Sunday, April 27, 2008

Weekend baking and kitchen computer

I tried two new recipe this weekend and they were both so yummy that I just had to post them.

The first was this recipe for Montreal Bagels (the second recipe on that page). Oh my, these are delicious and kind of fun to make. Homer is from Montreal originally and is a bit of a bagel snob. He proclaimed these to be the best bagels he has ever had. It probably doesn't hurt that he was eating fresh out of the oven, but still...

The second was this recipe for Coconut cookies. I was going to make my Ginger Snap recipe, but neglected to buy the required shortening. I didn't have chocolate chips for my go-to recipe of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but I did have coconut. These were very quick to make and quite tasty.

I did not sub whole wheat flour for the white in the bagels (this time), but did in the cookies with good results. Between the aroma of yeast, toasting sesame seeds and toasting coconut, the house smelled amazing.

By the way, do you have a computer in the kitchen? In our first house, we always talked about how great it would be to have a kitchen computer. When we moved to this house, which has a nice-sized kitchen, we immediately installed our main computer here. I can't think of a better place for it. Homer has "his" computer in the basement, and I have a laptop, but the kitchen computer is used more than any other in the house.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The timer as essential parenting tool

Bart’s show & tell this week was “something with numbers”. Without hesitation he decided to take a timer. Then, he forgot the timer at school for one whole night and I realized how much I needed it. I use a timer for so much of my parenting that I found myself reaching for it several times that night, only to find it missing.

The timer line-up:

He’s a clock, he’s an alarm, he tells the date and the temperature and he has a timer feature. It’s not that easy to set the timer, so our Bob is usually preset to 5 minutes. It’s nice to give your timer a name.

Sand timer
Ours is a 2-minute timer. Good for routine tasks. It's hard to cheat with the sand timer.

Watch timer
My watch has presets for 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 45 and 60 minutes. It’s easy to set and very portable.

Digital count-down timer
Mine is on the microwave. We used to have one on the stove too, but it broke. It was nice having two for times when I was baking AND needed to do some parenting.

Dial timer
Old fashioned, but very versatile and portable with a pleasing bell ring.

The many, many uses of the timer:

Time to go: A digital countdown timer is good for this application. Every morning, the kids need to start getting ready for the bus at 8:30 AM. Anywhere between 8:00 and 8:15 I’ll set the timer on the microwave to count down the minutes to 8:30. When the timer goes, whether I’m in the room or not, they know to put their dishes in the sink, brush their teeth and start putting on their outdoor gear. I’ll set it for other deadlines too, like going to dance lessons, leaving for Grandma’s etc.

Brushing teeth: We use the sand timer for teeth-brushing to make sure they brush long enough. Two minutes seems like a long time at first, but they get used to it and become better brushers.

Fair play: When you have two kids wanting the same toy/video game/computer, set the timer for 20-30 minutes and tell the other kid to do something else until it’s his turn. When it is his turn, reset the timer to do the switch again, if necessary. As soon as the timer is set, all fighting stops because now he can see his turn in the near future.

Finish your dinner: Sometimes one or more of the kids is squirrelly at dinner and has a hard time focussing on eating. While I don’t insist that they eat if they’re full, I usually know the difference between full and distracted. Once a reasonable amount of time has passed that they should have finished their meal, I set the timer for 10 minutes. At the end of 10 minutes the plate is cleared from the table; if I’m not satisfied with the progress made, they don’t get dessert. The looming timer deadline usually helps them focus.

Speed baths: The kids usually enjoy a leisurely bath with toys. However, some days I just need them to be in and out quickly. Here’s what I do: fill the tub (only about 3 inches of water), undress kid 1 while filling and set the timer for 5 minutes. Quickly wash hair, soap up, rinse and play splashing games until the timer goes. Drain tub. Dress kid 1 and undress kid 2 while tub is refilling. Reset timer for kid 2. Repeat for kid 3. Baths are done and all had fun in about 20 minutes total. The kids will now ask, “speed bath or regular bath tonight?”

Tidy up time: No kid likes to be shocked into TIDY UP TIME! I ease them into it by telling them I’m setting the timer for 10 minutes, at which time they need to tidy up. It works for GOING TO BED time too. The idea is to make the timer the bad guy, not you!

Homework break: Lisa likes to do her homework in small chunks. If she’s feeling weary, she’ll ask for a break, set Bob and take 5 minutes. She’ll come back feeling refreshed and ready to carry on. When she’s really getting tired, we’ll do 5 minutes on, 5 minutes off.

The audible: When a situation reaches the peak of frustration, we’ll use the audible timer. During training, you need to preface the technique with “I’m counting to three then you better do x OR ELSE y!” Once trained, all you need to say is “ONE!” and they snap into action.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Night at the Opera

I mentioned awhile back that Lisa would be performing in an opera at her school. Here are some pictures from the performances (5 sold-out shows) this past weekend:

My handsome date

Lisa with her dance partner and "Papageno"

Lisa mid-dance

My little starling

Thursday, April 17, 2008

It’s ba-ak…

Back in September I was whining about an awful picture of me that was posted not only on the university’s main page for 5 days, but then made a grand appearance in the newspaper that weekend. Well, it’s BACK.

The project for which the picture was taken won an award. Instead of shooting a new picture, they just pulled up the old one. I clicked on the university web page for something else and there I was – still big, still beefy, still looking like a moron.

I was just about to write that yesterday didn’t end up being too bad after all. But who cares about that now?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mama told me there'd be days like this.

*Received a phone call from Revenue C@nad@ - I get a tax audit in May (work, not personal… but still YAY!)

*I have a meeting with the Director of [department on campus that keeps us safe and secure]. He’s a wee bit annoyed with me. And he’s big. And loud. That’s okay though. I’m a wee bit annoyed with him and I’m quiet and pretend-nice.

*I just received a letter from a lawyer advising that someone is about to sue us for something that has nothing to do with us (work again, not personal).

How’s your day going?

Monday, April 14, 2008

I think we’ll get an A

Lisa and I spent a big chunk of the weekend putting together her project on Troödons. The project was to pick an animal (prehistoric, African or endangered), find two sources of information (book, magazine, internet, encyclopedia, dvd, etc.) and write a report. These were the full instructions for a grade 2 project.

We approached it a little backwards by first seeing what sources of information we had on our own bookshelves, then picking the animal. Lisa’s very analytical approach to picking an animal was looking in the dinosaur book we have, noticing that the Troödon has an umlaut (the two dots over the o) in its name [as does Lisa’s real name], then… well, that’s it. That was the extent of the selection process. As good a reason as any, I suppose.

I clearly remember kids bringing in projects in the younger grades that seemed so polished, well beyond the talents of a primary grade student. I would hand in my lame little project with pictures cut out from a magazine or hand-drawn, little labels printed by me and a self-designed title page, bound with yarn. One project on the Olympics in grade 4 had me panicked that I would fail because it seemed so amateur compared to so many of the others. But, I didn’t fail. In fact, the mark given was A++. The teacher, Mrs. Snow, showed it to the class as an example of how the project should have been approached and how she knew that many of the projects had been done by parents, not students. Not that my parents didn’t help me. They helped me every step of the way, but the work was ultimately mine. Mrs. Snow’s lesson that day stuck with me.

So this weekend, Lisa and I worked side-by-side, culling the pertinent facts from our sources, searching colouring books for good pictures to include (like a cute little frog to show what the dinosaur ate), and deciding in what order the construction paper pages should be bound. Lisa had some awesome ideas. My favourite was to show the size of the dinosaur’s tooth by making a diagram that showed the juxtaposition of the Troödon’s tooth and her own tooth. She also used glitter glue to make the title page “extra special”, as only a 7-year-old girl can do.

At the end of the day, that kid knows all there is to know about Troödons and she is extremely proud of her project. I’m hoping we... I mean she gets an A.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Self-esteem issues? Don’t have kids.

Maggie (holding up a Barbie doll): This you, Mommy!
Me: That’s not me, what colour is her hair?
Maggie: Yellow.
Me: Right, and what colour is my hair?
Maggie: Grey.


Bart: I have a small butt. Maggie has a small butt. Lisa has a small butt. Mommy has a big butt.
Maggie: Yeah, Mommy big butt!
Lisa: Big butt mommy!
Bart: Mommy’s butt is so big she broke all the chairs!
Lisa: Yeah, Mommy’s butt is so big we need all new toilets!
{Chorus of laughter}


This morning Lisa needed her hair in a bun for her dance exam. I have never put a bun in anyone’s hair.

Me: Sorry this is taking so long, hon. I’m just not very good at buns.
Lisa: Is it going to look okay?
Me: Yes, it’s looking good; I just need a few more bobby pins in there.
Lisa: Good, because you MISSED parents day at dance lessons [true], so you don’t want to look bad to them again.


Bart: What did you pack for my snack today?
Me: Cheese & crackers, a plum and a juice.
Bart: Ah, mom. COME ON!
Me: What?
Bart: Normal moms give cookies and pudding.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The price I pay for a weekend away.

I never think of my life as being overly busy. My kids aren’t involved in sports and activities every night (just Thursday night and Saturday morning), I work a normal week and so does Homer and I try not to load up the weekends too much. I keep on top of things like laundry and dishes, homework and projects, social engagements and family obligations. I’m generally pretty organized and together. But then, I took a weekend off.

Homer did a great job home alone with the kids last weekend. They had a blast, even if that meant loads of take-out, new toys with teeny-tiny parts and mastering the craft of making paper airplanes. I was away, so groceries didn’t get purchased, laundry didn’t get done, the kids weren’t made to tidy up after themselves, there were a lot of dishes left “to soak”, bathrooms didn’t get cleaned, carpets didn’t get vacuumed. I’m not saying that I always DO all of these things, but I do make sure that SOMEONE does them.

All last week, I felt frazzled. I eventually caught up on getting the clothes clean, but it was Sunday after dinner before everything was folded and put away. I felt like I was scrambling all week for school lunches, because I didn’t have my usual supply of lunch foods. Every room was pretty messy; I tried to do little bits every night, but I’m still not caught up a week later.

I was away for THREE DAYS, people! It seems inconceivable to me that we live that close to the brink of chaos, but it’s apparently true. And now, it’s spring! Don’t get me wrong, I love the warmer weather, the clear roads, the longer days. BUT, the melting snow reveals the gardens that need tending, the lawn that was never fully cleared of leaves, the sun porch that didn’t fare well over the long winter and, of course the bane of my existence, the pool. It’s like I have a whole extra house to get in order and the original one is still in a state of disarray.

Homer is right this moment clearing out the garage and making a trip to the dump and Goodwill. He has promised to help get the house back in order and to work on the outside with me. This is why I love him. Because, even though he does not share my frustration - he doesn’t mind the house looking “lived in”; he doesn’t see the dirt; he cheerfully insists we have the best house on the street, even with the weedy gardens and patchy lawn – he understands that I am uneasy with it and he will make the effort to get it to the point where we’re both happy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Chicago is my kind of town.

We loved it. Had a blast.

We had a late dinner on Saturday night beside some of the Chicago Bulls, including this guy:

Drew Gooden - photo credit:

For those who like details: he had a whole bottle of red wine to himself and tomato bisque. Yum

We did a ton of shopping. Have you heard of this place?

All I can say is Parents are C-R-A-Z-Y!

And we just generally had a great time with no kids, no husbands, no messy houses, no meals to cook. I highly recommend a weekend away with your best friends in the world.

We've already decided that it's Boston next year!