  I threw down the quilt.  "What if you threw the quilt onto dog poop?" Grace asked.  "Then I guess I will have some serious laundry to do tomorrow".  She seemed satisfied.  We lay on our backs, she was cozily tucked under a blanket and snuggled in like she did when she was just little.  This was a beautiful moment.
    Gracie is 12 and really embracing her "tween" side.  What that means is that she fights me at every turn.  I say black, she says white.  We have very few "nice" conversations.  Most of our conversations involve angry words, and shouting, rolled eyes and stomping, lots of stomping.  I try to stay calm, to choose my battles, but I usually end up rising to the occasion.  Most nights I fall into my bed wondering what I am doing,  knowing that every angry word I say to her marks her with an invisible tattoo on her heart.  I promise myself that tomorrow is a new day, a day that I will be the mother that I want to be, that she deserves.  The morning comes and brings with it bad attitude, eye rolling and stomping and I start the cycle again.   It is staggering when I think that we will only have her under our roof for another 6 years.  6 years!  That is just the blink of an eye.  She will not remember me looking down at her with tears thanking God that she is alive.  She will not remember me watching the rise and fall of her little chest feeling blessed to have such a beautiful little girl.  She will not remember the soft touch of my hand or the kiss that felt compelled to give her.  She will not remember me crying and wishing that I could take her pain after her countless surgeries.  She will not remember the hugs, kisses, loving words.  My gift to her will be my angry words, my lack of patience, and yet I seem powerless to avoid it.  I just find myself stuck in the never ending cycle.  Sometimes I wonder if she remembers how much I love her?  I tell her, but wonder if with all the anger if it sinks in.
    So there we are, just the two of us.  In the distance is the soft hum of a neighbour's air conditioner, not too far away the swishing sound of the pool filter, and the distant whisper of the traffic, all mixing together with a choir of crickets chirping just for us.  We were the only two people in the universe, and lying on my back looking up at the billions of stars in that beautiful star filled, clear sky it felt like the universe.  My little (by little she is only two inches shorter than me) sleepy girl is lying with her head on my chest, her arm draped over my chest.  I can feel her warm breath on my face.  I'm not sure how long we lay there, the dog scampering around, then finally settling to lie at our feet.  We just lay there.  This is how motherhood is supposed to feel, like what you are doing matters.  Our peace would be occasionally interrupted by one of us reverently asking if the other had seen that falling star.  There must have been twenty falling stars.  It was not what I had expected.  When they had spoken of the meteor shower, in my head I saw them falling like fireworks.  The reality is that they gracefully danced across the sky only to disappear in the blink of an eye.
    Time stopped briefly.  In that slice of eternity it was just a mother and her daughter.  The immense unbreakable love floated around us like a vapor.  There was no thought of anger, no memory of it even.  There was just me, and my beautiful little girl, my little girl who is testing her boundaries and trying to grow up.  I held her close to me, tightly like I thought the tighter I held her the less chance the night would end.  I leaned over gently and pressed my lips to her forehead, letting my kiss linger, like that kiss could pass my almost painful love of her into her heart like a love transfusion.  She then returned that kiss with on of her own on my cheek.  No matter what we say, no matter how we may act we have a love that can never be extinguished.
    That night we lay in beautiful peace.  Finally I reluctantly told her that we had to go in and get to bed.  The clock read 2:30 a.m.  I walked her upstairs and tucked her into bed, planting a few more kisses and words of my love.  As I flipped off her light and was shutting her door she softly, sleepily in almost a whisper told me "Thank You".  I wanted to cry.  Maybe we have a chance.  Maybe if I just try a little harder.  Maybe she will remember this night.  Maybe she will carry my immense love for her with her throughout her life... maybe.

Friday, 9 August 2013

While the Kids are Away, Mom and Dad will Play.

    A crazy, wonderful magical thing has happened for the first time in 18 years, Christopher and I find ourselves alone!  ALONE!  I'm not sure what wonderful thing that we have done to deserve this, but we are basking in it.  I feel like at this point in order to "appear to be a good mother" I need to put in the disclaimer that I adore my kids.  To those of you who read this little blog of mine on a regular basis, you know that I have committed my whole self, my whole soul to raising my children.   I am devoted to my kids.  Having said that ... that is a lot of energy.  I did not know exactly how much energy I put into those kids until I had none.
    How did this magic arrive you may ask.  Did you have incriminating black mail photos to ensure your freedom (no but it's definitely something to think about for next year) you may ask yourself.  Here's how it went down.... we live in Tweed, and do not see Christopher's family as much as we would like to, and for sure not nearly as much as the kids would like to.  It's a three and a half hour drive, which in the big scheme of things is not much, but Christopher has no set schedule, and gas right now is crazy expensive.  The kids really miss their Grandma, my parents are amazing and we see them nearly daily, but they still want that closeness with their Daddy's Mom.  Christopher made the call and asked his Mom if she would like to take the the kids for a few days.  It worked out that Cheri, Christopher's oldest sister took Grace, Doreen (Christopher's Mom) took Riley and Rowan.  Elly was too little to be away from us that long.  My Mom and Dad bought a new tent trailer this summer and were going camping the same week that the kids were all headed up to Halton Hills.  My parents felt badly that the big kids were all having a fun adventure and Elly was going to be all alone (by all alone kidless).  They asked if they could take Elly camping with them.  They hadn't even finished could we take Elly when I interrupted and shouted out "YES"!
    This has left Christopher and I with the house to ourselves for four days.  Quiet has never sounded so sweet.  Our original plan was to re-do Riley's room while she was gone, we even went so far as to promise her.  Right now Riley has a Disney Princess room, which is really pretty, but apparently not what a now 9 year old desires.  We had totally planned to throw ourselves into the job, that is until we tasted freedom.
    Tuesday we drove the kids to Acton.  We had a little visit and then headed home.  On the way we stopped at Ikea.  It is amazing what good time that you can make in Ikea when you are not worried, and constantly doing a head count.  After Ikea, we had lunch at the On Route, not glamourous but time efficient.  It is quite amazing how little it costs to just feed 2 instead of 6.  We got into Tweed in good time and decided to stop off and pick up a DVD to rent.  We were able to watch an entire DVD without having to stop it once to deal with one of the kids.
    Wednesday Christopher worked.  I was really going to make some headway in Riley's room.  I just had to go to the dentist first.  I then stopped in Marmora to have lunch with Christopher.  By the time I finally got home there was not much time left until Christopher would be arriving home.  I quickly cleaned the house.  It really doesn't get that dirty with two people.  We went out for dinner.  I got to eat a hot meal!  I did not have to cut anyone's meat (although at one point I was tempted out of habit to reach over and cut Christopher's).  At no point did I need to remind anyone that they needed to be using good table manners.  We ate a hot meal and talked.  We then got home just in time for my friends to arrive.  It seemed like a good night to have them over.  While I visited with my friends Christopher worked upstairs in Riley's room.  After my friends had headed home (when we reach 40, 10:00 is the time that you head home), and Christopher and I watched another movie, again with no distractions.
    Thursday I awoke to the smell of bacon and coffee.  I am not sure if there is a better smell to wake up to.  Christopher had to work an evening shift and we had the day together.  We enjoyed bacon and eggs and hash browns.  "We should really get to work on Riley's room today".  Christopher said half heartedly.  "Orrrrrrrr, we could skip into Belleville and go to see Wolverine".  Guess which one we picked?  He went to work, and I relaxed.  Yes, I should have been up working in Riley's room, but I mean how often do I have complete control of the remote control?  How often can I go on the computer for as long as I want?  So I did not work on Riley's room.  Christopher got home around 9:30, we had a late dinner, and watched another DVD.
    That brings us to today.  I would have thought that I would have no idea what to do with myself, but I do.  Today I have been cleaning and doing laundry.  I know that I should be up working on Riley's room, but this is my last day of freedom, and who knows if I will ever get another.  
    So here is what I have learned..... Christopher and I have always wondered if we will still enjoy each other after the kids have left home.  We have built our lives around our children for the last almost 19 years.  We have discovered that we were friends before we ever dated, and that friendship has stayed in tact.  We really enjoy each other's company.  We will fare just fine when the kids go.  I have learned that it's ok to just relax and enjoy the freedom of being childless.  It's o.k. to enjoy it, there is no need for guilt in that.  I think that these few days will actually make us more loving and more tolerant parents when the kids get home.   I have learned that no matter how much work they may be, and no matter how much I may yell, I really do LOVE my kids.  I miss them.  It has not been a debilitating missing, more of a knowledge that something really big is missing from my life right now.  I know that when we go to get them tonight I will hug them so tightly that they will beg for air.  I know that if Christopher and I put the kids to bed and decide to watch a movie, we will have to stop it no less than 10 times.  I know that tonight as I lay in bed, I will feel whole again.  I have enjoyed my time with just Christopher, but I am a mom above all else.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Greek Salad

    I seem to be on a big Greek kick lately.  I'll be honest I was always an Italian nut, that is until I discovered the Akropolis  I am now hooked on Greek food.  I find that Greek food has a fresh taste to it.
    Greek Salad is the perfect summer salad.  It has the gorgeous crisp of the lettuce, and the nip not bite of the dressing.  Every mouthful has a new and delicious taste to it.  The other wonderful thing about it is how very easy it is to make!  At this time of year you can buy almost all of the ingredients from your local farmer's market to make the taste that much more superior.

    I will not pretend that this is a "real" Greek recipe.  I have zero Greek heritage, I don't really even know any Greek people (but I would like to know some Greek Mommas that would like to feed me).  This is a recipe that I got from my favourite brand of cookbooks "Company's Coming", and I have adjusted it to suit my own tastes.

I use....

1 head of iceberg lettuce, torn                                            1 English Cucumber
2 Tomatoes                                                                         1/ 2 cup of black olives sliced in half
1 Green onion sliced really thinly (thin enough that my kids don't know they are eating onion)
1/4 cup of Feta Cheese ( I love the Feta that is made at Ivanhoe Cheese Factory)

For the dressing...
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil                                           1/4 lemon juice
1 table spoon Greek Seasoning                                           pepper

I mix all of the vegetables into a big bowl, then I whisk my dressing in a separate bowl.  It also works great if you put all of your dressing ingredients into a mason jar, with the lid on and give it a shake.
I pour the dressing on top of the vegetables and Feta,  then give it a toss.  A beautiful summer salad!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Oh So Dreamy, Oh So Creamy, Cucumber Salad

     I know that I have said this many times before, but I am blessed to live where I live.  At this time of year I am especially blessed.  This is the beginning of harvest.  At this time of year I can purchase potatoes, sweet corn, cucumbers and dill among other amazing produce from my local farmers.  Most times that produce has been picked just hours before I make it for my family.  There is nothing quite like the taste of fresh produce.  
    For the last year or so I have been searching for a recipe that would match the delicious cucumber salad that I had when we took the kids to Disney World in Florida in April of 2012.  This cucumber salad was sweet and tangy, and so good.  It was served at most of the buffet restaurants at Disney.  I have been searching in vein for something even remotely similar.  I am sad to report that I am still searching, but happy to report that although not the correct cucumber salad recipe, I did come across a keeper.... thank you Paula Dean!  I do love  It is my go to source for most recipes.

    Paula's recipe has just a few simple ingredients, but it really brings the taste.  I am HUGE lover of dill.  I put it in my potato salad, in my white sauce, in pretty much everything that I can put it in.  It has such a fresh lovely subtle taste, not unlike cucumbers (also a big favourite of mine).  This recipe became an instant hit at our house.  Although it is a new recipe to us, it will be an heirloom recipe of that I am most certain.
    Last week-end my cousin Fiona came to visit for a few days.  I love Fiona.  She is not just my cousin, I consider her to be a good friend.  We drank wine, we laughed and we ate oh did we eat.  Can you think of a better visit?  Laughed does not quite cover the magnitude of what we did.  I laughed so hard at one point that I thought I had ruptured something in my chest.  While she was here I wowed her with the amazing fresh produce that my beautiful community has to offer.  We gorged on fresh corn on the cob from The Walker's Corn Stand.  We had dug into tiny new red potatoes drenched in copious amounts of Stirling Creamery Churned Butter.  I also served her my new favourite Creamy Cucumber Salad.  She was addicted, and now she wants the recipe.  So without further ado this one's for you Fiona.....

    The first step to this delicious Creamy Cucumber Salad is to wash the cucumbers and then slice them thinly.  I use two English Cucumbers or two packages of the tiny baby cucumbers.  I put the sliced cucumbers into a medium/large bowl and sprinkle them with 2 teaspoons of salt and then two teaspoons of white vinegar, and give them a stir to mix it all in.  This sits for half an hour.  Don't get impatient on this step, because this process keeps your cucumbers lovely and crisp, I know this because I am impatient by nature and decided that five minutes was good enough.  My cucumber salad still tasted good, but he cucumbers were all wilty.  After half an hour, dump those cucumbers into a strainer and let them strain for about half an hour.  While you are doing this in a second bowl, mix one half cup of sour cream and two cups of mayonnaise, three table spoons of dill and some freshly ground black pepper.  I love dill.  I prefer the fresh dill that you can easily buy in huge bunches at this time of year, but I also really like the Toppits brand that come in little cubes and I like this stuff that comes in what looks like a toothpaste tube.  I feel like at this point I should say that this recipe is based on Paula Deans, it's basically hers but I tampered with the quantities a little.  If you want her exact recipe go to the and type in "cucumber salad".  When the cucumbers have drained then toss them into the dressing bowl and coat them with the dressing.  I can almost guarantee you that you will not have any left overs on this one!

Monday, 5 August 2013

The Tweed Stampede

    Christopher has been talking for ages about taking the kids to the Tweed Stampede rodeo.  It was funny to me because Christopher is not a country boy.  He was raised in Acton, the son of a grocer.  Acton is not a big booming metropolis, but compared to Tweed it is (they have a McDonalds).  The longer he has lived in Tweed, the more the country has leached into his soul (I think that's what the country does to you, it grabs a hold of you and won't let go).  When he wants to buy a big truck then I know that his country metamorphosis is complete.

    Grace and Riley were really excited to go with their Dad to the rodeo.  Gracie loves horses, and after watching Heartland, now Riley loves horses and wants to learn to ride.  Rowan did not want to go.  Rowan is our little homebody, it has to be pretty special to lure him out of the house.  In the end Christopher lured him with the promise of funnel cakes and deep fried Mars Bars (the art of persuasion lies in Rowan's stomach, much like his father).  God bless him for trying, but Christopher might regret that bribe.  I pulled Rowan aside, "Buddy I think that the rodeo will be really fun, but I don't think that you should go for just a funnel cake and a deep fried Mars Bar."  His bright brown eyes met mine, "Mom it's hard to find funnel cakes and deep fried Mars Bars, this might be my only chance."  "I still don't think that's a good enough reason to go Buddy.  I think that you will have fun at the rodeo, but you can't be a poop head and ruin it for the girls if you don't like it."  His expression never changed "I won't" and off he went.  I kissed them all good bye and prepared to spend the day with Elly.

    Elly and I had a great day together.  It was a real treat to have that one on one with her.  I asked her what she wanted to do today, she wanted to go to Tim Hortons and she wanted to do a craft, doable.  She brought her little doll stroller down, with Suzy Wooden and Sally balanced under her arm.  Carefully she placed them into the stroller, and we walked up to Tim Hortons.  I ordered a medium double double and Elly ordered an iced lemonade and a sprinkle doughnut.  She thought maybe she might enjoy an Iced Cap, and thought I had rocks in my heads when I told her that she was too little for an Iced Cap.  "But I'm a Mom" she looked at me her little face all screwed up.  "I think that we will just stick to lemonade".  We also ordered a jelly filled Timbit for Sally and a Chocolate Timbit for Suzy Wooden, because apparently Suzy Wooden is allergic to the jelly, oh and lemonade.  We sat in the restaurant to eat our treat.  Elly lovingly took Sally and a naked Suzy Wooden out of their stroller and sat them on the table.  For each bite of her doughnut she would take the Timbits and hold them up to her dolls mouths and make eating noises.  I could have just eaten Elly alive right there she was so precious.  She and I had a wonderful simple day together.

    Around 5:30 or 6:00 Christopher and his crew pulled into the driveway.  They barreled excitedly into the house each wanting to be the first to tell about their day.  Each of them was excitedly talking over the other.  They were flushed with excitement.  The girls kept talking about the trick riding and the free turkey burgers.  Rowan was really excited about the free turkey burgers, and why I wouldn't make them turkey burgers because they are so good.  Apparently there was no one there selling funnel cakes or deep fried Mars Bars, but the free turkey burgers seemed to have taken the sting out of it.  Riley excitedly told me that she got to sit up on one of the horses from the show, and that the girls that did the riding were so nice.  Gracie butt in with "One of them was my age MOM".  I am pretty sure that Riley now wants to be a trick rider, God help me.  Christopher was also excited about the free turkey burgers (although he played it cooler than the kids did), and he was really excited about some guy that was there who would smoke your Thanksgiving turkey and even deliver it!

    They all had a hundred stories each about their day.  That night at dinner when we went around the kitchen table and did "Best and Worst" both Riley and Grace both said that they could not pick just one best, there was no just one favourite thing.  Rowan of course said his best was the free turkey burgers!
    That night as we lay in bed, the kids all tucked in Christopher and I recapped our day (we usually do this before I begin to read and he begins to snore drift off to sleep.  "Casey did a really great job!" Christopher told me.  "They are the only rodeo that has a kids zone.  Our guys really liked it.  I hope that you can come next year, it just wasn't the same without you."  I did wish that I had been able to go, but at the same time being separate allowed us to really "be" with the kids in a way that we cannot when we are out as a family.  When we do things as a family we treat the kids like a group, because well they are.  When we separate them up, they become individuals.  The big kids got to spend quality time with their Dad, just Dad.  They will for the rest of their lives remember that day.   I got to really spend time with Elly.  There was nothing that I "had to do",  I could give her my absolute and complete attention, something that I am not able to do often enough.  I don't know what we will do next year.  I don't know yet if we will go as a family, or if I will let this be Daddy's thing.  What I know is that my kids loved it!

      Tonight my Mom and Dad came over for a visit.  The kids were excitedly telling them all about the rodeo.  I looked over and saw my Dad's face.  He had this glow to his face as he listened to the kids.  "I used to ride rodeo." he casually told them.  Papa is already their hero, but they looked at him a little differently when he told them that.  "You did?" they asked in awe.  "I did, a long time ago".   Apparently we have rodeo in our veins, so maybe next year it will be a family thing.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

I Scream You Scream We All Scream For Tutti Fruiti Ice-Cream!

    I LOVE ice-cream.  It makes me smile.  Notice that I said "Ice-Cream", and not "Frozen Dessert".  Next time you go to the grocery store, go look in the freezer section, for that matter go look in your own freezer if you "think" that you have purchased "ice-cream" for you kids.  I'll wait......... did you go look?  I am not a gambling type of a girl, but if I were, I would bet you a thousand dollars that what you have purchased as a special treat for your family is "frozen dessert".  What is frozen dessert?  I can tell you what it's not.  It's not "Ice-Cream"!
    Admittedly I am an ice-cream snob.  I will only eat "ice-cream".  That means the expensive stuff, or I make it myself.  Growing up my Mom had a huge (it may not have been huge, but to my child's eyes it was ginormous) wooden ice-cream maker.  It was one of those babies that you filled up the outside cavity with rock salt, and the inside you poured your mixture into.  We would then take turns turning the crank.  Our ice-cream was "real" ice-cream.  We raised goats and the ice-cream was made of cream that had been skimmed off of the top of milk that had been milked that day.  Mom and Dad also used to buy great jugs of milk from a local dairy farmer, something that the farmer could never do today.  

    I cannot purchase milk from my local dairy farmer, that's illegal.  I can however do the next best thing and purchase pasteurized cream from the grocery store and make my own ice-cream.  I am now on my second ice-cream maker.   My ice-cream maker is one that you freeze the drum in the freezer for 24 hours.  I don't have to use rock salt or crank it, it is electric.  My first ice-cream maker was the cheapest that I could buy.  We loved the ice-cream.  After a few years the drum got a pin-prick leak and I had to throw it out.  My second ice-cream maker / current one is a more expensive model.  The difference in the taste of the ice-cream made from the exact same recipe from the two different machines was night and day.  I discovered that if you want the best ice-cream that you can make, go with the best model that you can afford.  The better machines pump more air into the ice-cream, and more air makes richer, better ice-cream.  

    I really love a lot of things about making my own ice-cream.  I love that I can pronounce all of the ingredients that I am putting into it, which means I can pronounce all of the ingredients that I am putting into my growing children.  I love that I can be creative and have fun making ice-cream and my family is all too happy to taste test for me.  I have tried dozens of different combinations.  Every family member has their own very favourite.
    Tonight I made Tutti Fruiti ice-cream.  My idea for Tutti Fruiti hit me as I was making fruit salad for the kids.  I chopped up cantaloupe, pineapple, and then put in grapes.  It struck me that might make a delicious ice-cream combination, and I was right.  I put approximately two cups of fruit into my food processor, and added some maraschino cherries.  I used the pulse setting because I wanted there to be some texture.  It looked really pretty.

    I had my pint sized helper in the kitchen today, Elly.  Elly was very hands on (by hands on what I really mean is that she grabbed everything out of my hands and announced that was her job).  In a separate bowl my assistant and I mixed the creams.  It's a good idea to use one of the big Pyrex glass measuring bowls, or something that has a lip on it, it makes for so much less mess when you get to the pouring stage.  There are as many recipes for ice-cream as there are types of ice-cream.  I prefer the simple base.  The simple base involves 3/4 of a cup of white sugar, 1 cup of half and half cream and two cups of whipping cream.  That's it, short and sweet.  Elly and I then used a whisk to thoroughly blend the sugar into the cream.  When the base was mixed Elly poured in the fruit.  My assitant flipped the switch on, and I poured the ice-cream mixture into the ice-cream maker.
    One of our favourite things about the ice-cream making process is stealing ice-cream before it's really ready.  It takes half an hour for the ice-cream maker to work it's magic.  Most times I put way too much mixture into the machine and it causes it to mushroom up to the top.  Everyone then quietly goes into the kitchen (their theft aided by the loud noise of the ice-cream maker) and takes a spoon out of the drawer, then scoops off a small helping of the ice-cream.  Every single one of them does it, including myself (I justify as taste-testing).  My theory is that the sneakiness of it makes it taste all the better.
    It takes half an hour to make the ice-cream.  When it is done it is more the consistency of a soft serve.
For scoop-able ice-cream it is a good idea to put it into the freezer for an hour or more.  Home made ice-cream does not have all of the added chemicals to make it more scoop-able, so you will really have to work for your cone.  Trust me it's worth the extra effort.  My other tip is to scoop the ice-cream into a tupperwear instead of just freezing it in the drum.  I took the lazy approach the first few times, and the metal of the drum makes it nearly impossible to scoop it out.
    Tutti Fruiti was not a big hit with the younger kids, they did not really like the texture.  Grace and Christopher and I loved it.  Christopher even declared that it might be the best ice-cream that I have ever made.  It has a really nice clean taste.  It also has two cups of fruit in the batch.  The fruit unfortunately does not cancel out the calorie content, nor does it render this ice-cream "healthy", but what it does do is add "health" to a treat.  So there you have it, home made Tutti Fruiti ice-cream.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

A Bike = Freedom

    My kids are getting older.  I would like to forbid them getting older, but I can't (besides it would make me look like a crazy old cat woman).  Intellectually I know that they need space to grow.  They need to get hurt, both physically and emotionally to grow.  They need to make mistakes and get dirty.  I know all of this, but it does not make it any easier for me to let them go.  The world is a bad and scary place full of lots of "what ifs".  What if there is some pervert walking the streets and he targets my kids?  What if there is a drunk driver, and he hurts or worse kills my kids?  What if, what if?  What if I swallowed my enormous growing fear, and put on a brave face and allowed my children to explore their world?

   My Gracie is a late bloomer in the bike riding game.  She has had numerous surgeries on her leg to correct the damage done in a car accident 8 years ago.  It seemed like every summer when we were going to teach her how to ride her bike she would either have a surgery to correct her damaged leg, or break a bone in her leg.  Not only was she always in a cast and or stitches, she knew pain intimately.  She knew that broken bones and surgery hurt.  She is a smart girl, and her fear of pain overwhelmed her desire to learn to ride a bike.  She was a child of fear.  We tried to encourage her, to tell her that it's better to get hurt trying than to never try, but they were just words.  The other part of that is that I'm not sure she believed me.  My mouth told her that you had to go out there and grab the world, but my body wanted to pull her into me tightly and save her from every single little hurt that life would throw her way.  She had already lived though more than a child of her age should ever have to endure.  I gave her mixed messages.

    Last summer Gracie mastered the art of riding.  Christopher had spent what seemed like hundreds of hours running along side that bike.  His posture was beginning to resemble The Hunch Back of Notre Dame.  He would grab her bike as it teetered saving her.  She was ready to hit the road.  She had mastered the mechanics but had not mastered her fear of falling.  She knew how to ride a bike now, but her fear of falling, her fear of pain robbed her of her desire.
    This week Gracie was invited to her friend's trailer for the night.  She came home and excitedly told us about all of the fun things that they had done.  One of those really fun things was riding bikes around the trailer park.  "Man my butt hurt".  She said with a proud smile.  She had ridden, and she had not fallen off, maybe bike riding could be fun?
    Tonight as I was just finishing making dinner, Christopher came to ask me if he had time to take Riley for a bike ride.  Riley is our thrill seeker.  She is the one who has a heart defect and the one who most likes to push her limits.  She loves riding her bike!  "If you're 20 minutes or less." I told him as I stuck the fork into my boiling new potatoes.  As more of an after thought I suggested "Why don't you ask Grace if she wants to go?"  He walked over to the stairs and shouted up.  She did want to ride.  The three of them went off to ride for 20 minutes while dinner finished.  They came back in and Grace had this huge grin on her face, joy shining through every part of her.  "Can we go out and ride again after dinner?"  I may have stumbled back a little.  "Sure".  "If you are really careful you and Riley could ride your bikes to the end of the street, the 'big' street."  The words were choking me, but I knew that it was time to let my baby birds attempt to fly.  I knew that I had suffocated them for long enough, I had to let them have some space or I would stunt their growth.

    After dinner the two girls suited up, helmets tightly on their heads.  Gracie's face was radiant with excitement, Riley looked a little nervous.  Off they drove down the road, away from my protective force field.  I fought the urge to run after them shouting "I've changed my mind.  I've changed my mind!"  I had to let them have this space, intellectually I knew it, but emotionally it was killing me.  They are smart girls.  They know the rules of the road.  I kept telling myself this, but all the while panic wanted to suffocate me.  This is the long week-end, what if there's too much traffic on the road?  What if there is a drunk driver?  What if some pervert tries to lure them into his house or van?  Deep cleansing breaths, give them space, let them learn to fly.  "How long have they been gone?"  It seemed like a long time.  What if they had run into some trouble?  What if one of them had fallen off their bike and was hurt, crying for me?  They did not travel far away in terms of distance, but that's a very long way if you're hurt (I know from personal experience).  I sat on the front steps straining to catch sight of my babies, fear clawing it's way into my chest.  Finally I could not take it, I told Christopher I was just going to drive down the road and see if I could see them.  He gave me that indulgent look (you know that look that says you are suffocating them, but I know you will tear my head off if I tell you that).
    I drove down the road, frightened of seeing my babies crumpled at the side of the road, or worse yet not find them at all.  I drove down as far as the library and then I spotted them.  Gracie was euphoric, Riley looked like she was riding her bike.  I turned around in the library parking lot.  The two girls were sitting stopped on their bikes watching me inquisitively.  I rolled down the window and yelled out sheepishly "I was just checking on you."  Riley looked disgusted, Gracie looked thrilled "Have we been gone that long?" the look on her face was hoping that she had.  I now felt stupid "No you have not really been that long......" I spit out like verbal diarrhea "As you were".  I then drove down the road headed back for home, feeling both proud and stupid at the same time.
    I parked the car and took my position on the front steps, no longer filled with fear, but now pride.  Christopher came to join me, the two of us watching for our little adventurers.  I sat with this really stupid grin, a tear in my eye as I watched the two of them riding back into my protective force field.  They were filled with joy, great limitless pride.  They had done something scary and had loved it.   They rode up and down our small street and then turning up into the school lane way that meets our street.  They rode streaming euphoria and pride.  Elly soon joined them on her little tricycle, Rowan put his helmet on and rode his razor scooter.  Dusk fell as my four baby birds flew.  Christopher and I just sat watching them filled with love.  It was one of those rare fleeting moments when everything in the world is just right.  I have learned to stay in that moment and appreciate it for the gift that it is, because those moments are beautiful and fleeting.