Thursday, 27 December 2012

Pumpkin Pizza Wreath

The newest great recipe we have discovered is a pizza pumpkin wreath. Not only is it delicious, but it also looks nice. After we had it for the first time, Shawn said, “I think that’s a having-people-over recipe.” In our house, that’s the highest rating I can get. I made it for a staff lunch potluck on the last day before the Christmas Break, and again, beaming, I accepted any and all praise bestowed upon it.

Here you go.

Just be warned: eating homemade pizza can be very tiring. (Note the pizza crust in Nevin’s hand in the above picture. Falling asleep in the middle of dinner is another great thing we can all add to the list of “why its better to be a kid.”)

Pumpkin Pizza Wreath
(from Going Home to Roost – this is one of my favourite blogs, and the pictures that go along with this recipe are fantastic)
whole wheat pizza crust dough
2 cups of roasted pumpkin puree
1 cup onions
1 tbs butter
1 crispy apple (like fuji, honey crisp, etc); chopped
2 cups of fresh spinach
1.5 cups of mozzarella cheese (vegan: daiya cheese)
~ ½ tsp garlic powder*
~ ½ tsp dried thyme*
4 tbs olive oil
* the original recipe recommends sage and oregano as seasoning

1. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a frying pan. Caramelize the onions. You’ll know they are ready when they are golden and translucent.
2. Preheat oven to 400*F.
3. Roll out the dough into a very long rectangle on a piece of lightly floured piece of parchment paper. Imagine the dough in lengthwise thirds. The middle third will be the bottom of your pizza and the backbone of your wreath. The top third and bottom third will serve as the ribs the will be wrapped over your toppings, like ribs. Slice vertical stripes about 1 inch apart along the top third of your dough. Repeat along the bottom of the dough.
4. On the middle third, spread the pumpkin puree. Sprinkle the garlic powder and thyme on top. Spread the onions on top of the pumpkin. Next, spread the apples, then the spinach and, finally, the cheese.
5. Now, cover the toppings with the dough strips. It looks quite nice if you criss-cross, or “braid”, the strips.
6. The trickiest part is next: take the two ends and move them towards each other to make the circle shape of a wreath. Squish the two ends together.
7. Transfer the parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the dough is golden brown.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Potato Peels, Baby Jesus and Santa's Helpers

What Santa Needs by SashaWarner
What Santa Needs, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
We are busy helping Santa, getting ready for tomorrow's Christmas dinner and enjoying each others company.

The mashed potatoes are our responsibility. It shifts from year to year. Although no one is looking for advice at this time of year, I am going to give you two tips regarding mashed potatoes:
1) Use cream cheese, lots of cream cheese, when making mashed potatoes. Everyone loves cream cheese mashed potatoes.
2) Don't throw away your potato skins. Instead, turn them into chippies, as detailed below (via Oh, Bite It!).

Potato Peel Chips
Clean potato peels
4 Tbsp olive oil
Salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste

Toss the potato peels with the oil and seasonings, to coat.
Bake at 375*F for about 20 minutes.

p.s. We survived church tonight, which was much longer and more tiring for the kids then the usual Sunday mass. There were only borderline tears once - when Nevin discovered that the Baby Jesus that we have been talking about so much wasn't a real babyThe "pretend baby" at the monger scene at the front of the church was NOT what he was expected.  He was trying so hard to hold back the tears and be a big boy. Thankfully, he reasoned his way through it and pulled through: "Mommy, is there a pretend Baby Jesus at the front of the church because the real Baby Jesus is still in Mary's belly?" I said yes - it seemed easier then theological history lesson.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

This is Santa's big scene.

This is Santa's big scene. by SashaWarner
This is Santa's big scene., a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.

True Story.  Mostly copied and pasted from my email.  What kind of racket are they running up there?
 
6:30 PM.  Phone rings.  "This is Mrs. Claus.  I know we were supposed to Skype tonight with the kids, but can we postpone it until tomorrow?  We are visiting our neighbours.  And can you please remind Santa of anything he should mention?"

> -----Original Message----- 
> From: Sasha Warner
> Sent: Friday, December 21, 2012 7:50 PM
> To: Mrs. Claus

> Subject: Santa's inside info
>
> Nevin:
> Is getting a plasma car from Santa
> Big highlights from the year... He does lots of "works" at his school, and
> cleans his works up very carefully; holds his sister's hand when crossing
> the street; winter solstice concert; he helps mommy and daddy set the
> table and with making dinner.
>
> Scarlett:
> Is getting a snow shovel from Santa
> Big highlights from the year... You can be creative with this one - she
> can't understand you anyways.
>
> Message me if there is anything I missed.

 
-----Original Message-----
From: Mrs. Claus 

Sent: Friday, December 21, 2012 10:16 PM
To: Sasha Warner
Subject: Re: Santa's inside info

haha...Santa had a little too much Christmas Cheer...will call tomorrow...love you!


This whole exchange made me laugh.  Even the Claus's care more about people than presents.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Warning: This is a Hallmark card kind of post.

He Loves Us by SashaWarner
How he makes us feel.
For no one's benefit but my own, I must catalogue a sweet, sweet memory. After lunch, I was sitting at the table, waiting for Scarlett to finish eating. She does not follow the 5 minute eating routine of most toddlers. She is not even a twenty minute-er like most adults. She is more of a 45 minute kind of gal most days. She savours her food, and when she is done eating, she usually insists on sitting in her seat for at least another 5 minutes. Bizarre, I know.

Nevin walked over and climbed into my lap. His hand touched mine. "You're hands are so warm, and mine are always so cold." He looked me in the eyes and asked, "would you like your hands to be warm?" I nodded and he took my fingers in his hands. He sat quietly for about a minute and said, "how is that?" Quite nice, I replied. He let go of one of my hands, put his hand behind my head to pull me closer to him, and kissed me on the forehead.

I hope he treats all the women in his life as well as he has treated the first woman in his life. Shawn has taught him well.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Making memories, one Christmas cliché at a time.

Gingerbread by SashaWarner
Gingerbread, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
The first weekend of December was our kickoff to the Christmas season. It is supposed to be joyous, and joyous we were. We did every traditional Christmas family weekend task that came to mind. Saturday included putting up the Christmas tree, cheesy pictures of the kids dressed up in front of the Christmas tree, and a Santa Claus parade. Sunday we made a gingerbread house and gingerbread men, pigs and moose.

The parade was a highlight. According to Nevin, it was not because of Santa. People have been asking him, "What did you see at the parade?" He smiles wide and exclaims "fire trucks!" And did you see anything else? "There was tractors, too!"

(Side story: as a tractor rounded to corner and came into view, my dad said "Look Nevin, there's a tractor!" To which Nevin responded, "Holy Smokes! I love tractors!" Holy Smokes? I have to stop cussing around the kids.)

The gingerbread experience was more of a day long extravaganza, which is much like everything I fully involve the toddlers in. It was fun. I clipped the recipe from the Ottawa Citizen a few years ago, as it came straight from the chefs at le Courdon Bleu. Our gingerbread house looked nothing like the one in the paper.

Le Courdon Bleu Ottawa Gingerbread House
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unsulphured molasses

1. Mix the first three ingredients.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together. Mix in the spices and salt. Beat in eggs and molasses.
3. Add to flour mixture. Mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour; preferably over night. (I didn't do this, and the dough was very sticky).
4. On a well floured surface, roll the dough out to about 5mm thickness. Cut it into your desired shapes.
5. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, place your shapes on the sheets, and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
6. Bake for about 15 minutes at 350*F.

Royal Icing
2 large egg whites
4 cups icing sugar, or more to thicken
1 lemon juiced

Beat the egg white until stiff, but not dry. Add sugar and juice. Beat for about 9 minutes longer at high speed. Icing should be thick and glossy, about as thick as toothpaste. If icing is too thick, add egg whites. If icing is too thin, add sugar. Icing can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Work it, Baby.

I work out by SashaWarner
I work out, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
Lately, I'm loving the convenience of YouTube fitness videos.

Scarlett loves doing whatever Nevin is doing.

Nevin's new favourite thing is doing YouTube fitness videos with me. It ranks somewhere above biking, but below making police car noises at the top of his lungs.


Since we're all on such a health kick over here, it seems like the perfect opportunity to share our new favorite salad. Scarlett will eat anything. Nevin will eat almost all of the components, as long as they have never actually been in the salad, have no dressing and aren't touching. Shawn and I find it entirely addictive.

Quinoa and Kale Salad
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup (or less) feta cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1. Cook the quinoa according to the package directions.
2. In a large pot, put about 2 cm of hot water and the chopped Kale over medium-high heat. Steam the kale until it has turned a brighter green colour, about 3 minutes. Drain any water that is left.
3. Put the quinoa in with the kale. Add the onions, dried cranberries, walnuts, and feta cheese to the kale and mix well.
4. Combine the olive oil and vinegar. Pour over the quinoa mixture. Done!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Taking the long way home

Taking the long way home by SashaWarner
Taking the long way home, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
This weekend, we went to Hamilton to visit my brother's family. On the way back Sunday morning, we decided to take the scenic route home. Nevin has never seen the CN Tower.

Shawn: Nevin, in a little while we are going to stop at a really big tower.
Nevin: Why?
Shawn: Because its reeeally cool.
Nevin: Are we going to stop there?
Shawn: Maybe... we'll see..
Nevin: Because I'm sure gonna want to.

We didn't go up, but Nevin thought it was pretty amazing. We did stop at the National Air Force Museum in Trenton. The kids thought the planes and helicopters were really cool. Shawn and I were struck by all the memorials and names of men and women who have served in Canada's Air Force. I don't think it was a coincidence that we ended up there at 11am on Remembrance Day.  It was a pause we needed.

So much excitement meant Nevin, the new anti-nap king, fell fast asleep for the last bit of the trip.

Tonight before dinner, we said what we were thankful for, like we do every night.  I leaned towards the sappier side of things.  Nevin said, "the tower. And the planes. Oh! And the tall buildings by the tower! And this soup. I love this soup." It was Shawn turned to me and said, "I'm thankful for his nap."

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Angry Jack

Angry Jack. by SashaWarner
Angry Jack., a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
We left the Jack-O-Lantern carving until the last minute. It was 4:30pm on Halloween and we only had a pumpkin. So instead of having a special destined-to-be-posted-on-facebook-to-prove-to-the-world-we-are-the-best-parents-in-town photo op of carving our pumpkin as a family, Shawn carved the pumpkin whilst I took the kids to visit my Grandmother. Doing both activities would have been ideal, but when time was short, it was an easy choice. The kids can't get an Oreo cookie from a Jack-O-Lantern.

Nevin is at the age where he knows things are coming, but is shocked and delighted when he sees it in real life. He knows about Jack-O-Lanterns, and had requested an angry face yesterday, but he hadn't connected the concepts that OUR plain pumpkin was going to be THE Jack-O-Lantern.

When we got home from Gram's and Nana's houses, Shawn had the Jack-O-Lantern carved and lit. Nevin gasped. He said, "Our pumpkin... is screaming!" He was thrilled.

Having left it all to the last minute, it was very tempting to do one of those really neat, quick and beautiful painted pumpkins as our Jack-O-Lantern this year. I couldn't though, because it felt like such a waste. You cannot eat painted pumpkins.

This morning I lopped off half Jack's face and put it in the slow cooker. We had easy, yummy pumpkin soup. I think it'll be our new tradition. I may not be the best parent in town, but by golly, I'm well fed.

Jack-O-Lantern Soup
(from Skinny Ms.)
8 ish cups pumpkin, chopped in large chunks (don't bother peeling it)
2 apples, peeled and diced
1 onion, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk, preferably not skim
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Put the first four ingredients in the crock pot. The original recipe said to cook on low for fours hours. I left it in the slow cooker for the entire work day, and it was fine.
After the first ingredients are cooked, puree them with the bottom four ingredients. Enjoy!
p.s. You could make this with canned pumpkin instead, but then you wouldn't need to use the slow cooked, because the pumpkin is already pureed.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Boats and the North

LMFAO glasses by SashaWarner
LMFAO glasses, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
My Dad spend the decent months of the year working in Sault Ste. Marie. From early spring to late fall (deer hunting season, to be exact), he goes up to North for nine days every two weeks. It seems like PapaBear is always away working. When he's not away, it feels like a celebration - like he's been away for ages and its a real treat to have him around. Nevin is used to pattern and is quite familiar with my Dad's lifestyle.

The other day, Shawn was listening to music on my iPad.

Nevin: "Daddy, what are you listening to?"
Shawn: "A song."
Nevin: "What song is it?"
Shawn: "Its called Little Black Submarine."
Nevin pauses to think very carefully about this revelation.
Nevin: "PapaBear works in Sault Sub Marine."

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Tutuhead

tutuhead by SashaWarner
tutuhead, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
That is a tutu on Nevin's head.
Those are two headbands on Scarlett's head. One is made of blue sequined elastic.

They did it themselves and were proud enough to want to pose.

Richard Simmons has nothing on my kids.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Children and Dandelions

Nevin Dandelion by SashaWarner
Nevin Dandelion, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
Nevin and I stayed home together today.
Yesterday, he was very sick. Like fever and throw-up-on-Papa's-shoes-when-he-came-to-pick-the-kids-up-in-the-morning kind of sick. So I made plans to spend the day at home with him today.

Except today, after a lazy sleep in, he wasn't very sick. In fact, besides his pale complexion (which is probably more genetics than illness), he wasn't looking or acting sick at all. So, we went for a walk and got a hair cut. We came home and played outside.

On our way back inside, I saw a dandelion and picked it, so it wouldn't go to seed. I planned on tossing it in the garbage, but Nevin saw it and claimed it as his own.

He carried around his prize for the next while. After we got our coats and boots off, he turned to me and exclaimed, "Thank you, Mommy! This flower is just lovely! Thank you so much!"

He makes me laugh. No one appreciates the beauty in weeds more than preschoolers.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Chocolate Cake in a Mug

Chocolate Cake in a mug by SashaWarner
Chocolate Cake in a mug, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
Shawn is away this away this weekend on the Tour de Brew. I have found a replacement for him - it is called Chocolate Cake in a Mug. At first, I thought it was going to be a one night thing, but here we are, our third night in a row, longing for each other.

It is so easy. If you are wondering how I introduced myself to Chocolate Cake in a Mug, I'll tell you our story.

It all started last Tuesday. Shawn and I were watching Master Chef -- the reality show where home cooks compete to be crowned Master Chef, win some prize money, and score a cook book deal. It's down to the last four contestants, so at this point they are all amazing cooks. The challenge was for them to make three different soufflés in an hour. Apparently, this is a really difficult task. I've never even eaten a soufflé, let alone made one, so I'll take their word for it. The chefs were sweating and it was all intense, and I was totally drawn in with suspense, like a was watching the last quarter of the Super Bowl. And that is when my mind turned to snacks. Wanting to replicate the sense of urgency and the deliciousness that I was seeing on tv, I gave myself a challenge. Make a fudge dessert, start to finish, in one commercial break. I put my game face on. The commercials started, I went to work and Bam! In less then five minutes, I had my dessert.

We were made for each other.

Chocolate Cake in a Mug
(from Instructables)
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 3 tablespoons chocolate chips
  • splash vanilla
Mix the dry ingredients together.  Add the wet ingredients and mix.  Microwave for 3 minutes.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Hair today, gone tomorrow.

Short hair by SashaWarner
Short hair, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.

Social media has spoken. I chopped my hair. It's gone. Out with the old and in with the hot new hair trend that started at least two years ago. But lets not forget, I live in Lanark County, so here I'm totally setting the trend. (Unless, you count the disproportionate amount of retirees that live in Perth. They all have short hair. And in that case, I'm like at least 15 years late.)

When I asked Nevin, what I should do, he said I should have hair like him. When I asked the question on Facebook, 100% of respondents (all five of them) said, "yes ma'am, chop it off into a pixie cut." Unless they were confused and said "yes ma'am leave it long," in which case this was an entirely misguided waste of 2 years of growth.

Here's the thing. I have no time. Or at least I'm about to have no time. Next week I return to work and in the mornings I can not picture myself straightening my hair while I pursue the toddler who is unraveling a roll of toilet paper down the hall, telling the pre-schooler to stop chasing the dog with the plastic golf club, and mopping the puddle of piddle that the dog let go accidentally while fearing for its life just before ducking under our bed. Our bed in our carpeted, now pee scented, bedroom in this "fictitious" account. Did you follow all that? Me neither, and that's why I cut my hair. With ultra-short hair, I can waltz into work looking totally put-together -- some might even say sane-looking -- despite the hurricane that will be the Warner house morning non-routine.

My mom - bless her heart - says she thinks it makes me look younger. Works out well for her, because that would make her younger by default. Personally, I'm pretty sure it makes me look like a boy. A cross between the kid that played Kevin Arnold in the Wonder Years and Edward Norton minus his squinty eyes. I used to be the kid with the mushroom cut and crooked glasses, so this is entirely up my alley. Boy is a total improvement. From where I've been anything, as long as it involves mascara and a bra, will always be an improvement.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Monster Mash

Monster Mash by SashaWarner
Monster Mash, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
We made our first only craft of the summer today, since back-to-school is here. Monsters, obviously.

Excuse me while I go tend to the wilting mess that was the blossoming Picasso-esque talent within my children before I became their primary care-giver in June.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Nose Dive!

Baking with my head by SashaWarner
Baking with my head, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
The other day, Scarlett had a little misstep and fell. She was totally fine, but obviously sad about the whole situation. I scooped her up and cheerily said, "Oh, did you take a little nose-dive, sweetie?"

She calmed right down. Nevin looked at me with big blue eyes, very concerned: "But... how... umm... is she gonna be okay?"

Me: "Oh yeah, she's fine. She just hit her head."

Nevin: "But why did her nose die a little bit?"

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Look, Ma, no Salmonella!

Scarlett's first cookie by SashaWarner
Scarlett's first cookie, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
Recently, I've had a little spare time, so I've been going back through the family photo archives. The other night, I was completely mesmorized by the pics of Nevin at Scarlett's age. The two of them look so much alike, but act so different! It really came through in the GAZILLION pictures I have of him.

Which brings me to my next point, like every parent ever, up until about 12 hours ago I was totally neglecting Scarlett in the picture and life experiences department. Not so anymore folks. Today alone I've already taken like ten pictures of her. And I only took two of Nevin, and only because he asked and I didn't want to seem "unfair" or "playing favourites," even though I totally am. I've got some serious guilt to make up for.

Next steps? Baking, baby. Turns out at her age, I had Nevin up on the table, helping me measure and mix all sorts of goodies. There's pictures all over the place of him beside Mommy, being all adorable and stuff. He was baking before he was talking.

So today, we baked. Scarlett had a blast. Unlike Nevin, she preferred to point and tell ME what SHE thought should go in next. Really quite cute, since she can't talk yet. We'll see how I feel about her assertiveness in a couple years.

In any case, we made egg-free chocolate chip cookies. You know, because pictures just aren't as cute when they remind you of that time your toddler got food poisoning. (I know, you were wondering what that title was all about, eh?)

Here's the recipe:

Look Ma, No Salmonella! Cookies
(from here)
1 cup margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
Chocolate Chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.Cream the butter and sugars until creamy. Add the wet ingredients and cream together.
3. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowls. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
4. Bake for about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Bacon!

Last weekend, we were invited to a cottage by friends.  Lots o' fun, especially for us non-cottage owners or renters.  Especially after the disaster that was camping.  What a treat.

After a late evening, they got up and made a HUGE delicious breakfast including pancakes, bacon, and sausage.  Lots of berries to, you know, keep things healthy.  While it was all being prepared, Nevin ran through the kitchen, stopped dead in his tracks and said, "What's that smell?"

"That's bacon, Nevin."

"Bacon!?!  Who eats bacon for breakfast?!?  That's silly!"

And at that moment, I realized that the only time he has ever seen bacon is in bits on a salad for dinner.  No wonder he's a picky eater - I've forgotten to sprinkle is little life with bacon.

At the time it struck me funny, as in haha funny.  Then I realized something: what a developed world, middle class story to tell.  I am lucky that I am so well off that my first reaction is to laugh about my child being deprived of bacon.  I wasn't going to post the story, because it didn't seem funny anymore, but then I thought, "I'm going to be looking back at this blog and I need to include this."  Sometimes I need to be taken down a few notches and recognize the material abundance in my life.

Time to take a moment to be thankful.


Friday, 3 August 2012

Camping For Four, Please.

I am sure on this blog it seems as though parenthood is full of sunshine and lollipops. Even when things are a little off, it seems a toddler says something oh-so-adorable that restores the blissful way. Let me assure you this is not the case. Sometimes, my husband is grumpy, sometimes the kids are grumpy, usually I'm grumpy. And sometimes, on those really lovely days, we are all grumpy. You hope on those days that you are hiding in your home, where no one knows that the sunshine is too hot and the lollipops taste like lollipoops.

Not so yesterday. Oh, no. Yesterday at approximately 8pm, at campsite 436 in Bon Echo Provincial Park, it sounded like Scarlett was dying a slow painful death at the hands of a pack of killer bees. Nevin took his cues from her. You could hear Shawn's deep breathing exercises from two sites over. And me, I just wanted a beer and salt and vinegar chips.

We gave up. We saved our fellow campers the agony of listening to the Warner trainwreck and packed up that campsite fast (another great reason to buy a van... ). The good news for them is that after an hour of listening to it, they were not only rewarded with silence, but also with a critter free night, as I'm certain my children scared all the raccoons within a five kilometer radius.

I'm not exaggerating the truth at all when I say both kids were fast asleep by the time we pulled onto the highway. Always the way. Once the kids were asleep, Shawn and I regained our sanity and actually had pretty pleasant ride home, complete with chippies.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Pasta... Lots of pasta.

pixlr by SashaWarner
pixlr, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
Thursday night is soccer night for Nevin. Last Thursday, because I thought it would be a treat for our little budding soccer player, and because I was in a rush, I thought I'd pull out the knock-off Kraft Dinner Toy Story box of Mac and Cheese for dinner. It was a gift from his Grandma and Grandpa, and he'd been pretty excited about it. Except, here's the thing: Every time we said "macaroni and cheese," his mind said, "mmm... yummy crunchy cheese." When he shock the box, it even sounded like there was something crunchy in there.

So, imagine his disappointment when we opened the box and it wasn't crunchy cheese at all. And to add insult to injury, he wasn't even allowed to eat a bowl of crunchy pasta. The absurdity of it all was more than he could take.

He marched over to the table. He sat down. He took a swing of water. Then, with indignation, he proclaimed:

"That Sam I am.
That Sam I am.
I do not like Buzz Lightyear thingy macaroni and cheese pasta."

Literacy. Sometimes it kicks you in the... um, shins.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Wicked

Wicked by SashaWarner
Wicked, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
My mom reeeealllly came to our rescue in June. So as a thank you, I took her out on a date on Tuesday. If I was a guy that wasn't related to her, I think it would've almost been good enough to steal her away from Dad. I'm that good. Except I didn't pay for dessert. I guess, technically, Dad paid for dessert. So maybe I've still got a bit to work on. Here's how it all went down.

We went into Ottawa. Because, obviously, that's where sophisticated things happen.

We stopped at A&W for burgers in a small town on the way. Because, obviously, sophisticated isn't really our style.

Then we went downtown for dessert. Our dessert cost more than dinner, but it was DELISH, and most certainly held more calories (and sophistication!) than any one person should have in a day.

Finally, we made our way over to the National Arts Centre to watch Wicked. It was my first ever musical and it was amazing. The music was great, and it didn't take itself too seriously, so it was hilarious. We had a great time.

The highlight of the night was at the end of the show. We made our way out of the NAC. No small feat. Its designed for crowds, but there are stairs up and down and up and down, and if its your first time, you really have to pay attention to where you are going. When we were about ten feet from the door, I looked at my Mom. She was on a mission. You could tell she was already thinking about how to navigate the one-way streets without getting lost, since we rarely go downtown. I looked around.

"Mom, if the show is over, how come no one is leaving?"
"Ummm... I don't know."
FYI readers, musicals have this thing called Intermission. Perhaps you've heard of it?
Mom, sheepishly: "Is the show over?"
Attendent: "No, silly! Haven't you seen the movie? The witch isn't even dead yet!"
Mom, thinking of her only way to redeem herself: "No, I've never seen the movie. I had no idea." Right? The Wizard of Oz? Only the most popular movie of like all time? Never seen it.
(Next time, I vote for imitating chain smokers, and waltzing back in with an air of tobbaco smoke and confidence, like we knew what we were doing the whole time. Hindsight is 20/20.)

Like I said, sophistication isn't our style. Great news though, Wicked is even better if you stay for the whole thing.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Big People Popsicles

Hives by SashaWarner
Hives, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
There are lots of things I would love to have on a hot summer day: air conditioning, a kiddy pool, strawberry daiquiris, a popsicle, water guns.

Things I do not want on a day with a forecasted high of 43 degrees: hives. Just hives.

I'm sure I could think of other things, but I was too busy trying not to think about the itch to concentrate on anything else but the itch.

Yesterday, we weren't sure what it was, since the rash just kept spreading and spreading (as opposed to blinking all over the place), but this morning when I woke up with swollen eyes and lips, and intensely itchy swollen palms, I decided to take a little trip into the doctor. His diagnosis? "I have no idea, but the first thing I would do is take some Benadryl. Its probably an allergic reaction?"

As a first time user, I have two things to say about Benadryl. 1) I am in love. 2) When they tell you not to operate heavy machinery, they really mean it. The picture was taken about fifteen minutes after my first dose. Wow.

p.s. If you are wondering why I'm on the cushions on the floor, that is courtesy of Nevin. He's been keeping a very close eye on my rash. Today after the doctor, he scrunched up his nose and said, "Mom, you don't feel very well?" I said, "Not really." Then he asked , "can I make you a really special comfy fort to make you feel better?" I obliged, and this was his masterpiece, complete with his very favourite blanket that he dragged all the way from his bed. Sigh. So sweet.

On the plus side, here's a delicious looking recipe that I can't wait to try from the Diva of DIY blog next time its 43 degrees.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Vermont Vacation

Here is our Vermont Trip in an iPad-app-generated, square-shaped nutshell.

Vermont by SashaWarner
Vermont, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.

It was great.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Bicycling in Vermont

Today, I did something I am proud of, so I'm going to document it. First, the disclaimer: I do not do stuff like this all the time; this was a momentary stroke of amazingness. I rode up a mountain on my bike. A kind of big mountain... It was a category 2 climb. It was dreadfully slow, but I finished, so by default, it was amazing.

I had set two goals for my self. 1) do not stop. 2) stay in the second ring, don't go into the third ring. The second goal lasted for about 500m, when I reached the first hairpin turn and realized that if I didn't go into the third ring, falling over would be a real possibility and then both goals would be broken.

I did make it to the top without stopping, and learned some lessons along the way:
- You need a slogan for the tough parts. The spray painted kilometer countdown for the Killington Stage Race "King of the Mountain" competition really helped. My mantra about three quarters of the way up became, "I am not a princess, I am not a princess, I am the queen of the mountain!"
- don't get too full of yourself, you're bound to get knocked down a couple pegs. About one quarter of the way down, my thoughts were more like, "yes, I am a princess. What was I thinking? Don't cry!". And, "which brake am I supposed to use, and when?"
- Enjoy the way down, because once you are back on the flats, flats really suck.
- When going down a mountain, do not look at the mountains. Look where you are going. Otherwise you'll come so close to a pothole that you won't even have time to curse yourself.

Sigh. So to recap, I would be amazing, if I wasn't Queen of the Chicken-er-poops.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Vermont Family Vacation

Hooray! The Warner family summer vacation has officially begun. We are in Vermont, ready to do... Who knows! Ah, the freedom.

There were lots of highlights today.
- first of Scarlett only cried the first 20 minutes. It was a Christmas (in July) miracle.
- We stopped in Lake Placid for our first break. Who knew the "I Love BBQ Festival" would be waiting for us? Yes please! And we were serenaded by a live band playing Jimmy Buffet and James Taylor covers while we licked our disposable plates. Forget about Canada Day, Lake Placid is where it is at.
- The Lake Champlain ferry was a hit with the three-year-old set. Eyes as big as saucers. Speaking of his eyes, all the old ladies were swooning...those Americans really have a thing for long eye lashes.
- Oh my Gosh, the drive. The mountains are so great. About 10 minutes from our destination, Nevin asked Shawn what we were doing. Shawn said, "we are driving down a mountain". Nevin replied, "I assume we'll be driving back up another one?". Where does he come up with this Stuff?

Don't worry; my life is not perfect, it's not all sunshine and roses ( although we did see a rainbow in the mountains). We definitely didn't read the directions and took the "scenic route" about an hour into the trip. And by "we", I do not mean "me". It took about five minutes and gas station map for us to de-stress. And by "us", I do not mean "him". It ended up being a prettier way any ways, but there definitely a few... ummm... tense moments.

All in all, a great day, with a great ending (a pint of Vermont beer).

Friday, 15 June 2012

Happy Birthday to Me

Sasha30th by SashaWarner
Sasha30th, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.

Welcome to your thirties, me!

I am not sure if I can thank pop culture icons, like Carrie and all the Sex and the City girls, or all my older friends who have made the thirties look like something I want to be a part of, but I'm feeling pretty good about this milestone.

Turns out, and this won't shock anyone who knows me, when I was in my teens, I made a little road map of my life, set goals and went to work on achieving my vision. Here's the thing: the long term vision was what my life would look like when I turned 30. I'm there. I'm totally blessed, and I am certain that I have a guardian angel, because everything has gone according to plan. I am almost exactly who I had envisioned I would be fifteen years ago. Crazy and lucky, right?

But... the vision ended at 30. I don't know if I was expecting a zombie apocalypse at 30 years + one day or if I just expected to go into cruise control, but I have no goals for tomorrow. The great news is that I don't think cruise control is going to work for me. I need to feel productive; cruising sounds tiresome in its monotony.

So I have a lot of thinking to do. And a lot of questions to answer. Am I too young for a bucket list? What goes on said bucket list? Do I pay off the house or travel the world? And, with the three people I've added to my life, how can I even create a vision for the next decade when their actions can so easily shift it? Oh, and on that subject, have we officially shut down the S&S fun factory? Oh dear.

This girl is open to any and all suggestions. Please. I insist.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Goddaughter Prayers

Brooke, my Goddaughter, has been in town and, for the first time, is totally in to the whole Goddaughter/Godmother thing.  She's been asking me if I pray for her.

The other night, when we were leaving to go home, she was upset, so I whispered in her ear, "I'm going to pray for you tonight before I go to sleep.  Will you pray for me?"  She was in no mood for talking.  She looked up with her sad little eyes and nodded, "yes." 

The next day, when I saw her I said, "I am so glad you're feeling better.  I prayed for you last night.  Did you remember to pray for me?"

Most six-year-olds, when faced with the truth, would either a) honestly answer "no" or b) obviously lie "oh yes, of course".  This girl was born with the gift of seeing the grey between the black and white, and has the quick-wittedness to use it to her advantage.  She did not pray for me, nor did I expect her to, but without even a pause, here was her response to me:

"I didn't time to say it out loud, but I kept a prayer for you in my heart."  And to drive her point home, after a dramatic pause: "Alllll night long."

She is one of a kind.  She will have the world in the palm of her hands some day.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Happy Mother's Day to me.

I have to say, I loved the gift the kids got me (Under Armor workout pants to replace the eight-year-old, stretched-out-kneed, saggy-bottomed monstrosities that I've been wearing), but I am not a fan of the gift the microbial world gave me. Headache, aches and pains, and fever. I look like a Tylenol commercial before the happy ending. Ugh. Here's to hoping next year will be better (and that Shawn and the kids bring home leftovers from the family turkey dinner that I passed up to lay on the couch).

Friday, 11 May 2012

The First and Final Moments

Tonight, child-number-one is having his very first sleep over.  His cousins are in town and staying at Nana's house, so he is spending the night with his freshly rediscovered very-best-friend cousin.  They are the same age, love the same things, and have totally opposite personalities.  It is a perfect toddler combination, but the perfection of their friendship is not what this post is about - it is merely a side note to explain how the real story came to be.  Nevin's first sleepover.  My little boy is grown up and becoming, slowly, independent.  He's always been sensitive and shy and keenly aware of my presence in the room, so this is a big step for him.  Its his official entrance into boyhood.  I am fully aware that at some point tonight I'll probably get the call to go pick him up, but that is insignificant; he was excited to leave home for the night and leave me.

There have been many firsts in our house this week and it has me a little nostalgic.  Some of them were small -- Nevin flew a kite by himself for the first time today -- and some of them were much bigger -- Scarlett took her first steps.  My children are just that; children, not babies.  I love everything about the stages they are at, especially Nevin's witty comments and twisted vision of the world, but at the same time I'm a little heartsick for who they were.  I miss the old them... mostly because I know I will never have them back.

A few weeks ago, I came across an amazing essay about all the unmarked Final Moments that our children have.  It was about all the times your child does something wondrous for the last time, and the things you would do if only you had known it would never happen again.  Things like, if you had known that it was going to be last time your child wanted you to read them a bedtime story, you would've spent the whole night savoring those last special moments instead of rushing through what you thought was a monotonous routine.  It was by Jonathan Sale, for The Guardian, and if you have a moment and a tissue, I recommend reading it.  He puts these sentiments into words far better than I ever could.

Parenting is dichotomous.  On one side, my children are wonderful, hitting their milestones with familial joy.  On the other side, I can't help but wonder, "how did I come to care for someone so deeply that even when they do everything right, they still make me doleful?"


p.s. Midway through writing this post, I did get the phone call.  Thank Goodness.  My little boy needed to come home for a goodnight kiss and a cuddle.  Maybe neither of us were ready; both of us were pretty content to be all bundled up in his own bed at home.

p.s.s. A picture is coming of the kite experience :)

Monday, 30 April 2012

Food makes you smarter

What I wave goodbye to every morning.
What a great weekend! It revolved around- what else? - food. Truthfully, everyday revolves around food in my world, but this weekend was Maplefest in Perth. Maple toffee, maple sausages, maple everything, oh my!
Never one to turn down a maple sausage, Nana joined the kids and I for the festivities.

Her wisdom combined with Nevin's naïveté resulted in the best part of my day...
(She showed up just as the kids were having their morning snack so, while she supervised, I ran upstairs to get ready, where I heard the following conversation.)
Nana: Hurry up and eat your snack, Nevin.
Nevin: It will go down in my tummy first, then it will hurry up back to my head?
Nana: Yes. And it will go to your brain and make you really smart.
Nevin: Like smart as Daddy?
Nana: Yes.
Scarlett: Dadadada!

That, my friends, is why the highly evolved, super-involved, stay-at-home Dads of 2012 are so awesome.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Funny Bunny

Funny Bunny by SashaWarner
Funny Bunny, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
Nevin dressed himself today. He insisted he wanted to wear his "funny bunny" hat to Easter dinner for Grandma and Grandpa. On the way out the door he declared he was not leaving without his orange vest. Because, obviously, it completed the look. The rest of us were wearing t-shirts.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Chocolate Banana Breakfast Bars

Sigh.  March Break is coming to an end.  I was just starting to get back into the stay-at-home-mom groove.  I even squeezed in a play date yesterday morning.  I miss play dates.

I accomplished a lot this week without accomplishing anything at all.  Like road tripping to a baptism and spending time with family.  Like spending the entire day outside with the kids today.  Like reading the second and third books of the Hunger Games trilogy.  Oh ya.

On the flip side, I did nothing on my To Do list.  So, as of Monday I'll be back to my frantic, forgetful self.  Today, though, I'm just going to enjoy the sunshine, my kids and maybe a green beer.

Here's the recipe I promised the play group moms on Friday.  It's a cross between muffins and granola bars.  A real hit with the pre-school crowd.

Chocolate Banana Breakfast Bars
Adapted from Bake It Up, by the Ontario Government
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup soft margarine
1 medium-sized, mashed banana
1 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
3 cups quick cooking oats
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 13x9 pan with margarine or cooking spray.
2. Beat the margarine and sugars together.  Mix in the banana, yogurt, eggs and vanilla.
3. Combine the flour, flax, baking soda and cinnamon in a separate bowl.  Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture.  Mix well.  Stir in the oats and chocolate chips.
4.  Spread dough onto the baking pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Once cooled, cut into 24 bars.

Chocolate Banana Breakfast Bars

St. Patricks Day Feet by SashaWarner
St. Patricks Day Feet, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
Sigh. March Break is coming to an end. I was just starting to get back into the stay-at-home-mom groove. I even squeezed in a play date yesterday morning. I miss play dates.

I accomplished a lot this week without accomplishing anything at all. Like road tripping to a baptism and spending time with family. Like spending the entire day outside with the kids today. Like reading the second and third books of the Hunger Games trilogy. Oh ya.

On the flip side, I did nothing on my To Do list. So, as of Monday I'll be back to my frantic, forgetful self. Today, though, I'm just going to enjoy the sunshine, my kids and maybe a green beer.

Here's the recipe I promised the play group moms on Friday. It's a cross between muffins and granola bars. A real hit with the pre-school crowd.


Chocolate Banana Breakfast Bars
(Adapted from Bake It Up, by the Ontario Government)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup soft margarine
1 medium-sized, mashed banana
1 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
3 cups quick cooking oats
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13x9 pan with margarine or cooking spray.
2. Beat the margarine and sugars together. Mix in the banana, yogurt, eggs and vanilla.
3. Combine the flour, flax, baking soda and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture. Mix well. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips.
4. Spread dough onto the baking pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Once cooled, cut into 24 bars.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Spring is here!

AstroGirl in the park by SashaWarner
AstroGirl in the park, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.

Today we spent most of the morning outside (hooray for March Break!).  Almost overnight, the snow has virtually disappeared.
Nevin stood on the driveway, pointed at a patch of grass and said: "Look Mom!  Springtime is right over there!"
He ran over to the patch, stood on it for a moment, and then jumped on it with two feet, the way only a jubilant, clumsy three-year-old can. 

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Be weary of your time

Little Cast by SashaWarner
Little Cast, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
Scarlett broke her leg yesterday.

Here’s the story. The kids and I were coming downstairs. I lifted the baby gate, and the latching mechanism fell apart in my hands. It happens all the time and takes two seconds to fix. Nevin ran ahead. Scarlett, who has gotten pretty good at stairs, turned around to follow him. We have two steps, then a large landing, and then six steps, so the two steps are kind of like a buffer zone to get down in front of her before she tries for the larger set of steps. Even though the voice in my head said, mind your baby, I paused on the landing to fix the baby gate. The baby gate that takes two seconds to fix. I rushed, I multi-tasked. She caught her foot on the landing. She started to fall. My hands were full, fixing the baby gate that takes two seconds to fix. I couldn’t drop it fast enough. She rolled the whole way down and I couldn’t catch her.

It gets worse. Yesterday, I thought that she was fussing every time I put her down because she’d been at day care all week and wanted to be on my hip. I thought she was just being clingy and I wasn’t particularly sympathetic. No. She was crying because mommy was trying to make her stand on a broken leg. Mother-of-the-year, right here. I didn’t take her to the doctor until this morning - after I told Shawn about the stairs and he connected all the dots for me. Thank God one of us is on the ball.

Here’s the lesson in all of this: be weary of your time. How often in a day do you think you can squeeze just one more thing in, even when there is a little voice in you head saying stop? Most of the time, you can, you did, and the world marches on. But sometimes you can’t and it doesn’t. And you remember, too late, that all those other times, you were just lucky. I’ll just wash this one last dish. I’ll just run in and out, it’ll take me three seconds. I’ll just check that one last email. I’ll just fix this baby gate; it takes two seconds. Stop. Do what you set out to do, stop trying to squeeze it all in, and listen to that voice. I didn’t yesterday, and all I keep thinking is: it could’ve been her head.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Scarlett's First Birthday

Scarlett's Birthday by SashaWarner
Scarlett's Birthday, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr... this pretty much sums up their attitudes towards food.
Last Sunday we had Scarlett’s birthday party. No baby “friends,” no outsiders. Just direct ascendants. If she doesn’t carry part of your genome in each of her adorable little cells, you weren’t invited. Why? Because she doesn’t know the difference. I find first birthdays to be anticlimactic. Why hire a clown when something shiny will due? Why invite the entire neighbourhood and their brother when your baby is at the height of separation anxiety? Nothing says “this day is for you, kiddo” like a bunch of strangers that she is certain are going to steal her away from her mother.

Truthfully, I would’ve done without the whole thing, since it was two weeks late. The kids were supersick/on quarantine when the real thing happened, so we had to cancel it and reschedule this one. There was one reason why it needed to happen. I wanted the pictures for her. Someday she’ll have a school project and need them as evidence, or she’ll have her own baby and want them for comparison’s sake. So I did it for her. And its not too often that she gets all of her surviving ascendants in one room (sidenote: she looks like none of them), which is far more special than the actual ritual.

I will say this: I rocked the cake out of the park. I recreated Nevin’s first birthday cake, only with better icing. Pioneer Woman gave the icing glowing reviews (with a complete pictorial), so I thought I’d give it a try. Decadent and fluffy at the same time… almost like if the texture of whip cream mated with the flavour of butter cream icing. It was a hit, so I’ve posted it below.

The Best Frosting
(from MissyDew at Tasty Kitchen)
5 Tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar (NOT powdered sugar)
“In a small saucepan, whisk flour into milk and heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. You want it to be very thick, thicker than cake mix, more like a brownie mix is. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. (If I’m in a hurry, I place the saucepan over ice in the sink for about 10 minutes or so until the mixture cools.) It must be completely cool before you use it in the next step. Stir in vanilla.
While the mixture is cooling, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. You don’t want any sugar graininess left. Then add the completely cooled milk/flour/vanilla mixture and beat the living daylights out of it. If it looks separated, you haven’t beaten it enough! Beat it until it all combines and resembles whipped cream.”

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Compost Cookies

Stacked Kids by SashaWarner
Stacked Kids, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
This is it. My last weekend before I return to work. And my probably my last post before I return to the realities of juggling work and family.

Look at those kids... aren't they adorable? I'm still struggling with the fact that I have to leave them with someone else, who doesn't think their quite as adorable as I do, four days a week. I wish I could keep playing with them everyday. At the same time, I'm ready to use my brain in a more adult way. I think part of the reason I did such a good job over the past year is because I knew there was a job for me to go back to.

Oh my gosh! I'll miss them.

At supper, my hubby, who knows me so well, said "lets bake tonight! They sky's the limit, sweetie. You name it and I'll get it." So I suggested these, which I've been dying to try. Oh. My. Gosh. I think I'll also be missing my skinny thighs tomorrow.

Compost Cookies
Makes 15-20 large cookies
(Slightly adapted from Christina Tosi – get the original recipe here).
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
1 tablespoon corn syrup)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped assortment of chocolate and chocolate chips
1/2 cup Skor chips
1/2 cup Graham Crust (see below)*
1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups Kettle chips
1 cup mini pretzels
1. Combine the butter, sugars and corn syrup in the bowl of a stand mixer and cream together on medium for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla, and beat for 7-8 minutes.
2. Reduce mixer speed to low; add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix just until dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. Remove the bowl from the stand and add the chocolate chips, Skor chips, graham crust, and oats; mix until just blended. Add the potato chips and pretzels and mix with hands, until just incorporated. Be careful not to overmix or break too many pretzels or potato chips.
4. Place 1/3-cup mounds of dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Pat the tops of the cookie dough domes flat. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 week. Do not bake your cookies from room temperature -- or skimp on the chilling time -- or they will not bake properly.
5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 4 inches apart on parchmentlined sheet pans. Bake for 18 minutes. The cookies will puff, crackle and spread. After 18 minutes, they should be very faintly browned on the edges, yet still bright yellow in the center. Give them an extra minute if that's not the case.
6. Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pans before transferring to a plate (or an airtight container for storage). At room temperature, cookies will keep fresh for 5 days. In the freezer, they will keep 1 month.

*Graham Crust
Makes about 2 cups
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup milk powder
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup heavy cream
1. Toss the graham cracker crumbs, milk powder, sugar and salt with your hands in a medium bowl to evenly distribute the dry ingredients.
2. Whisk the butter and cream together. Add to the dry ingredients and toss again to evenly distribute. The butter will act as a glue, adhering to the dry ingredients and turning the mixture into a bunch of small clusters. The mixture should hold its shape if squeezed tightly in the palm of your hand. If it is not moist enough to do so, melt an additional 1 to 1½ tablespoons butter and mix it in.
3. Eat immediately or deploy as directed in the recipe. If using as a pie crust, the crust is easiest to mold just after mixing. Stored in an airtight container, graham crust will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature, or 1 month in the fridge or freezer.
-- Christina Tosi, "Momofuku Milk Bar" (Clarkson Potter, 256 pages, $35)

Monday, 30 January 2012

Croup: A change in perspective.


My thoughts yesterday:
1) I can't believe I only have one more week at home with my kids before I go back to work.
2) I'm not plugging in the baby monitor anymore.  I'm sick of Scarlett getting up in the night - how am I going to survive this when I go back to work?
3) Why doesn't Scarlett want to be weaned?  Its time to move on - I don't want to be getting up at 5am to feed her.
4) I'm sick of stupid winter.

Then the kids got sick.  Really sick.

My thoughts today:
1) Thank God I have this week off to be home with my kids.
2) Thank God for baby monitors.  I hope Scarlett gets up in the night so I know she's okay.
3) Thank God for breastfeeding.  I am so glad I can comfort her in this way.  I am so glad I can provide her the nourishment she needs when she is disinterested in food.
4)  Thank Goodness for the cold air.  It does more for my childrens' lungs than any medicine can.

Its amazing how one little event can remind you of God's abundance.  Or, if you're not religious, its amazing how that event can fix the way you think about the things and circumstances that surround you.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Curried Lentil Stew

Curried Lentil Stew by SashaWarner
Curried Lentil Stew, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
This is by far my favourite slow cooker recipe. Have you noticed all the slow cooker recipes headlining the magazines in stores right now? Apparently I’m not the only on stressing about finding time to cook the family dinner these days.

And speaking of stress, it does the funniest things to you, eh? Like makes you forgetful. Believe me, the can of coconut milk and the diced tomatoes went through a lot to get into my slow cooker today… thanks to a whole lot of forgetfulness.

On Saturday, I was SO on the ball. I decided to go grocery shopping before Shawn left for work at 8:30am. I rolled into the parking lot at 7:10am. With Nevin. I felt like an Ironwoman. I was checking out by 8am – ahead of schedule, for those of you keeping track. Except that I forgot my wallet. Who forgets their wallet when they are going to the grocery store? Apparently the make-up free mother with unbrushed hair and a toddler over in aisle 4. It wasn’t busy and the checkout lady was super friendly, so she agreed to suspend my order and place my groceries aside while I rushed home for some money. I only live a few minutes from the store, so I still made it back home, with the kid and the food, before Shawn had to leave. Bonus: Shawn was in the shower while I did the dash of shame through the mudroom to grab my wallet, so I didn’t even have to deal with a week’s worth of teasing from him.

I had a bunch of prep to do for Nevin’s birthday party, so I was busy in the kitchen all morning. I was surprised at myself a couple times because I had forgotten to pick up a couple of things that I had expressedly written on my list. Stress and a toddler will do that to you. By the third thing missing, I realized I had left a bag in the car, now in Smiths Falls with Shawn. Not wanting it to freeze, I called Shawn and asked to talk it into work. Except it wasn’t in the car.

My phone call to the grocery store:
Sasha: Hi, this is kind of a strange question, but did anyone happen to leave behind a bag of groceries this morning?
Lady: Oh! You must be the girl who forgot her wallet! I heard about you.
Sasha, blushing: Yes… so you have my bag of groceries?
Lady: Actually it was a bag of groceries and a club pack of cereal.

Of course it was, I knew that.... no, I didn’t. Nice work, Sasha. Stop stressing, and just remember your groceries, my dear.

After the jump, you’ll be rewarded with my favourite slow cooker recipe. Stay low stress and enjoy, my friends! And please comment with links to your favourite slow cooker recipes… we could all use a little help (clearly!).

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Chocolava Cookies and a Lesson in Preparation

Chocolava Cookies by SashaWarner
Chocolava Cookies, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
Boy scouts always say failure to prepare is preparing for failure.

I think I’ve mentioned before that Wednesday nights are my favourite fitness class night (a.k.a. my only fitness class night). A long time ago, I heard that chocolate milk is one of the best post-workout drinks your can have. Equally as good, or better, than the heavily marketed, over-priced flavoured water drinks you can find on grocery shelves. I have no idea if this is in fact true, or if the study was funded by the Dairy Farmers of Canada, but I like the idea. And I don’t think it’s a far stretch to say that if chocolate milk is an excellent post-workout snack, then plain milk and chocolate cookies are also great post-workout. So last Wednesday, in the five spare minutes I had between putting the kids to bed and rushing out to my 8pm fitness class, I pre-measured the dry ingredients and assembled all the other ingredients on the counter to make chocolate cookies. Fifteen minutes after I got home, I was going to be enjoying my healthy, just-as-good-as-…ade snack, fresh out of the oven.

I was prepared.

And then I failed. I should have seen it coming. I was carrying a little extra tension on, and in, my shoulders. My first swim practice in almost a year was the night before. Shoving the stupid winter stroller with 6-inch wheels through the snow. A wee bit a anxiety about going back to work. The four-minute plank we held in class. So my neck muscles got frustrated, and said enough was enough. They weren’t going to work anymore without screaming at me. They failed.

But I was prepared.

Waiting for at home was the basically premade cookies read-to-go. I have never been so happy with myself in all my life. That’s not true, but I was pretty happy with myself. My neck may have been in pain, but my hands were in great shape. Ten minutes after I got home, with a little help from Shawn, my hands were lifting divine cookies to my mouth.

Not to worry, one week, a professional massage, several impromtu I’m-a-great-husband massages, and a little rest, and the neck is back to normal. A friend came for dinner tonight and I made these cookies again. They are delicious, so I had to share (delicious and have only 100 calories and 2.5 grams of fat per cookie!)

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding Cake

As you may have noticed, I've been a little absent from the blogging world lately. I'm just trying to let you down easy. There is a big black hole looming on the horizon that I'm certain will suck up all my energy and leave me with no time to blog. In four short weeks, I'm going to be back at work. Back in the classroom. Back teaching other people's kids instead of my own.

I'm already starting to get my head in the game (did you notice the reference to a black hole up there? That's such a ninth grade science teacher thing to do.) And accumulating advice, because, call me a bad mom if you want, but I'm not feeling that badly about going back to work. Instead, I'm terrified of post-return-to-work laundry, bathroom cleaning, and -- gulp -- suppers. Honestly, how is a person supposed to work, feed the children and smell nice all at the same time?

Fortunately, as it turns out, I'm not the first person to ever wade into these treacherous waters. I'm surrounded by moms who have done it, who are doing it, and are surviving. And so are their kids. I had a very uplifting conversation with two such moms a couple days ago. They are really great moms - the kind that have successful careers in meaningful fields, are super healthy, volunteer for everything going on in their kids lives and from the outside looking in, you would say they have their "stuff" together. You know what they told me? "Sasha, you'll swear you'll never eat at McDonald's. You will. We eat at McDonalds. Sometimes once a week. And you know what, Sasha? Who. Cares. You do what you need to." In other words, you don't have to be perfect. In fact, imperfect is preferable. It makes life happier.

The other piece of advice I've gotten over and over in the past month, when I express my real concern about supper is to embrace the slow cooker. I don't think the following recipe is what they had in mind, but I like to ease myself into things with a bit of, well, sugar.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding Cake
(From Canadian Living)
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
6 tbsp natural peanut butter
1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 cups boiling water

1. In slow cooker stoneware, whisk together flour, granulated sugar and baking powder.
2. Whisk together milk, egg and peanut butter; stir into flour mixture.
3. Cover and cook on high until cake is firm to touch, 2 hours.
(Apparently, you could do this in a 13 x 9 and bake it in the oven at 350 degrees for a half hour instead).

At an hour, you might freak out and be tempted to scrape it out of the slow cooker and bake it in the oven.  Don't.  It will work out.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Egg-Free Pancakes

New Years Pancakes by SashaWarner
New Years Pancakes, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
For me, there is no better way to ring in the new year than with pancakes with my family. We reached deep into the freezer and dug out the last of the blueberries and peaches from last summer, and made some wicked good pancakes together. A family that plays together, stays together, right? How 'bout a family that eats all year together, completes the year together? A little off, eh? Well, you get the idea.

Here's the recipe, with the link. Its delicious, and I'm pretty excited about this blog's other egg-free baking.

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