Saturday, May 30, 2009

Experiences of a virgin dance parent

There are many worlds that are foreign to me and nothing can be further out of my comfort zone than the world of dance. A seemingly benign thing, beautiful little children learning to dance. For the novice who neither participated in dance classes or knew others who did, I got one heck of a shock. Stage parents bribing their kids to dance better. Hundreds of dollars spent of costumes. Early photo calls for class pictures. 8am on a Sunday morning early. Two 5x7 pictures of my daughter for $40. Whenever I look at them I will remember the fight over her hair and make-up after I woke the poor child up for her early morning appointment. A line-up that began at 5:30am (I wish I was making this up) for a 6pm box office opening to purchase tickets for the dance recital(s) the low cost of $15/seat.

At the last class before the recital, the mothers were in the adjoining sitting room and laughing over all the money being spent with a high possibility of the girls getting on stage and doing nothing due to stage fright.

I was wondering what the heck we were doing there. Izzy just wanted to dance.

***Will post again in a few weeks about recital once I get the video back. She had a blast and wants to perform again! Maybe worth the headaches mentioned above.***


They love each other. Most of the time. I just wish they could help my sanity by arguing less. Their latest pet peeve is when one of them looks out the "other's" car window. Fun.

My little Baker

Alex has lost interest in cooking and baking. I hope its temporary though if its not I will still insist he learns the basics. Izzy, however, is the sidekick I can't get rid of. Her specialty these days is cracking eggs. We made chocolate chip cookies. Since I can't keep her out of the Chippets I decided to at least have her eat them in cookie form.

Banquet Night

Last night was the end of year banquet for the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts for our local troupe. It was a fun and late night out for the kids. Alex had a great year and looks forward to getting his blue tail next September. Brown tails are first year Beavers, then come blue and then white. The leaders were fantastic and the kids enjoyed quite a few adventures together.

We are opting out of the sleep-over next week because 2 nights without someone familiar to help wind him down is too much right now. I don't doubt he'll be better equipped to handle it next year.

I'm glad we signed him up for this.

Its funny...

Just when I really start to worry about the kids, something happens to make me wonder what I was ever fussing over. Lately it has been Alex and spelling. My insatiable reader and all around freaky bright kid couldn't be bothered to spell. When he did, it was much worse than I thought it would be for such a strong reader. I let it go. We didn't memorize the Dolche word list. I didn't test him. We just kept on doing what we were doing. Then one day I walked into the kitchen and found this. He decided the fridge was a lost and found box for food. Playing with Izzy's magnetic letters he did it all on his own.

Now, if he could just spontaneously write a few sentences down for me in lower case I'd be over the moon!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Last Art Project

We are finished art class at the Gallery. I'll set up more classes next year. Everyone loves it. Here are the kids last watercolour drawings. They use the crayons and then paint with wet brush over top. I haven't seen Alex use this much colour and detail ever!

I guess this makes me the mean Mommy...

I have an Aunt and Uncle that refused to subscribe to cable and kept a little TV in a back room to watch occasional videos. When we were kids I thought my cousins were so deprived. Now I see the merits of life without it and we have been happily cable-free since February. I can't begin to explain just how much the lack of advertising has changed the kids. Other perks include more free play and reading. And since all their TV viewing has to go through the DVD player, I have much more control over content.

The kids haven't really clued in to the fact that they don't get Teletoon like their neighbours do. No, my struggle (and nomination for strict mommy award) comes from the battle over summer treats and this year my kids aren't taking it quietly.

I have always battled weight and work very hard (and spend a great deal of money) offering my kids fresh and nutritious food. I cook from scratch as often as possible. In fact, our 100% whole wheat bread is rising in the kitchen right now. The kids are allowed some treats. They eat McDonald's once or twice a month. They are far from hard done by. What I am pretty strict about are the kids not consuming soda, hard candies, gum and now that summer has arrived, freezies. I hate freezies. Kids eat them all day long under the guise of it being a harmless refreshing treat. Frozen sugar water with artificial colouring. To cool off. Grrrr.

Have you seen the size of some of these freezies? Longer than Izzy's arm! When offered these treats from well meaning neighbours and friends the kidlets are allowed to split a big one. Sometimes. Other times I just say no. It isn't easy though when 20 other kids are running around outside with their giant freezies.

I read an article that talked about the fact that kids tend to gain weight in the summer, even with all the running around because of the hotdogs, extra juice boxes and frozen treats. It is a real shame. My kids wouldn't even qualify as pudgy but I worry about the future. Food has been so altered. Kids eat fruit snacks instead of real fruit. Portion sizes are completely out of whack. Eating well is such an uphill battle when it should be so basic.

So if my kids are hot, they can have water. We'll break out the watermelon and strawberries. Of course we won't ban ice cream (nor could we, especially if you know Rob) but it will be, as they said on Sesame Street, a sometimes treat. I will not be buying freezies though. In fact, I bet if I dig to the bottom of my deep freezer, I can still find half a box worth from two summers ago when I felt bad about not offering them to the neighbourhood kids. I know we gave away more than we ate.

Someday the kids will happy for the choices we've made for them. For now I will just have to stick to my guns and use that age old argument used by our parents, and their parents before them - because I said so...

Monday, May 18, 2009

The eternal question, why?

Why is Izzy so obstinate?

Why must she fight us over every little thing?

Why, after a week of potty training (mostly successful) is she still insistent on diapers?

Why, why, why?

Poor Rob has been questioning this all morning. I think he is still coming to terms with having a unsubmissive, noncompliant and unyielding daughter. For some reason (though it makes parenting more difficult) it gives me a strange sense of peace about the future.

Or maybe because those are adjectives I might ascribe to myself - and not in a negative way. I mean any personality trait can deviate towards a positive or negative direction.

Chilly Victoria Day Weekend

...but oh so much fun!

It is a May-24 tradition here, in our townhouse complex, for neighbours, friends and family to have a big pot-luck BBQ and fireworks later that evening. This year my partner in crime (aka friend and fellow board member) took over hosting duty. We grilled up burgers, sausages and hotdogs. Had lots of yummy side dishes and an unholy amount of desserts and treats. There was a giant game of street hockey, complete with "Zamboni" driving toddlers who would wiggle their way between the nets and unbelievably patient players. Great food, great laughs and fantastic company. It is so nice for the kids to be growing up in a place with such a great sense of community.

When the night came, winter coats were donned thanks to the 2-3 degree low and kids were running around with sugar in their bellies and sparklers in their mittens.

I even got to help set off the fireworks.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A question answered...

Once in a while I pop by an old chat room for homeschoolers. Today a parent asked what the kids were into these days. Since I often feel like I don't record enough of the details of what our day-to-day school'ish behavior entails I thought it would be nice to look back at this snippet, just to see what floated their boats in the Spring of 2009.

What are your kids into?

Alex (6) - Computer games/internet surfing, doodle books, reading (mainly non-fiction), Lego, Swimming, The Big Bang and creation of universe/planets, magnets, electricity, Lego Star Wars/Indiana Jones for the Wii, math - specifically multiplication and place values, piano.

Izzy (3 1/2) - Number recognition, writing letters, baking with mommy, ballet, reading (not on her own), mazes, cutting and gluing collages, potty training, painting, photography, learning about the cycle of life and death, prepping for school in the Fall.

A Near Perfect Evening

Life has been stressful and hectic these days. Issues that require immediate attention with the condo board are calling me. The kids are wrapping up tons of activities and we are still trying to plan, book or reserve summer ones. Izzy is potty training. A community BBQ and fireworks display have been planned and organized. (Buying fireworks was an unexpected thrill though, lol.) Rob's vacation was an "opportunity" to do much needed work around the house. There are recitals, banquets, birthday parties and so much more on the horizon. My calendar is bulging and I think I get some down time in July. Only July though. August looks pretty rough already. I won't...can't even think about what Fall will bring.

Yet, tonight, the eve of a very hectic day that will consume all of my attention from the moment I wake up until the late in the evening when last firework is lit off is somewhat relaxing. Odd...bizarre, even.

I am sitting here, with the patio doors wide open. The wind has died down and the smell of the crisp air after a hard rain is intoxicating. I have lemon poppy seed loaves baking in the oven. It smells so lovely in here. I swear there is nothing more perfect than fresh lemons. God, was I channeling Martha Stewart just then?! The lights are dimmed. I hear a low rumble from the tv where Rob is playing soccer on the Wii. The kids are fast asleep. My web radio is playing classic FM 100 and I am calm, relaxed and content.

I love these moments. Alone time. Not physically, but mentally. I am in my zone in the kitchen but with two young children I rarely enjoy this kind of ambiance uninterrupted. If I could track down a bottle of Pinot Blanc this would truly be heaven on earth.

Pizza Dough Recipe

For those who loved the bread, here is something else to make the family go gaga!

Makes 4, 1-pound it says. I just break of bits at a time and make mini pizzas for the family.

2 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbsp yeast
1 1/2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 1/2 cups flour

Mix all wet ingredients. Add flour. Mix without kneading. I just get my hands in there and work it until it is one sticky mass. Cover (not airtight) and rest at room temperature until dough rises and then flattens on top, app. 2 hours. Dough can be used immediately or refrigerated up to 12 days.

It is very sticky and can be hard to handle. When pulling off a piece, dust with flour to keep from sticking to your hands. I just pull at it until somewhat round. Can use rolling pin or a neat trick is to set a flattened piece on an upside down bowl and let it pull itself down.

Works best on pizza stone, preheated. Bake pizza at highest temperature available 450-500 degrees. Let stone warm up at least 20 minutes. Cooking time will vary with size of pizza. I can fit three small pizzas on my stone and it takes about 7-8 minutes.

If you are using pizza stone, put dough on parchment paper first (with cornmeal to coat bottom if you like) then add sauce/toppings from there. This will be the easiest way to put pizza on the stone. Dough is too sticky to slide off a plate or sheet. I coat my pizza peel with cornmeal and then slide it on the hot stone.

Enjoy! I also make panzerotti with this recipe. Brush pastry or crust with a little olive oil and then rub with the inside of a clove garlic for an extra treat.

I think this is why my family likes me so much...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Izzy Tries Out School

Today the school down the street invited all the JK kids and parents to a 2-hour school prep information session. They set up four different stations: playdough; cutting, colouring and gluing; reading; letters and numbers around the school in the classrooms and library. Each child received a passport and moved from station to station in smaller groups, collecting stickers for their efforts along the way. She met the two kindergarten teachers, the principal and librarian.

Izzy was quiet when we arrived. Watching all the other kids. Making a few quiet comments along the way. She wasn't nervous, just cautious and taking her time absorbing her surroundings. When we arrived we received a package with crayons, scissors, books and other goodies. She took her place at the table with some other kids while I sat nearby. She realized that everyone was calling her Isabelle and her name tag also said "Isabelle" and we went up to the principal and teachers gathered at the back of the room where she requested a tag that said "Izzy". Everyone got a chuckle out of that. She came across as very shy but she made her request politely and unabashedly.

As we went from room to room she confirmed what I was seeing at home - much further ahead of her peers in numbers and math but average when it came to the alphabet. She was the only kid who didn't need help with scissors (something I am all too familiar with...and never had a reason to e proud of until today, lol) and dislikes drawing and colouring, like Alex. She was quiet and polite. Always attentive to her teacher and listened very well to instructions. She was not timid, though, and was finding her own way around the place within minutes. She walked the halls like she owned the place. I was so proud.

I feel better about the whole school issue after today. I like the staff at the school. I even discussed homeschooling, briefly, with a few of them. It is a small school. Izzy didn't seem dwarfed by it. She enjoyed herself and we are all looking forward to September.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Not *my* Home-made Artisan Bread Recipe

I've had a few requests for the recipe so Izzy and I decided to document our bread making to post along with the recipe.

Start with the ingredients:

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoon kosher or other coarse salt
6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose flour
Cornmeal for pizza peel

Add yeast and salt to warm water.


Add flour and mix with kneading beaters on mixer...or get in there with your hands.

Mix together until ingredients are combined. Do not knead.


Cover with loose lid or cling wrap. I like to put my dough into an old salad container with lid which fits nicely in the fridge (a later step).

Allow to rise a minimum of two hours...can take as long as five, depending on temperature of room. My kitchen was very warm, hence the spillage. Dough will be very sticky.

You can use some of this dough now but it is ideal to refrigerate it first. Dough can stay in fridge up to two weeks and this allows for five portions or loaves. I like to transfer it to my salad container first. Dough will deflate. This is okay!


This method uses a pizza stone and steam to bake. Any baking stoneware should do the trick. I have not tried it on a cookie sheet, myself, but I have read online that it should still work fine. You may not get the same crunchy bottom as the one I make but the steam will work its magic on the rest.

Cut out a piece of dough to work with, about grapefruit size. The dough will be pretty flat. Use some extra flour when cutting the dough to prevent sticking.

Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as need so it won`t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. The bottom of the dough may appear to be a collection of bunched ends but it will flatten and adhere during resting and baking. This should take only 30-60 seconds.

Rest the loaf and let it rise on pizza peel (or cookie sheet) with cornmeal on it. It will stick to paper or peel without it. Let it rise about 40 minutes. It will rise more in oven so don`t be concerned too much about its size.

Put baking stone on the middle rack. Have another rack inside the oven that won`t interfere with the loaf. I put it right underneath the stone. This is where I will add a cookie sheet for the water when the loaf is ready to be baked. Set oven at 450 degrees F. The stone needs to be heated a minimum of half an hour at the high temperature.

Dust and slash the loaf. Top the loaf with flour and slash the top of bread with a serrated knife in scallop or tic-tac-toe fashion.

With a quick motion, slide loaf onto pizza peel or put cookie sheet with loaf in. Add one cup of hot tap water to the other pan. Close the door quickly.

Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is nicely browned and firm to touch. Cool on rack.


This bread is very easy to make. It takes about five minutes to make the dough. We have found that the flavour peaks around the 4th-5th day in the fridge and then starts to sour...also a good thing for an easy sour dough knock-off. I have also made pocket sandwiches, taking out smaller portions and wrapping them around meat and cheese.

The book is called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I have used many other recipes from this book, like the chocolate bread and pizza dough, and they were fantastic!

If its Spring... must be time for a hike at the Marsh!

Catching up....

I had a couple of really busy weeks that just swept by. So, I didn't get a chance to mention how great it was to see an old friend and her family! I met Ash back in my teens through another good friend and she became the *infamous* friend I attended an all girls college with :-)

So, my old friend Ash, her lovely husband and two gorgeous boys (the newest a mere seven weeks) met up with us at the Science Centre. Since they live in the East Coast I haven't seen them in a while.

I had to post this pic. Its of the kids in front of a car. Ash said it wasn't going to be a pretty picture, the kids in front of a car, but I remarked that I have fond memories of looking through old childhood photos, many of which had been taken in front of vehicles. I wonder if all those pictures were taken at the last minute too, when the parents remembered to get just one more of all the kids together.

Its nice, and a bit surreal, that life seems to be flying by so quickly. I still remember those giggling teenage girls like it was yesterday.


The kids made masks in art class and wanted to show them off. I can't say enough about this class. We love the teacher. We love the projects she comes up with. Definitely one of our best homeschooling experiences.