Friday, August 31, 2007

She's gone back home... Sigh...

Life is considerably less sparkly around this household today, because Hannah has gone back home to her parents.

It was tough to let her go. We've had such a wonderful couple of weeks, and I can honestly say, going forward, I don't know how I'm going to manage without her.

I'm sure SHE'S happy to be going back to the life of a "normal" teenaged girl, although from my experience, Hannah is FAR from the teenaged "norm". I mean that as an extremely high compliment, of course. She is lovely and kind and full of good humour and common sense. She is gentle and patient with children, but has a wonderful sense of silliness and an imagination that absolutely transfixes my three girlies. She is, as Lola (from our favourite TV show) would say, "our favourite and our BEST!"

The scene at the airport yesterday was a pretty sad one, all right. I was trying desperately to put on my "brave face", which I'm certain wasn't very brave at all-- especially when it came time for The Hug. Child Number One was downright weepy, and Number Three was sitting silently and grimly in the front seat of "The Bus" (our double stroller). Child Number Two was fully reclined in the back seat, looking pale and greebly, as she had managed to contract my gastro bug, and wasn't fully over it yet.

Poor Hannah. She had a rough final few days with us, with me being ill. She basically held down the fort while I was in bed. Her final week with us turned out to be FAR from the adventure-filled extravaganza that we had planned. But, I don't know how we would have managed without her, and as soon as I was able to stand up again, we started a list of things we all wanted to do with her NEXT year... Which I guess means she's willing to come back (this fact never ceases to amaze me).

As I write this, Hannah is home once again, and off on a camping trip with some of her friends. I hope she has a thoroughly splendid time... because boy, does she ever deserve it.

And as for us? Well, in the 24 hours that she has been gone, we have managed to turn her name into an adjective. During the drive home, I told the girlies that going forward, we would have to try extra hard to be kind and helpful to each other, since Hannah was no longer with us to jolly us along. One, Two and Three all solemnly agreed, and this morning, I saw the plan in action.

Whilst at the local mall, where we were stoically rounding up stationery supplies for school (CRINGE!), Child Number Three suddenly decided to throw one of those boneless, spineless fits that only a pre-schooler can throw. It was a sight to behold, people, and nothing I could do or say could coax her out of it.

And that's when her oldest sister stepped in. I can't even remember exactly what she said, but it was some sort of lovely promise that included doing puzzles and colouring-in and playdough games together, but the POINT was, that the fit would have to END in order that we should get home to PLAY.

And that's all it took. Child Number Three got up off the floor, grabbed her purse and popped one of her many pacifiers (CRINGE!!) into her mouth, found her tiny flip-flops and put them back on her feet, and marched off towards the nearest exit.

As we hurried to catch up with her before she hit the parking lot (DRAT those automatic doors that open on the push of a button placed at little-people height), I turned to Child Number One:

Mother: (in awe) Well! That was a very... Hannah thing to do.

Child Number Three: (proudly) Thank-you.

Yes, THANK-YOU, Hannah, for all you have done for us, and that includes all the things you don't even REALIZE you've done for us. We love you.

And we can't wait for next summer.

Let the countdown begin!!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ten years on, in loving and respectful memory...

I would be true, for there are those that trust me.
I would be pure, for there are those that care.
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer.
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.
I would be friend of all, the foe, the friendless.
I would be giving, and forget the gift,
I would be humble, for I know my weakness,
I would look up, laugh, love and live.

--Londonderry Air, words by Howard Arnold Walter

Three More Niceties...

It has been a far less difficult decision than I thought it would be to choose my three recipients of the "Nice Matters Award". These three fantastic women deserve some spotlight!!

Number One: My new friend Canape, over at Don't Take The Repeats.

This lovely, talented woman is the one behind Team Whymommy. She is responsible for organizing us all, and drawing our attention to one of her dearest friends (who, by the way, is Kicking Cancer's Ass!! Wa-hoo!!), Canape has put together an enormous pillar of "cyber-support", and been instrumental in helping Whymommy spread the word about inflammatory breast cancer. Canape, you are a hero in your own right, and WAY more than just "nice" in my books. You have a caring, nurturing spirit that shines in your blog, and you're going to make a splendid mother when Little Bird finally makes an appearance. (Stay tuned, everybody! I know I can't wait...)

Number Two: Kim, at The Merits of the Case.

Kim is a brave, strong woman who is battling cancer. She has been generous enough to share the experience of her treatment in her blog, and I can honestly say that her words leave me in awe. Being a law student, she is a meticulously detailed writer, and the accounts of her journey have limitless educational value for all of her readers. But, she is also a wife, mother, and an incredibly gorgeous, classy gal. Her words come from her heart, as well as from her head. Kim, you, too, are WAY more than "nice". You're an inspiration to all of us.

And Number Three: Farmgirl Susan, over at Farmgirl Fare.

This is a woman after my own heart, people, and her blog is a daily delight; a right feast for the senses. At 26, Susan sold her bakery/cafe in California, and moved to a 280-acre, 140 year old farm in rural Missouri. In her own words, she "...became cook, gardener, shepherd, farmhand, vet, surrogate mom, wildlife expert, midwife, & undertaker". The accounts of her adventures, complete with mouthwatering recipes, and vivid photographs of her garden, animals, and FOOD, fill me with inspiration and satisfaction. Susan, you and your beautiful blog are not just "nice", but a JOY.

There you have it, everyone. Three wonderful women who make the world a much nicer place. Congratulations!! And, happy reading...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

How nice...

Well, dear readers, this was something that I would never have expected in a million years.

This morning, I was feeling really quite residually awful. Downright crappy, if the truth be known. Because for the past three days, I have been flat on my back with the worst case of heat exhaustion I have ever suffered. I had it all: the headache, the chills and fever, the colliwobbles of the tummy (to put it mildly and politely), you name it, people. I LITERALLY couldn't. lift. my. head.

Until this morning.

And this morning, when I opened my eyes, I realized that the world had finally stopped spinning and my head had stopped splitting. I staggered down to the kitchen after Child Number Three, who was vociferously demanding a "Pee-buddah Samwich!!", and, as is my customary habit, flipped on my computer before beginning the food prep.

This is what met my eyes:

My good blogging friend, Shauna, over at Up In The Night, has awarded me the Nice Matters Award!!

To say that I was thrilled to bits would be a wild understatement. Hell, I went thundering back upstairs and woke up my husband (samwich-jilted three-year-old child screaming behind me) to tell him the Big News. Even HE was impressed, and sprinted down to the computer screen to take a look.

I am so proud. So pleased, and proud. Because, I haven't been at this blogging-thing for very long. I've been a little bit insecure about my writing, especially after reading all the tremendously intelligent, articulate and downright hilarious stuff that's out there on the Women's Blogging Circuit these days. I have felt honoured to be allowed to stand amongst you, thrilled when I discover that you're actually out there READING what I write, and that you actually seem to enjoy it.

And as for "nice"... Well. What can I say, except that I am blessed. I am truly fortunate to be living the kind of life that I do, surrounded by the people who are my family and friends. For all of this, I am thankful. And I am pleased to share that with you.

So thank-you, Shauna, from the bottom of my heart. You have given me a huge honour: my very FIRST award, and on my 200th post, too!! Right back atcha, girlfriend, the feeling is entirely mutual.

And now the enormously difficult task of passing on this award falls to me... and it is not a task I take lightly. Because the list of outstanding blogs that I read on a regular basis is quite staggering, so I am going to give myself a day or so to make a decision. But I'll let you know!!

Thank-you again, Shauna. The boost you gave me today did more for me than any medicine could!!

A late-breaking update...

Thank EWE, at Wherever Ewe Go, There Ewe Are, who has ALSO chosen me as the recipient of a Nice Matters Award!! Gosh, people, I'm just overwhelmed... Two in one day!! Check out the delightful Ewe at her "slightly mad" blog (moo!) She is another truly nice blogger who is absolutely worth a daily read!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Teenaged Tornado!

Life this week has been a whirlwind. To put it mildly. But, oh, the "winds of change" have been sweet!!

Ever since Hannah (our beloved friend and "mother's helper") arrived a few days ago, things have been getting DONE around here! Not only have we tackled Mt. Washmore, cleaned up and culled the Toy Emporium (otherwise known as The Playroom), we've started planning ahead for SCHOOL...

We've been working on the clothes. All of you mothers out there can relate to the sheer dread associated with back-to-school clothes... Because it's not just the Search, or even the Expense (!!) Let's face it. It's the weeding-out of all the "too-smalls" from tousled drawers and cavernous, over-crammed closets. And THEN, it's facing The Boxes in the basement. All those many, many Boxes, filled with outgrown clothing, that are SUPPOSED to be sorted by size and season.

Those Boxes are the bane of my existence, people. They are The Beasts that I'm almost too frazzled and exhausted to face. Because, I've got three girls, and after eleven-and-a-half years of parenting nothing but girls, the gargantuan task of organizing the succession of hand-me-downs is becoming more baffling to me than the Globe and Mail's cryptic crossword (I can't do those damn things, either). It's a misery to ensure that the right sized clothes are stored in the right boxes, when you're juggling a minimum of three different sizes at all times. It's agonizing to discover that while you have an entire box filled with the right-sized clothes for the child who's next in line, the clothes are suitable for entirely the WRONG season. It's even worse when the clothes are for the right season, but are looking considerably shabbier and more worn-out than you remember they did when you put them away a few years before... It's enough to make me want to scream and pull out every last (grey) hair on my head.

But... Hannah is here, and so All Things Are Possible.

She has given us a marvellous start this week, bless her sixteen-year-old heart. She has even managed to make the entire task a TREAT, not unlike a slightly younger and more "hip" version of Mary Poppins. She began by taking my eldest daughter (aged eleven) in hand, and giving her entire wardrobe a make-over. Can you IMAGINE anything more thrilling for a budding pre-teen??!! Well, mine couldn't, that's for sure. Child Number One opened those closet doors, and tried on every single article of clothing she owned. She pirouetted in front of Hannah, who passed her (incredibly responsible and mature) teenaged judgement on fit, colour and style... Once they had sorted out what they would keep, she then showed my enraptured daughter how to combine pieces differently to create "new" outfits! They made a little wish-list of new pieces to "update" Child Number One for Fall, 2007, and the next thing I knew, we were on our way to a massive sale at Old Navy. Our usually angst-filled shopping trip was a gleeful spree this year, as the two girls giggled together and chose what they liked best... My daughter was practically up of the ground as we emerged from the store with her bag of new clothes, and filled with the self-confidence that can only come from having the full attention and devotion of an older girl she idolizes.

But Hannah didn't stop there. Our next major expedition was to IKEA, with a mission to purchase supplies to organize not only the closets, but the children's desks, as well. Child Number Two, aged six, will be starting grade one this fall, and so henceforth, I will have TWO kids slaving over homework. We now have proper desks in each child's bedroom, set up with good lamps and all the necessary accessories... It actually took FOUR trips to the big blue-and-yellow box store to accomplish this task (and that's a LOT of Meatball Platters, let me tell you... Oofta...) The first trip, we took our time, looked around, and priced things out. On the second trip, we returned sans enfants, to do a fast sweep-and-grab. TOO fast, as it turned out, because the THIRD trip was to return all the stuff that didn't fit the space, or was just WRONG. The fourth trip was to pick up the "finishing touches". Man, are we IKEA-ed out (there MUST be a word in Swedish for "too much IKEA", but I'm too tired to make it up on the fly like those furniture people do...) The girls' bedrooms now look spectacular, and are so well-organized, they won't be able to HELP but keep them tidy. (Famous Last Words, I know...)

And that's just the WORK we've been doing. I haven't even begun to tell you about the REALLY fun stuff we've been up to... We've been to the farm, and cooked and eaten great food. We've been to just about every local attraction imaginable, from the top of the CN Tower, to the ROM, right down to the swings and slides at the park. We've even loaded everybody into the Loser Cruiser and been to my hometown to visit my parents, and show Hannah where I grew up (I figured the experience would explain a LOT about the many "delightful quirks" in my personality...) It's been "a trip", all right.

We've got one more week of summer left, and after everything we've managed to cram into the last eight or nine days, the future possibilities seem endless!! The girlies are clamouring to ride horses, and to go to the zoo... But, tomorrow, I think we'll just rest by the pool if the weather co-operates.

I think that just for now, our little wind-storm needs to be down-graded a BIT, so that it doesn't completely blow itself out!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Shopping for back-to-school clothes today...

"It's better to LOOK good than to FEEL good."

--Billy Crystal

("Hold me while I tango!"-- The Goddess as Billy Crystal)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Monday, August 20, 2007

Today's story-time...

This is the fairy tale that should have been read to us when
we were little:

Once upon a time in a land far away,
a beautiful, independent, self-assured princess
happened upon a frog as she sat contemplating ecological issues
on the shores of an unpolluted pond, in a verdant meadow near her castle.

The frog hopped into the princess' lap
and said:

"Elegant Lady,
I was once a handsome prince,
until an evil witch cast a spell upon me.
One kiss from you, however, and I will turn back
into the dapper, young prince that I am
and then, my sweet, we can marry
and set up housekeeping in your castle with my mother,
where you can prepare my meals, clean my clothes,
bear my children, and forever feel grateful and happy doing so. "

That night, as the princess dined sumptuously
on lightly sauteed frog legs seasoned in a white wine
and onion cream sauce, she chuckled and thought to herself:

"I don't fucking think so."

Friday, August 17, 2007

Gimme, gimme, gimme...

This afternoon, Hannah (the mother's helper extraordinaire) and I took the three girlies on an outing to the mall. Not just for something to DO, mind you-- I had been actively looking for a specific piece of computer software, and had phoned ahead to secure that a copy of it was waiting for me in one of the stores. The girlies were game to get out of the house for an hour or so, and piled into the Loser Cruiser in an agreeable and orderly fashion.

I should have known better than to think that their pleasant demeanor would last longer than the car ride... Because their very finest Whine-and-Beg Act began like clockwork, as soon as we crossed the threshold of the shopping centre. They wanted every single toy they saw in the shop windows we passed, and they were apparently fully prepared to harangue me until I agreed to acquire them.

Now, allow me to clarify something. These are by no means deprived or even remotely hard-done-by children we're talking about here. My three girlies have an immense playroom, the contents of which rival the stock of our local Toys-R-Us and Mastermind, COMBINED. I assure you, there is nothing left on this planet for them to pine FOR, as they already own some sort of variation of every possible type of play-thing available on the common market.

However, this did not stop them from whinging and cajoling me throughout the entire expedition, INCLUDING during the short period of time that I was ripping a computer-store salesperson a new arsehole, as the software he had assured me was in stock when I had spoken to him on the telephone exactly one hour before was NOWHERE to be found once I actually set foot in the store...

The begging continued as we made a top-speed bee-line back to the car, and continued even as I made my way out of the parking lot...

Finally, about half-way home, I had had enough. My many versions of answering with a NEGATIVE response had been completely exhausted. I was not prepared to expound upon the multitude of reasons behind my answer any longer. In short, The Goddess' patience snapped.

I pulled the loser cruiser over to the side of the road, turned around in my seat, and faced The Progeny:

Mother: (with more than a hint of hysteria) Right!! Fine!! I give in, YOU WIN!! You may have it all-- everything you want!! I'll just hand my bank and credit cards over to YOU all, and you can spend as MUCH money as you like on TOYS!! Forget about food or clothing, because you'll be MUCH to busy playing, right? And of course, your Dad and I won't be around, because we won't be able to pay our bills or our taxes, and that's what HAPPENS to people who don't pay their bills and taxes... But HEY, whatever makes you guys HAPPY!!

Child Number Two: (suddenly panicked, turning to her older sister) Would Mum'n'Dad go to JAIL?!

Child Number Three: (ecstatically) DAT'S okay!! HANNAH can look after us!!

I. Give. Up.

Somebody turn on the wipers, already...

"In the business world, the rear view mirror is always clearer than the windshield."

--Warren Buffett

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A summery spaghetti sauce...

It's Tomato Season, everybody!! Alé!!

I love tomatoes. Always have. When I was a child, I used to sneak out to the tomato vines in my mother's vegetable patch, swipe a few, and eat them like apples, hiding under the long branches of the big fir tree at the bottom of the garden.

When I was expecting my first child, it was tomatoes that I craved... day and night. During the secretive months of my first trimester, I worried that visitors to my house would be "on to me" and my delicate condition as soon as they saw the contents of my refrigerator. Beef steak tomatoes, bags of hot house tomatoes, little plastic boxes of sweet grape tomatoes, and cans and cans of tomato juice... It was all I ingested for three months. Until the heartburn set in, that is. And then I just added a chaser of Tums, because the craving didn't care that my esophageal lining was rapidly eroding...

Summertime is the perfect time to indulge in my passion for tomatoes, and this week, I bought my first enormous basket from the farm. People, the beautifully plump, red fruit was still warm from the sun.

I also bought several bunches of fresh herbs (my own garden's supply having been depleted by the intense heat and drought) and some huge cloves of garlic.

And this is what I concocted for dinner last night... If you've got air conditioning in your house and don't mind turning on the oven at 425 degrees for an hour, it's WELL worth it!

Spaghetti with Baked Summer Tomatoes

12 medium-to-large firm, ripe tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 c chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3-6 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 1/2 pounds spaghetti
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 c chopped fresh basil
1/2 c grated Asiago cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a large, shallow casserole with olive oil. Halve the tomatoes width-wise and place them cut-side up in the pan. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper.

Combine 1/3 c of the parsley with the oil and garlic in a small bowl; spread over the tops of the tomatoes. Bake until the tomatoes are lightly browned, about one hour. If the tomato skins are a bit tough, remove them from about 12 of the tomato halves with your fingers as soon as they are cool enough to handle... Be careful not to burn yourself! They should slip off fairly easily.

Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions, then drain it just until a small amount of the cooking water is left in the pot. This will keep it warm for a few minutes, and can be drained off as soon as you are ready to combine the pasta with the sauce.

In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat, stirring gently until it begins to turn golden brown and fragrant, about one minute. Remove from the heat, stir it to cool slightly, and then pour it into a large, warm serving bowl. Add the 12 skinned baked tomato halves, the basil and the remaining parsley, and mash it together gently with a fork. Drain the spaghetti, and add it and the Asiago cheese to the serving bowl with the mashed tomatoes. Toss it a little bit to combine the ingredients. Top with the remaining tomato halves, and drizzle with the pan juices.

This can be served warm, or at room temperature.

And it is so delicious, you just won't believe it! The perfect way to celebrate Tomato Season.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Clean-up shenanegans...

On Sunday afternoon, I set myself the task of tidying up the playroom. I wanted to REALLY tidy, not just shove things in corners and whip stuff out-of-sight. Everything needed to be sorted and put back where it BELONGED for a change. All of this effort was because of Hannah the Fabulous Mother's Helper's imminent arrival, and it was SHE who helped me do the Grand Sorting Out of the playroom a year ago. I wanted to show her that our "system" has been working, for the most part: my kids can finally SEE what they have to play with, and all of the shelving and clear plastic bins that we arranged have made clean-up a breeze, compared to the way things USED to be...

A breeze, that is, unless you have an enthusiastic three-year-old messing things up behind your back, faster than you can clean.

As I picked legos and minute pieces of playmobil off of the carpet and sorted them into bins, my youngest daughter delightedly dived into a large pile of stuffed animals, scattering them hither and yon. Once she had made her selection from the VERY BOTTOM OF THE PILE (and I swear, the bear was about three inches tall), she mosied over to the dolly drawer, where she whipped all of the contents onto the floor until she found exactly the right blanket with which to swaddle her "new baby". Then it was over to the little kitchen set, where she capsized a container of plastic dishes and fun-food, in order to select what she would "cook" her baby for breakfast...

She was having a ball, and I let her carry on, until my own frustrating sorting job was complete, and the lego and playmobil bins had been sealed and placed back on the shelf.

I then turned to Child Number Three, who was happily spooning pretend cereal into the teddy bear's mouth, pausing every few minutes to whip him out of the dolly highchair and give him a wallop or two on the back, to "help him with his burps".

Mother: (eyeing the re-doubling mess in the room, and trying her best not to sound alarmed and spoil the fun) Hey, kiddo!! What do you say you take a break from feeding your bear, and help me round up some of these toys you're not using?

Child Number Three responds by not responding, clearly ignoring her mother on purpose.

Mother: (cheerful, but with a hint of manipulation thrown in...) You know WHAT?! HANNAH is coming back soon!! And she would be REALLY HAPPY if this room was a little bit tidier when she gets here...

Child Number Three continues the ignoring act, and places her bear in the dolly stroller in preparation for a "walk".

Mother: (giving up and grumbling as she begins chucking stuffed animals back into their bin) Hannah's going to get here, and the first thing she's going to do when she sees this playroom is gasp and ask you, "WHO didn't put their toys away and left ALL THIS MESS on the floor??!"

Child Number Three: (bending over slightly so as to look her mother right in the eye) I tell Hannah dat YOU did it.

Little bum.

Has she got my number or what?!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

There's a light at the end of the tunnel... And her plane lands at 8.28pm.

Things around here have been more than slightly mental than usual since our return from The Cottage. And when I say "mental", I mean it in the truest sense of motherhood. As in, not cerebral. As in, INSANE.

As you may recall, I returned to a fair degree of chaos here on the home-front on that fateful day after the long weekend. The garden was as good as dead. The house was a tip. There was mould growing in the uncleaned filter of my (life-giving!) coffee maker, thanks to a certain husband (who, of course, has since been forgiven... sort of). Christ, even the goddamn CAT had CONJUNCTIVITIS by the time I got home. Which, I suppose, just goes to show you how truly indispensable I am as a human being. Or, at least THAT'S the spin that I've tried to put on the whole thing...

Trying to whip the household back into shape and return my girlies' lives to some semblance of manageable normalcy has been more than a slight challenge these past two weeks.. One of the reasons being that while we were away, the wonderful young woman whom I hired last spring to come in two afternoons a week and play with the girlies while I got some WORK DONE, sent me an e-mail saying that she had decided to accept a position teaching at an international school in Japan. And that she would be departing within days.

Now, I will give you that when I found this lovely young woman to babysit my children, one of my very first thoughts was, "Wow! Is this chick overqualified for the job or what??!" She was perfect. TOO perfect, as it turns out.

I sent her an email back, congratulating her, praising her to the skies, and thanking her for the wonderful few weeks that we were able to enjoy with her...

And then I panicked. HOW was I going to get everything that needed to be done DONE, alone with the kiddiwinks at home all day??!

Well, I let work slide, that's how. No matter what, I wasn't going to steal from my girlies' precious few weeks of summer holidays. They needed my full attention and opportunities to enjoy themselves, and so everything else sort of had to fall by the wayside.

And it's been hard, people. The Goddess has been stretched out thinly these past few weeks, trying to "cover all the bases" at the same time... The Nerves have been worn down to their exquisitely sensitive nubs as a result.

But, today, everything changed for the better.

Because today, one of my bestest friends in the whole wide world gave me a tremendous gift...

The gift of his lovely, kind, intelligent, responsible sixteen year old daughter, on a plane from BC, to be a "mother's helper" for us for the remainder of summer holidays.

This girl is nothing short of an indescribable wonder. She is the "big sister" that my eldest daughter has always wanted. She is the adored object of my six-year-old's affections. She mesmerises Wee Three, and never tires of PLAYING. She also has a wicked sense of humour, and an instinctive sense of "what needs to be done" in every situation. To quote my favourite character from children's literature, Eloise, this young woman is my "Mostly Companion", which to my mind, is some of the highest praise that one human being can give another.

Whenever she is with our family, we all just "click", and everything turns 'round right.

She came and stayed with us last year for two wonderful weeks, and during that time, not only did she amuse the children beyond any of our wildest dreams, she helped me to systematically work my way around our then-cluttered house, and organize almost all of the chaos. Our biggest accomplishment was The Playroom... by the time we were done, there was a place for everything, everything was in its place, and many, many enormous clear plastic bags were crammed full of stuff and on their way to a local women's shelter.

Oh, she's good, all right.

With her extra pair of capable hands to help, I plan to take the girlies on some wonderful adventures over the next few weeks... to the zoo, and museums, and parks. We'll bake and swim and picnic... and thoroughly enjoy what's left of summer. And in between it all, I'll be able to get all of the other things I do... all the "less important" stuff that certainly BECOMES important if I don't get it all done... DONE.

And we'll all be in a much happier place, just because She's here.


Are we the luckiest family in the world, or WHAT?!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Cleaning out The Bag...

A couple of days ago, Her Bad Mother sent out a call for us all to clean out our handbags, and show our fellow bloggers the contents, however gruesome they may be.

Since I've already told you what my youngest daughter keeps in HER purse (all thirteen of them... yes, STILL...) I guess it's only fair that "I show you mine", so to speak.

So here we go. Brace yourselves, everybody.

The Goddess' Handbag:

Yes, it's huge. I know. Plenty big enough to leave a baby at a railway station in (which I haven't done yet, by the way. But I've been tempted, that's for sure). And because it's huge, and usually crammed-to-the-brim with junk, it's also HEAVY. And the straps dig into my shoulder, which causes pain in my already achin' back, but what can I say, people? I'm a slave to fashion. Har har.

Okay, top left to right:

1. One puppy-dog bookmark, belonging to Child Number Two. I guess she finally finished the book she was reading.

2. $1.50 in Canadian Tire Money. The next-best thing to completely useless, because whenever I buy ANYTHING from Crappy Tire, it's always either inappropriate, or broken, and has to be returned.

3. My prescription sunglasses. Don't leave home without them.

4. A pamphlet about the new "Smart Meters" that the Ontario Government is attaching to all of our houses, so that we can go online and find out exactly how much electricity our family is wasting every, single, goddamn second of the day. Great, ONE MORE thing for me to obsess about...

5. My IPod. Love, LOVE, LOVE.

6. My red-hot shiny cellphone. A gift from my husband last Christmas. I think he was hoping for some steamy phonecalls at the office, but with three kids with supersonic hearing and brains like little tiny tape-recorders trailing after me at all times, NO SUCH LUCK. My ringtone is "Clair de Lune" by Debussy, by the way... My mother was ecstatic (she often laments about my decidedly "unclassy" taste in music, among many, many other things).

Okay, back over to the left, now for the second row...

7. Way, waaaay too much gum. But I NEED GUM, to keep the blood flowing to my brain as I chew. Trick I learned in university, while writing essays and exams. Sometimes, gum is the only thing keeping me awake at the wheel of my car. Just don't tell the OPP.

8. My wallet. We won't go in there.

9. I have no idea what this little yellow stick-thing is. My kids tell me it's got something to do with a Littlest Pet Shop toy that one of them purchased a long time ago.

10. One Tim Horton's straw wrapper. And one Tim Horton's straw, IN wrapper. Since I usually find at the end of the day that I'm toting at least two bottles of half-drunk apple juice around in my handbag, having ONLY THE STRAW AND WRAPPER in there is a breakthrough. It means that at least I made it as far as the recycling bin, just not as far as the garbage.

11. Miscellaneous lists and receipts. The lists go as far back as the cottage... I am an obsessive list-maker. If it ain't written down, it ain't happenin' people.

Take two. Left to right, from the top:

12. Three bottles of nail polish. I actually didn't know I had the two bottles of OPI in there... The dark purple Revlon colour is the one I had put on my toenails yesterday. It's called "Plum Attraction". Woo-woo. The receipt for the pedicure is there, too. Twenty-five bucks to get my sanity back?! Bargain of the century if you ask me. Imagine how much psycho-therapy would cost as an alternative.

13. The grotty little bag that all my makeup is supposed to fit into. Hah.

Back to the left again...

14. My purple ballpoint pen. I always write my lists in purple ink. Don't ask.

15. Contact lens drops. Even though I don't have the time or patience to put my contacts in anymore. And when I do, I'm usually carrying an evening bag, and not this wretched sack that actually CONTAINS a bottle of lens drops. Naturally.

16. Three containers of hand cream, and one jar of lip balm. Three containers, because I can never find the hand cream if there's only one container in there. And the lip balm? Unused, because I can never find it.

17. Emergency make-up. Two liners, one lipstick and a compact. I can never find them, either, because they're never in the make-up bag I carry.

18. EXTRA STRENGTH TYLENOL, a Mother's Best Friend. There are only about three left in there. Thank you for reminding me to fill it up.

Left again...

19. One large zip-loc bag full of various and assorted wires. Wires to attach my IPod to my car, my camera to my computer, my cellphone re-charger to a power outlet... You get the idea. It's just easier to keep them all together in my purse, rather than leaving them lying around, and then discovering that someone has used them to fix the lawnmower, or make a craft or something.

20. One open box of Smarties. The currency of childhood. It is solely for the purpose of bribing my children, I absolutely admit it.

21. A little pile of cookie crumbs, one fossilized ju-jube, a blue smartie that escaped the box, and a Canadian quarter.

22. Hard to see, but there are three pairs of earrings here. They were taken out of my ears on three separate occasions over the past six months or so, and tossed into the handbag when I visited my hairdresser. I didn't even miss them, but it's nice to have them back.

23. My keys. The husband calls them the "jailer's keys". Not far from the truth, actually. On the key ring(s) you will see a bungee bracelet (to hang on my wrist), a lanyard (to hang around my neck). Now that I've got more kids than I have hands (and a brain like a piece of swiss cheese), it is absolutely necessary that I be able to attach my keys to my body. You will also see a beaded lizard, made by Child Number One at camp this summer. When I take my keys out of my handbag, it's about five pounds lighter to carry.

And that's it, folks. Confession over.

It wasn't so bad, actually... and I've got a clean purse, to boot.

Now, don't you DARE ask about what's in my diaper bag...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Wise words for August...

"Festina lente."

(Make haste slowly.)

--Emperor Augustus 63 BC-14 AD

Okay, I think I'm a little more "myself" now...

It's been a whirlwhind of a week.

In spite of sprinting out of the starting gate when we arrived home from vacation, I have felt as though I've been playing a constant game of "catch-up" for the past six days. No matter how hard I've tried, the many tasks I've set for myself this week just haven't gotten DONE. I mean REALLY done, as in COMPLETED. Many, many things have been started... but... The house is a tip, Mt Washmore needs to be conquered yet again, I'm flabbergastingly backlogged on paperwork... And... and...

All of this has resulted in my becoming as Frustrated as Hell.

Deep down inside myself, I KNOW that I must not let my obsession for miraculous accomplishment steal from my girlies' precious final few weeks of summer holidays.

The knowledge of that has produced Guilt, on top of the Frustration.

And we ALL know that while this evil little combination of emotions makes for a marvellous ticking time-bomb, it does NOT make for the Funnest Mummy In The Whole Wide World (which I WAS, apparently, during our time at The Cottage, back when I was dishing out ice cream for breakfast and whipping up spectacular sand castles on the beach).

Today I woke up cranky. And on a beautiful Saturday morning, when my kids had even let me sleep in until (gasp!) nearly 8am. No word of a fib, that is considered a LIE-IN at our house...

I knew it was time to take matters into my own hands when the TOP OF MY LIST for today, this beautiful, warm sunny day... was NOT to swim with the children. Or garden. Or cook. Or even do the washing and hang it out on the line to dry.

The first goal that came to my frenzied mind was, "Goddammit. If I do NOTHING ELSE today, I'm going to scrub and sterilize the kitchen garbage and recycling bins!!"

As soon as I thought it, I looked at my three girlies and their sweet little faces looking at me expectantly... And realized that I was bordering on being out of control. Thankfully, at that moment, I stopped myself and realized that it was ab-so-lute-ly necessary for me to get the heck out of the house. Away from the smelly garbage bins and everything else I've been obsessing about. I needed to leave the girlies in the loving care of their father, who, in spite of stock market shenanigans making him wacko at work all week, still HAD to be in a fun-er frame of mind that I was...

I got up, got showered, fed the masses, tidied the kitchen (IGNORING the bins)... and went in search of my sanity.

Guess where I found it?

That's right. I got a pedicure.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

More of Ontario's finest...

Today is cooler (finally!) here in Ontario, and so I'm indulging in turning on the oven just long enough to produce some lovely treats with more of the local produce I found up at the farm this morning.

Tonight for dessert, we're having an enormous peach and blueberry crumble with home-made vanilla ice cream... I can smell the crumble bubbling over in my oven right now, and luckily the gooey blue rivulets are being caught by an old cookie sheet that I had the foresight to place underneath the casserole dish!! It makes for MUCH easier clean-up, that's for sure.

Now, our Ontario peaches are good, don't get me wrong. However, I have to concede that British Columbia's Okanogan Valley has it AAALLLL over us in the peach department. During the five years I lived out West, I spent the majority of the month of August eating as many of the enormous, fuzzy, juicy fruits as I could lay my hands on. I bought so many of them-- there were so many different varieties to try, each with their own subtle, wonderful differences-- that I wound up lightly poaching, peeling and freezing bags and bags of them, to keep them from "going off" and being wasted. We had a lovely winter stash of peaches with which to top our ice cream, which kept my husband from dwelling on my obsessive-compulsive hoarding tendencies.

Ontario peaches are good. With apologies to Niagara Farmers, whom I LOVE, don't get me wrong... The peaches are just a little on the small-size, in comparison to the BC fruit, in my humble opinion. They are sweet and juicy... but infinitely better when teamed with the humble blueberry.

And so here it is, folks, The Goddess' Peach and Blueberry Crumble recipe! Wonderfully easy, and best when served warm, with vanilla ice cream:

Peach and Blueberry Crumble

Peel and slice as many peaches as will fill about 2/3 of your chosen casserole (I use a medium sized, tall, round one).

Rinse as many blueberries as will fill the remaining 1/3 of your chosen casserole (but be sure to leave a little room at the top for the crumble... or your dish will ultimately overflow!!).

Gently mix the fruit together, to combine.

Add 1/2 tsp fresh lemon zest, and 3 tbsp granulated sugar, and gently mix again.


3/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c flour
1/2 c rolled oats
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c softened butter

Crumble the topping together with your fingers until it reaches a "lumpy" texture, and then spread it on top of the peaches and blueberries.

Bake 40 minutes at 350-375 degrees, with an old cookie sheet underneath!!

If you have one, it is WORTH IT to pull out the ice cream maker, and make your own vanilla ice cream to go with it!! Or, as my granny used to do, mix up some custard on the stove (I use Harry Horne's custard powder, although I am told Bird's is quite good, too), and place it on the table in a big jug when dessert is served... Each person can pour as much warm custard as they please over their crumble.


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Ain't life sweet...

Our time at the cottage is strategically planned to coincide with two things: first, the end of haying season in South-Western Ontario. To my mind, there is nothing quite so beautiful as a freshly mown field, all ready to be scooped up and rolled into gigantic "muffets" for the barn animals during winter. The colour of that hay is the most beautiful golden yellow you can imagine, and there have been times when I have been so overwhelmed by the beauty of a "perfect field", I have been compelled to pull my car over and take a photo of it.

And speaking of beautiful golden yellow, the most IMPORTANT thing that we plan our time at the cottage for is the beginning of our Sweet Corn Season.

People, there is absolutely nothing in this world that is more delectable to eat on a hot summer evening than a perfectly prepared ear of Ontario Sweet Corn. I don't know why, but it just seems to me that our farmers do Sweet Corn better than any place else on the planet. I've eaten corn all over. Don't get me started... I've been to a lot of places, and each place I go, I look for CORN before I start feeling tempted to put down any roots at all. No good corn? I pack up and go home. The slogan goes, "Good Things Grow In Ontario", and they're not kidding, ESPECIALLY when it comes to Sweet Corn.

Two weeks ago, my girlies and I began our yearly Quest for The Best. The cottage is located right smack in the middle of one of the finest farming districts in the province, and we scoured it for as many varieties of Sweet Corn as we could find. We tried common-a-garden yellow Sweet Corn from the local Independent Grocer's. We tried a variety called "Bodacious", which, in spite of its compelling monniker, failed to impress the family critics. At a local market, I was "wooed" by a farmer selling what he called "Candy Corn: The Sweetest Corn You Can Buy!" He claimed that he had picked it himself that morning, and loaded a dozen into a bag for me to try, free of charge... When we got home and peeled the husks back, we discovered that not only were the kernels a bit on the small-and-mean side, there were also little patches of mildew on a few of them, thus bursting the bubble that they were even remotely fresh. Yick.

Now that we are home once more, the unpacking is done, and we're settled back into routine, I decided that it was time to throw the kids into the loser cruiser and take them up the road to a local farm, which, in the summertime, sells a magnificent variety of locally-grown produce.

And today, we FINALLY found the best Sweet Corn of the 2007 season.

I stood there as they unloaded the ears out of the tractor-wagon that had pulled up out of the fields when we arrived. I carefully picked out six, and was told that it was nothin' more than regular "Peaches-and-Cream". Not "Super-Sweet-Bodacious-Candy", just plain old yellow-and-white.

We bought the corn, some beautiful tomatoes still warm from the vine, a gigantic cucumber, a handful of red potatoes and a link of summer sausage, and brought it all home for dinner. I sliced and dressed the cucumbers and tomatoes, boiled the potatoes with mint from my own garden, and the corn with a spoonful of white sugar thrown in the water... All of that, with a big dish of cottage cheese, is what my girlies call a "Farm-Fresh Supper". It's what they like to eat best in the summertime, with plates on their knees, sitting on the patio steps, their hair still wet from swimming.

Oh, the CORN, people, THE CORN...

The Corn was purrrr-fect. I smothered it with butter and salt and pepper, and handed each kid an enormous ear. We sat munching and slorping noisily, butter running down our chins, and waxing ecstatic.

We compared notes as to what technique each of us uses to eat corn. I have long been a devotee of the "typewriter" technique, as, long ago, my elderly grandfather explained that being meticulously careful about keeping track of all the kernels would allow me to eat them all, without missing any on the cob. Child Number One and her six-year-old sister are fans of the "round-and-round" method. They explained to me that it keeps them from getting butter up their noses as they eat, so long as they work downwards and not upwards. I tried it, and damned if they weren't absolutely right. Child Number Three, aged three, is still just developing her corn-eating technique, but suffice to say that this evening, she just chomped away haphazardly, cramming as much into her mouth at a time as she possibly could.

We ate the half-dozen ears I had bought in about five minutes flat. We COULD have easily eaten more... And we WILL be eating more, when I go back tomorrow morning to buy another dozen or so (Daddy will be home for dinner tomorrow night, so we'll be needing all twelve, I have the feeling).

I knew we had found our Winner of the Sweet Corn 2007 contest when Child Number Two turned to me in the evening sunlight, her face glistening with butter, and kernel-skins stuck between her wiggly little front teeth:

Child Number Two: (earnestly, with her brown eyes shining) Mum, can we have corn for BREAKFAST tomorrow?!!

Bring it on, baby, bring it on... And pass the butter, please...

File this under "So True"...

Well, they've gone away on holiday for two months.

And they left their damned noisy air conditioner "ON", grinding away FULL-TILT, in this unimaginable heat... cooling absolutely no one at all.

Do you suppose they've done it simply to annoy us? Or because they're just short of being completely mindless??


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

It's raining...

... ever so gently.


Today has given the Garden a reprieve from the blistering hot sun and scorching temperatures we've been having here in central Ontario. I've taken this precious opportunity to do a massive clean-up, mainly in the weeding and pruning departments, and I have to say... Things Are Looking Up.

I'm still going to sneak in a midnight sprinkler-fest again tonight, and with any luck, the majority of my plants will be revived...

Let's hear it for Mother Nature.

She WAS listening, after all.

Our World Turns On The Power Of Caffeine...

You know what I missed most when we were away at the lake?

You'd think that for the first few days, it would have been The Husband.


Not the cat, the guinea pigs, or the four fish, either.

Not even the garden (since we have one there, and OH, was it ever In All Its Glory...)

What I missed the most about home was this:

This is The Goddess' Coffee Mug.

Yes, it's pink with polka dots. A little TOO cheery for non-morning-persons, perhaps. But, what it lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in sheer size. And when it comes to a lot of things... including coffee mugs... I'm sorry, but Size Matters, people.

This mug is nothing short of awesome. It holds the equivalent of about four regular cups of coffee, which saves me having to fight The Husband for second helpings in the morning. And if I'm the first one up, then he's lucky to get a single drop if he doesn't get a move on.

The Mug is also lightweight, which is essential, and is narrow enough at the bottom that it will fit nicely into the loser cruiser's cup holder.

A good friend of mine thought I was slightly ding-y when I picked up The Mug in our local Winners' china department... She thought that SURELY I couldn't possibly drink that much coffee at one sitting, and that it would, in all likelihood, be stone-cold by the time I got anywhere NEAR the bottom...

She is a good woman. A great friend. Extremely intelligent.

But, she drinks tea in the mornings.

Enough said.

Oh, I'm happy to be back with The Mug, and even happier that I was able to salvage my Fabulous Coffee Maker, which had been left, uncleaned and unloved, by A Certain Husband Who Shall Remain Nameless, for the entire time we were away at The Lake. I scoured it and sterilized it for HOURS, running cup after cup of boiling vinegar, and then water through all of the pipes...

And this morning, my coffee was perfect.

This morning, it was finally GREAT to be home.

Monday, August 6, 2007

It's good to be back.

Well, we made it home. It took a crowbar to pry me away from the lake this year... everything was so beautiful, and the weather was so perfect. I could easily have stayed and stayed and stayed. But, all good things must come to an end, and so here I am, back home-sweet-home.

Well, NOT so sweet, as it turns out, because the house-sitters forgot to let The Rescue Team (our cleaners) in last week. So, to say that the place was a BIT of a cesspool upon our return is an understatement. The cat and the guinea pigs had a riot in our absence, judging by the amount of timothy hay and fur all over the kitchen floor, and the poor betta fish had to wipe clean spots on the inside of their glass bowls with their fins, so that I could see them mouthing, "HELP!!" To add yet another gross-ness, The Husband omitted to clean our fabulous coffee maker before he came to join us at the cottage last week, and when I opened the filter case to see where the nauseating smell was coming from... Well, you don't want to know any more. Husband is in "time out" for messing with the caffeine equilibrium in the household, and I've been in the process of sterilizing that machine for several hours now. It had BETTER be ready for tomorrow morning's use, that's all I have to say (without bursting into tears, that is).

MOST distressing was the sight of The Goddess' Garden, however, which has turned brown and decrepit with the extreme heat and drought, in spite of the "watering" that was supposedly done while I was gone. I can't blame the house-sitters entirely for this, as we are under watering restrictions by our town at the moment, but I confess to breaking the rules and roaring out there with the hoses at sundown tonight... And if anyone reports me and sends an official to my door, well LOOK OUT, because I will tolerate a lot of hardships with grace, but DON'T MESS WITH MY PERENNIALS. The Sword and Shield MIGHT just make an appearance over this one...

However, my crop of weeds did exceptionally well in our absence. Once the soil is moistened a little bit, I'll be out there at sparrowfart tomorrow morning, digging those buggers up. HOW IS IT that WEEDS are seemingly the last green things out there today??! Guess that's what makes them weeds... Crap.

It's been a long day; first a long drive, and then a looong cleanup of this bear-pit I call "home". Tonight, the bathrooms and kitchen are shining, the carpets are vacuumed, the pets are clean, happy and well-fed, the laundry is **DONE** (oh, you'd better be gasping in awe at THAT one), and the kids are all packed and ready for their activities tomorrow.

Now, if someone would just smarten up and open a GROCERY STORE around here, we could get some decent food in the place!! (For my beloved American readers, today was a Civic Holiday here in The Great White North... All our shop keepers locked their doors and opened a two-four instead, apparently... Oh, and a two-four would be... Never mind. I'll explain another time...)

My eyes are closing, here, I'm going to take my glass of wine up to bed, now.

It's good to be back.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

I am trying to memorize this feeling...

...for future reference in February.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Breakfast at The Cottage...

Early, EARLY this morning, I was awakened by the sensation that I was being... watched.

Sure enough, when I opened one eye and looked sideways, my gaze was met by two little pairs of brown peepers peering over the edge of my mattress:

Child Number Two: (in an excited stage whisper) Yep!! NOW she's awake!!

Child Number Three: (FULL VOLUME) MAMA!! WE HUNGWY!!

I sat up and shook the sleep from my head.

Mother: (more than slightly grumpily) Right, you little chuckle-heads... What TIME IS IT?!!

Child Number Three: (dancing towards the bedroom door) MAMA!! We want ICE CREAM CONES!! Scutter-botch!!

Mother: BUTTERSCOTCH... Ice cream cones for BREAKFAST?? It's only... six-fifteen, for crying out loud!!

Child Number Two: WELL, the BIRDS are up, Mum, so WE should be up, too!! Ice cream!! ICE CREAM!!! PUH-LEEEEEEEEZE???!!

So, as I pulled on my bathrobe and wandered towards the kitchen, I got to thinking, "Bill Cosby-style". After all, if HE gives his kids chocolate cake for breakfast, what harm could a little ice cream do? Ice cream goes WITH cake. And it's made with milk and cream... CALCIUM, and VITAMIN D, right? So what if there's a little sugar?? Can't be worse than the amount in Life Cereal, right?! And THAT is supposed to be healthy, RIGHT?!!!

I rummaged through the cupboard, found the ice cream cones (FIBRE!! HAH!!), and pulled a large carton of Chapman's Butterscotch Ripple ice cream out of the freezer.

I loaded up three flat-bottomed cones, and started towards the sliding door. After all, ice cream is best enjoyed on the deck, watching the hummingbirds at their feeder, listening to the crash of the waves at the bottom of the garden...

Child Number Three: (eyeing the LARGEST ice cream) DAT one for ME??!

Mother: (ruffling her curly hair) Not on your life, shrimp!! This one's for ME, because I'm the BEST MUMMY IN THE WORLD, for letting my kids have scutter-botch ice cream for breakfast!!!

And it was ab-so-lute-ly DELICIOUS... watching my girls enjoying themselves, and helping each other with the drips as the ice cream melted...

I admit having to RESIST the temptation to put another great big scoop in my coffee, once it had brewed... It's going to be a scorcher out there on the beach today.

Ice Cream For Breakfast. Fit for a Goddess... and her Kids, too.

Stay cool, everybody-- any which way you can!!

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