Sunday, January 31, 2010

goldilocks boy

T is very sensitive about the temperature of his food - not too hot, not too cold and maybe, just maybe, he'll eat or drink it. So he's our goldilocks boy. In monster truck pajamas.

One of his new favorite things is warm hot chocolate. Not hot, warm. Served in his tractor/truck mug.

And it is even better when served with chocolate chip cookies. That's my boy!

T's been learning about the Olympics this week at preschool. The children made flags,

- this is T's. The girls were wearing their handmade medals when I picked up T the other day. And the other night T was singing a song about Canada which I eventually discovered was the national anthem - well T's version of it which had backhoes and scrapers in it, of course. So they are all excited about the Olympics. D and I, not so much with all the announced traffic nightmares to come. And of course, it is hardly winter outside.

The cherry trees started blooming in the city last week and there are buds on our star magnolia, rhodo bush and the camelia. The north shore mountains are practically snowless except for the Olympic courses on Cypress for the free-style skiing and snowboarding. I guess it will be good for the spectators to be warmer than is usual during winter sports. Unless they get rained on. Which is extremely likely...just saying. If you are coming to the Olympics, you might want to bring an umbrella.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

polenta casserole two ways

In one of my Australian Weekly Cookbooks, there are 2 recipes for polenta. The one I make most often (or version thereof) goes like this:

1 jar tomato sauce (any variation)
1 tube ready made polenta
sliced mozarella cheese
grated parmesan cheese

Into a greased casserole dish, pour ~ 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce and spread to cover the bottom of the casserole (9x13 or large, round dish). Slice the polenta and layer half over the sauce. Layer the mozarella over the polenta and top with the rest of the polenta slices. Pour the rest of the tomato sauce over the polenta and add the grated parmesan over the top. Bake at 350 deg F for 30-45 minutes. (I often saute onions, mushrooms and other veggies and mix into the tomato sauce to get more veggies into us.)

This week, with inspiration from Rachel Ray and Chatelaine magazine, I came up with another version - Sausage, Rosemary, Cheese Polenta.

1 tube prepared polenta
1 tube pork sausage meat, or ~ 1 lb of sausage meat removed from casings
1 medium onion, diced
sage, thyme, salt and pepper
1 1/2 oz butter
1 1/2 oz flour
500 ml (2 cups) of milk or stock or combination
fresh rosemary
grated mozarella cheese
2 tbsp sun dried tomato pesto

Cook the onion and the sausage meat until the meat is brown and the onion is transluscent. Add the sage, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Pour off the fat. Combine the butter, flour and milk/stock into a saucepan over medium high heat and whisk until blended. Cook for 5 minutes until thick. Add finely ground, fresh rosemary and the sun dried tomato pesto. Slice the polenta into about 36 slices.

Into the bottom of a greased 9x13 dish, spread about 1/2 cup of the sauce. Layer with 12 slices of polenta to cover the sauce. Add 1/2 the sausage mix, and 1/3 of the mozarella. Add 12 slices of polenta over the cheese and sausage. Add the remaining sausage mix and 1/3 of the mozarella. Layer the last of the polenta over the casserole and cover that with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining mozarella.
Bake or 30-45 minutes at 350 deg F.

more hats

Before Christmas I was reading a murder mystery by Maggie Sefton and it had a great knitted cloche hat pattern in it. (The book was pretty good too!)

So I knit one for myself and one for my sister-in-law. Here is the knitting in progress along with a distraction (a great read!).
Here is the finished hat I gave my sister-in-law.

And after I knit the "fashionista" mittens for T's friend C, I had wool left over, so she got a hat to go with her mittens.

soup day

I feel a bit of a cold coming on. So in addition to swallowing lots of capsules in the hopes of shifting it, I made soup. (Well, I've also been feeling guilty because I haven't made a Christmas gift I promised my sister-in-law). So I defrosted a huge bag of roasted pumpkin from the freezer and pureed it and made soup.

Harvest Soup (adapted from The Canadian Living Cookbook)
1 small onion, diced
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 tbsp butter
3 cups roasted squash or pumpkin puree
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup cream
Seasonings (salt, pepper, thai chili sauce)
Add the butter, onion and apple to a medium hot pan and saute until the onion and apple are soft but not browned.
Add the squash
and the broth, bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Puree the soup using an immersion blender until smooth. Add the cream and season to taste.

Soup's up!

Friday, January 29, 2010

rabbit for supper - welsh ones

Ree over on posted about welsh rarebit (rabbit) the other day and reminded me how much I used to love that yummy, baked cheese on toast goodness when I was a kid. So I rifled through my mum's recipe box and found her recipe. Well, not so much a recipe as instructions. And vague ones at that! Printed on the back of a piece of a job posting from the Public Service Commission.

Welsh Rarebit
Make a thick white sauce, using equal margarine and flour. Add salt, pepper, cayenne, dry mustard and enough milk to make a thick mixture. Add grated cheese and cook until the cheese is melted and the flour is cooked. Put on toast and broil until brown. (In the interests of this even making any sense, I have added a few words...)
I made Welsh Rarebit (pronounced Rabbit) for supper tonight and was a bit more precise about the measurements.
2 tbsp butter
4 tsp flour
2 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp worchestershire sauce
8 tbsp milk or beer
salt and pepper
1 1/2 c. sharp cheddar

Mix together and cook on medium heat until thick and bubbly. Pour over toast (8 slices) and broil until the cheese is toasty brown and bubbly. For an extra special treat, put cooked rashers of bacon over the top, or grilled tomato slices. Eat. (Note this is very rich so two pieces will serve an adult, one for a child).

I asked D if he ever had this as a child and he said no. He always turned it down because he thought there was real rabbit in it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

missing ms bean

This week marks the 6th anniversary of when our ms bean was due to be born. My first pregnancy which ended sadly (and painfully) in July 2003, when I was almost 10 weeks along.

We'd been trying for a while, and were not too optimistic about our chances of not needing medical intervention, given my advanced age (early 40's at the time) but against all odds, we had found each other, D and I and were anxious to complete our family. After 8 months of trying not to hope and then being disappointed, I was all set again to go through the roller coaster in early May. But despite the grouchiness, bloating, cramps that usually announced failure this time there was nothing. So I waited and waited and tried really hard not to hope. For a whole day and another day and because I didn't want to bring D down as well, I didn't say anything to him. Monday morning I woke up at 5am and couldn't go back to sleep. Finally I crept out of bed, found a testing kit and tried it. I couldn't believe my bleary eyes. I ran into our bedroom screaming excitedly "We've done it! I'm pregnant!" to soundly sleeping D. Poor man. Woken from a deep sleep by his crazy girlfriend (ssh - not even engaged at that point!). And once it sank in both of us looked at each other and went "now what?". We'd been so focused on getting pregnant we forgot what came next.

We figured it out. I went to the doctor and had a blood test to confirm. Yes, pregnant. Due date calculated - Jan 31st, 2004. And then I waited. I was bursting with wanting to tell someone. And then a friend phoned. She was pregnant unexpectedly and due on Jan 29th. Then another friend emailed with broad hints - she was also due in early January. Otherwise, I kept quiet. I started to get a little bump. A little hard bump. And I was nauseous all the time. And sooooo tired. At 9 weeks, we had a baby shower for a co-worker. I began to believe and dream about our little one - we started calling her "ms bean". I started to picture her as a baby and a little girl and designed a quilt for her in my head. And then I started to bleed. Just a bit, enough to panic me. I phoned my doctor. Just take it easy and see if it stops. I lay on the couch for a day and watched Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth one). And hoped. And talked to ms bean. And prayed. And kept on bleeding. The bleeding got worse, so D took me to the ER. We were taken in quickly and put in a room. I was sent for an ultrasound. The technician was chatty, she'd had her son in her 40's so she knew how worried I was. Suddenly she stopped talking and pressed the wand on my belly a bit harder. Then a different wand. Then she stopped and said the doctor would be coming to see me. I was wheeled back to my room and we waited. I knit, working on a sweater I had brought with me and D scrounged up a paper to read. The nurses came in occasionally to see if the doctor had been in (no), did I need anything (some one to tell me what was going on) and they would hustle out again. An ER intern stopped in to say, "sorry, you are going to miscarry this pregnancy. The OB will be down as soon as she is out of surgery to explain." A social worker came in to ask how we were doing. She told us that the baby had never implanted so it was never a viable pregnancy but that the OB would be by to explain things. So we waited, not knowing why we were waiting because our dream was over. Our ms bean wasn't "viable".

I knit, D read and went out looking for tea. He tried to cheer me up, telling me I looked fetching in the light blue coloured gown. After hours, the OB came in to discuss our options. I could let the miscarriage happen naturally, I could speed up the process using medication, or she could schedule a D&C to "vaccum" me out. Ouch. I chose the medication, in the hopes of avoiding a long drawn out loss, as she explained that waiting for my body to do it on it's own might take a couple of weeks. She scheduled a follow-up appointment for me and we were free to go. When we stopped to pick up the medication, I ran into a co-worker. It was so jarring, here I was living a nightmare and his reality was it was a lovely sunny afternoon and we were both off work early - wasn't it great. I can't remember what I said or did, I only remember wanting to go home.

So we went home and waited for our baby to leave my body. The medication kicked in about 30 minutes after I took it, giving me the worst cramps I have ever had in my life (and now that includes back labour pains 15 seconds apart on oxytocin). I was in so much pain, emotional and physical and there was very little D could do to help. After 24 hours, we discovered that ibuprofen was the best for the pain but for the greater part of a day, I was in agony. And then it still took almost 2 weeks to miscarry my ms bean. And I started to think that I had never been pregnant, that it was all in my head but I was referred to another OB, (my lovely OB who watched over my T), who explained that the embryo not implanting is the most common cause of miscarriage and it happens in 20% or more of pregnancies.

I didn't know how to heal. D was hurting too. I went back to work and tried to carry on as usual but it hurt too much. So I took a few days off. I sat on the beach and stared at the waves. D and I talked about a memorial for our ms bean. D came up with the idea that I should make the baby quilt that I had designed for her. And make 2 more, one for another baby due in January and one for Children's Hospital. So I made a quilt for baby A - plaid background with planes and trains, a unisex one for the Hospital and finally a pink and white one with moons on it for ms bean. And that one is tucked away in her memory box in my cupboard.

We also wanted a more tangible reminder of our ms bean. We talked about a plant - maybe a rose bush I said. But D didn't want something outside that might die in the elements. So we got an umbrella plant that thrives in our family room. Our ms bean plant.

I often think of our lost baby. What our life would have been like with her in it. But it wasn't to be. I sometimes think I took the collateral hit - I knew 4 other women due at the same time as me and tho' I've lost touch with one of them, I can't imagine a world without the 3 children I know - all quirky, lovely, cheeky, funny individuals. So I was the 1 in 5. And then I think that our ms bean is with her grandma in heaven, so they can take care of us, here. Because they do.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

trucks and cats

This is our kitty cat, Gretel. She is 16 now - originally she was D's cat. Yes, there was a Hansel but he was killed when only a year old. Then came Daisy, but she disappeared after a couple of years so Gretel's been an only cat for a while and she likes that just fine. She is a big chicken of a cat - pretty much any form of wildlife in our back yard will have her scrambling for the door yowling (her let me in noise) - squirrels, bees, birds, neighbourhood cats, etc. I think she's finally starting to forgive us for bringing T into the house after 4 years.

She's still not sure about me though. Initially she liked me because I added kitty treats to her diet and the occasional tidbit of tuna or chicken but I also stopped her from sleeping in our bedroom as I got annoyed with Gretel's 5 am wake up calls - face patting and then standing on and licking my hair - yuck! But she has her own room aka the laundry room, complete with ensuite, food bowl and luxurious bed with her own handmade blanket (thanks Mona!)- what more could a cat ask for? Quite a lot it would seem!

She and T have little cuddle fests once in a while and T tells her "I can't pet you for very long, Gretel. I have to go play construction." T this week was all about writing love letters. The other night he wanted to write a letter to Gretel to tell her he loves her. Aw.
This morning has been a busy morning of construction, which means Mummy has had to connect the low-bed 6,531 times. So maybe that's an exaggeration - maybe it's only been 531 times. You see, T likes to load the trucks onto the bed trailer using the feet and to do that he has to disconnect the trailer.

D keeps telling him he can load the trucks using a ramp but there are 2 issues with that - 1 is that T likes using the feet (I like feet, Mummy) and 2 there is no ramp made at present. So the trailer gets disconnected, the trucks are loaded and then it is "Mummy, can you connect my low bed?"

Or occasionally something else, "Mummy can you fix my tractor" and so I have to put the engine cover back on the tractor.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

a new "blanket"

I made T a new "blanket" a couple of weeks ago - actually it is a duvet cover. I used an IKEA duvet, folded it in half so it tucks perfectly over T's twin bed and created a cover using a "Bob the Builder" curtain given to us by Auntie K and a piece of blanket fabric from my fabric box. T loves to be tucked under it at night and it cut down on middle of the night visits to our room for a bit. T cuddles up with his old baby blankie and his warmy cow ( a cuddly cow hot water bottle) for sleeping, with his turtle night light on to keep from getting scared. Night night, sweet boy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

birthday cake

So it's confession time. My whole life has gone by and today was the very first day I made buttercream icing. I mean, I've made icing for years and years - ok since I'm being honest here, not so much lately. I confess, in recent years, I have bought icing in a can. I know, move myself to the top of the bad mummy list, I have been giving my child canned icing. But my previous recipe (if you can call it that) for icing was what my mother taught me (yes, I'm blaming it on my mother, shame on me!), was icing sugar, a dot of butter, a dribble of vanilla and just enough water to bind it together. And that served me all these years, well, until I discovered the canned stuff.

So what, you may be asking, caused me to have my icing (frosting) epiphany? It goes like this. I bought myself a few cookbooks for an early Christmas present (another confession for another day...) and one of them was American Test Kitchen Cookbook and while rifling through it a few weeks ago, I noticed there were some pages on frosting. So tonight, as I was prepping T's cake for his preschool party tomorrow and having no canned icing in the house, I thought I would look up a recipe for icing and just see what it was. Well people, can I say I was horrified by the amount of butter called for in the recipe - 2 1/2 sticks of butter. Yikes. I read it again and there it was - still 2 1/2 sticks of butter! Ack. Ok, so in the fine print it said, good for a double layer cake. Ok, all I had to ice (frost?) was an 8x8 single layer cake so I used 1 stick of butter and 1 c of icing sugar, 2 tsp of cream and 1/2 tsp of vanilla. And as I was beating it all together it came to me...............buttercream icing........made with butter and cream! Oh, I get it. Now. So I've been doing it all wrong for years. (and years) Stop laughing. But it is gooooooood stuff. I'll be doing this again. My arteries won't thank me for this discovery but I think my guys will.

And here is a picture of T's cake all ready for preschool tomorrow.
Complete with smarties (as requested), white icing (as requested), it's chocolate (as requested) with car and train candles as a surprise and it is gluten-free so his friend C who is wheat intolerant can have some too.

Happy Birthday my dear little boy!


T was a shivery boy on Saturday. In the morning, it wasn’t raining so he went outside to dig with his trucks. I put him into his snow pants and boots and he wore his new hoodie and one of his new hats to keep warm. He kept running in with dirty trucks for me to wash and dry – mummy’s truck wash service – as they don’t work well when they are very dirty. After a while he came back in, saying he was “shivery”. I said I would get a warmer jacket for him to wear but he said “no thanks” and shucked boots and pants, hoodie and hat and ran inside, leaving a dirty pile of clothes and mud all over the kitchen floor.

Later, at lunch, he stopped eating his candy cane ice cream, complaining “it’s making my teeth shivery”. Ok. Did he want to give the ice cream to Daddy to eat? “No”. He waited until it was soupy ice cream and then ate it and there were no more shivery teeth issues.

How to make Candy Cane Ice Cream (curtesy of my sister-in-law, Kerry)

1 tub good vanilla ice cream
A quantity of broken up candy canes

Mix together until desired taste and consistency is reached. Keep frozen.

You may remember these mittens.

They have been given to their intended recipient – T’s little girlfriend, C. According to her mum, C loves them. Says they are “fashionista!” (She’s 3!)

Monday, January 18, 2010

quick chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

On Saturday we had a family lunch to celebrate T's upcoming 4th birthday. I made almost vegetarian chili, cheesy cornbread, a Nigella ginger spice pudding cake and at T's request, chocolate chip (oatmeal) cookies. I use a quick recipe from the Joy of Cooking

Quick Oatmeal Cookies (Joy of Cooking)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. flour
6 tbsp. butter
3/4 c. rolled oats
1 beaten egg
1/2 tsp. soda
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
(1 tsp. cinnamon)

Blend everything together.

2 tbsp. milk or water
1 tsp. vanilla

Beat together until blended.
1/2 c. chocolate chips

Blend the chocolate chips into the batter and spread into a cookie tin and bake at 350 deg F for 10-12 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.

(So I actually make square cookies with this recipe but my guys don't see past the chocolate chips so it works!)

(This is T in his new swimming goggles eating a cookie!)

memories in the cookie tin

Yesterday, I decided to bake cookies about 30 minutes before T's friend arrived for a playdate. With my stockpile of frozen bananas still in the freezer I pulled a childhood favorite cookie recipe out of my mum's box.

Oatmeal Macaroons

1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. melted butter
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. coconut
1 tsp. vanilla
1 banana, mashed
1/2 tsp. soda
1 c. flour
2 c. oats

Combine the ingredients in the order listed. Two sugars, melted butter, egg,

salt, coconut, vanilla, banana

soda, flour and oats.

Drop from a teaspoon on to a greased baking sheet.

Bake at 325 deg F for 10-12 minutes.

When I was a kid and made these, I usually only ended up with about 1/2 the cookies the recipe makes (~ 36) mainly because the batter is so yummy I would eat half of it before it even baked. I managed not to eat the batter before baking this time, so the cookie tin is full of cookies (well, half full of cookies - I've been snacking since I got home....).

The boys enjoyed the cookies, although they ate all the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies I'd made the day before.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

our muffin

Just when I think I understand how to deal with our small boy (our muffin), he changes on me. Lately he has been highly resistant to suggestions, usually responding “I decide” or “it’s my choice”. So we are having to be really clear about what is negotiable (what he wears, how much dinner he eats, what he plays with, etc) and what isn’t (bedtime, sitting down at the table for dinner, going to preschool and daycare, no hitting, etc).

T is also telling BIG fibs. And he’s really (no, really) bad at it. The other day he unraveled all the toilet paper in the downstairs bathroom. D asked him why he did it and T said over and over “I didn’t do it”. Poor little guy doesn’t even have a little brother or sister to blame it on like I did. I guess it’ll be a little while before he starts blaming the cat or “notme”. But really, he is so bad at lying it’s funny. And I’m thinking that someday I’ll wish he was still this easy to read.

When T wants to do something he knows he shouldn’t be doing – like say climb on the counter and sneak Smarties out of the Smartie jar – he tells me “don’t look”. Or he gets a look of pure, mischevious joy on his face, which prompts me to go looking for what he’s up to. I will find something - unraveled toilet paper, he’s kicking D under the table – something.

Some of the things he does are not so endearing, his current penchant for sticking his freezing cold hands up my shirt I’m not too wild about. Some are funny – his way of throwing his head back and doing a loud, fake sounding laugh when he tells a joke or funny story punctuated with his “it was sooooooo funny”. Or his twang. Everything is “cewel (cool)” at the moment. Or when he says “that’s a great idea” or “I have a great idea” usually about something routine and ordinary that has a way of making everyday things seem special. Or his way of dancing in his chair and running around in circles when he’s excited about something makes me smile. And when he’s scared or feeling lonely or sad, he comes to mummy for a huggie. And melts my heart all over again. Sometimes it is hard to stay tough with him, especially when he’s really sorry about something and his head is hanging down, his lip is quivering and big, big tears are rolling down his face, it just yanks at the old heart strings.

And he’s fascinated with his baby pictures. For the past few nights, one or more of his bedtime stories has been his baby and/or toddler scrapbook. He especially loves pictures of him with other babies and pictures with toys. Most of his baby toys have long since left the house, so I guess the pictures make him feel nostalgic for his old toys. And he’s not even 4 yet!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

mmm - lemon

In the project of creating a recipe book from my mum's recipe box recipes, I came across a childhood favorite - my Gram's lemon cake. I remember making it once using lime jello instead of whatever the recipe called for creating a neon green cake. So as an adult reading the recipe, I have to say I was faintly appalled by the actual recipe - cake mix, jello mix, crisco, 4 eggs and water. I was reading Molly Wizenberg's book - A Homemade Life - and it has a french yogurt lemon cake recipe (along with a really sweet story) so the other day I made that cake. It has almost the same glaze as Gram's so it feels right.
1 1/2 c. flour
2 tsps baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tsps grated lemon zest
1/2 c. plain whole-milk yogurt (I used Balkan style as it was all I had in the fridge)
1 c. sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. lemon juice
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the lemon zest and mix well.

In a large bowl, mix the yogurt, sugar, and eggs together. Add the flour mixture and blend together. Add the oil and mix well. Keep mixing until you get a smooth, pale batter.
Pour into a greased 9" cake pan with a greased parchment circle on the bottom. Bake for 25-35 minutes until a tester in the center comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert the cake after loosening the sides and re-invert over a rack and a baking sheet. Whisk the syrup together until all combined and spoon over the cake.

My verdict - yummy and keeps for days well wrapped in plastic wrap.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

around our house

A few pictures of life around our house. These were taken a couple of weeks before Christmas.

T was painting when I got home one afternoon - this is his picture of a whale. The big red splotch in the middle is the big whale tummy, with the whale teeth on the left (pointy, pink) and the whale tale on the right.

T wanted to make cookies using the Christmas cookie cutters. In an effort to save time, I thought I hit upon a brilliant idea - use chocolate chip cookie dough. So I rolled out the dough and we cut out the shapes and baked them. Oops! Not such a great idea - the shapes spread into unrecognisable shapes. I managed to recut some of them so T wasn't too disappointed.

The mail that day included a parcel for me - a present to myself!

I tell myself I had to get them to qualify for free shipping for the gifts that also came with these books...

T made lego things and played with the cow

(well, the cow was licking my sweater!) and I tried to put together a snowflake garland.

sous chef

T is at an age where he loves to help us do things. He helps me do the laundry by taking clothes out of the dryer and yesterday, in an effort to get back his earthmover (long story!) he even tried to carry the basket of clean clothes upstairs to his room. He made it half way up the stairs before crashing (the clothes - not T). He continued up the stairs with the basket while I helped him. And then he helped me put the clothes away in his drawers.

One thing he wants to help with is cooking. I'm trying to get him ready so he can cook dinner by the time he's 10 or so. So he stirs the pot sometimes but the other day he was so insistant on helping me (when I was cutting onions which got a bit scary) I happened on the idea to get him to slice mushrooms using the egg slicer

and grate cheese. Both of which helped me with my recipe, let him work alongside me and kept him busy while I got the rest of the ingredients together. So those are his regular jobs now - slicing mushrooms

and grating cheese. He sometimes adds to the excitement by having contests - how many mushrooms will fit into the slicer and still slice, and how many bowls of cheese can the grater reach and a new spin on it - who can grate more cheese - T or Daddy?