Friday, March 16, 2012

Yummy Treats That I Didn't Screw Up

The other day I was looking for something to do with Miss.A. It was a rainy, cold, I-don't-want-to-go-anywhere kind of day. I had been lurking around on the Internet, as I often do, and came across an amazing looking recipe for Mint Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies. It happened to be a vegan recipe that used an egg replacer instead of eggs. Which was great because I only had one egg in the house. They looked super yummy and there wasn't a whole lot of calories in them. Which is good, because I'd probably end up eating twelve of them.  After a whole day of fiddling with it, I came to the conclusion I was using the wrong egg replacer (well I think I was), and gave up for the day. However I'm not defeated, I'll eat you at some point my pretties.

Instead I found a recipe that used most of the ingredients I already had out. At Cooks.comI found a recipe for Paula's Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Mint Cookies. I'm not a big fan of chocolate cookie but these turned out really well! I think it was the mint that really made them. Miss. A had no trouble helping me make them and it didn't take very long to do. We were enjoying cookies for dessert fresh out of the oven. The best way to eat them, and my Dad had the same idea, was with a big cold glass of milk. The mint and the cold milk together just made the whole experience. Baby K now knows how to say "cookie" with very little problem!
Here is the recipe from the site:

Paula's Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Mint Cookies

1 1/2 sticks of butter or 3/4 cups
1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspon peppermint
1 1/2 cups of flour
1/4 cups of unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
Cream butter, sugars, beat in eggs and spices. Add dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake 12 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees F on a greased cookie sheet

ream butter, sugars, beat in eggs and spices. Add dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake 12 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees on greased cookie sheet.

The next morning I found that we pretty much had NO food in the house. I had no idea what we were going to eat. No milk. No bread. No eggs. No fruit. We also had to eat quickly because we had places to be that day. I thought I would see if we could make muffins, maybe add some frozen berries in or something. I looked through a cook book...wait let me stop and explain. A "cook book" is a book that people used to look up recipes and how to cook them before the Internet. If you're still not sure what I'm talking about just Google it. Anywho, I found a recipe in The Joy of Cooking that I thought might work. "Basic Reduced-Fat Muffins" didn't use milk but yogurt instead. I just happened to have some non-fat strawberry yogurt left so I threw caution to the wind and gave it a try. The turned out really well! Two recipes in a row? What were the chances? And apparently each have only 4 grams of fat! Though I'm sure you were supposed to use plain yogurt, the strawberry added a nice subtle flavor to the muffins. It also had big chucks of berry throughout which baked in nicely. Usually when I add berries  the muffin around it doesn't cook evenly. This time no problems at all. It was a very quick and easy recipe. You could easily buy different flavors of yogurt to use depending on your taste. They were very moist as well and perfect for a quick bite for breakfast. I'll probably make them again. Here is the recipe from the Joy of Cooking I used:
Basic Reduced-Fat Muffins

Position rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the over to 400 degrees F. Grease or line a standard 12-muffin pan with paper cups.
Whisk together thoroughly in a large bowl:
2cups of flour
1/2 to 2/3 cup of sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda if using yogurt instead of milk
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg (optional. I didn't use it)

Whisk together in another bowl:
1 large egg
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or 3 1/2 tablespoons warm melted unsalted butter (I used butter)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup of non-fat milk or 1 cup of non-fat yogurt (Obviously I used yogurt)

Add flour mixture and mix together with a few light strokes just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix; the batter will be light but fairly stiff and will not be smooth. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops with:
Cinnamon and sugar (optional. I didn't but I think it would be really good)

Bake until a toothpick inserted in 1 or 2 of the muffins comes out clean, about 12 minutes. (or longer for variations with fruit.) Let cool for 2-3 minutes before removing from the pan. If not serving hot, let cool on the rack. Serve as soon as possible, preferably within a few hours of baking.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

20/20 Hindsight: Becoming a Mom

I recently attended a baby shower for a cousin of mine. It was beautiful and simple; just the way we dream motherhood should be. I'm sure no one seriously believes that it will be like that, but we still envision quiet nights gently rocking a cooing baby to sleep. It's easy to romanticize bringing a new bundle of joy home. In that new little person rests hope, love, and a future full of meaning and purpose. Whatever other choices you make in your life, you now have a guiding star to keep you on the right path and illuminate your way. Becoming a parent will influence everything you do, what choices you make, and what paths you take. Some will lead you places you never thought you'd go, others will bring you back to the start and see things through different eyes. When cards and pens were passed around asking for advice for the New Mom, it was hard to think of what to put. I'm sure there were a lot of  "Sleep when the baby sleeps" or "Remember to take care of yourself too". I'm sure I put something similar as well, yet somehow I don't feel I'm imparting the advice I wish I could have given myself. So this is my attempt to do so. If anyone invents time travel, please make sure I get this too.

It's Not What You Thought

Whatever mental and physical preparation you did, the reality is you're never really prepared to bring a new baby home. Yes you'll be excited, but maybe a little terrified too. You'll be tired, yet have no idea you could be that tired and still function. You'll be unsure of yourself, but never realize you know more than you think you do. You'll find your way out of the haze one day, look back, and realize you did the best you could. That's exactly what you should do, the best you can. No one is born with a prefect mothering instinct. This is your first time becoming a mom, and it's that little baby's first time in the world too. You're both finding your new roles in it. It will take time, there will be bumps along the way. When you know better you'll do better. Don't beat yourself up if you don't know what to do right away. After two daughters, I'm still trying to figure things out!

Do What Works For You and Your Baby

One of the common denominators all new mothers face the bombardment of "helpful" advice. It will come from everywhere! Be prepared for total strangers to become experts on your child. "Oh she's tired!" "You need to hold her this way." "You use that? We never did that with ours." The list goes on and on. Some of it can become very personal and is truly none of their business in the first place.  My advice? Take the high road. Dont' take it personally, a "I'll keep that in mind" or "I'm glad you found something that worked for you; this works for us" is much more empowering than going on the defensive. Other advice can come from friends and family that truly have your best interest at heart and want to help. Learning from another's experience can be helpful. Ultimately, there are as many different ways to raise a child as there are mothers out there. As long as you are doing what is in the best interest of you, your baby and your family as a whole, that's what's best for your baby.

Have a Sense of Humour

This is often a life preserver. I remember when I brought my second daughter home the utter chaos that ensued the first few weeks. A newborn crying in my arms because she was hungry. A toddler crying at my feet because she was hungry. And me, trying to spread peanut butter on a piece of bread that was slowly inching it's way to the edge of the counter. It was nuts! I imagined seeing this through a television screen in some sitcom. I couldn't help but laugh at how ridiculous a spectacle this was. If I didn't find some humour in what goes on day to day, I would totally lose my mind. Or perhaps I already have. My sister-in-law agreed with me, losing your mind can sometimes be an act of self defence.

Get Out of the House!

Once you feel up to it, I strongly recommend getting out of the house. Walling yourself up with the child, as darling as she is, is no good for either of you. I did that for the first six months and I did myself no favors. It is very isolating and lets face it, boring! Go to the park, take walks, join a mommy-and-me group, visit family and friends. Heck visit me. I was lucky the first time around. I was able to visit with my sister-in-law for the first year and it was always something we looked forward to. Later my daughter and I joined a number of classes run by the city. We both came out of our shell and are better for it. Plus my daughter and I were able to go out and have fun together.

Make Time for YOU

Yes it's kind of cliche at this point, but it's important. You need to have a life outside your child too. You are a mother, but many other things also. A friend, a daughter, a wife. You need to tend those gardens as well. Make going out with your friends, even just once a month, a regular thing. Take time to treat yourself to a date night every now and again. Find something that is just you and make time for it. A loved and cared for mommy makes for a good mother.

Forgive Yourself

Some days you'll shine, and others you won't. You'll never be perfect or have this-parenting-thing down. You'll make mistakes. You won't ask for help when you know you should. You'll listen to that little doubting voice at the back of your mind when you know you shouldn't. It's OK. Stand up straighter, brush yourself off, and continue on. We all falter; picking yourself back up again is what matters.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


The weather yesterday was absolutely gorgeous! We spent most of the day outside. In the morning Miss. A and I cleaned out the car. It was very dusty and had paper and wrappers all over it. I was always so embarrassed if someone else was in our car. We played out the front after that. Drawing with chalk on the driveway and making snow castles out of the snow that was quickly melting around us. After Baby K woke from her name and we had fueled up with lunch, we decided to it the road and walk to the park.

Anyone who knows Miss. A very well, or even slightly, knows she has a habit of bolting when we're out. Regardless of where we are or her own personal safety, she just takes off! This drives me insane. I'm always terrified something is going to happen to her because she never comes back when I call her. I have to run her down and drag her back. Of course she'll never get better if I don't take her out at all, so we still go, and I still have a mini heart attack most times. This time I thought of a devious plan. I gave her a baby in a toy stroller and told her we would walk our babies together. This way she couldn't just run, or at least not very fast, if she was pushing it. It actually worked really well! She pushed that stroller all the way to the park and back. She also really doesn't like leaving the park. I thought I could set her baby up with the blame too.

Me - "So we'll play at the park for a while, but eventually we'll have to go home. You 'll have to feed your  baby and she'll need a nap."
Miss. A- "No she won't. She's not a real baby." If she thought of adding "duh" she would have.
Me - "I know, but we're just pretending."
Miss. A -"I don't want to pretend."

Darn it! So close!

Once we got there they had lots of fun at the park. It was warm enough that they didn't need snow suits, so they were able to wear their splash pants. This was great for Baby K because she has such a hard time walking in one. She ran around and explored easily and seems very happy about it. I took her on the slide and she loved it; dragging me back to the stairs time and time again. Miss. A ran straight for the Big Kid slide. I didn't realize that a HUGE puddle had formed at the bottom. Woosh! Ten seconds at the park and already soaked to the bone!

We also spent quite a bit of time on the swings. Baby K giggled a lot and loved seeing her big sister next to her. Miss. A didn't disappoint and totally hammed it up for her. We were there for about two hours and could have stayed longer even. I knew that school was letting out and soon the park would be full of kids. If I had any chance of leaving without a fight I'd have to go before they showed up. Miss. A is a social animal. I'm horrified when I think of what her cell phone bill will be years from now.

Baby K was sadded by the news that it was time to leave. =(

We managed to leave the park without too much difficulty and only one time out! Success! However I got the suspicion that Miss. A was getting a bit tired on the walk home. It is a pretty far walk and I was surprised I had heard her complaining yet. I asked her if she was tired and if she would want me to take her baby for a little bit. "I'm ok, but I need a snack." So we pressed on. I kept looking back to see if she was keeping up. On one of the instances I saw her push her stroller into the middle of a driveway and make like she was going to leave it.

Me - "You can't abandon your child!" She didn't even ring the door bell! Poor plastic baby!
Miss. A -"I wasn't!" Then she dragged her feet back and retrieved her stroller.

Despite feeling obviously burdened by her new found parental responsibilities, Miss. A and Baby K had a blast enjoying the spring like weather. More than half of the snow is gone and we can't wait to get out again!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Knock, Knock...

Recently Miss. A has decided she's a bit of a comedian. At mealtimes she likes to tell us knock knock jokes.

Miss. A - "Knock Knock"
Me - "Whose there?"
Miss. A - "Pizza!"
Me - "Pizza who?"
Miss. A -"We had pizza for lunch and then we went to the park and splashed in the puddles and then we...and we <indecipherable>...and came home and ate snacks and it was SO much fun!"

At this point you have to laugh and say she's silly or hilarious. If you don't she looks at you and says "You have to laugh now." If you don't you're "doing it all wrong." I know that sometimes there are tough rooms, but it's a poor performer that blames the audience when things aren't going well. So far I haven't had the heart to heckle her. From what I've heard, stand up is a tough gig, especially if you're only three.

Monday, March 5, 2012

When Did I Become The Nosey Neighbour??

Honestly, I'd really like to know. We moved into our neighbourhood about five years ago. It's your typical first home sort of area. Lots of town homes amongst some single family homes. The neighbourhood is host to many young families, a few empty nesters that have downsized, and the odd single person just getting their foot into the housing market. More recently, say in the last two years, a number of the homes around us have decided to rent rather than sell. To say there is a high turn over in home ownership in our neighbourhood is to put in mildly. We have been here longer than most at this point.

As a result of being one of the "old guard" at this point, I've increasingly become interested in the "goings on" of the people around us. When my husband comes home I have all sorts of new gossip and innuendo to tell him. Mostly it starts with me, and not necessarily what I've heard over the fence. It's as if I spend all my time peering out between the curtains taking notes. I don't mind you. We have blinds. But I'm only a stone's throw shy of being that person. Usually it's something innocuous like which homes have gone up for sale or what others were sold for. How you would have to be crazy to buy for that price and how it bode well for us when we decide to sell. Our house is so much better than theirs was.

I have my own nemeses too, though they have no idea we're mortal enemies. Our neighbour behind us never seems to work. He's always taking care of his lawn or doing some sort of house maintenance. He has two teenagers and a wife that I never see. Sometimes I hear him shouting at or complaining about his son. He also has a German Shepard that likes to bark at squirrels. We have a lot of squirrels. Then there's the lady across the road from him and beside our house. She runs a home daycare. She's an older lady who dresses like she's auditioning for Jersey Shore. She tans so much she's kind of a burn orange colour. When I'm out the back with the girlsI can hear her shouting at her daycare kids. "Get off the road Emma!" "Don't touch that!" "Come back over here!" "EMMA GET OFF THE ROAD!" Emma is apparently a bit of a handful and really likes to play on the road. I'm convinced at this point that Doesn't Have A Job Guy wants to have or IS having an affair with Shouty Daycare Lady. They are always chatting together. She even bought a German Shepard, which I'm sure must be an excuse for them to talk even more. I've waved at them from time to time, you know, to be neighbourly and all. They never wave first though, and always look at me oddly when I do. They must know I'm on to them.

Most recently are the Idling Cars. There are these cars that just idle outside the same house all the time. Never the same car either. Sometimes there are more than one at a time. After awhile they drive away. Once I saw a police car idling around the corner too. I'm convinced that one of these houses is a grow op. It's the only rational explanation. They don't even mow their lawn, so it's not like they care about the place. Any day now there's going to be a big drug bust one street over. You just wait and see.

Unfortunately this nosey speculative behavior is not isolated. I won't even get into the whole Little White Dog That Keeps Crapping On My Yard incident. Those neighbours are one of the few that have been here longer than us. I see a real feud brewing here involving lawn signs and a local pamphlet campaign about the importance of leashing and cleaning up after your dogs.

Please someone stop me before I start complaining about someone's mailbox colour.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Out With The Old, Ban on the New

I was invited to a cleaning party this weekend. No, it's not a party where we all clean someone's house; though I would like to host one of those if I could get anyone to attend. This was a house party where the hostess had someone come and talk about chemical free cleaning products. She gave a lengthy demonstration, answered many questions, and then later those interested were able to purchase what they were interested in. I've never been to a hostess party like that before. It was over three hours long. I came away with two conclusions. The first, my attention span lasts only about an hour and a half, and that's with really trying. The second, my house is disgusting!

This revelation wasn't brought on because of the demonstration that was presented. That's their job; to create a need and provide a solution for it. It was more from the discussion between those attending. It seems that everyone works very hard to have a spotless, bacteria free, smug free home. They gossiped about the difficulties getting this and that clean. How they toil for hours cleaning in between the grout lines on the kitchen floor. They compared notes about the hardships of soap scum and sticky finger prints on stainless steel appliances. There were things they diligently worked endlessly to keep clean that I've never even touched.

There was a time when I would get down on my hands and knees and clean with a scrub brush. I would scrub the floor clean. Those days have come and gone. Those attending the party, I suspect, are not the norm. That being said, I'm way on the other side of the spectrum. There are piles all over the house of random things. Things that need to be sorted. Things that have been sorted but just need a home. Things I plan to donate to charity, but just haven't found the time to drop them off. Things that need to be organized first before other things can be cleaned and put away. Most of the clutter and mess are various projects that have been started and interrupted. Eventually they are abandoned all together because something more pressing has demanded my attention. This home's biggest enemy is clutter! It's the clutter that prevents any really cleaning from happening. It also stresses me out in a huge way. I'm getting rid of it once and for all and it's not coming back.

If it hasn't moved in months we don't need it. Everything is going in garbage bags. Things that can be tossed out are being heaved out of the house asap. Those that can be donated will be. I'm going to throw all those bags, and there are a lot, in the back of the car and head for the nearest Sally Ann. The biggest thing is the community garage sale usually held in May. We are going to have SO MUCH to sell. It's going to be massive! I'm going to start organizing for it now. I look around now and think "hmmm, I wonder if this is how hoarding looks at the start." Not that we hoard anything, but I know I always think that we or someone else might need it. There's nothing wrong with anything we have, we just have too much, so I can't bring myself to just throw it out. A cluttered home makes for a cluttered mind, at least in my case. If I want any peace of mind at all, I have to empty this house asap! This is Spring Cleaning to the extreme. I wouldn't be surprised if that's already a TLC show.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Silver Lining

Today was just one of those days that seems to walk right over you. There's nothing to do but let out a huge sigh of relief at the end, and know that tomorrow, it's going to be so much better. However, just as you should never go to bed angry, you should also never end it on a negative note either. What is more up lifting than seeing your kids have fun spending time with each other. They had a great day. It was full of laughing and giggling. Though Mom and Dad's day could have been better, it certainly was not a waste if they enjoyed themselves. That being said, if tomorrow isn't awesome heads will roll!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Choice and the Freedom to Fail

In a lot of ways "choice" is synonymous with "freedom".  I suppose if there is any truth to that statement, "choice" must also mean a host of different things to different people. We all come from unique backgrounds with equally unique histories. You may think you have more in common with your neighbor than someone half a world away; but that isn't necessarily the case. It's impossible to know another's experience fully, or to understand how they internalize the world within themselves. That's why "choice" and "freedom" mean so many different things to different people and cannot truly be defined in anything but a subjective manner. For those lucky enough, it might mean being able to choose which college or university they want to attend. For others it may be a choice between attending any schooling at all or working to support their family. For some "choice" is a luxury and for others it can be easily, and perhaps unknowingly, taken for granted.

If "choice" is "freedom" I can't imagine giving it up for someone else to decided for me.  Some choices may seem bigger and more frightening than myself; but to not have a say in them is even more frightening. Some of the biggest decisions, the most important, are also the most defining and life changing. Should I go to university? Which one? Should I get married? Should I have a family? All are potentially anxiety inducing and most certainly life changing. I'm fortunate enough that these choices are mine to make. As such, the ramifications of those choices are also mine. Choices and decisions can be difficult, sometimes the wrong ones are made, but it's how you own those mistakes that helps define you as a person. "Choice" is the freedom to succeed and fail. That's why it's such a precious gift and one we should all be thankful to have when we do.

My daughters are very young still, but this is something I want them to appreciate the importance of. It's also something that I, as their mother, must learn to appreciate in them as well. It's difficult to go from a place where you make all the choices for them, to allowing them the freedom to choose; and fail. They're becoming little individuals who must  be respected as such. They need me to step back and allow them to make their own choices so that they can learn from them. They'll fail many more times than they'll succeed at first; and it's so hard to not just swoop in and take over.  I can see in their eyes how proud they are when they get to choose something, even if it's something small. There is a sense of ownership in what they're doing. They truly thrive on being allowed to be not only independent, but seeing that their independence and choices are important and valued.  Learning the value and importance in their own choices will, hopefully, teach them to see the importance and value in the choices of others.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I Wonder Where She Keeps Her Flux Capacitor?

Yesterday the kids and I went grocery shopping.  We haven't been to the store in a while and were out of just about everything. Even the basic components of food were used up. We wouldn't have been able to make mustard sandwich even if we wanted to. The mustard sandwich, from what I can tell, is the last desperate attempt to find something to eat next to ice chips. Oh, shoot! I forgot to buy mustard! Anyways it took nearly TWO HOURS to pick up everything we needed. On the bright side they gave us a free side of salmon! It was delish! Usually if I shop on the other side of the city, as I did yesterday, I have to drive past a Starbucks on the way home. I feel that a two hour shopping trip with kids deserves a tasty beverage at the end of it.

We went through the drive through (because there is NO WAY I'm taking the kids out of the car again) and I ordered a "tall skinny vanilla latte". The "skinny" part basically allows me to drink it guilt free even if it's not fat free. It's a permission slip from myself saying "Go ahead! You deserve it, and it 's not like it's really that bad. PLUS, you ordered a tall. If anything you should have pizza for lunch too." When the lovely lady handed my my coffee there was a stir stick in the top which Miss. A noticed. The following exchange occurred:

Miss. A - "What's that in the top of your cup?"
Me - "It's a stir stick"
Miss. A - "What's it for?"
Me - "There's a hole in the top of the cup to drink from. They fill it with a stir stick so it doesn't spill when you're driving."
Miss. A -"Oh"
Miss. A - "When I was your age I got a coffee and there was a stir stick in it too."
Me - "Is that so?"
Miss. A - "Yeah."
Me - "So you do a lot of time traveling, do you?"
Miss. A -"Yeah, I'm lucky."
Me - "Indeed."

I wonder if I can get her to to look up the lotto numbers next trip?