Monday, October 18, 2010

My slightly, mythically obsessed four-year-old

Our family is slightly obsessed with the fantastic singing/dancing/rapping/comedy/movie-making duo called Rhett and Link.  If you haven't seen any of their videos, take a moment to do so now.

I recommend The Facebook Song, The Taco Bell Drive Thru Song, or The ShamWow Song


Now that you know who/what I'm talking about, you need to know that my kids love these guys.  A couple days ago my youngest, the four year old, was asking if Rhett and Link were pretend or if they were in real life. 

Mom: They're real people with wives and kids, just like our family.
Boy2: Do they sing songs all day?
Mom: Only when they're doing it to get ready for a video or to make a video.  But not all the time.
Boy2: Do they live in the same place?
Mom: Well they probably live near each other, but they each have their own houses that their own families live in, kind of like *insert our friends names* live near us but not in the same house as us.
Boy2: Do they live *insert our city*?
Mom: No, they live in North Carolina, which is in the United States
Boy2: Can we go visit them some time?
Mom: Well, we can't just go visit them like we do our friends or cousins.  Rhett and Link don't really know who we are, so we can't just go visit them.  But if they ever come near us, we'll do everything we can to go see them.

Boy2 was satisfied with that answer and that was the end of the Rhett and Link discussion.  Or so I thought.

I booked a hotel room in Niagara Falls this morning because of a sweet promotion that they have going on where I can get a fallsview room for $45.  I went out to tell the kids, knowing that they'd be excited to sleep in a hotel with a pool...

Mom:  Guess what guys.
Kids: What???
Mom: In a few weeks, we're going to be staying in Niagara Falls at...  a hotel!  And it has a pool!!!

The older two had the appropriate response and oohed and aahed.  The four year old, clearly with our two day old conversation in his mind, piped up with, "And we're going to meet Rhett and Link????"

Cue disapppointment.

(Maybe I can appease him with some Phat Dippin' in that hotel pool.)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Easy as pie

Just a quick little editorial note on the English language and the use of it in the blog world...

If you are stuck for a title, don't sweat it.  Write your blog post and then the last thing that you were thinking of writing, don't write it at the bottom of your post.  Put it at the top as a title. 

(This blog post has been brought to you by the letter E and Z and the number π.)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Not so Barenaked Mac and Cheese

I'm the lunch supervisor at the kids' school, which means that I spend 50 minutes each day in two of the primary classrooms and outside on the playground.  During my most recent jaunt through the Grade One class, my daughter, having seen her friends' lunches, told me she wanted Kraft Dinner (Kraft Mac and Cheese for all you Americans who haven't listened to "If I Had a Million Dollars").  I told her that we didn't have any, so she asked if we could buy some.  I don't really like the stuff and I'm not willing to buy it when it's not on sale, so I said no, not this week.  She humphed and I decided to compromise.  We needed a side dish to go with the leftovers for supper and I was certain we would have more of this casserole remaining for kid lunches the next day.  So, after some searching I think I have finally found the best Homemade Mac and Cheese out there!

I found this creamy mac and cheese on Allrecipes.com, but I've changed it to suit my tastes.  It seems like the sauce is too runny, but trust me, it really does bake up very nicely so don't try to thicken it up any more than the recipe causes it to.

Ingredients:


8 ounces (1 ¾ cups) uncooked elbow macaroni
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (or half and half mixture of mozzarella and cheddar)
3 cups milk (I used 1% and it worked great)
1/4 cup butter
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
(you can also add garlic, mustard powder, tobasco sauce, according to your tastes.  I put mustard and garlic in, but I think I'll try without next time.

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup bread crumbs
sprinkle of paprika
(I used smoked paprika and it was too smokey.  I think I'll omit the paprika next time.

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Cook macaroni according to the package directions. Drain.

3. In a saucepan, melt butter or margarine over medium heat. Stir in enough flour to make a roux. Add milk to roux slowly, stirring constantly. Stir in cheeses and other seasonings, and cook over low heat until cheese is melted and the sauce is slightly thickened. Put macaroni in a large casserole dish, and pour sauce over macaroni. Stir well.

4. Melt butter or margarine in a skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and brown. Spread over the macaroni and cheese to cover. Sprinkle with a little paprika.

5. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Grape Expectations

Through the generosity of some friends from church, we received many pounds of grapes, white and purple. I decided to make grape jelly out of these grapes since the rest of the family was not enjoying eating these seeded grapes. After a quick Google search, I became a grape processing professional (Not at all!)
The consensus among grape juice/jelly web sites was to first wash the grapes and pick them over for any bad grapes. Take the grapes off the stems and mash them with a potato masher. I opted to just run them through my food processor the first time. I only had 4 lbs of white grapes, so it didn't take too long. (And these didn't stain when the juice leaked out a little.)

With the concord grapes, I washed and picked them over, then put them all into my big huge stock pot. I didn't want to mash them and then move them and get my entire kitchen all stained, so I mashed them with the potato masher in the stock pot. Some of the grapes didn't get mashed, but they break down as they cook, so I wasn't too worried.

So after your grapes have been squished up, one way or another, put them on the stove in a pot that holds at least twice the volume of the grapes. Turn the oven on to medium high heat to get the grapes up to temperature, stirring occasionally, then turn down to medium-low heat to allow the grapes to break down and release their juice. How long you let them sit really depends on how many you have. When I had 4 lbs of white grapes it took about 15 minutes. When I had 15 lbs of concord grapes, it took about an hour. Anyway, you want to let it simmer for a while to get the juices out of the grape. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing burns on the bottom. (You shouldn't need to stir too much if you're simmering on low.”

Prepare another bowl or pot, big enough to hold all the juice, by wrapping a cheesecloth over the top of the bowl and securing with an elastic band or twine. Let the cheesecloth sag a little if you have a large amount of grapes to strain. Pour the grapes over the cheesecloth and let them sit for at least an hour. I found that I needed to stir them a little every 20 minutes or so to let the juices move around and drip through. I also covered it, just to make sure the fruit flies didn't make their homes in my grapes.

What drips through is the juice that you use to make your jelly. It may form crystals after sitting in the fridge for a day, but that doesn't affect the juice or jelly, so don't worry about the crystals. Different pectins have different recipes, so I can't tell you how much you'll need, but you can always top it up with another kind of clear juice (apple, cranberry, pear, store-bought grape). The first recipe I made, with store-brand pectin, called for ¼ cup lemon juice, 4 cups of grape juice and 4 ½ cups of sugar. The second recipe that I made, with Certo pectin, called for 5 cups of grape juice and 7 ½ cups of sugar. They both tasted great.


If you decide to skip the jelly and just drink the juice, I have to tell you that it is very sweet if you drink it straight up. We ended up mixing it half and half with water and it still tasted just as good (if not better) than the store-bought stuff. It was just too sweet and concentrated straight from the grape!

So there you have it. That's all I've learned about grapes in the last few days. I welcome suggestions and ideas from anyone with more than three days experience in the grape juice/jelly-making business.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Friday's Husband

I'm currently reading a book called "Have a New Husband by Friday", by Dr Kevin Leman, upon the recommendation of a few women.  I am on page 122 of 212 and here's a summary of what I've learned so far:

The attributes that my husband could have by Friday?  He already has them.

I don't know why I'm still reading this book instead of writing my own about how wonderful my husband is.  I know, it's got stuff in there for me to do to be a better wife.  The problem is, my hubby is so good to me, it's hard to want to try sometimes.  (Aaron, if you're reading this, please don't take that to mean you need to stop being so swell!)  Don't worry, that doesn't mean I'll stop wanting/trying to be a good wife.  Just that he is honestly so patient with me and my shortcomings that I get complacent about my personal betterment sometimes.

I'm also finding that the generalizations in this book make me mad.  Women are more organized.  Men are not.  Women can think about more than one thing at a time.  Men cannot.  Women see the clutter on the floor.  Men do not.  I'll tell you, in this house, my hubby is more organized than I am, is already thinking ahead to the next thing, and sees the clutter that I do not see.

I think Dr. Leman needs to write a book to help my husband get a new wife by Friday.  That'll be the one that I need to read!

Honey, thank you for being that ama-za-zing, awesome, wonderful husband that you are.  I try to let you know how much I appreciate you, but I know that I still take you for granted far too often.  You are one in a million, a rose among thorns, a Drew Brees among Matt Leinarts.  I love you!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Things That Make Them Go "Mmmm"

It seems that every time I make something, I'm taking pictures, imagining putting it up on my blog here, so I can share delicious food ideas with you.  And then I decide not to put it up here.  It's either because the pictures didn't look good or I decided the recipe was too long and drawn out or I just got lazy.

Today, because my feet hurt from standing all day, I am sitting here, typing this recipe to share with the world.  It's not too ground-breaking, but the last time I made it, all three kids ate and ate and ate and didn't say much until they had cleaned their plates.  Three kids, eating, and chewing and "Mmmm"ing equals a very tasty meal.

And so, without further delay...

Mexican Lasagna

Ingredients:
2 large (3 small) chicken breasts
1 pkg taco seasoning*
8-10 large tortillas*
1 can refried beans (398 mL)

1 1/2 cups salsa
300 g cheddar cheese, shredded

Cube chicken and pan-fry until no longer pink.  Add taco seasoning and a splash of water (a couple tablespoons, maybe).  Cook a few more minutes to let the seasoning permeate the chicken.  Give it a spin through a food chopper for a few pulses, just until the chunks are broken up and shredded.

Cut tortillas in half. 

Arrange in a 9x13 pan with the cut edges of the tortillas touching the outer edge of the pan.

Fill in any holes with tortilla pieces.

Spread half the refried beans on the first layer of tortillas. 
(I cannot get this picture to turn the right way.  It's very weird.  It has a mind of its own.)

Top that with half the chicken. 
(I cannot get this picture to turn the right way either.  It's got its brother's mind.)

Top the chicken with about half a cup of salsa. 

Top the salsa with 1/3 of the cheese.

Repeat that process, layering tortillas, beans, chicken, salsa, and cheese a second time.

To top the lasagna, lay one more layer of tortillas.  Spread the remainder of the salsa on top

and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. 

Bake uncovered at 350 F for 20-30. 

Allow it to sit about 10 minutes before cutting and serving.  This tastes great topped with sour cream.


Of course, you can add whatever you like into this recipe.  I'm a big wimp when it comes to spicy food, so I do not put jalapenos or any other spicy pepper in here, but I'm sure they'd taste great if you like extra heat.



* I've started making my own seasoning and tortillas.  Here are the recipes that I use.  The tortillas take a little time (about half an hour altogether) so make them ahead of time.

Taco seasoning
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Mix with the meat, adding 1/2 a cup of water if using ground meat.  Allow to simmer for a few minutes until well combined and the water has started to evaporate off.
 
Tortillas
1 3/4 cups flour
2 tbsps butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup warm milk or water (maybe more)

(Works best in a stand mixer, with dough hook.)

Combine all the ingredients except milk. Now slowly add the warm milk or water to knead to a soft dough, kneading well for 4-5 minutes. (In a stand mixer, I only mix it for a minute or so.)

Cover with a greased piece of plastic wrap.  Let it rest for 15 minutes.

Cut into eight equal pieces and use a rolling pin to roll out like very thin tortillas, approx 8″-9″ size.

Pre-heat a griddle to medium-high and place each tortilla on the hot griddle for about 10 seconds on each side and remove. They should have a few light brown spots when they come off.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ramblings about Summer, Vacation, and Contentment

The summer has flown by!  The last time I posted I was on my way to Family Camp and it was the middle of June.  Here it is, middle of August and my friends in the United States are already sending their kids back to school!

I do have a semi-legitimate excuse.  We've been busy.  I know, it's not really a very good excuse.  Everyone's busy.  I guess we're just enjoying having fun and being lazy this summer.  The highlight of our laziness was going out east and seeing Atlantic Canada and the north eastern USA.  We travelled through Quebec and New Brunswick before staying on Prince Edward Island for five days.  Then we went over to Nova Scotia, took a ride around the Cabot Trail, and booted it home through New Brunswick, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York.

The kids loved the trip.  While we were travelling around, they loved the hotels, especially the ones with the pools!  That was their favourite things about the whole vacation.  While on the Island, the kids had a blast playing with their new friends, the seven and nine year old children of our Italy-trip companions.  You see, we stayed with a couple that we met when Aaron and I went to Italy.  They were in our tour group and we ended up hanging out with them.  We each invited the other couple to come for a visit if a tour of our respective areas was ever in order and we both took the other up on the offer this summer.

As we drove through the Maritimes, I couldn't help but say, over and over, that I would love to live "here" (wherever "here" was at the time.)  New Brunswick had lovely rolling hills, and such scenic drives.  The Bay of Fundy and the Flower Pots Rocks were magnificent.  But the thing I noticed most there was that it was so not crowded.  I felt a little bad for the province that there weren't too many people that took the opportunity to drive through New Brunswick.  And we didn't even see the northern half of it!

We spent five days on Prince Edward Island.  Life there is so different!  Traffic was about as light as our city gets on a Sunday afternoon and our hosts kept saying how bad the traffic was!  They just have a slower pace there and they really know how to enjoy people and life in general.  We had no internet access and two TV channels while at their house.  It was refreshing, to be able to reconnect, face to face, with people.  We spent days driving around and seeing the beauty of God's creation, we explored beaches and marvelled at the wonder of the tide, coming and going every six hours.  We ate shrimp, mussels, lobster, fresh PEI potatoes, and lots of ice cream (the origin of which was our friend's dad's dairy farm.)  We sang hymns in a country church just down the road from our hosts and smiled to ourselves as the country organist ignored inconvenient things like half notes, opting instead to plow through "It Is Well With My Soul" one rapid quarter note at a time.  We were A/C free, enjoying God's natural A/C instead.  (The wind off the ocean was so refreshing!)

And then, sadly, we left Prince Edward Island and our newfound friends-for-life, and headed to Cape Breton Island, part of Nova Scotia.  We drove the Cabot Trail, stopping here and there to take pictures and enjoy the view.  We climbed mountains in our good, old Montana, 30 minutes to get up 455 metres, 10 minutes down.  We chewed gum to get the pressure in our ears back to normal.  We drove by cliffs, looked down into treed valleys.  And we loved it!

It wasn't just the five of us though.  We had companions with us in the van to make the journey a little more compfortable, of course.  Rosie (our GPS, named by the youngest after a Thomas the Tank Engine character) was our boss, telling us how to get where we wanted to go.  Sometimes she took us the wrong way, going down a road that was closed or a path that really wasn't necessary.  Sometimes we ignored her.  Sometimes we manipulated her to get us somewhere the way wanted to go.  But we all got along.  Our other favourite van companion was a set of DVDs from our good friends, the 4M family.  It was a six disc set called "The Wonders of God's Creation" and it was similar to the Planet Earth videos that show how the world works.  But these discs do all that while showing that God had a great plan and design in mind when He created us and our world.  This world and these bodies are so complicatedly interwoven and interdependent, that there is just no way this all could have come about by chance.  I think us two older travellers may have enjoyed the videos more than the younger travellers.  But, it kept our minds entertained on the longer stretches of road.

There were some long stretches of road in Maine, Massachusetts and New York.  Loooong stretches of road.  You know how when you spend a lot of time doing something and then you're done doing that thing, you just want to be Done-done?  That's how we felt about getting home.  We drove two 12 hour days to get home from Sydney, Nova Scotia.  I made a mental note to appreciate being in a new State each time we crossed the State line, and then my mind would numb again to the constancy of the road in front of us.  Don't get me wrong, I loved Maine.  It was so...  hilly/empty/forested/remote.  (And it gave us a chance to sine Rhett and Link's "Maine Man" song a few times.  New Hampshire was quick.  Massachusetts was fun while we were still heading south, then it took a turn for the boring when our van pointed west for good.  New York was expensive to drive through and not new to us.  And then we were home.

The kids counted 87 cranes on our ten day vacation.  Don't ask me why.  Their father is a mechanical engineer.  Ask him.  Over half of those cranes were counted within an hour of our house.  I think that tells me something about the pace of our life compared with the lives we sampled on our vacation.  I'm not going to spend time wondering which I would rather have or what the consequences of it would be if we suddenly found ourselves a thousand kilometres away from virtually all of our friends and family.  This is the life we have and this is the life we love.  We are so much more content if we can love what we have, be thankful for our own blessings, be thankful that the people around us are blessed, and leave it at that.  So I am thankful that I had a chance to see a little more of God's earth, I am thankful that I have friends all over this continent that I can visit, and I will continue to give thanks for the wonderful life I've been given.  What more do I need?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Father's Day!!!

I've known my Dad for a little over 33 years now.  I can't remember how we met but I know that it's pretty much been my whole life.  I don't think he was the first thing I saw but I know he was one of the first people I met (right after the doc, Mom, a nurse or two...)

I like to think that I'm my dad's favourite.  Of course it's not true, but I like to think that anyway.  When I think back to my childhood memories involving Dad, pretty much all of it involves sports in one way or another.  I can remember watching the Red Wings year after year, knowing that our team would never really win the Cup... until they got good, and then we watched, waiting for them to finally do it.  And then they did and we cheered and knew we had the best team in the world!  I can also remember going to Tigers games with my Dad.  He was often the Youth Group chauffeur so he would escort us to those couple of games that we went to.  He accompanied us to Cedar Point and rode all the roller coasters with us.  One of the things I remember doing as a young child was hearing that us girls would get to go to one of his hockey games!  It was always fun to go watch him play pick-up hockey with The Guys.

Family vacations always involved being together as a family, once again being driven around by Dad.  But he wasn't just our chauffeur.  Dad was our family photographer.  One of the great things about Dad is that he photographs life as it happens, documenting it for the rest of us to see, but he makes sure he gets in there too.  He doesn't mind sharing his camera with others and letting them point and shoot.  I love that my Dad loves to document life with his camera as it happens.

My Dad also cares very deeply about his faith.  For as long as I've been around (and I'm certain much longer) he has defended what he believes in with vigor.  He knows what he believes and why he believes it.  That is a legacy that he has passed along to us girls.  We have always been taught to know what we believe and why we believe it.  Both of our parents have done a great job of passing that along to us.

My dad loves my mom.  And everyone that knows them knows it!  I've shared with many people over the years that I always felt secure about my parents' relationship because I saw them kissing or hugging frequently, right in front of us girls.  Dad has never been ashamed to show the world, and especially us girls, how much he loves his wife.  I love that about him!

My dad has a lot more time now and when he's around our family he can be very often found on the floor or on the couch, with a grand child on his lap or at his side.  He loves to curl up with a grandkid and read books to them (or have them read to him.)  He'll burrow his head into a baby belly and get the biggest laugh he can.  He's really hitting his stride now and he's just getting better with age.

I have to be away from my dad this Sunday, which is pretty usual since we live hours apart.  But I hope that he knows how much he is loved and appreciated for the way he loves his God, his wife, his girls, and our families.  Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The cherry on top

My very, absolute, for-certain favourite dessert is my mom's (ever so slightly altered) brownie recipe.  But, since my girl was leafing through a magazine and saw a recipe for cherry-almond brownies, I thought I'd give it a try.  We made them and were underwhelmed.  Perhaps I had set my standards too high.  Perhaps I am a purist when it comes to brownies.  Regardless, I determined not to make that recipe again.

But I still had a handful of dried cherries left over, so I thought I'd give it one more try, my way, with my brownies recipe.  All I have to say is...


Yep, that about sums it up.

Go ahead and take a moment to drool if you'd like.  When you've wiped up your keyboard, we'll continue.

So here's what I did to make what I think is the best brownie ever:

1 cup butter, melted*
1 cup cocoa, sifted
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup dried cherries

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

With a fork, mix the melted butter with the cocoa.  Add the sugar, eggs and extracts.  Dump in the flour and then the baking powder and salt.  Mix it mostly all together.  Add the cherries and mix until they are spread around.

Now I bake this in a 9x9 stoneware pan and I can't guarantee success if you don't do that.  But you can try.  So if you're using stoneware, just dump the batter in and spread it around.  If you're using anything else, grease and flour the pan so that the brownies don't stick.

Bake the brownies in the pre-heated 350 F oven for 30 minutes.  Take them out.  They may look a little undone, but they'll finish firming up as much as they need to on your counter.

This is the hardest part of making brownies...  Let them cool for at least a couple hours.  They really are best if you let them cool down and stick together a little better.  If you like the ooey, gooey, straight-from-the-oven brownie, that's fine with me, but they won't be pretty once you cut into them.  Just sayin' is all...

So wait at least a couple hours, then slice into 16 squares.  You can top it with vanilla ice cream if you want, but in all honesty, the cherry is the highlight of this dessert and you really don't want to distract from that, do you?

Enjoy.  Savour.  These are too good to just inhale without letting your tastebuds appreciate the tastes of the almond, cocoa and cherry all mingling together.

Mmmm...



*If you choose to use margarine, I completely understand.  I do not condone margarine use for these brownies, but I understand.  And if you make that decision, you may need to cook these a little longer, closer to 35 minutes.  Why? I don't know, go ask your dad.

I knead thee, oh, I knead thee...

I (almost) exactly followed my friend Moni's Baguette recipe found here.  We were too busy enjoying it last night to take a picture.  As I get my lunch ready today I realize that this delicious bread is nearly gone, so I manage to snap a picture before it's entirely consumed.



If you are lazy like me and want to try it but don't want to roll it out... it does taste okay if you do it in the bread machine, with bread machine yeast, and no pre-soaking of said yeast.  It's not as satisfying, since you didn't hand roll it yourself, but it sure beats Wonder bread.

So what are you waiting for??  Break out that old dusty bread machine, or limber up those biceps and get cracking!  Or rolling.  Or kneading.  Or something.  Just go make some bread!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Can I please have homework??

Our kids received spiral-bound notebooks from a friend at church this Sunday.  They have been writing and drawing in them non-stop since then.  The oldest boy couldn't part with it for too long so he brought his to school today.  On our way home, he asked, "Mom, if you turn around and look at me, does it look like I've got a book that I have to take home for homework?"
I turned around and looked and he was proudly carrying his spiral-bound notebook under his arm, even though it would have been easier to put it in his backpack.  I said, "Yes, it definitely looks like you're carrying home a book to work on for homework!" 

I thought a bit more and then asked, "Do you think it'll be a lot more fun when you can bring work from school to do at home each day?"

With an excited look on his face, he answered, "Yeah!  I wonder when I'll get to do homework?  Maybe Grade Three or Four?"

He just loves having "pencil and paper" kind of work to do!  I don't think he's thought it through entirely, since he'll have to do homework before playing.  So I'll just let him enjoy the thought of homework while he can.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The boy whose first word was "Ball"

There's a big church around the corner and down the street from our house.  We've been in and out of this church for the last few years for different reasons, often for school events.  Up until this past year our school has held their Christmas program there.

Our association with this church has not been limited to school events though.  We went to a concert there on February 28, the last day of the 2010 Olympics, just as the men's gold medal hockey game was going into overtime.  While we waited for the concert to begin, we watched and cheered on the three big church screens as Canada scored on the USA, winning the game in overtime.  The whole concert audience was cheering, hugging and high-fiving strangers around us.

We've also been to other services and concerts there, including the past Christmas Eve when Simon slept through a rousing rendition from their worship team of Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Wizards of Winter," complete with screeching electric guitars.  Most recently, I attended a Paul Baloche conert there.  I could go on, but you get the idea.  We, as a family, are quite familiar with this church.

Fast forward to this past Sunday.  Due to our desire to have our kids play in their first baseball and T-Ball tournaments of the year and our desire to still attend church, we opted to go to a church service (for the first time) to this same church this past Sunday, given it's early service time, proximity to our house and proximity to the ball diamond.  As we stepped through the doors and into this well-known fixture in our neighbourhood, my husband said to the four-year old, "Do you remember this church?" thinking that the lad would smile at the remembrance of singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas" there last December, or perhaps he would recall his big brother tapping on a wooden block while singing along to "Old Toy Trains".  Instead, the boy smiled and said, "Yeah!  We watched the hockey game and Canada WON!"

The boy with the one-track mind...  Does he have any idea of all the other fun stuff that we've done there?  And will his mind ever be able to focus on anything that does not involve a sporting event?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hate the Video, Love the Person

I'll just say it:  I do not like Lady Gaga's music or videos.  The music is upbeat and appeals to younger people but the lyrics are absolutely inappropriate for school-aged children.  The videos are even worse, most of the content that I have seen being what I would consider vulgar.

That being said, I read an article and watched a portion of an accompanying video at the following site that purports to express how a particular church feels about Lady Gaga.  (Watch at your own peril, but not if you already have high blood pressure):
http://www.popeater.com/2010/06/01/westboro-baptist-church-megan-phelps-lady-gaga-telephone-parody/

Let me just tell you, if you see that video, you will be upset.  The video is overloaded with messages of hate towards different people.  Not just hate from one person or one church but from God Himself.  The creator of that video is absolutely incorrect.  God does not hate any one.  God hates sin but he loves people.  Not just some people but all people.  It really bothers me that anyone would create a video and spread a message of hate like this.  But it incenses me most that someone is attributing that feeling to God.

Let the Games Begin!

We had a very exciting weekend!  While this was going on...
 


...we also had some very interesting discussions on the sidelines.

"Dad, you have lots of hair on your legs!"

"Everyone does.  You have hair on your legs too!"


"Hey, you have hair on your arms too!"


Meanwhile, somewhere in the middle of the youngest's game...




 the girl and I got involved in something much more reasonable...


"Make another funny face!"

"Now you do it, Mom!"


"Hey Daaaa-aaaad!"



It was a fun day!

Friday, May 28, 2010

What I did this morning (or what you should have done last night!)

Want to know why I'm smiling this goofy smile?
It may or may not have to do with what I'm drinking...
Which may or may not be the best summer morning beverage I've made...
Which may or may not be a Fabulous Iced Cappuccino.

How would one make such a fantastic morning beverage?  It's quite easy but takes a bit of preparation.  Brew some coffee last night, preferably your favourite flavour.  I absolutely love Chocolate Fantasy from the Bulk Barn, but you probably aren't as capable of buying that flavour as me, so you go ahead and choose your own.  Okay, now that you've brewed it (last night), pour it into a couple ice cube trays.  Four cups of prepared coffee exactly fills two trays.  Since you did that last night, you're good to go today, right?

So now that you have frozen coffee cubes, get out your food processor or blender or whatever mixing device you want to use on icey coffee.  Add equal parts milk and coffee cubes.  Half a tray of coffee cubes is almost exactly 2/3 cup, so add 2/3 cup milk to that.  Blend away until smooth and frothy.  If you want to add sugar or International Delight, put it in your cup, then pour in the cappuccino mix.  This tastes so much better than the corner store iced capp and there's much less sugar. 

And it tastes so good in the morning...  and the afternoon...  and at night after a hot day.

Bottoms up!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Scratchy-ish Granola Bars

I like to bake.  I like to make things from scratch.  But I like things to taste good too.  And I've tried so many times to make delicious granola bars, and they just don't work well enough to say, "Yes!  That's the recipe!" 

I also like shopping once a week and sticking to a tight budget.  So this week, when we ran out of granola bars at the beginning of the week, then ran out of snacky veggies as well, I knew it was time to try again.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I went back and looked through the three recipes I had tried.  I couldn't do them as they were written since they weren't satisfactory the first time through.  So I improvised and mish-mashed a couple recipes with what I had on hand to make these:

The Best Granola Bars I've Ever Made
(which isn't saying much)

3 cups of your favourite granola cereal*
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk*
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 cup pecans or almonds
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl with a heavy wooden spoon.  Grab a 9x12 rimmed cookie sheet and line it with parchment paper so that it just hangs over the edges when pushed down.  Plop the mixture onto the cookie sheet and with that same heavy wooden spoon spread the granola mixture evenly over the pan.  If you want to use your hands, slather them up with some butter.  They'll get pretty messy.

Bake for about 25 minutes in the preheated oven.  Let cool for 30 minutes, cut into 24 squares then let cool completely before serving.  These will last for over a week in a tightly sealed container...  Unless you eat them all first!
 
*Since I do enjoy making things from scratch, let me give you a recipe for granola and one for sweetened condensed milk.
 
My friend Moni has a great granola recipe here:
http://sproutculinarystudies.blogspot.com/2010/04/all-natural-majorly-healthy-granola.html
 
You should read her blog.  She's funny, insightful, caring, and generally has really great stuff to share with people.  And she's my friend, so you would like her.
 
Here's my Aunt Nancy's recipe for sweetened condensed milk.  I don't know where she got it, but I love it!
 
Sweetened Condensed Milk Substitute
 
1 cup instant dry milk
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup boiling water
3 Tbsp butter

Blend until smooth in the food processor. Store in refrigerator. Equals one can Eagle Brand Milk.

So there you have it.  Granola bars from scratch.  Or almost from scratch.  Or partly from scratch.  However you do it, it will be good and you will like it.  And if you don't like it you can invite me over to eat them and I will like it.  And then we can chat while I eat your delicious granola bars.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tales from the Tooth Fairy

Something momentous happened at our house a couple days ago. My oldest lost his sixth tooth on Friday night. For various reasons, the tooth didn't get left for the Tooth Fairy until last night (Sunday). I handed him the special, second-generation bag that his father and aunt and uncle used to use and left him to it. After losing five teeth already, he was a pro and knew what to do.

At midnight, I remembered that I had Tooth Fairy (TF) duty and scrambled down the stairs to his room. I reached under his pillow in the dark and all I could feel was a scrap of paper. I kept searching but came up empty. Thinking that perhaps the paper was leading the TF on a scavenger hunt, I turned the light on to read it:


His tooth was on the floor? Was this a joke? Was he trying to be sneaky? Regardless, I needed to find that tooth. With the hall light on, I got down on my hands and knees and started to scour the floor for that tooth. Nothing. I looked under the bed, just in case he thought that would be funny. Nope.

This wasn't working in the dark anyway. As I considered my options I went upstairs to show the note to the husband. He laughed and told me, "You've GOT to write this down!" Helpful as that information was, I was no where closer to finding this tooth.

A-ha! I had an idea:


I would use the black light that we had purchased for cat-pee finding purposes to now find this elusive tooth. All lights were turned off, black light was turned on and I once more got on my hands and knees, this time grabbing every speck of white fuzz, hoping that it was a tooth. It was no where near his head on the floor so I turned around to search the rest of the room. I searched a bit more and then I spotted what was most certainly his tooth. It was the largest and whitest glowing spot on his floor. I reached out for it and... Victory! What was lost was now found! It was all very biblical.


It was all starting to make sense. The boy went into his room, tooth in hand, ready to put it in the tooth bag and lay it under his pillow when he dropped it. Not being able to find it, he figured that writing a note would be good enough and the TF would find it. It was, after all, a tooth, and TF was, after all, the Tooth Fairy.

Having solved the mystery, I decided to play along and fulfilled my role as TF. Using my best left-handed penmanship, I wrote:


This morning, I asked the boy if he got any money for his tooth, hoping for a good story. All he said was "Yep, a quarter." And that was the end of that.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

My very favourite picture of my mom is one from many, many years ago. She was in the kitchen, mixing what I believe to be fruit-cake in one of her big, metal, mixing bowls. I'm not sure what happened just before the picture was taken, but she had her picture snapped as she was turned away from the counter with her hands full of dough. She has this *Look* on her face, the Look that I love, the Look that is part amusement, part pretended-annoyance, and part impishness, as she's wondering how much enjoyment she can get before she gets caught. It is my absolute-favourite picture of my mom... I think I love it because I loved catching those moments when she let herself get carried away in the fun. (My mom is also very responsible and because of her duties with work and home, I was not able to get a copy of the picture in time to put in here. Our loss, her tax clients' gain!)

(This picture will have to suffice, circa 1978.)

My favourite memories of my mom involve all those "Mom Things"... Laundry, cooking, baking, school, cleaning. You know how people ask what your earliest childhood memory is? Well mine is of lying in a pile of dirty sheets in the hallway outside the bathroom, because it must have been Monday, and Monday was sheets day. My mom had dutifully stripped the beds and I was most likely in the way as I reclined into the sheets. She threw some sheets on top of me and all I remember is LOVING it.

~

I decided to make some muffins for my kids today, so I grabbed my recipe for Apple Cinnamon Muffins and realized that this was the recipe I made with my mom when I was about 11 years old. Each of us girls got to try out a recipe from the new "Kids in the Kitchen" fundraiser cookbook that our church had put together. I remember being taught to methodically measure and cut so that the recipe would come out just right. Those muffins were delicious! I don't know if it was because I made them under Mom's tutelage, or that I got to do it "on my own" or something else, but that is one of the only recipes that I make over and over again from that cookbook.

My mom was always available for school stuff. She would bake for bake sales and drive us when we had practices for extra-curricular events. I am certain that she went on field trips with us (although I can't remember a specific one.) I remember a few times that she rescued me from the embarrassment that only females suffer. (Thanks for driving in to school and picking me up!)

But the thing that I have the most memories of is something that involves the whole family... We had the best family card nights! I can remember so many times when we would all dissolve into laughter. Mom would have that Look on her face (see the description of the picture I wanted to include) and if the discussion was really funny she would break up in laughter along with the rest of us.

I was looking through the digital pictures of my mom, most of them from the year 2000 and forward. I noticed a trend that perfectly represents where my mom is most comfortable...





Anyone who knows her knows that she loves babies. Holding them, bathing them, changing their poopy diapers. My mom loves it all. She is a great mom, but she's really found her niche as a grandma! She loves it so much that with all her grandkids living at least a day's drive away, she finds new grandkids to spread the love to. If you chat with her long enough, you'll hear about the kids in the Grade One class that she reads with or the kids that visited over the weekend that she had fun snuggling with.

You might also notice, if you were to look through the pictures of my family over the last 38 years or so that Mom and Dad are still married, still happy, and still serving God together. I am very thankful that I have a mom so committed to living the way God wants her to! It has certainly had an influence on the godly choices I make, even if we don't see eye to eye on some of those decisions. And seeing my parents together, after 38 not-always-easy years, I have hope for future generations, that not every couple will call it quits when things get a little bumpy. I am so glad that I never once worried that my parents might split up. That is quite a legacy!


Now that I'm a grown-up with a family of my own, I'm a horrible failure at trying to be the Super-Mom that my mother was. I'm lucky if I get my sheets washed every other week, let alone every Monday. My counter is not nearly as tidy as the one in my memories (nor as tidy as the one in her current house!) And I lose my patience with my kids much more frequently than I remember out of Mom. But I try to hold down the fort. At least I've got a pretty good example to look up to. God sure knew what He was doing when He made my mom.
I love you, Mom!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Just another "Eyes in the Back of Mom's Head" story

This scenario happens at least once a day in my house...

I hear the youngest boy, four years old, flush the toilet and then I hear water for about .782 seconds. He exits the bathroom.

Me: Did you wash your hands?
He: Yes
Me: Did you wash them well?
He: Yes
Me: Did you use soap?
He: Yes
Me: Did you wash both sides, up to your wrists?
*pause*
He: Yes
Me: Are you lying to me?

*He whines and convulses as he flops back in the the bathroom to do it right.*

When do they figure out that moms know EVERYTHING?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Blog About Nothing (Who says you gotta have a story?)

I am sorry that I did that to you. I'll try not to do it again. I didn't mean to start a blog, get you all excited about what was to come and then leave you hanging for what must have felt like months and months! Okay, perhaps I'm overestimating your interest in what I have to say. Regardless, I am here, you are reading and all is right with the world.

Let me sum up what has transpired since we last chatted. I feverishly planned, baked, begged and worked with other ladies to put together a Trivia Night Fundraiser for our school. It was loads of fun and something that most who attended would like to see done again. One dad eagerly proclaimed that we should do two a year. Uh, no. But it seems that this will be an annual occurrence, so if you're interested, check back with me in about 10 months.

My plan, post-Trivia Night, was to relax for a couple days and then get into house-cleaning, readying-for-guests mode. Instead I got a phone call from the school on Monday to pick up my six-year old daughter who was having a mighty upsetting tummy ache. We got home, the girl and her two brothers, and 45 minutes later we were visually made privy to what the girl ate for lunch and snack that day. She had a rough two days there but she seems to be on the mend now.

That brings me to now. "Everything that happens now is happening now. What happened to then? We passed then. When? Just now. We're at now, now." Oops sorry about that. Every so often those old movie-quoting habits creep back in there. I'll try to keep those urges at bay.

Where was I? Oh, right, now.

So as I've gone through this week, not blogging, I was trying to decide in what direction I wanted to take this blog. The title is still amiguous enough that I could make it about anything. I enjoy cooking and baking, but there are plenty of great blogs out there about cooking and baking. I could make it about the funny things my kids say, but I imagine there are really only a handful of people who honestly care to hear what my kids have to say. I could make it about any number of things, but then there are very few people who might actually be interested in one specific topic, about which I am not an expert. So I decided to not decide and just have it be about nothing... and everything. Just the details of life that seem to go by unnoticed. I hope to notice those things and capture them here for my own entertainment. If you are not also entertained, I may end up yelling at you a la Gladiator, "Are you not entertained??" or I might not. Yeah, probably not.

So, to wrap up this post about nothing, I'll leave you with a foreign language quiz, the foreign language being a non-existent one. These are words that my oldest used to say when he was a babbling toddler. I'll award 50 bonus points and a gold star to the person who can accurately guess what they all mean.

1. Gwa-bum

2. A-ma-la-low

3. Ba-da (this one had two meaning, both of which are acceptable answers)

4. Fruck

(And anyone that can figure out my "now" movie quote without looking it up gets 20 bonus points, and the knowledge that you have that same sad movie memorized that I watched so many times as a kid!)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Willy

Well, I've been inspired. I love reading, and I love being nosey and finding out what my friends are up to. I do love writing, although I'm not that creative about it. My friend, Moni, writes a blog (http://sproutculinarystudies.blogspot.com/) so I decided to sign up for a blog so I could be an official follower of her and encourage others to do the same. (I suppose that would work best if I, too, had followers, wouldn't it?)

It seems that the first step in this big new world of "blog creation" is coming up with a clever name for my blog. You will soon discover that I have a horrible memory. Tack that on to the "not creative" description and it means that I can't for the life of me come up with a clever name for this blog! So I reached back into the annals of time (does anyone else snicker like a 12 year old when they read that phrase?) and came up with the one phrase that was used to (inaccurately) describe me back in 1987. My fellow fifth-grader, Donnie Heath, thought he was being so clever when he nicknamed me "Weird, wacky, wild Wanda Willy Whoopie-Cushion." You can't say he wasn't alliterative. The nickname was quickly shortened to Willy, and it stuck for the rest of my junior high and high school careers! That explains why I left the country to go to university... anonymity!

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, so that description of me was so ingrained into my memory that it was the only thing I could think of to describe myself. So there you go. And thank you very much, Donnie Heath.