Saturday, 25 January 2014

Gabe's Spirit of Kindness


Gabriel’s Campaign of Kindness

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn 
a life around.

~Leo B

Gabriel was an ordinary child.  He had an ordinary child’s future aspirations.  When he grew up he was not sure if he wanted to be a mechanic, an architect, or a ninja.  He had all of the uncertainty and wonder of a child who was 9, almost 10.   He had his life ahead of him to narrow his options.  On December 24, 2004, Gabriel’s choices for the future were taken from him and from us as his parents.  On Christmas Eve his life slipped away due to grievous head injuries that he had sustained in a car accident three days before.  We would never see what he finally decided on for his future ambitions, because he no longer had a future.  For almost 10 years we had watched this little boy change and grow and had seen a glimpse of the man that he might one day become.  Now we were left with heartache and disillusionment.  What was our role now in his life?   
An idea slowly crept into our brains.  We had always thought that Gabriel was destined for greatness, he could not achieve this on his own anymore, but we could help him.  He could still inspire people to be their best.  In his name we could recognize the greatness of others.  Gabriel’s kindness and his compassion were two of his greatest character traits.  They are traits that we as parents and as citizens value most.  It was from this idea that the “Gabe Lindsay Spirit of Kindness Award” for Tweed Senior Public School.

On February 2, 2005 the first Gabe Lindsay Spirit of Kindness Award was given to a student at Tweed Hungerford Senior School. We decided that for the school it would be “Gabe” instead of “Gabriel” because this was an award for his peers and his peers knew him as Gabe, and the shortened name was what he adamantly preferred.    
February 2, 2005 was the day that Gabe would have turned 10 years old.  We felt that on this day, the day that 10 years ago we had celebrated the birth of our first child, our oldest son this would be the day that we should celebrate kindness.  On the first award assembly the school watched a slide show of Gabe’s life.  They discussed who he was and why this award was so important. 
 As the years have passed the assembly and spirit of kindness award have changed and evolved.  This year’s celebration saw a new and touching evolution to the award.  For 2009 there was “Gabe’s Spirit of Kindness Week”.  It began on Friday, January 23 with an assembly.  At this assembly the students were reminded about why award was so important and who Gabe was.  The book “Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed” was read to the school.  This was the story of an ordinary child’s kind deed that went on to multiply and travel around the world until it became billions of kind deed and eventually came back full circle to Mary.  The students exploded into applause mid-story.  It was amazing to see their response.  
The principal then challenged each class to commit one act of kindness as a class.  And asked that each class select a reporter to report back to the whole school on Monday, February 2 what their class had decided upon.  Each student was also given a small acrylic heart to keep in their pocket that would act as a reminder to think about what kind act they could commit.

The students met again on Monday, February 2 once again in the gym.  Each class came forward and told the school what they had done as their class act of kindness.  
One class made fruit trays and took one to each class.  One class was asked to draw names from a hat and write a paragraph about what they liked about that classmate.  This was a difficult task, because not everyone in the class liked the person whose name they pulled.  Two of the students went up to the front of the gym and read their paragraph about a classmate.  One class decided that they would read 100 books and that by doing that Scholastic Canada would then donate 100 books to children in need.  One class saved the books that they had earned from their book orders and some of the parents sent in toys that they would send to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.  One class’s Educational assistant’s husband had just had a heart attack, and the class donated $100.00 to help her with her gas costs to go back and forth to Kingston.    The grade 7’s and 8’s decided that they would like to work as a group and organized a dodge ball tournament on Saturday,  January 31.  They asked each team to donated a $25.00 entry fee.  Their goal was to raise $400.00 to send to Africa to help rehabilitate child soldiers.  They raised $600.00 to send.
It is quite humbling to see what an inspiration Gabriel has become.  To see that his life will continue to mean something important, even if he is not able to inspire others in the flesh, his spirit will live on and inspire goodness in others.


Friday, 24 January 2014

Rainbow Connection Birthday Gift

    As I have already shared, Rainbow Loom has taken over my small house.  There are elastics everywhere.  My two big girls are working like they are in a sweatshop, frantically cranking out bracelets like they have a quota.  I am not a big fan of the daily game of hide and seek that I play with all of those little colourful elastics, but I am happy that the girls are having fun with something that is not electronic (although having said that, they quite often have their ipods in front of them coaching them on youtube tutorials for the looms).

    I take comfort in the fact that these looms have not only taken over my home, but pretty much every home of breathing young girls.  We all play a daily game of find that colourful elastic in the most odd place.  It's like a game of one upmanship.  "Oh I found elastics in the washing machine."  "Oh yeah, I found them in my underpants!"  "YOU WIN!".
    Recently Riley was invited to a birthday party.  I did my usual routine of "what do you think that she might like?"  Riley had already asked Jenna this question and Jenna's response was "Blueray DVDs", thankfully, Riley has my brain for the most part and asked a follow up question "Do you have a Rainbow Loom?"  Asking this question to a girl is like asking "Do you have a mouth?"  Jenna did indeed have a Rainbow Loom or one of the similar contraptions.  This information shaped the gift that Jenna was to receive.

    In an effort to keep all of the my girls Rainbow Loom trinkets in one place, and to make it easier for them to cart them everywhere, I recently purchased clear small totes with handles on them for both Riley and Grace.  This was a perfect size for them to keep everything together, and large enough for their Rainbow Looms to fit in.  This was my genius idea for Jenna's birthday gift.

    Riley and I headed out on our shopping expedition earlier this week.  She was uber excited to make her purchases.  She poured over the loom bands, selecting a few gifts for her self too.  We purchased a tote, the same as hers and Grace's.  We also purchased raised letter stickers from Michaels.  A trip to the dollar store was also in order to purchase a small organizer.

    Last night we put that awesome gift together.  Riley was nearly vibrating she was so excited.  She began by applying the larger letters onto the tote, and the smaller ones onto the small organizer.  Sometimes it is scary how much she thinks like me.  She painstakingly applied each letter, careful about the spacing.  After the letters were applied, she opened up the bands and we organized them in the small organizer, I will admit that I enjoyed this.

    After we had fit as many beads and elastics into the organizer that we could, Riley placed the container in the larger container and added some extra elastics.

    The final part of the gift was applying fun scrapbooking stickers onto the outside of the tote to fancy it up.  When we had finished, both Riley and I had big satisfied smiles on our faces.  I kept shouting out "This is such a great gift!" to be echoed by "It really is" by mini me.  When we had finished Riley excitedly gathered up the left over stickers to fancy up her own tote.

     So often I am at a complete loss for what to give for the multitude of birthday parties that the kids are invited to.  It's important to me that we give a good gift, but good gifts generally come with a hefty price tag.  This good gift did not.  This gift was easily under $15.  You can make it as big or as small as you would like.  For one of my nieces I would probably add a Rainbow Loom (because apparently you can connect them to make larger projects), and would fill an extra organizer.  For as long as Rainbow Looms are the it toy, I think this will be my go to gift.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Pina Colada Smoothies

    Necessity is the mother of all inventions, so the saying goes.  In this case it's true!  Gracie came home from school extremely excited at the beginning of the week.  As a bit of an aside, I feel like I have to share that Grace is very blessed to have such an amazing teacher this year.  He makes learning so much fun for them.  I think that half of the time they are having so much fun that they don't even know that they are learning.  Now that I have that off of my chest, I will finish my story.  She was in a group with four friends and for their project they had to make a smoothie.  On the surface this seems like an odd project, until you really begin to think about it.  In the kitchen I am constantly using math, science and art.  This allows them to be prepared for the world, all the while learning.  
    Tuesday Gracie came home from school and announced that she had volunteered our blender for her group to use (she's such a generous girl ... with my things).  Her tune changed a little when she took a look at our "old" blender.  Our blender is at least 25 years old, if not older.  It looks a little like it has been through a war, or an intense battle at kitchen stadium!

    In a nearly teen voice Gracie declared that our blender was gross and old.  She did not say it, but her eye roll and puke face indicated that she felt embarrassed to bring that old clunker to school.   I have considered replacing it, but really if it still works, why would I?  "Maybe Bailey can bring hers." was the final comment.

    After Grace's face stopped it's almost puke contortions, I asked her if her group had any ideas what they might like to make.  Some of them wondered about making something with berries.  I suggested to Grace that maybe they could make a pina colada.  My kids LOVE pina coladas (they drink the nonalcoholic kind... although Mommy doesn't).  They are so easy to make.  Her face brightened up at the suggestion.
    Yesterday afternoon I made a "pina colada smoothie" for the kids afternoon snack.  I froze two  1/2 cups of pineapple juice in small dishes.  That would replace the need for ice.  I mixed the frozen pineapple juice with with 1 cup of cold pineapple juice, 1/2 cup of pineapple bits (fresh), 1 cup of coconut milk, and one banana.  The results were unanimous... it was a big hit.  The kids all fought to see who would get seconds (this sounds better than it is, because honestly my kids just enjoy fighting).  It was shortly after the kids had all wiped off their smoothie mustaches that Grace announced that she could not use coconut milk.  "Part of the challenge is that our smoothie has to be fat free, we just found out today."  I was outraged (o.k. maybe irked), "but you can't do fat free.  I just don't know how you can.  If you replace the coconut milk with zero fat yogurt, you are taking away the goodness and exchanged it for chemically altered!"  I just could not wrap my brain around it.
    Last night after dinner Riley and I made the trek into Big Bad Belleville (our closest city).  We had a buy a birthday gift for a party she is attending tomorrow.  After we had finished purchasing her gift, we went to Walmart.  I combed the isles looking for a suitable substitute for the coconut milk, that was zero fat.  By the end of the adventure I had filled my cart with smoothie supplies.  I had purchased real coconut in the shell, coconut water, coconut milk, coconut / almond milk, and pineapple.  We were ready to create some smoothie experiments.

    When Riley and I got home it was much later than I had wanted to be out.  I should have been getting Riley and Grace (who was still up) to bed, but instead I got Riley to bed, and Grace and I experimented.  We mixed 1cup pineapple bits, 1 cup pineapple juice, one cup coconut water, with one banana.  The result.... delicious with no fat!  I couldn't believe that something that was fat free could taste soooooo good.

    This morning I made the kids more pina colada smoothies to start their day.  They had begged for them ( you have to love it when the kids beg for something that is actually really good for them).  I did a little more experimentation.  I mixed one cup of frozen pineapple tidbits, one cup plain greek yogurt, one cup almond / coconut milk, one banana and one cup of pineapple juice.  If the day before's smoothie won rave reviews, this mornings rocked it out even more.  They drank their smoothie in place of their usual glass of juice.

    So here is what I have discovered from reading my food labels, that I am going to pass on to you.
 If I add that up it is ...

My original coconut milk smoothie
960 calories for one cup of smoothie
12% of your daily recommended fat 
27% of your daily fibre
5% calcium
2 grams of protein
135 % of your daily recommended vitamin C
7% of your daily recommended iron intake
3%  of your daily recommended vitamin A

By replacing the "coconut milk" with "coconut water"...
450 calories for one cup of smoothie
0% of your daily recommended fat
27% of your daily recommended fibre
7% of your daily recommended calcium
3 grams of protein
135% of your daily recommended vitamin C
5% of your daily recommended iron iron
3%  of your daily recommended vitamin A
4 % of your daily recommended potassium
6% of your daily recommended magnesium

By replacing the coconut milk with coconut / almond milk...
525 calories
6% of your daily recommended fat
28% of your daily recommended fibre
7% of your daily recommended calcium
135 % of your daily recommended vitamin C
9% of your daily recommended iron intake
3%  of your daily recommended vitamin A

By using the coconut milk / almond milk and adding 1 cup of greek yogurt...
600 calories
11% of your daily recommended fat

7% of your daily recommended fibre
27% of your daily recommended calcium
3 grams of protein
135% of your daily recommended vitamin C
5% of your daily recommended iron iron
5%  of your daily recommended vitamin A
4 % of your daily recommended potassium
6% of your daily recommended magnesium

    There is a chance that I have made some incorrect additions, being that I am by no stretch of the imagination a trained nutritionist.  This is a really healthy addition to my children's breakfast, and could easily be a breakfast replacement for myself (being that I rarely remember to eat breakfast).  It's healthy and delicious and right now is a big craze at our house.

*During the making of this blog, my 25 year old blender somehow became cracked, there by ending it's long life.  R.I.P Blendie, we will always remember you. (Ha Ha Grace, the new blender that I rushed out to get is too nice for you to take to school).

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Mother of The Year...Not

    Sunday night I fell into bed, tired, but happy.  It is my usual Sunday routine to spend most of the day in the kitchen baking and preparing for the school week ahead.  I like to feed my children foods with ingredients that I can pronounce as much as possible.  Because of this I do a lot of baking, and prepare most meals from scratch as often as possible.  Last Sunday I felt especially proud of myself because I had baked about 3 different types of muffins, all VERY healthy!
    When I was grocery shopping I discovered a new type of flour by Robin Hood.  It was Omega 3, with whole wheat and flax seed. I put it in my cart, feeling like Mother Earth.  I also picked up a bag of wheat germ.  Oh my babies were going to be so healthy.  I had this stupid looking, self important smile on my face as I walked through the grocery isle.
   Sunday I made oatmeal apple and cinnamon muffins, oatmeal berry/ banana chocolate chip (with tiny little chocolate chips, so that I could really limit them), tropical muffins with pineapple, coconut milk and coconut in them.  The house smelled like heaven.  By Sunday night my freezer was filled with wholesome rich in fibre treats (I freeze my muffins and cookies for the kids, so that when they get them in their lunch they are as fresh as when I baked them).  I had made all of my muffins with the enriched flour and wheat germ... oh I was such a good Mom.
   I felt really good packing the kids lunches.  They were getting treats that were tasty and good for them.  Again that stupid smile was on my face as I packed lunches.  Tuesday afternoon when the kids got home from school I unpacked their lunches from their knapsacks.  Before I opened up the lunch containers, one of the kids shouted out "would you stop putting those gross fruit muffins in my lunch, they make me gag!" This beautiful, appreciative comment was followed by a chorus of "yeah I hate them too."  The stupid smile quickly slid off my face.
    I packed up those "gross" healthy muffins to give to our school's breakfast club.  Maybe those kids will appreciate my hard work.  Maybe those kids will taste the love in every mouthful.  Most importantly, if they think that they "are gross and make them gag",  I never have to know!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Sunflower Butter - Yummy

    Our school is a nut-free school.  I respect that (after some serious soul searching).  I cannot imagine what it must be like to have a child with a life threatening allergy.  I cannot imagine what it must be like to send your child to school, and put your faith in others to not bring nut products to school and jeopardize your child's life.  Luckily for me my kids are not over the top in love with peanut butter.  They like it, but they don't miss not having it at school.  It is however sometimes a life saver when you have not shopped, or don't have much time.  

    Last year I found "sunflower butter".  It was a spreadable product made from ground sunflower seeds. I purchased it on a whim.  Turns out, it was delicious.  The next time I looked for it, it was no where to be seen.  Very frustrating.

        This week-end I was in a real experimenting state of mind.  I was thinking about the sunflower butter, and I wondered, how hard could it be to make?  Turns out it was not that hard.  I purchased a container of bulk sunflower seeds from my local grocery store.  Unknown to me at the time I purchased them, they were raw and unsalted, but that worked out to be o.k.   I tossed them in my cast iron frying pan with about one tablespoon of olive oil.  I tossed them around long enough to brown them up, then I let them cool.

    When my toasted sunflower seeds were cool, I put them in the food processor with about 1 tbsp of olive oil, a little sea salt and about 1 tbsp of local honey.  Let me share with you, that this process is not for the impatient (that would be me).  I ground them down to what looked like a flour.  Grace by that point had come in to investigate what the noise was.  She then became my helper.  It's really good that she came in because she reminded me to be patient.  She checked her ipod, "This website says that you have to keep on working even after it looks like flour.... Mom, be patient."  She was right. 

    In the end we ended up with sunflower butter.  It is a kind of a gross colour, but it tastes really good. Even better than the mere taste (which is really important), it's full of pure ingredients.  There are no additives, no chemicals, no extra anything.  I can send this in my children's lunches knowing that it packs a powerful punch of calcium, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, foliate, and vitamin E, all the while keeping other children around them safe.  It's a win win... oh and it was fun to make.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

You Are Not Alone

    What shall I blog about today?  That is the question I often ask myself.  Sometimes it's easy, sometimes more difficult.  This morning I really gave my blog some thought.  I've been doing this for a little while now.  I love to write, I love to share (some might argue that I over share).  As I was thinking about what to write I realized that my blogs are all over the board.  Sometime I write about something that I have tried.  Sometimes it's a vacation or adventure that we have journeyed on.  Sometimes a neat recipe.  Sometimes it's how I have learned to cope with a difficult situation.  It's really a little dysfunctional if I pull it away and look at it.
    I had toyed with the idea of writing a blog, long before I ever gathered the courage to begin.  I would always ask myself what would my blog look like, what would it be about?  Most blogs are "about" something.  There are beautiful craft blogs, cooking blogs, decorating blogs, parenting blogs.  Most blogs are about "one thing".  My original idea was that I would like a blog that would be like a magazine, a little bit of something for everyone.  The reason that I wanted this format is because I am a jack of all trades and a master of none.  Basically I write about my life.
     There are days that I wonder why anyone would really care about what I wrote.  Then I think about it a little.  For the most part we have as a society lost our community.  Many of us have lost our church groups that brought so many together in the past (no judgement, I myself am not a church goer).  Many of us left school and lost that talent for making friends so easily in our adulthood.  What I am saying is that the African saying that it takes a village to raise a child, also applies to adults.  I think that we need community, we need "our village".  We need to know that people care about us.  We need to feel loved and accepted.  We want to know that we are not the only one in this big world.  For many, the internet has become "their community".  Through the internet we are all connected.  We don't have to feel so alone.
    My desire is that my blog can not only satisfy my desire to write, but may bring some comfort to those who may feel that they are alone.  So often we worry about how we are as mothers, as humans.  We put up a false face, showing who we want the world to see, and covering up those open sores.  With this blog I want you to see my true face, and know that you are not alone.  None of us are perfect, none of us are without pain.  We are all just living this life the best that we can, and none of us should feel like we are alone.
    In the future when you look at my blog and wonder why I skip around so much, now you know.  My life is complex.  I am an expert on nothing, but I like to try everything.  I am willing to wear my heart on my sleeve, and let you see my pain, knowing that you can probably relate.  I am also willing to share my shortcomings, also knowing that you probably share them too.  Being a Mom is really what my blog is about.  We Mom's have to juggle a lot of balls.

    I know that you know this, but I will just remind you.  This blog is as much yours as it is mine.  If there is something that you would like to see, please let me know and I'll do my best.  If there is something that you would like to say, please share it.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Challenge of Memory

    This February 2, my oldest son should be turning 19.  It boggles my mind to think that I should be the mother of a 19 year old, a young adult!  Right now I am up to my neck in rubber bands (rainbow looms), crayons, Disney toys, and games, it is hard to imagine what that life would look like.  What would it feel like to have Gabe away from home at university?
   When we first lost Gabe I would torture myself wondering what he would be doing if he were still alive.  I would weep with the cruelty, the unfairness of it all.  I would never see him hit those milestones that his friends would hit.  Each grade he should be going into I would wonder, what would be doing?  Would he have a girlfriend yet?  Would his voice have changed?  Would he be sporting a peach fuzz mustache thinking he was a man? When he should have been beginning high school I broke my heart. This was an important milestone I would not get to see him hit, one of the many.   It was also at that point that I learned to let it go.  It didn't matter "what he would have been doing", because he wasn't.  I let it go.  I would never know "what he would have been doing", because he was forever 9, a month away from 10.  My love for him did not change, but my raw heartache lessened.  
    My heart still aches with his loss, but it is no longer an open, weeping, sore.  I have to give my love and attention to his living brother and sisters.  I have to allow my open sore to scab over, not just for my living children, but for my own mental well being and in turn my own physical health.   I no longer fret over what he would be doing, but instead find myself wondering how do I introduce him to his living siblings.  To them he is just a person that we tell stories about.  Gracie was just 3 when Gabe was taken from us, Riley and Rowan just 5 months old, and Elly was 4 years away from ever being born.  Grace's memories are more memories that she has formed with the aid of photographs and our stories. The other children have none at all of their own.  How do we allow his siblings to know him?
    We talk about Gabe, and recount funny stories about things that he did.  We speak of him the way we speak of them, with great love, affection and truth.  We try not to make him into a saint.  By making him something that he was not, I feel like that would cause the other kids to resent him, and say that who he truly was, wasn't good enough.  He was a funny little boy.  He had a great big heart, and a contagious laugh, but he wasn't perfect. I don't want them to see him as a tragic figure, but rather a real boy who's time was cut too short.  I want them to love him, even though they did not get the privilege to know him in life.  I want them to remember him to their children, so that my grandchildren know that they have an uncle they will never meet.
    In the end I have to let it go.  I have no control over their perception, only of my own intent.  I want my children to know their brother, but I have no control over what they think, what opinions that they will form.  I hold Gabriel in my heart with great love, the way that I hold all of my children, there is no child who outshines the others in my love.  I just hope that they will always know that.  I hope that I can be the bridge for them to "know" who their brother is/ was.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Finally - Breakfast Casserole!

    Everyone sat around the kitchen table, eating breakfast.  There were no groans of delight, but neither were there whines of "I don't like this!"  They all just sat there eating and chatting.  I had put my breakfast casserole to the test, and it had passed!

    You may recall me prattling on about wanting to try making a breakfast casserole.  It is something that I have been wanting to do for quite some time, but for whatever reason haven't.  I think that I wondered if all of the work was worth it if my family didn't like it.  Whatever the reason, it sat on my to do list, undone... until this week!

    Thursday night I took the initiative and finally made the casserole up.  I really like to try to send the kids to school with a hot meal that will carry them through until their first lunch.  I say I try, I am not always successful, but any time that I can get my ducks in a row and do it, I feel like a good mother.
    The nice thing about this recipe is you do the work the night before.  I cooked up my bacon, diced my onions, grated cheese.  As I worked away I felt like a really great mother, although trepidatious, what if I went to all of this trouble and they hated it?

Breakfast Casserole (adjusted from the December 2013 Food Network Magazine)

1 loaf of farmers bread cut into cubes (use any kind, I used farmers because that's what I had)
2 cups of cheddar cheese and Asiago cheese finely grated
1 onion diced and carmelized in my leftover glorious bacon fat.
1/4 cup leftover cooked broccoli that I had cut up
1 package of bacon, cooked and crumbled
10 eggs whisked with 1 cup of 1/2 and 1/2 cream and 2 cups of 2% milk with a little grated parmesan cheese.

    I buttered my stoneware 9x11 pan.  I then cubed my bread slices (some of it was buttered because it was leftovers from the night before's dinner.)  I put those in the bottom of the dish.  Next I sprinkled all but 1/2 cup of my cheese mix.  Next I added the onions, broccoli and bacon.  Lastly I poured in my egg mixture.  I then put some plastic wrap over the top of the pan, popped it in the refrigerator and went to bed.  
    Friday morning I got up at 6:30 and pulled the casserole out of the refrigerator.  I sprinkled the remaining 1/2 cup of cheddar/ assiago cheese over the top and popped it into the oven at 325 degrees.  I then hopped back into bed and slept for another half hour.  It had to took for an hour.

    The kids all ate without complaint.  I feel like I should be writing this down somewhere for prosperity.  Christopher ate two big portions.  The next time I make it, and there will most definitely be a next time, I will probably reduce the milk portion.  I found the bottom of the casserole too creamy ( I never thought that I would ever say something was too creamy).  It was quite tasty, and it was nice to get up to a nice hot breakfast with minimal work that morning.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Oh Scary Larry, I miss you!

    There's almost no sign of Christmas left (other than the few forgotten odds and ends we inevitably end up with).  It's now just a memory.  Life has gone back to normal, there is no big lead up anymore.  One of my favourite things about Christmas was playing with my Elf on a Shelf, Scary Larry.

    Most mature adults posed their Elf on a Shelf in fun child friendly poses.  I took great delight in posing my elf in grossly inappropriate poses, then taking his picture and posting it to my facebook friends.  Incase you are a new reader, I should let you know that I have an extremely sick sense of humour.  Sometimes I would sit at the computer giggling to myself as I would come up with a caption for my pictures, what can I say, it's the little things.

    At night I would lay in bed and thinking of hilarious poses for our elf Scary Larry.  Even the kids got in on the fun, begging me to pose him in funny poses.  Scary Larry even went on vacation with us to the Adirondack Mountains. The kids played with him and begged me to take photos.  "Don't forget Scary Larry!" was heard from the mouths of the kids quite often.

    Now that Christmas is over, and Scary Larry has been packed, what will I do for entertainment?  How will I have an outlet for my sick sense of humour?  Oh Scary Larry... I miss you!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Rainbow Loom Trail (of elastics)

    Orange, green, baby blue, multi-coloured, pink oh you name the colour and I have found it around the house.  What pray tell am I talking about you childless individuals may ask, while the rest of you groan with knowledge, why Rainbow Loom Elastics of course.  This morning I pulled out a load of laundry from the washing machine, only to discover a rainbow of tiny elastics at the bottom of the drum.  I have pulled them out of the lint trap, sinks, my feet, oh pretty much everywhere. Yesterday morning when I put the dog out, I discovered several on the deck, don't ask me how they got out there, because I cannot even fathom a guess. 

    There is an excellent chance that many homes with little and pre-teen girls can commiserate with me. This year The Rainbow Loom was the "it" gift.  I know many grown women who have also become addicted (I'm not naming names).  At our house Rainbow Looms and their accursed elastics arrived via Grace, and Riley's stockings.  They soon found their way into every single nook and cranny of our house. When the girls are not on their new Christmas ipods, they are deeply entrenched in their bracelet making.

    On the week-end Grace and Riley sat in front of the TV watching Youtube videos on how to make different types of Rainbow Loom bracelets.  Every few minutes I would hear a screech of "Pause it, I missed a step!"  It was very important to them both that they learn intricate ways of weaving those awful little colourful elastics, so that they could impress their friends.   In the end they both wore sleeves of fancily woven elastic bracelets up both arms.
    I suppose that there are much worse things that the kids could be obsessed with. A few years ago it was Silly bands, now it's Rainbow Loom, next year it will be something new.  If I really think about it, playing hide and seek with crazy expensive little elastics is worth every penny because it means that I have little girls, at least that what I try to remind myself as I remove those elastics from everywhere!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Feeding The Birds Part II

    The house is warm and toasty, the sunlight is coming in through window and adding to that glorious warmth.  I close my eyes and point my face to the sun, trying to drink the sunshine in through osmosis.  I am curled in my chair in front of my picture window, the house around me in silence other than the ticking of the clock, and the hum of the furnace.  It is in other words peaceful bliss, especially after all of the beautiful noise that I have been enveloped in over the last few weeks.  In my hand is a hot cup of gingerbread coffee, life could not get too much better... and then it does.  Out of the corner of my eye I see a flutter.  There in the tree is the most adorable little charcoal grey and white bird.  Four of them could easily fit in my outstretched hand.  One tiny bird, turns into 15 tiny little birds all over my front lawn.


    I am taking great pleasure in watching these tiny little Dark Eyed Juncos.  I know that is what they are called because I looked it up.  They are "common snowbirds" from the sparrow family.  Before I regularly fed the birds I did not know this.  It has become a part of my morning routine.  I toss out a few cups full of niger seed, from the warmth of the front door.  Each cup full, I smile a little thinking that I am doing my part.  It sounds, crazy, and it probably is, but I am a simple woman of simple pleasures.

    The freezing rain and these now frigid temperatures have made me less indifferent than I was in years past.   When I say "indifferent" I feel like I need to qualify that.  I mean "indifferent" in the truest meaning of the word.  I never gave feeding the birds a second thought.  I cannot bear to see anything suffer.  I have spent countless hours rescuing turtles, always fearful that in my zeal, I get my finger snapped off by a snapping turtle.  When I saw the little birds eating the "reindeer food"(the kids and I make reindeer food every Christmas Eve day out of oatmeal, birdseed, sugar sprinkles and sparkles), it occurred to me that with everything encased in ice, these poor little creatures must be starving!

    Last week I purchased a bird feeder, and a big bag of niger seed.  Elly was really excited to help fill it.  We made Christopher freeze while we watched him hang the feeder in our big birch tree, we watched from the warmth of the picture window.  Elly stood at the window, face pressed up against the glass, waiting for our first lunch guest.  The feast swung from the branch, unattended (as did my suet feeders).  Sunday morning Elly let out a high pitched squeal "There are birdies at our feeder, there are birdies at the feeder!"  She was beside herself with excited joy.  Sure enough a little Chickadee was sitting on the perch of the feeder.  To my delight, that little Chickadee had brought a brunch guest with him, who was dining at my suet feeder!

    Never had I imagined that feeding the birds could provide so much enjoyment.  I have to admit that when I look out at the birdseed all over my front lawn (I still throw the seed on the grass every morning because Junco's are ground feeders), I cringe a little. I know that what is disguised in the snow will become piles of fermenting seed on the new grass.  It will take some serious clean up come the spring, but right now I am doing my part to provide for those less fortunate, even if they are from the animal kingdom.

    My lawn is covered in animal / bird tracks.  It's really kind of awe inspiring to look at.  I happened to notice some funny looking tracks through the snow.  We had a wild rabbit who was also enjoying the birdseed.  He left his calling card as well as his tracks (see the below picture).  It broke my heart thinking about that tiny little furry creature having to pick through what was left of the bird seed.  I drove around town trying to find him some rabbit food to leave out.  I had no luck.

    My only course of action was to leave out a head of lettuce (don't tell Christopher, it will only confirm to him that I have lost my mind) for my little wild furry friend.  The kids were excited at the idea of feeding a bunny.  They kept checking out the window, looking for evidence that the lettuce had been nibbled.

    I have a tender heart.  That tender heart can lead to embarrassment, but that's o.k.  I would like to think that my children are learning compassion at my knee.  There are worse things in this world than to want to end another's suffering, even if that other is not human.  I feel better for trying to make a difference, and in return I get the joy of watching the birds, it's a win win.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Homemade Calzones

    I spent my Sunday getting things ready for the school week.  I went to bed last night tired, but happy because the week would be easier.  I woke up this morning only to discover that it was a snow day.  All that work was not for nothing however, it just means less work for the rest of the week!

    Part of my preparation was making calzones.  I had this great plan to heat them up then wrap them in foil for the kids lunches.  My thoughts were that the foil would help them stay warm until the first nutrition break.  I was so excited for them to have that warm delicious inside out pizza (o.k. so I need some mental help).  I guess that I will have to wait until tomorrow for that fulfillment.  
    The funny thing is that I have never personally eaten or made a calzone before.  I was entering uncharted territory.  I checked and looked at a few calzone recipes. All of them called for pizza dough, and basically pizza ingredients.  I could do this.
    I began by frying onions, grated garlic and red peppers in olive oil and salt and pepper.  I wish that you could bottle up that smell.  Oh my goodness it smelled so good.  The amazing smell traveled all through the house.  When they had all softened I let them cool.

    While the onions, peppers and garlic cooled I made the pizza dough.  I used a pizza dough recipe from my favourite cookbook line "Company's Coming" "Bread".  The recipe was so easy.  I added parmesan cheese to the dough recipe.

    I had made my dough,  cooked my veggies and added them to store bought pizza sauce, cut my pepperoni and ham into small strips, finely grated a mixture of mozzarella,  parmesan and asigo cheese. I had rolled out my first bit of dough into the size of a small luncheon plate, when a little blonde dynamo walked into the kitchen.  "I'm your helper Mommy."  "That's o.k. I don't need any help, but thank you."  I said in sing song voice. "Oh, I'm helping you!" Her little hands were on her hips, that determined look on her little face.  There was no point in a battle, she had already won.

    We set up a little assembly line.  I would roll the dough, and add the messy pizza sauce, blonde Hitler would add the meats and the cheese.  I hate to admit it, but it was really quite fun having her help out.

    After the calzone was fully loaded I wet the bottom of the dough the way I would for pie.  I then folded it over and pressed it shut.  When I had transfered it to the parchment lined cookie sheet, I pressed down a fork along the outside of the edge to really seal it.

    After the calzone was filled, and folded and pressed, I dipped a basting brush into the leftover olive oil that I had saved from the veggies.  I lightly spread the flavoured oil onto the top of the almost finished calzone.  The last touch was to add a fine sprinkle of finely grated asiago cheese on the top.

    I had preheated the oven to 500 degrees before I began my other preparations.  When I was ready to put the first batch of calzones in it was really hot and ready.  I was able to fit four at a time onto the cookie sheet.  I cooked them for 11 minutes.  The whole house smelled like a pizzeria.
    I let the first batch cool while I popped in the second and then third batch.  They grew by almost half in the oven.  They looked really pretty, and smelled like heaven.  I had to fight the kids off while they cooled enough for them to try one.  I divided one into four pieces because I had made them for school lunches, and if given the opportunity the kids would eat them all at once.  It took a long time for them to cool, which told me that it would be great for school lunch.  
    Before the kids tried their calzone, Elly made an announcement.  "Before you eat, you have to thank Mommy and I for being good cookers."  The kids all begrudgingly thank us.  Our experiment was a huge success.  Now my obsessive brain is in overtime thinking about all of different fillings I could use next time.