Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Geek in the Making

My three-year-old son coined a new nickname for his father this afternoon --- Hacky the Dad.

He chose the name because, "Daddy likes to hack things, you know, like computers."

To emulate his dad, my son "hacked" several of his grandma's ballpoint pens this evening. (That is, he took all the pens apart to see what was inside them).

I married Ben knowing that I would have to tolerate random computer parts strewn about the house. I never realized that my husband's progeny would follow so closely in his geeky footsteps!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Pop on Over

I just discovered a new favourite staple recipe. Have you ever tried popovers? I must have lived a deprived childhood because I had never heard of popovers until yesterday.

For the uninformed (as I was) popovers are little baked bites of goodness, not unlike Yorkshire puddings. They are super-easy to make. We ate our popovers with beef stew, but they would taste yummy slathered with jam for breakfast too. These popovers were so tasty, my husband and his friend ate thirteen of them for supper last night.


(Do not preheat your oven)

2 eggs
1 C. milk
1 C. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt

1. In large bowl, beat eggs; stir in milk, flour and salt until blended. (Don't overmix; ignore a few lumps). Fill 12 well-greased muffin cups 3/4 full with batter.

2. Place in cold oven. Turn oven to 450 degrees; bake for 25 minutes. Remove and prick with point of sharp knife to release steam. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes or until golden brown and puffed. (Popovers can be cooled, placed on cookie sheet, covered with clean towel and set aside at room temperature for up to 8 hours. Reheat in 350 degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes.)

These are very tasty. Make sure to bake a double-batch!
Potty Humour

This evening my husband's good friend and business partner, Chris, was over as we prepared our kids for bed. I bathed the boys, put on their jammies, and herded them into our bedroom for Bible time.

Ben and I sat on the bed, our toddler snuggled in my lap, Baby Girl rested in her bouncy chair, Chris leaned against the wall, and our preschooler stood beside him.

Ben prepared to open the Bible and read our nightly passage of Scripture. Suddenly, we heard the all-too familiar sound of our three-year-old passing wind.

With a straight face our son turned to Chris and said, "Excuse you."

Ben and Chris burst out laughing. "Ahhh, Buddy," I stammered, "Do you need to use the bathroom?"

Without skipping a beat my son pointed to Chris and said, "No. But he does!"

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Don't I Feel Beautiful

My son has been full of compliments this morning ...

We woke up late, so I was still wearing my housecoat as I dressed the children. My little boy asked, "Mommy, are you going to put on your makeup today?"

"I haven't even showered yet, Buddy," I replied, "I'll put on my makeup after I take a shower."

"But Mommy," he argued, "I don't want you to wear makeup. You don't have to look pretty today."

I've been feeling a bit sensitive about my appearance lately, to tell the truth. I still got ten pounds to lose and my tummy is very soft and squishy. Worst of all, my hair is falling out! I'm in that lovely post-pregnancy hair-shedding stage. Yuck! I find it so gross.

My preschooler, sensitive young man that he is, really gave my self image a boost this morning when he loudly complained:

"Mommy!! Why do your hairs always get in my nank!"

My wonderful husband assured me that I am beautiful. Of the men in my life, I choose to believe his opinion above all.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Good Stewardship

Ben and I try to manage our money wisely. We definitely have a long way to go, but I think we're closer to reaching our financial goals than ever before.

Our number one goal is to pay off debt --- all of it, including our house. Ben and I feel that living debt-free is extremely important. We've chosen to live in a more modest house than we can afford in order to pay off debt more quickly. Sure, our kids share a room and we don't have a backyard, but our house is comfortable and homey. Our boys like sharing, we can easily go to the park down the street, and we'll soon be developing a playroom in our basement!

I've found a good website for families living on a budget: Living on a Dime.

I subscribed to their e-newsletter this afternoon. If I learn any good money-saving tips I will pass them along!

Monday, September 25, 2006

You Know Your Kids Are Tired When ...

This weekend our boys stayed with Grandpa and Grammy while we were away in Fernie. I think the boys had a good time --- they were exhausted by the time we brought them home yesterday.

How do I know my boys were tired?

Last night Ben and I enjoyed a quiet evening. I worked on my blog while Ben read his book. The kids had all been asleep for a couple of hours. Suddenly, we heard a terrific CRASH! upstairs.

Ben and I flew up the stairs and into the boys' bedroom. We found our three-year-old son lying on the floor with his blankets tangled around him. He wasn't crying or moving. (His bed is only about 18 inches off the floor.)

I gathered him into my arms. "Are you okay buddy?" I asked, "Did you fall out of bed?"

The little guy's eyes were open, but he didn't give much of a response. I lifted him back into bed and tucked the covers under his chin.

"Are you even awake?" I asked my son.

"No," he mumbled, and sleepily lifted his head off the pillow to give me a kiss.

He was snoring again before we shut the bedroom door.

Our son is an exceptionally heavy sleeper, but even Ben and I were impressed. We suspect that if we hadn't come into the room our little guy would have slept on the floor until morning. He was that tired.

Our boys must have had a great time this weekend. Now they may need the rest of the week to catch up on their sleep!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Knit Two, Purl Two ... What in the World!?

This weekend I brought along my knitting. As Baby Girl napped in the other room, I sat in a cozy chair and watched TV. My knitting needles made a satisfying "click, click, clack" sound as I worked the yarn.

I had completed about 1/3 of a dish cloth in a straightforward knitting stitch. Nothing fancy. I decided to experiment with something a bit different, so I switched the pattern to "knit two, purl two".

Everything went okay ... for about three stitches. I quickly realized that I obviously did not know how to purl. I thought I remembered how. Apparently not. I just kept trucking, though, and finished my row.

The stitches looked really funny --- all twisty and tight. My rows and rows of neat knitting were followed by a mess of craziness. I surveyed the damage and thought to myself, "Hey, who cares? It's only a dish cloth, for heaven's sake. The whole point of the exercise is to experiment and learn."

So I tried to do another row. Knit two, purl two. Oh man, it was worse than the last. I'd really made a mess of things, and had mysteriously managed to add about a dozen new stitches to the row. My dish cloth was a disaster.

I stopped, gave a frustrated "huff", and unraveled all my work. Ben gave me a curious look out the corner of his eye.

"I forgot how to purl," I informed him.

"Oh," he replied, not really grasping the situation. I guess the term "perl" means something completely different to a computer programmer.

In the end, I managed to find a "How to Purl" tutorial on the internet. It seems I was pulling the yarn around backwards, and that it why my stitches got all twisted. I started over and am working on perfecting "knit two, purl two".

My skein of yarn came with a cool pattern for an afghan. If I can get the hang of the stitches, I think it would make a neat project for over the winter. I guess I should at least finish one little dish cloth first, though.

TV Tune Out

Ben and I had a terrific time this weekend in Fernie. We stayed in a gorgeous condo right on the ski hill. Our suite was beautiful --- cozy and well-decorated. We came home feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

Our condo had a comfy sitting area, complete with large, leather wing-back chairs. I spent most of the weekend curled up in one of the chairs, wrapped in a fleecy, brown blanket. The chairs were arranged in front of a fireplace and on the mantle sat a slick flat-screen TV.

Ben and I don't have a TV at home, by choice. We have several computers and a high-speed internet connection. We don't need a TV as well.

We also know our own weaknesses. If we did own a television we would waste far too much time sitting in front of the tube. This weekend alone I'm certain I watched more TV than I have for the past year. (I'd estimate we had the TV on for about six hours yesterday.)

We did watch some cool shows, though. Mostly things on the Discovery Channel --- How It's Made and Mythbusters. Ben also watched several episodes of Farscape on DVD.

However, I am very glad to come home to my quiet, TV-free house. Because I don't watch TV I have time to pursue other interests --- blogging and reading, music and exercising. If we had a TV, I'm sure I'd be sucked into watching for at least an hour every evening. I'm too weak. I wouldn't be able to stand up against the temptation.

But I have to admit, it was kind of nice to zone out in front of the tube for just one day.

Kitty Cat Update

This evening we returned home from our weekend getaway in Fernie (which was wonderful, by the way.) We parked our van in the driveway and I trudged to the front door, my arms loaded down with coats, bags and kids. As I approached our front steps I was greeted by a familiar sight.

As the classic song goes: "The cat came back, the very next day ... "

A cute, fluffy, gray cat crawled out from under our stairs. Aarrrg! Where are they coming from!? And more to the point --- what else is living under our steps? I just pray that something worse isn't attracting these cats to the space beneath the stairs --- something like a family of mice.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Knit One, Purl Two ...

The cool, crisp days of fall seem to have arrived in Calgary. I love the fact that I can turn on my oven and cook true "comfort food" once again. The leaves are turning and my petunias have quietly died. Ben and I snuggle under our down comforter a night. I dress the children in long pants and fleece coats (and am discovering how much my boys have grown over the summer because all of their pants are too short!)

Fall has rekindled a desire within me to create crafts, working with fabrics and yarn. You know, I think I missed my true passion when I majored in painting at art school. I love vibrant colours and rich textures, elements I can work with in paint, but I love the feel of working with textiles --- the flow of yarn through my fingers, feeding soft swaths of fabric through my sewing machine.

I have great vision for creative needlework projects. I often have numerous ideas bubbling through my brain. Unfortunately, what I lack is practiced skill and training. I am a novice textile worker, at best. I'm frustrated by my shortcomings.

So I have decided that there is no better time than the present to learn new skills. I'll never gain proficiency unless I actually go out and try to make things. For several years I have longed to learn knitting. This afternoon I popped out to the store during nap time and bought a ball of yarn and some needles. I am going to practice making dish cloths! I figure there is no easier way to learn knitting than that!

Next week I plan to go to the Creative Stitches and Crafting Alive Show with my friend, Lacey. She and I are both beginners when it comes to needle crafts, but we have a keen desire to learn. We are going to try getting together on a regular basis to work on projects this fall. I think we'll have great fun! I'm looking forward to chatting and sewing with a like-minded friend :-).

For the rest of this evening I plan to relax on the couch and break in my new knitting needles. I have some lovely green (of course!) yarn to try out. And, well, for my close friends and family ... don't be surprised if you receive a few dish cloths this Christmas.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Kitty Cat Caper

It all started about a week ago when our family was in a rush to get out the door at suppertime. We were caught up in a whirlwind of activity getting shoes on, coats zippered and Baby in her car seat. My three-year-old opened the front door, walked outside and exclaimed:

"Mommy! There's a beaver under our steps!"

Curious. I didn't know my front yard was a natural habitat for beavers.

I wasn't sure whether we should believe our imaginative preschooler, but we could hear scuffling sounds coming from under the front stoop. My husband, brave techo-geek that he is, stretched his hand under the steps and snapped a picture with his cell phone.

"Interesting ... " my husband commented as he studied the screen on his phone. I took a look at the photo. An image of two large eyes glowed against a background of darkness. Our mysterious creature didn't appear to be a beaver after all --- it looked distinctly feline.

"Sorry, Buddy," my husband consoled our excited son, "It's just a cat. Probably belongs to the neighbour, or something."

We left the scaredy cat hiding under our front stoop and loaded the kids into the van.


The next day I received an e-mail from the property manager of our condo complex. (I hold a volunteer position on our condo board.) Apparently, one of the units in our complex has a mouse problem. Our manager wondered if we knew of any other units with similar issues.

Feeling cheeky, I sent off a reply to the effect of: "No mice at our place. The cat living under our front steps takes care of them for us."

I then promptly forgot about the cat.


Yesterday afternoon our family went out to visit friends. We arrived home in the early evening. As Ben pulled our van into the driveway I said, "Just leave the van outside. No point putting it in the garage. I need to leave for my music lesson in a little while, anyway."

We parked on the driveway, unloaded the kiddies, and went to the front door. I heard an unexpected sound coming from beneath our front stairs.

"Umm, Ben," I called to my husband, "I think our steps are meowing."

Sure enough, our little feline friend had returned. At the sound of our voices he crawled out from his hiding place and rubbed against our legs. He was a handsome orange and white tabby, friendly, with a collar around his neck. Obviously, he was not a stray. Somebody cared for him. I still assumed he belonged to a nearby neighbour.

"Go home, kitty," my husband said as he brushed cat hairs from his pants.

Ben and I like cats. Unfortunately, we're both seriously allergic. Our friendly cat was cute, but I wasn't keen to touch him. The kitty was intent on sneaking into our house. I herded our curious kids through the front door while Ben distracted him.

"You think that cat is really living under our stairs?" I asked Ben once we were all safely inside.

"Maybe," was my husband's astute answer.

As I bathed the kids and put them to bed, I mentally made a note to check under the stairs again in the morning.


On Wednesday mornings the kids and I volunteer at preschool gym at the Y. We were finishing up breakfast, preparing to head out, when our doorbell rang.

I smiled and opened the door. It was Niels, our neighbour from down the street. Niels serves as the president of our condo board, and he also is a friend from our church.

"Hi," he said, "Do you still have a cat living under your steps?" (Niels had read my e-mail from the previous week.)

"Well, actually ... I think we do," I replied, "We thought he had gone home, but last night he was back again." As I spoke, sure enough, the orange and white tabby waltzed over and rubbed his whiskers against Niel's leg. The cat mewed loudly and tried to nose his way into the house.

"I think he's hungry," Niels suggested, "Have you been feeding him?"

No, we hadn't been.

"Why don't I take him home and give him something to eat. I might call the SPCA."

It sounded like a plan to me, so I gingerly scooped up the cat and placed him in Niels' arms. What a handsome kitty. If it weren't for our allergies, I wouldn't have minded allowing him into our house.

"See you later," I said as Niels walked down the driveway with his furry bundle, "Thanks for taking the cat!"


We were running late by now, so I quickly bundled the kids out to the van and opened the garage door. As I hoisted my preschooler into the back seat and bucked his belt, he exclaimed, "Mommy! I could use my tools to make a house for the cat! He could live in a cat house. Then he wouldn't have to live under our steps!"

"Cats don't really live in houses, Buddy," my husband explained, "At least not like a dog's house."

"Oh." My little guy looked disappointed.

We kissed Daddy goodbye. I put the van in reverse and carefully began backing out of the garage. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a neighbour walking past our driveway, so I paused to let her pass. I pulled out onto the street.

As I started to drive away, the neighbour began frantically waving her arm. I pulled over beside her and rolled down my window. I'd never met her before.

"Hi!" she exclaimed, all out of breath, "Did I just hear your kids talking about a cat?"

"Well, yes," I replied, "We had a cat living under our front steps. My friend Niels just took it home with him. He lives down the street."

"Was he an orange and white tabby?" the woman pressed.

"Yup," I said.

"Oh wow!" She got very excited and began talking a mile a minute. "I just love cats, I really do. And I saw a poster for a missing cat on the bus shelter over there." She pointed up the street. "I just love cats, and I felt bad for the owners losing their cat. And since I love cats I memorized their phone number, just in case, you know." She rattled off a series of numbers.

"Umm, okay," I broke in. The kids were growing restless in the backseat. "I'll let Niels know. Sounds like the same cat to me."

"Oh, wonderful," the woman gushed. "Well I just live in the house over there if you need any help. I memorized the phone number, you know, just in case. I love cats."

"Yes, thanks," I said as I rolled up my window. The woman smiled broadly and waved as I turned the van around. I nipped over to Niels' house and quickly filled him in regarding Kitty's identity.


To make a long story short, our little cat is now safely at home. Apparently, he had been at large for more than a week and his owners had given up hope of finding him. I suspect Kitty may have been sleeping under our stairs for several nights.

Thanks to Niels, a friendly neighbour, and a well-placed poster, our feline friend will not be sleeping under our front stoop tonight.


Now remind me to ask Ben to fill in that hole under the steps this weekend. Next thing you know, we'll have a family of beavers living under there, or something. ;-)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Romantic Getaway

Only three more sleeps! I can hardly wait! Ben and I are going away this weekend without our kids for the first time, well ... ever. I have never been away from my boys for more than one night before.

We're off to a friend's condo in Fernie for two nights. It will be a "mini honeymoon" in celebration of Ben's birthday next week. We plan to relax, eat out, go swimming, and spend most of our time ... sleeping. ;-)

Baby Girl is coming with us, of course. She and I could not survive an entire weekend without one another. My baby would get very hungry, very quickly! She is at such an easy age, though. She's portable and easy-to-entertain (not to mention that she sleeps for something like 17 hours a day). Taking Baby Girl along will be no problem.

An entire weekend without our rambunctious boys will be wonderful. I am so excited. I love my kids to bits, but some adult time alone will be very nice.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Big Brother's Perspective

I spent the better part of this morning creating fanciful (or shall we say "abstract") paintings with my two little boys. We three sat at the kitchen table and Baby Girl contentedly watched us from the sidelines in her swing.

My almost-four-year-old son had a wonderful time mixing colours and carefully applying paint to his paper. As he worked, he made the following remark:

"Pretty soon my sister will be big enough to paint pictures too, right Mommy?"

"Yup. Maybe when she is your brother's age," I replied.

"Yes, when she's two," my son agreed, "And she'll be able to talk real good then, won't she?"

"Mmm-hmm. When your sister is two you can say things to her and she'll be able to talk back," I said.

My little boy nodded his head and added, "Yup. And Mommy, she'll be able to talk forward too!"

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Daily Bread
The Bible says that "man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Over the past few years, I have learned that reading my Bible every day is as necessary as eating my breakfast. I do not function well if I do not "fuel up" on the Word of God. On the days I do not make time to read my Bible I feel grumpy and irritable. I have less peace. I feel more tired and become angry more quickly.

God's Word keeps me centered. It fills me up and helps me to grow in wisdom. Reading the Bible every day helps me to be a better mom to my children, and a more loving wife to my husband.

However, I know I must be careful not to allow my Bible reading to become a rote exercise. God's Word is "living and active -- sharper than any two edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12). I must respect the words in my Bible as revelation from the very mouth of God. The Bible is His love letter to me, His child. It contains all the instructions I need for my everyday life.

I read the following quote last week from Boundless Webzine:

I remember reading in seminary a book on teaching the Bible, written by Dr. Howard Hendricks, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. In it he tells the story of a person who came to him one day and said, with a hint of pride, "I've been through the Bible 15 times, Dr. Hendricks!" I'll never forget Dr. Hendricks' response: "Wonderful! Now, how many times has the Bible been through you?"

I will continue to read my Bible every day. But more importantly, I pray that God's words will soak into my being --- that I will absorb them into my heart, mind and spirit. What better way to become more like Jesus than to bask in his Word?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Thought for the Day

I read this quote the other day. I thought it was very cute.

"Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels." (Bob Thaves)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Building My House

I've been thinking about this verse all week:

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.
(Proverbs 14:1)

God knows that I want to become a wise woman, and by His grace I think He is gently showing me areas where I "tear down my house". Am I nagging my husband? Do I antagonize my kids? Am I too quick to grow angry? Do I mope or complain? How is my attitude?

I want to be genuine in my faith. I do not want to put forth a false face. I do not want to be the kind of woman who angrily yells at her children, habitually nags her husband, and then on Sunday morning puts on a smiling face and pretends that life is perfect.

I would like the Lindsay you see in public to be the same quiet woman of character you would see at home behind closed doors. No masks. No false fronts. Just Jesus --- His peace shining through my life, His grace and redemption.

I'm a sinner, no question. Every day shows me that I am far from perfect. I do yell at my kids, disrespect my husband, mope and complain and criticize. Thankfully, I serve a forgiving God. His Word says He is slow to anger and quick to forgive.

So, as hard as this process is, I pray that God will continue helping me to "build my house". I pray that He will help me to have a cheerful attitude even when I feel grumpy. I pray that He will help me to love my children even when I feel like yelling at them. I pray that He will help me to serve and respect my husband even when I feel annoyed with him.

I love my family very, very much. I want to show my love by serving them with a Christlike attitude. I want my children to learn to love the Lord, and I believe my life should be an example for them.

I pray that I will grow to be an old, wise woman, surrounded by my children and their children and their childrens' children --- all of them living for Jesus. Wouldn't that be awesome? That is the kind of house I want to build.
Comfort Food for a Cold Day

I know, I know. I've shared a recipe nearly every day this week. However, this one is really good. I made it for the first time tonight and it passed the "Triple E" test with flying colours (easy, economical, and ... well ... edible).

Here's my latest offering. Enjoy this stew with homemade bread and coleslaw. Yum!

Lentil and Sausage Stew
(from Rose Murray's 125 Best Casseroles and One-Pot Meals)

1 C. red lentils
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
500 g Italian sweet sausage or farmer's sausage, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 C. sliced mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced
2 1/2 C. beef or chicken stock
2 tbsp. wine vinegar
1 small bay leaf
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1 C. drained canned tomatoes
1 C. sliced zucchini
1/4 C. chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 C. shredded cheddar cheese

Sort and rinse lentils; set aside.

In large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat; cook sausage for 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.

Pour off all but 2 tbsp. fat from pan. Add carrots, onion, mushrooms and garlic; cook over medium heat until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in stock, vinegar, bay leaf, thyme, oregano and lentils; bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add tomatoes, zucchini, and pepper to taste; simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until lentils and zucchini are tender but still hold their shape. Discard bay leaf. Stir in sausage and parsley. Sprinkle with cheese; cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

(My husband has forced me to add this disclaimer to my post: this meal may be"flatulence inducing", if you catch my drift...)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Toddler Humour

My almost-two-year-old son recently told us his first dirty joke:

"Pee pee poop ... Funny!"

Yup. He made that one up all by himself.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Another Great Recipe

I seem to be sharing lots of recipes lately. I have to confess, I have an ulterior motive for doing this.

Most of my new recipes come from books I've borrowed from the library. Eventually, I need to return the books. I am copying out my favourite recipes on my blog because I figure I can kill two birds with one stone --- I get to share tasty recipes, and I can make easy copies of them on my computer for future use!

I cooked the following dish last night for supper. The recipe is super-easy to make, and it tastes delicious. I served our chicken with mashed potatoes and salad. It would also be very good with rice.

Honey-Curried Chicken and Apricots
(from Rose Murray's 125 Best Casseroles and One-Pot Meals)

2 onions, thinly sliced
1 C. dried apricot halves
4 chicken breast halves
Salt and pepper
1/4 C. liquid honey
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. cumin

Arrange onions and apricots in greased shallow baking dish just big enough to hold chicken breasts in single layer. Arrange chicken, skin side up, on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Combine honey, lemon juice, curry powder and cumin; drizzle over chicken. (Recipe can be prepared to this point, covered and refrigerated for up to 8 hours; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.)

Bake, uncovered, in 375F oven for about 45 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink inside, basting once or twice.

Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sweet Success

For a few years I have been interested in making my own preserves. I've borrowed books from the library on canning, and have admired the homemade jams and jellies at farmers markets and craft sales. I love the idea of having a pantry filled with neatly labelled rows of jewel-coloured jars. I've even day-dreamed about giving my homemade preserves as gifts to my friends and family.

But I was never brave enough to take the plunge and actually make my own jam ... until now.

I found an easy jam recipe in Canadian Living Magazine and bought a "home canning kit" at Superstore. I purchased a box of pretty little mason jars with sealer lids. When all three of the kids had long naps yesterday afternoon, I seized my opportunity.

I did it! I prepared my own jam and processed the jars in boiling water. I'm not sure if I did everything perfectly right, but I followed all the instructions on the recipe. My jam gelled and my jar lids all sealed. I now have eight ruby-red jewels tucked away in my pantry. Hooray!

Here's the recipe I used. It is a spicy jam that pairs well with cheese and crackers. (But it's also quite tasty on toast!)

Strawberry Balsamic Black Pepper Jam
(from Canadian Living Magazine, June 2006)

12 C. strawberries, hulled
1 pkg. (49 g) light fruit pectin crystals
4 1/2 C. granulated sugar
1/4 C. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. coarsely cracked black pepper

In large Dutch oven or preserving pot and using potato masher, mash strawberries thoroughly, 1 layer at a time, to make 6 cups.

Mix pectin crystals with 1/4 cup of the sugar; stir into berries and bring to full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon. Stir in remaining sugar; return to full rolling boil and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat. Skim off foam with metal spoon. Stir in balsamic vinegar and pepper.

Using funnel and 1/2 cup measure, fill hot 1-cup canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles, readjusting headspace if necessary. If necessary, wipe rims. Cover with prepared lids. Screw on bands until resistance is met; increase to fingertip tight. Boil in boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

Makes about 8 cups.

Monday, September 11, 2006

May the Force Be With You ...

Playing Star Wars == BIG fun in our house. My boys dress up as Jedi and stage epic light sabre battles every day.

You must understand, I am not the parent who has encouraged this fascination with all things intergalactic. My dear husband is the guilty party. And now I have video evidence to back it up ...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Routine Panic

Here's the thing --- sometimes I feel like I suffer from a split personality.

One part of me craves the predictability of a set routine. I like having a plan for the flow of my days. I believe my children thrive under a schedule. I feel safe and secure within the confines of my set little world.

At the same time, another part of me chafes against the routine. I do the same thing all day, every day, over and over and over. Because my husband works at home, our family has been spoiled by his flexible schedule. I've gotten used to being somewhat spontaneous. Now that I have committed to lessons and activities during the week, I feel restricted. I do not like having my schedule dictated.

What am I to do? We are only one week into our fall schedule, and I'm already feeling uneasy. What if I can't follow through on the commitments we've made? What if my son is late for his music lessons? Or we go away for the weekend and I miss pilates? Or the boys have colds so we skip swimming? Or I am feeling overwhelmed and can't volunteer at preschool gym? Or the van breaks? Or the kids need "down time"? Or I need "down time"?

Yikes. I need to stop and take a deep breath.

I think this train of thought was spurred by church this morning. Instead of a regular service, today our church had sort of a "trade show" set up in the sanctuary. All of the small groups and programs for the coming year had booths. People were encouraged to sign up for the groups they found interesting.

There were lots of cool things --- ladies making quilts for the homeless, people helping with the Christmas concert, home groups for families, special activities for the kids. They even had a motorcycle club for the men. I wanted to sign up for four or five different groups. I held back, though. Our family chose not to join up with anything.

As I wandered through the booths, this statement kept echoing through my mind: Sometimes you have to give up good things in order to do what is best.

The pastor in charge of women's ministry asked if I was interested in joining a Bible study group. The truth is, I would love to. However, this is just not the right season of my life to do it. I would also love to sew quilts for the homeless, and volunteer for the Christmas production, and belong to a home group for young families, and take my sons to the remote control racers club.

We just can't do it all. Our kids are little. They will grow up all too quickly, and I don't want to miss their childhoods because we are zooming from one activity to another.

So we stick to our routine. We do the same thing all day, every day, over and over and over. We limit our activities to music and swimming lessons, volunteering for preschool gym, and pilates for Mommy on the weekend.

I pray that God would help me to wisely schedule my time --- that He would help me find the right balance between over and under commitment for our family. I also pray that He would help me to feel content. I may not have time to pursue all my interests, but it is only for this season of life.

And hopefully, God will heal me of my split personality ;-).

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Family Photos

Here's a small sampling of our latest family pictures. Enjoy!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Pineapple Sweet-and-Sour Pork

I found this recipe in Rose Murray's 125 Best Casseroles and One-Pot Meals. It was easy and economical to make. I bought a piece of fresh picnic pork shoulder for about $7, and made enough food to serve our family for three meals. Serve your sweet-and-sour pork with lots of steamed rice and a large green salad.

2 lb. boneless lean pork, cubed
1/4 C. low-salt soy sauce
4 tsp. corn starch
1 tsp. Oriental sesame oil
1 can (19oz.) unsweetened pineapple tidbits
1/2 C. chicken stock or water
3 tbsp. ketchup
3 tbsp. packed brown sugar
3 tbsp. rice vinegar
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 sweet green peppers, cut in strips

1. Toss pork with 2 tbsp. of the soy sauce, 1 tsp. of the cornstarch and sesame oil; let stand for 30 minutes.

2. Combine juice from pineapple, stock, remaining soy sauce, remaining cornstarch, ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar. Set aside.

3. Heat wok over high heat; add 2 tbsp. of the vegetable oil. Stir-fry pork just until no longer pink. Remove to bowl. Wipe out pan with paper towel; reheat and add remaining oil. Stir-fry garlic and ginger for 15 seconds. Add onion; stir-fry for 1 1/2 minutes. Add pineapple sauce; cook, stirring, until thickened.

4. Return pork to pan; cover and simmer for about 1 hour or until pork is very tender. Add pineapple and green peppers; cook for 3 minutes or until heated through.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sweet Peace

Sometimes parents must be a bit sneaky.

My preschool-aged son has grown out of his nap (for the most part) but once or twice a week he needs an afternoon sleep. Over the past couple of days he has become increasingly grouchy. By the time two o'clock rolled around today, he definitely needed a nap.

The problem is, my son thinks he is now a "big boy" and therefore never needs a nap. There are so many other interesting things to do! He has Mommy all to himself in the afternoon, and he gets to play with "big boy" things (like Star Wars lego and safety scissors).

This afternoon my toddler fell asleep in his high chair at lunch time. I carefully hauled him upstairs to bed. Baby Girl was drooping in her swing, and my preschooler was fading fast.

"Why don't you snuggle your nank in Mommy's bed while I put your sister to sleep?" I asked my son, "It sure would be comfy under the covers..." Thankfully, he decided that snuggling in Mommy and Daddy's bed sounded like a good idea.

I took extra long nursing the baby to sleep.

Hmmmm ... it's now two hours later and I haven't heard a peep from upstairs.

This afternoon has been very nice, indeed.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Routine, Routine, Routine ...

It's the week after Labour Day, and that can mean only one thing --- the return of the back-to-school routine. No one in our family is going to school this year. All the same, our new activities and classes are starting this week. It is time to get into a regular schedule once again.

Here's a rundown of our family's new weekly routine:

Monday: free!
Tuesday: 9:00-9:45pm -- Lindsay's music class
Wednesday: 4:15-5:00pm -- Preschooler's music class
Thursday: 10:15am-12:15pm -- Lindsay and the kids volunteer at the YMCA
Friday: 6:00-7:00pm -- Boys' swimming lessons
Saturday: 9:30-10:30am -- Lindsay's pilates class
Sunday: 9:30-11:00am -- Church

I think (hope) we've struck the right balance between engaging in fun activities, but not over-scheduling. I'm especially looking forward to volunteering at the Y because the children can come with me. I'll be helping with the preschool programs.

September always feels like the start of a new year, more so than January. I enjoy the fall because I thrive on a predictable routine. So here's to the beginning of a new year, new activities, and a new family schedule!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Dearly Departed

It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of our beloved goldfish, Sushi Fugu Ni. We shall miss his bubbly personality. Sushi joined our family five years ago and quickly swam his way into our hearts.

Sushi enjoyed swimming in endless circles. He thought the gravel at the bottom of his aquarium tasted delicious. Over the years, he grew from the size of a marble to that of a racquetball.

Sushi's aquarium was a popular centrepiece in the kitchen. Visitors often exclaimed, "Wow! That's a big fish. What did he do? Swallow a golf ball or something?" Sushi's unusual proportions made for great conversation fodder.

After a long and productive life (at least for a goldfish, I suppose), Sushi has left us for a better place.

So long, my little golden friend. You shall be missed.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Shameless Product Endorsement

The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser has become the secret weapon in my cleaning arsenal. Every mom with small children should buy this product!

The Magic Eraser removes impossibly tough stains from walls and furniture. Unsightly fingerprints ... say so long. Crayon and marker scribbles ... bye bye. It even cleaned the scuffs off the wall behind my rocking chair.

Magic Eraser has more than earned it's place in my shopping cart.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Clouded Judgement (Part 2)

I prepared the popcorn. My husband popped our DVD into his computer. We watched the entire movie in Hindi (and I stayed awake through the whole thing). At least it had subtitles.

Our movie finished. I always enjoy watching the special features, so I looked inside the DVD case to see if it included a second disk. It did.

The disk was labelled "Special Edition - English Language Version".

Apparently, they filmed the movie twice, in Hindi and in English.

Lesson learned: I may have trouble choosing movies, but it seems my husband has trouble reading DVD labels.

Ben, in light of your error (and the teasing I endured for my choice of movie) I think you owe me at least one chick flick. Honey, you know, I've been dying to see the new version of Pride and Prejudice...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Clouded Judgement

This evening my husband and I realized that it has been months since we rented a movie. (I don't know, perhaps our new baby may have something to do with that.) Ben suggested that I go to Blockbuster and choose something.

As I browsed through the store I remembered why we don't watch many movies. It's pretty tough to find a film that doesn't contain gratuitous language or sex or violence. I finally settled on a movie from the "Film Festival" section and headed for home.

As I popped the popcorn, Ben read the back of our video. He paused and asked:

"Ummm, Lindsay, do you realize this movie is in Hindi?"


"Yeah, it's not in English."


I guess I forgot to check that.

Lesson learned: There's a reason why I rarely get to choose our movie. Never trust the judgement of an over-tired mommy.

Friday, September 01, 2006

A Cooking Frenzy

It's the first of September, and the dog days of summer are rapidly coming to an end. This week the temperatures outside have been cooler. I am relishing the fact that I can once again turn on my oven without the entire house becoming a sauna.

Earlier this week I came home with a stack of new cookbooks from the library. I spent several evenings reading through recipes, marking the interesting ones with sticky tabs. (Yesterday my toddler methodically went through one of my books and gleefully removed all the tabs, but that's another story.) I compiled a huge grocery list. Yesterday I took the children to Superstore and we returned home with a van full of supplies.

This afternoon I spent several hours cooking and baking, making food to fill our freezer. My three-year-old loves to "help" me in the kitchen, and he's actually getting to an age where he can make himself useful. He stirred the banana bread dough and tried to lick the spoon I had used to make meatballs. (Uggg.)

Here are three of the recipes we made today. The banana bread is a tried-and-true favourite, and the other two I cooked for the first time.

Best-Ever Banana Bread

1 C. butter
2 C. sugar
3 C. mashed bananas (6 bananas)
4 eggs, well beaten
2 1/2 C. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add bananas and eggs and beat until well mixed. Mix dry ingredients and blend with banana mixture, but do not overmix.

Pour into 2 lightly greased loaf pans or a bundt pan. Bake 60 minutes. Test for doneness (toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean) and cool on rack for 10 minutes before removing from pans. Freezes beautifully.

Chicken & Broccoli Divan

2 C. cubed chicken
3 C. hot cooked broccoli spears
1 can half-fat cream of broccoli soup
1/3 C. milk
1/2 C. shredded cheddar cheese
3 tbsp. bread crumbs
1 tbsp. melted margarine

Combine chicken and vegetables in a shallow 2-qt. baking dish. Stir in soup and milk. Combine bread crumbs with melted margarine. Sprinkle with cheese then crumb topping. Bake at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes or until bubbly hot. Serves 4.

Basic Meatballs

4 eggs
1 C. fine bread crumbs
1 C. milk
1/2 C. finely chopped onion
1/4 C. finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
4 lbs. lean ground beef

In large bowl, beat eggs; stir in bread crumbs until well combined. Stir in milk, onion, parsley, salt and mustard. Add meat and knead with wet hands until well blended.

Pat meat into 15x10 inch jelly roll pan or into rectangle about 1 inch thick. Cut into 1 inch squares. With wet hands, form each square into ball.

Place meatballs into large shallow baking pans; bake in 400 degree F oven for about 25 minutes or until browned and no longer pink inside. With slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to trays or baking sheets, leaving space between each. Let cool, than freeze until firm. Transfer to heavy plastic bags and store in freezer for up to 4 months. Makes 150 meatballs.