Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bunny Muffins

It's a beautiful, sunshine-y Sunday morning, and my kids are already dressed and out helping their father rake up leaves in our back garden. And you know what I mean by "helping", don't you... It means that my husband spends about an hour meticulously raking up a big flurry of leaves. And, as soon as the pile is large enough, and he goes off in search of yet ANOTHER brown paper yard-waste bag... the girlies come whipping out from around the corner of the house, where they've been hiding. Quick as lightning, and accompanied by three piercing shrieks of "COWABUNGGGAAAAA!!" ... Well, let's just say the leaf pile is rendered a Pile-No-More.

Leaf-raking in my garden is a seemingly endless project every autumn. It's right about this time, each year, that The Husband comes storming into the house, and announces that I have OFFICIALLY PLANTED THE LAST TREE ON OUR PROPERTY. ("Got that??!! NO. MORE. TREES. Enough shade, already!! Please??!")

I confess. I'm a sucker when it comes to beautiful trees. I'm a dryad in disguise. The trouble is, I'm a dryad with allergies and a nasty case of asthma. So, when it comes time to rake all the leaves those trees drop in the autumn, I'M the one who has to sit inside. Or, should I say, GETS to sit inside. And no "leaf-blowing" apparatuses on my property. Not EVER. Those things are just one great big fatal asthma attack waiting to happen, and I won't even go INTO my tirade about the excessive racket they produce. Noise AND air pollution, all in one little hand-held machine. Let's just say that in my humble, slightly wheezy opinion, there's nothing like the scriiiitttch-scriiittch sound a rake makes when tackling a lawn-ful of leaves. ESPECIALLY if I'm not the one getting blisters on the other end of the rake.

But I digress.

The point I'm trying to make is, I'M SITTING INSIDE on a beautiful morning.

And what better way to pass the time than to make a great big pan of really delicious muffins. Muffins that are chock-full of nutrition, and will fill my kids up after a good, long stint of decimating leaf piles out in the fresh air.

This is a recipe that my kids call "Bunny Muffins". And before anyone gets all snaky on me (yes, I'm talking to YOU Travellor, wherever you are today, AND YOU, Shawn-- I don't want any disappointed comments from EITHER OF YOU), let me make one thing clear:


Just carrots. LOTS of carrots. A good-for-you vegetable that is usually rawther difficult to get into my children on a regular basis... but in this disguise, they wind up eating plenty, without any fuss!!

Bunny Muffins

In a medium-sized bowl, blend together:

2 c all-purpose flour
2/3 c brown sugar
1/3 c white sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

In a separate bowl, combine:

1/2 c melted butter (you can also use Becel's olive oil margarine as an alternative)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 c milk
1 c shredded carrots
1/2 c raisins
1/2 c chopped pecans (or walnuts... but pecans are my favourites)

Combine the "wet" ingredients with the "dry", and stir until moistened. Spoon into muffin cups, and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

This should make about a dozen large muffins.

Your family will thank you... and so will Peter Cottontail.

Lesson Learned by Wee Three...

At least it wasn't her hair, right?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Today at the Terry Fox Run...

Well, TODAY was the big day, folks!! Our public school's annual Terry Fox Run. My three girlies and I ran in honour of Whymommy this year, as you can see from the signs we made for our stroller...

Number Two (age 6), Number One (age 11, kneeling down) and
Number Three (age 3). We all wore our hot pink t-shirts!

Child Number Three decided to make her very own sign. She said that the yellow parts are "Whymommy's happy face!"

Our school backs onto a large park. When the starting whistle blew, the entire school population shot towards the trails, which wind around a pond...

Child Number Three decided to walk the whole way...

The weather couldn't have been nicer, and with all the leaves beginning to change colour, the scenery was just beautiful. I carried copies of Whymommy's blog post in my purse,
and handed them out to any parents or teachers who asked questions.We're not yet sure how much money we raised for the Terry Fox Foundation this afternoon, but it was certainly an enjoyable, successful run!!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Basics of Motherhood... In Under 3 Minutes!

Now, if I could just carry a recording of this around with me to play to my kids all day, it would save me NO END of time and trouble...

Thank you again, Whymommy...


Well, she's done it again... That Whymommy. Just when I think she can't overwhelm me any MORE, she goes and does something ELSE:

Apparently, I make this extraordinary woman smile. I simply cannot think of a higher compliment. Thank-you AGAIN, Whymommy...

And, in case you all are wondering, Whymommy is doing GREAT THINGS these days...

Hopefully, many of you went out and bought October's Parents Magazine, as they did a feature on Whymommy and provided information about Inflammatory Breast Cancer (yes, amidst treatments and recovery, and on top of spending quality time with her beautiful family, she found the time to GIVE AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW... Trust me, people, it's worth the read).

Her cancer is also responding to treatment, which is the most incredible news!! In her words:

I didn’t know I’d live to see the Fall.

When I was diagnosed on June 16 (a date that will be forever etched in my mind, as the day my world came crashing down) it was somewhat of a death sentence. Although the outlook is not as bleak as it once was, survival rates for women with my cancer — inflammatory breast cancer — are only 25-50% at 5 years; survivors at 10 years are still recounted by name (”Well, there’s Susan D, and Sally X, and they did it!” said in a falsely chipper voice). 90% of IBC survivors will suffer a recurrence. Treatment is an ardous melange of chemotherapy, masectomy, more chemotherapy, perhaps a prophalactic masectomy on the other side, and radiation. Often, the treatment goes in cycles, with survivors fighting the cancer and surviving chemotherapy for the rest of their lives.

Sometimes, there is no rest of their lives. Because of delays in diagnosis and treatment, it is not uncommon for IBC survivors to not make it 3 months past diagnosis.

I have survived 3 months. I am doing … well, I suppose, in that today I am not worse off than I was when I had my first chemo treatment. I’m no better yet, but
the spread of the cancer since diagnosis has been stopped (whoo-hoo!), and the inflammation is on the retreat.

I am tired. My arm and upper chest hurt, from nerve damage or sheer muscle fatigue of hauling around this heavy cancerous tumor that once was my right breast. My hair is gone. My arms are bruised from the weekly needle sticks and IVs that are essential for the treatment and monitoring of the treatment. (I don’t have a medi-port put in, for valid reasons having to do with the spread of IBC through cut skin. It would make treatment easier, but perhaps less successful. The survival rates for this disease did not rise from zero until they stopped cutting first and started treating with neoadjuvant chemotherapy, which means chemo first, then sugery. So I have chosen not to have a port put in, to improve my chances.) My fingernails are discolored and weakening. My gums are dry and tender. My eyebrows are falling out.

But I — me — the I inside — am doing well these days. I’m up and around and going to playdates. I’m holding my baby and hugging my child. I’ve cared for my kids myself the past several days, with WonderDaddy’s help but not all the time. I even cooked last night.

I’m getting better.

To top everything off, Whymommy has just announced that she will be taking part in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Hunt Valley, Maryland next month! I would give my eye teeth to be there with her (and given my psychotic aversion to dentistry, this is really saying something, people).

Although I confess to wistfully looking into babysitting, arranging passports and airline flights... I know in my head that it will take something akin to magic to actually get me to Maryland for a weekend next month.

So, my girlies and I are taking matters into our own hands. Tomorrow is our public school's annual Terry Fox Run, which raises money for the Canadian Cancer Society. We have decided that we are going to do the run, all four of us, in honour of Whymommy. We're getting a big pink sign ready to pin to the front of our stroller, and I will be fully prepared to answer any and all questions I get from parents, teachers and students alike, about our own little "Team Whymommy". Because spreading information about Inflammatory Breast Cancer, its signals and symptoms, is an enormous part of the life-saving process.

We're running for YOU, Whymommy... Because you're not just fighting for your own life, you're fighting for ALL of us.

Thank you... We love you--

xo CGF and Girlies 3

Because it's been THAT kind of a morning...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Spoken JUST like a man without children...

Ten bucks says that little mountain climbing jerk had a sherpa to carry everything FOR him...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"At The Crease"

by Canadian Artist, Ken Danby

I will always remember that an enormous print of this painting graced a wall in my small-town Ontario junior public school... The only other major work of art (that was not done by students) was a photograph of Queen Elizabeth II! You can guess which image we Canadian kids preferred to look at...

Mr. Danby passed away on Sunday at the age of 67, while canoeing in Algonquin Park. He was an enormous part of Canadian culture, and will be terribly missed.

"My paintings explore my first-hand experiences.
Yet, what you see is not simply what I saw...
but how I want you to see it."
--Ken Danby

Monday, September 24, 2007

Après gardening season...

It's even worse when The Husband thinks
I'm wearing wool socks...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

My Mother's Pastry, and other legends...

I pride myself on being a fairly good cook.

I love food. I enjoy entertaining, and feeding people. Perfectly prepared food has incredible power: it excites the senses and brings people together. It can comfort and soothe the troubled soul. It nourishes on many, many levels.

I am always interested in combining different ingredients to create new variations on recipes, and creating different taste sensations. But, I have also discovered that there are some recipes that just can't be improved upon, because they have already reached their ultimately perfect potential. And the majority of those recipes come from my mother's kitchen.

My mother is, bar none, the finest cook that our family has ever produced. She can do it all, people. She can perfectly scramble an egg into a light, fluffy, yet slightly creamy consistency (don't ask me how she does it, I've been watching her technique for YEARS, and still can't get it exactly right). She can coax the most beautiful, pneumatic cheese souffles to arise out of a casserole dish, and serve it to a brunch crowd before it's had the slightest chance to deflate. She can create the most enormous, crusty loaves of bread, and the aroma produced while they bake has been known to rouse small children from their sleep (the dough takes half the day to knead and rise, and so batches of bread at my mother's house bake far into the night). And every year, she concocts the most sinfully decadent multi-layered chocolate cake for my birthday. It is made with pounds and pounds of solid chocolate and a vat of sour cream, and is so rich and delicious that the mere THOUGHT of it makes me want to lie down on the floor and roll around for awhile.

And then there's her pastry.

My mother claims that her pastry recipe originates from the back of a Crisco box, but none of us actually believe her.

WE believe that the Food Gods must have whispered it into her ear one night while she was sleeping. Then, they gifted her hands with magical powers to create no-fail perfection whenever the impulse to bake a pie strikes her.

Well, okay, maybe that's taking it a BIT too far.

But suffice it to say this:

A few years ago, my father arrived to stay at our house for a weekend. He was in need of a little company while my mother was away on one of her "Crumbly Tours". Just so you know, a "Crumbly Tour" doesn't actually have anything to do with pastry. Or food of any sort, for that matter. A "Crumbly Tour" is what we used to call the little holidays that my mother would take a couple of times every year, to visit all of the very elderly relatives in our family. She would get on a plane and fly out West, and then dot back across the country, and stop in to spend a couple of days with each aged "Crumbly", until she finally reached home again.


My mother was away, and my father packed up and came to stay with my crazy brood for a weekend while she was gone.

And, as I do for all people who come to stay at my house, I cooked for him. In fact, I made a special point of cooking recipes of my mother's that I happened to know he particularly enjoyed.

After the Saturday evening meal, my father sat contentedly at my table, enjoying his coffee, with a small, satisfied smile on his face.

"That was very nice. Thank-you," he said, as he pushed back his chair and began clearing the table for me.

"But I must ask you..." he continued, as he ran hot water into the sink and added soap. "Have you learned to make your mother's pastry??"

Pastry, according to my father, is my mother's crowning achievement. She is, and always has been, the perfect woman, wife, and mother to his children. But the fact that she is capable of making pastry that renders him almost incapable of coherent speech is clearly the BONUS in his marriage that he never suspected he'd be lucky enough to possess.

This pastry recipe is very, very simple. Deceivingly so, in fact. Because I will write it down, just as she did for me, using HER words... But it will take you time and practise to perfect it. You will learn that this pastry MUST be made with a light, cool hand. I'm not kidding about that: your hands actually MUST be cool. If your kitchen is warm, and your body temperature is too high, then it is important that you don't actually touch the mixture with your hands at all. Go out and purchase a pastry cutter-- one of those little U-shaped wire things that mashes shortening into flour, without allowing your skin to come in contact with the ingredients. In the wintertime, I always prepare pastry on the counter space that is directly under an open kitchen window. It sounds goofy, and more often than not I freeze my butt off, but it is worth it. It makes THAT MUCH of a difference. Temperature and over-handling is what causes the consistency of pastry to become "tough".

The recipe I am going to give you is for a double-crust pie, and in this case, an apple pie. But, if you are making a single-crust pie, like pumpkin, or a quiche, or simply covering a pot-pie, you can divide the amount in half, or make two single-crusts and then freeze one (either roll it out flat on parchment paper, or form it into a pie plate and freeze the whole shebang).

It's officially autumn, everyone. It's Time for Pie!

Canadian Apple Pie


2 c white flour
1 c Crisco shortening (NOT lard, or anything else. CRISCO.)
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp ice-cold water

Mix the flour, salt and Crisco with the fingers (or a pastry cutter) until it is the size of small peas. Add the cold water, and knead lightly.

Divide the dough (1/3 and 2/3 if you're making a double-crust, OR 1/2 and 1/2 if you're making two singles).

Roll out the bottom crust, and place it in a 9-inch pie plate, crimping the edges.

(Okay, I have to interject again, here, because I have discovered the answer to rolling out the pastry without touching it too much. Take a very large piece of parchment paper, and tape it to your countertop with scotch tape. Then dust it with a little bit of flour, and roll your pastry out on top of it. When you are ready to transfer the pastry to the pie plate, centre the pie plate upside-down on top of the rolled-out pastry. Then un-tape the parchment paper from the counter, lift everything up and quickly flip over the plate, pastry and paper, so that the pastry is on top of the plate. Peel off the parchment paper, and press the pastry into the pie plate. Voila!!! You might have to trim the excess pastry from the sides of the pie plate before you can crimp it with your fingers... Just add the extra to the other lump of pastry before you roll it out.)


Peel and cut up enough apples to fill the pie shell. (My mother always uses Macs, but I have used Courtlands and Galas, with spectacular results. Make sure that your slices aren't TOO THIN, or the filling will be mushy. You want a little bit of texture in there. And pile the slices up a bit-- everything flattens out during the cooking process, and you want a bit of height.)

Pour 3/4 c of sugar over the apples, then dot the top with small pieces of butter. (That's all she wrote, folks. Just apples, sugar and butter. No messing around with spices to take away from the perfect flavour of the apples.)

Roll out the top piece of pastry, and place it on top of the apples. (My mother carefully shapes this piece in a circle, and then "floats" it on the top of the apples. She doesn't crimp the pastry top into the pastry bottom, which allows steam to escape from the pie better while it bakes. Do cut a few little slashes into the top-crust to allow for steam to escape the centre of the pie, as well)

Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, and then lower the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees, and bake for another 40-50 minutes.

And now, I'm going to give you the ULTIMATE secret to serving a perfect Canadian apple pie... Are you ready for this? Pay attention:

This is a wheel of Aged Cheddar Cheese. And THIS, people, is the only food substance that should accompany a perfect slice of Canadian Apple Pie on a plate. Not ice cream (and I know, I know... I hear all you "a la mode" lovers out there... CHEESE IS BETTER. You'll just have to trust me on this one). It's even better than a big slurp of warm custard drizzled on top. And THAT'S saying something, considering I come from a clan that swills custard like drunken savages.

Apple pie with a great big wedge of sharp cheddar cheese... Now, THAT'S what autumn is all about, people.

Thanks, Mum.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Woman Formerly Known as Mummy...

... is back in The House.

And the children are very, very relieved about it.

After all, who would want THIS kissing them goodnight??!

Not me, that's for damn sure...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Another Motherhood Milestone...

Well, The Goddess has conquered another Milestone of Motherhood... I have finally managed to completely "potty-train" my third (and last) child.

The Major Accomplishment finally happened this evening, and let me tell you, people, it was not only a big, stinkin' deal for Wee Three, but for me, as well.

Just goes to show, you can have weird hair, and still be a pretty damn good mother.

Hmmm... Our fifteenth wedding anniversary's coming up...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Welcome Home, Drowsy Chaperone!!

Tonight, I was ab-so-lute-ly THRILLED to be in the audience for the first preview performance of the Tony Award-winning CANADIAN musical, "The Drowsy Chaperone", which kicks off its North American Tour here in Toronto. We are incredibly lucky to have the brilliant Bob Martin HIMSELF starring as the "Man In Chair" here in the city where "Drowsy" first had its inception!!

This production is NOTHING short of spectacular, people, and I encourage you to check out the show's website, to see if it will soon be playing in a city near you. Get thee to the theatre. You won't be sorry. I haven't laughed like this in AGES.

Welcome Home, Drowsy Chaperone!!

On Self-Maintenance...

My children are all back at school and fairly well settled in to their new routines. Yesterday, I decided that it was about time I did something about my own self-maintenance.

You know what I'm talking about. That doctors appointment that NEVER gets booked. Or, it gets booked, and somebody else in the family gets sick, and you become far too busy to actually KEEP your own appointment. Then there's the dentist. And the hair dresser. And the shopping for clothing... All of these things seem to get done on a regular basis for all of the other members of my family, but by the time I am done with all of them, not only is my bank account completely drained, but so am I.

This week, I decided it was High Time that the Goddess got a little attention. I set up my appointments, found a babysitter for Wee Three, and set off.

Yesterday, at 7.30 in the morning, I found myself sitting in a dentist chair. This is no small feat for me, as I have an aversion to dentists that borders on the psychopathic. As I child, I was treated by a dentist who could very well have doubled for the neighbourhood blacksmith. My experiences with him were so shatteringly horrific that as soon as I left home, I swore that I would never be forced to visit a dentist again, as long as I lived. Not in a fully-conscious state, anyway.

Years and years and YEARS went by before I decided it was time to venture back to the dentist. More than ten years, in fact. It was when my own first child was in need of orthodontic work, and I realized that my aversion to all things dental was beginning to affect the way she was feeling about her own experiences. I knew then that I needed to nip my emotional problems in the bud, for the benefit of my child. I was referred to a very good dentist here in town, who is endlessly patient, and also a mother of three small children (thus no stranger to craziness). She had me in for a long talk, took a quick look at my situation, and we set up a maintenance plan.

The first couple of visits were excruciating... On the first visit, I had a panic attack while the hygienist was in the middle of cleaning my teeth, and actually jumped out of the chair and ran out of the room. On the second visit, they tried sedating me with a little nitrous oxide... but the only good it seemed to do was that the maze of tubes and wiring kept me "tied" to the chair. I was finally given a hefty prescription for Atavan, which I have been using to quell my nervous attacks since then. The dentist, hygienist and I ALL seem to fare much better, nerve-wise, since I started taking the tablets about a half-hour before my appointments...

I blame the residual effects of the Atavan for what happened next...

Yesterday afternoon, once the loopiness in my brain wore off a bit, I set off to keep the appointment I had booked with my friend Elsie, who is also my hairdresser. I love going up to see her, as she has a very similar sense of humour to my own. We always book at LEAST an hour together, so we can natter and gab and laugh till our sides hurt. The fact that she has impeccable taste and ALWAYS makes me look vastly better than I do when I arrive is the BONUS part of our time together.

Elsie's shop is located in a little town about half an hour north of where I live, and at SOME point during the drive, I decided that A Change In My Appearance was in order.

Now people, let me confess something, here. I have my hair coloured on a fairly regular basis. The reason for this is simple: the people in my family tend to "go grey" at FAR too early an age. About six or seven years ago, when the grey was growing in faster than I could pull it out, I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns, and fight the un-natural aging process (hell, I had just hit my THIRTIES, for crying out loud). Elsie and I decided that the best way to "fight the grey" was to lighten my natural hair colour, thus blending in any new silver strands that might appear in-between appointments. The greyer my hair became, the lighter the hair-colouring had to be. And yesterday, as I looked at my reflection in the loser cruiser's rear-view mirror, I realized that if this plan of attack went on for too much longer, my hair would soon look like a sorry excuse for a Marilyn Monroe fright-wig.

So what did I ask Elsie to do yesterday?

I asked her to darken it. As in, DARKEN IT.

We went dark, all right. From light brownish-blonde, to dark-mahogany-brunette.

It was a good idea at the time. Until I returned to the cutting chair, the towel came off of my wet, tousled head, and I got a first glimpse of myself...

Me: (hand flying up to my mouth and gasping) CRAP!! I look like Marilyn MANSON!!

Elsie: (laughing at my shock) You SO do NOT!! You look great!! It's just going to take a little time to get used to it!! You SAID you wanted a CHANGE!!

Me: (covering my eyes, now) Jeez, Elsie!! What was I thinking??!! LOOK AT ME!! You just get me one of those white contact-lens-eyeball-thingies, and I'll pop it in and start screaming "The Beautiful People"!! I swear, delinquent teenage drop-outs will FLOCK TO ME!!

Elsie patted me down and smoothed my ruffled feathers, and I have to admit, once she had trimmed my hair and blow-dried it into a shwanky little "shape" again, I did look remarkably better. Still not like myself, but definitely striking.

I was feeling pretty good about myself, pretty "hip and updated", until it was time to pick up my children from school.

I stood outside on the pavement, and waved to Child Number Two when she appeared at the top of the school steps.

She didn't see me, so I called to her.

This time, she heard her name, but looked STRAIGHT THROUGH ME, searching for the woman she knows as "Mummy".

Child Number One had the same reaction.

Eventually, I had to physically go and GET both of my children from the school steps, because NEITHER of them recognized me. They didn't exactly "hate" my new look, but it certainly surprised them.

Child Number Three, on the other hand...

Well, she wouldn't even come NEAR me when I went to pick her up from her friend's house. She knew it was ME, but she wouldn't give a cuddle. Or a hug. Or even a measly handshake.

Okay, I admit. THAT HURT.

When we finally reached home, my children all lovingly asked me when I was planning on getting back to "normal". I told them it would take a little while, but eventually, the colour would fade with washing in a couple of weeks.

Well, people, as it turns out, it's not even going to take that long.

Because this morning, when I went in to Child Number Three's bedroom to get her up for breakfast... before I had even turned on her LIGHT, the very first thing she asked was:

Child Number Three: (in a sad little voice) Mama? Your hair change back, yet?

At 8am, I left a phone message on Elsie's answering machine... telling her that while I love her, and she is an artistic genius, my children have decided that they want "The Woman Formerly Known As Mummy" back.

I have an appointment booked for the re-transformation on Friday... which will give my husband an opportunity to take the "New Woman" out for dinner tonight (at least HE seems to like her, no matter how nuts she may be)...

But, I think I've decided something. I'd rather have my hair look like a poor-version of Marilyn Monroe's, than a fantastic version of the OTHER Marilyn's...

Hell. Wouldn't you?!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Music to do housework by...

Especially "Turn It On Again".

I'm sorry, but Phil Collins is STILL
the Coolest Little Dude in the Music Industry...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fall fun...

Well, autumn has unofficially arrived in this part of Ontario, that's for sure. It's getting pretty chilly at night, and I'm just about at the point of bringing in all the more delicate potted plants from the patio, to save them from being frost-bitten. The leaves are changing colour like magic-- every morning the scene out my windows looks different, with the deepening yellows and reds taking the place of green on the trees, and then scattering on the ground.

This morning, the girlies and I were all sitting around our enormous kitchen table, and I was trying to cajole them into eating a healthy breakfast before carting them off to their respective schools. We were all discussing what our week ahead looked like, and all the various activities that everyone would be engaging in.

We turned to Child Number Three's school schedule, and tried to jolly her along by talking about her "Theme Of The Week". I was delighted to see that the theme for the next TWO weeks will be APPLES.

Apple season in Ontario is a wonderful thing. We've got plenty of farm-country surrounding the place where we live, and one farm in particular has the best orchards around. They grow every variety you can imagine, including the all-time classic, Macintosh, as well as Spencers, Honey Crisps, Paula Reds, two varieties of Delicious, and my personal favourites, Cortlands and Royal Galas.

My kids just can't get enough of apple-picking. We go many, many times every autumn, and our house is always filled with the aroma of "apple-SOMETHING" baking, from September till at least the end of November. I've even bought a hand-cranked machine that peels AND slices apples all-in-one-go, so that I can maximize my time-use. When we finally reach the point when we simply cannot cram another apple-item into our mouths, I start making up bags of sliced apples and freezing them for future use during the winter... And they don't do too badly, actually, so long as you use them quickly after removing them from the freezer, and you don't let the slices sit out to thaw long enough to turn brown and mushy.

The thought of apples, and lovely, long, sunny afternoons in the orchard with my children, made my heart leap up from its "Monday" heaviness.

Mother: (in an excited whisper) Just GUESS what your theme-of-the-week is at school THIS week, Wee one?

Child Number Three: (heartily mashing up her cheerios with the back of her spoon and spattering milk everywhere) Don't care.

Mother: Oh, yes, you WILL care!! Because it's something that you all like very much!!

Child Number Two: (through a mouthful of toast) Is it CHOCOLATE?!!

Mother: No, silly. It has to do with what season it is. It IS something we can bake with, though!! And we can find them in the trees!!

Child Number Three: (EXCITED, NOW, with eyes shining) I know!! It MONKEYS!!!!

Child Number One: (rolling her eyes heavenward) I think you're going to need a new recipe book, Mum...

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Great news, everybody!

Whymommy has made the pages of this month's Parents Magazine!

Please be sure to get your hands on a copy, and read her interview!! A brief version of her discussion about Inflammatory Breast Cancer can be found here:

Congratulations to Whymommy and Canape (the organizer of Team Whymommy).

I am absolutely certain that because of all your tireless effort, you ladies are literally saving lives.

Bless you, thank-you. xo CGF

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Early this morning, Child Number Three and I were making our breakfast-rounds of all the critters in the house.

We gave Georgia the fierce, bad cat a good, long pat, fed her, and filled up her drinking bowl.

We sprinkled flakes on the surface of the water in the guppy tank.

We dropped five tiny pellets into each of the three betta fish bowls, and waited patiently to see if Ruby, Sapphire and Opal each managed to consume their meals before the food sank to the bottom (bettas are strictly "top-feeders").

Throughout the process, Child Number Three kept up a steady stream of one-sided conversation with her pets (if you don't count the purrs and wet, fishy, blubbing noises as "responses").

But the two guinea pigs, Cookie and Cupcake, are a completely different story. They are almost as noisy as Wee Three, herself.

As soon as Child Number Three's little footsteps could be heard on the floorboards of the hallway, the two guinea pigs jumped to attention in their enormous hutch (we call it the Piggy Palace), and began "woink-ing" enthusiastically. Their vociferous welcome always makes my youngest child practically collapse with giggles, and she kneels right down to talk to them while I quickly chop up a few cucumbers, apples and carrots for the gp's dining pleasure.

This morning, her opening line to Cookie and Cupcake surprised me, however. Indeed, I think it flummoxed even THEM...

She put her face very close to the bars of the cage, smiled at them endearingly, and cooed:

"Polly want a cracker?!"

Friday, September 14, 2007

She went back...

Well, I know you're all DYING to know if we survived the Friday back-to-school routine with Child Number Three...

And the good news is, SHE DID IT!! She went back. Happily. No tears, no screaming, no fuss.

She marched through those doors on her own two feet, wearing a suitable outfit, complimented by a pair of hot-pink mary-jane shoes. She was toting a box full of oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies that we had baked for the teachers-- and the teachers were thrilled, let me tell you (it's clearly been a loooong week for them, too).

We made a few changes here at home on Thursday, which I think really helped Wee Three feel more "in control" of the going-to-school situation.

First off, we went out for one more little spree at Old Navy... the big sale is now on, so I thought, "What the heck?" Child Number Three had a super time picking out a few more little pairs of jeans and long-sleeved shirts. We even found some gorgeous pairs of tiny little fuzzy socks, which will be very suitable for when the cooler weather sets in around here for "good". And I made it ab-so-lute-ly CLEAR that since THESE were the outfits that she was choosing for herself, THESE were the clothes that needed to be worn for school from now on.

Then we went home with our purchases, and tackled the closet situation.

Part of our problem over the past few weeks has been that the resident three-year-old has a love for summer clothing that borders on the obsessional. The smaller the garment, the more she loves wearing it (and I thought this sort of thing didn't kick in until girls hit their teenage years...) For example, while prancing around in a purple-polka-dot bikini is just fine when it's thirty degrees outside and the kids are all running through the sprinkler out in the garden (heck, I'm even fine with the kids putting on their bathing suits, grabbing towels and umbrellas and playing "beach" in the playroom while the blizzards rage outside in December), I have been unable to impress upon Child Number Three that skimpy beach attire has NO place in the nursery school classroom.

So, I did a little re-shuffling in the closet, and set up a shelf that is perfectly within the reach of my youngest child. We arranged all of her school outfits on it, and now, every school day, she will be able to go into her closet and choose her own clothes.

And all of her summer clothes went up high on another shelf, out of sight and temptation's way, where only Mummy can reach them. And who knows? With this wacky Ontario weather, we might just be needing them again a few times before the season is well and truly over... Dress-up clothes, too, came out of the closet, and have been put back down in one of the massive costume-bins in the playroom. If she wants her feather boas and high heels, she knows where to find them. I'm just hoping that the urge won't strike her to combine them with jeans and a t-shirt before 9 am on weekday mornings, if she can't see them lying in front of her on the closet floor.

Today started off great. She got up, she chose her clothes, and we put them on her with minimal fuss. She ate breakfast, and then followed her sisters up to the bathroom, where they helped her clean her face and teeth, and brushed her hair.

We actually arrived at the big school playground with time to spare, and I watched my girls racing around with their friends, whilst sipping coffee from my enormous pink-polka-dot coffee mug. When the bell rang and everyone lined up to go inside, I made mention to Child Number Three how nicely the other children were all behaving, and noted that no-one was crying as they walked through the doors!! I asked if she was ready to try going back to her school, and she grinned and nodded furiously!!

It was heaven, people.

She did it.

WE did it.

Weeelllll.... actually, if the truth be known, there was one more "person" involved in today's success. Want to know who?

That's right. The Dairy Queen.

I confess. I bribed my kid to go to school today. Call it "positive reinforcement" call it a "reward", call it whatever you want. I promised that if Child Number Three behaved herself beautifully this morning, I would take her to Dairy Queen immediately after school, and buy her the biggest, bestest ice cream they had.


If the plan worked, I would get one, too.

It worked. Thank God.


I wonder what I'll be craving when it's time to go back to school again NEXT week?

And I wonder... how much I'll weigh by the time June rolls around...

God Almighty, the things we do for our kids. Ouf.

I am so thankful to you, Whymommy...

Every day, I try very hard to remember to be thankful for all the many blessings I have in my life: my family, my friends, my health, and my home, to name only a very few.

Today, I received a very special gift from a very special person:

Thank-you, Whymommy, for passing along this shwanky new "Nice Matters" award! This gift means so very much to me, because it came from YOU.

If you are new here and haven't already had the privilege of "meeting" her, Whymommy is a fellow-blogger, wife and mother of two little boys. She is also fighting a courageous battle against Inflammatory Breast Cancer. She has taken up the fight on many fronts: not only is she going through aggressive chemotherapy, which will be followed by surgery, she is educating the rest of us through her words on so many, many levels.

She has been writing detailed accounts of her symptoms and treatment, in order that we all might be better informed about breast cancer. Her goal is to share, and to inform, in the hope that ultimately, no other woman or family will ever have to go through what she and her family are enduring right now.

On top of all of this, she writes beautifully and poignantly about her thoughts and feelings. Her words resonate in my head, and regularly make me pause and think. She makes me even more grateful for all the blessings that I enjoy. She makes me want to somehow "do better"; live a more aware existence, and take joy in what is present and happening around me, rather than dwelling on the past, or worrying about the future.

Whymommy has been a wonderful friend and teacher to me over the past few months, and I know for a fact that she has touched the lives of many, many more people through her blog, and in person. She is such an inspiration to all of us.

I can think of no better way to say "thank-you" to Whymommy than to once again post the incredible piece she wrote on her own blog, several months ago. And I ask that each and every one of you, dear readers, copy it and post it on your blogs, too. E-mail it to everyone you know. Because sharing information is such a tremendously important part of beating this terrible, life-threatening disease.

Thank you.

We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer?

I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.

Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.

Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.

You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.

Whymommy can be found at her blog, Toddler Planet. If you would like to join us in support of this wonderful woman, contact Canape at the Team Whymommy page.

Together, we can all help Whymommy Kick Cancer's Ass!!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cooking for comfort...

Ever since we bought and brought home that enormous bunch of gladiolas from the Stratford Farmer's Market last weekend, I have been gazing at it and thinking about my little Great-Auntie. Or, should I say, my Mighty Great-Auntie.

She was a formidable, if very tiny woman, and lived an extraordinary, long life. She was born on our family farm, and died on the farm she acquired by marriage, which was literally "just down the road" from her birthplace. In an age when farm girls weren't expected to grow up and accomplish more than making a suitable marriage and raising a family, my Auntie set off right after completing grade-school to train as a registered nurse. In those days, nursing was taught in hospitals, and she was accepted to train at one of the best teaching hospitals in the country. It was there that she met a woman who became her best friend, and who also turned out to be my maternal grandmother. We will all be forever grateful to Auntie, as she "chose" my grandmother from their graduating class (Grandma having won the Gold Medal for excellence in her field), and together they set up the area's first tiny little "cottage-hospital" in Auntie's home-town, along with a female-physician (another great rarity of the time). They made an incredible team.

On the day that my grandmother arrived to begin her new nursing job, Auntie sent her younger brother to meet the woman who would eventually become his wife, at the local train station. When the striking young Scottish girl stepped off the train, my grandfather suffered an attack of acute shyness, and apparently hid behind the nearest lamp post... They eventually found one another, however, in more ways than one, and famously (in our family lore, anyway) eloped on April Fool's Day.

My grandparents raised a rollicking brood of four children. It turned out that my little Auntie, however, was not able to have a family. Instead of feeling downhearted and bitter about the cards life had dealt her and her husband, Auntie instead chose to "adopt" her nieces and nephew as her "nearly-own-children". She hosted them all for long visits at her farm, and loved and cared for them all just as much as she would have, had they been borne of her. She had THAT big of a heart.

I think that was part of what made her such an extraordinary nurse, as well. She knew instinctively what would make people feel better... and I'm talking about remedies that went far beyond the medicinal. She knew how important it was to care for the WHOLE person. For example, she would gently wash and brush peoples' hair, or shape and buff their fingernails till they shone. She knew just how to talk to people and befriend them, and could make them forget that she was "nursing" them. More than once, when she was quite elderly and she and I were sitting next to one another having a chat, I would suddenly discover that my wrist was in her hand, and she was sub-consciously taking my pulse. Caring for others was so completely ingrained in her... Even during her final years, when she was hospitalized following some surgery, the young nurses on duty would remark in amazement that Auntie would "make her rounds" of the patients on her floor in the evenings (most of them were people she knew from the community). She would wish each one a good-night, and make sure they all had enough warm blankets.

She was a warm, loving person. I will never forget her.

Today, Child Number Three and I have been baking. It came to me last night that if we baked a special treat TOGETHER today, we could turn it into a gift for the teachers at the nursery school, for when she returns tomorrow. Hopefully, this scheme will help Wee Three feel happy about going back, and proud to be giving a gift she made "herself". As an occasional helper at the school, I know just how hard those wonderful teachers work every day to create a stimulating and nurturing environment for all their little pupils... I'm certain that some of these oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies will give them the nourishment, not to mention the energy-boost they need to get through the last day of the week!!

This is a recipe from my Great Auntie's collection. She taught it to my mother, who taught it to me. They are so delicious, you can just FEEL her love and comfort when you eat them!!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 c of butter or margarine (**I use Becel's olive oil margarine. It's healthy, and bakes beautifully)
1 c of brown sugar
2 c of oatmeal (**be sure to use "quick oats", and not "instant")
1 c of flour
a pinch of salt
a slurp of vanilla
1 tsp of baking soda, dissolved in 1 tbsp of hot water
As many chocolate chips as you like

Cream together all the ingredients, mixing well. Spoon up the batter 1 tablespoon at a time, and roll into little balls. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

** Now, here is the key to making them crunchy!**

Dip a fork into a little, shallow dish of milk, to coat the tines. then press each cookie dough ball down a little bit. Re-dip the fork in the milk before you press down each cookie dough ball.

Bake for about 7-9 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Watch them carefully, because they burn easily!

Cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

YUMMY with a big, BIG glass of milk...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A wise friend has just reminded me...

"Pick battles big enough to matter,
small enough to win."

~Jonathan Kozel

... especially wise when dealing with boneless toddlers.

Thanks, "Mrinz"!

My wonderful friend, Mrinz, who is a mother and grandmother, can be found at New Zealand Links. Another one of my favourite reads!!

Toddler taming...


That is the only way to accurately describe Child Number Three's second colossal, screaming fit of the week, which occurred between 6.45 and 9 am on Monday, and then again this morning.

And WHAT has been the cause of this sudden and violent change of behavior?

Why, NURSERY SCHOOL, of course.

To say that Child Number Three does not WANT to go to Nursery School this year would not be an entirely accurate statement, however.

True, each horror-filled early-morning has begun with the tremulous screech from the crib, "ME NO WANNA GO A-SCHOOOOL!!!"

The resounding cry has continued, and indeed, ESCALATED, from that point onwards.

Through the trek downstairs to the kitchen, where she stands plaintively at my feet whilst I am blearily preparing the coffee. Through the pouring of Cheerios into a bowl, which is promptly refused and overturned, followed by her glass of juice (I'm threatening to just puree it all and stick it in a juice box for her, I'm getting so fed-up with the clean-up).

She even follows me into the bathroom and bangs on my shower door during my wild attempts to make myself presentable to the outside world... After I'm dressed, she howls and pulls on my sleeve when we're standing next to one another in front of the bathroom mirror, USUALLY at the exact time when I am trying to apply lipstick, or an accurate track of eyeliner.

Oh, she's been a treat, all right.

But the WORST part is trying to get HER dressed.

Because THAT, people, is when the words fail her, and the TRUE, boneless, screaming fit begins.

Now, before I get going on this "getting dressed" thing, allow me to explain something first. I am a theatrical costumer by trade, and have ALWAYS encouraged my children to dress creatively whenever the urge strikes them. For example, I LOVE IT when they decide they want to try wearing their snowsuit pants, combined with a sparkly tank top, and a voluminous ballerina tutu, inverted, and placed squarely on their heads. (This, by the way, is apparently the costume for "Magical Trees" in one of their many productions they have put on in our basement).

I have absolutely NO PROBLEM with allowing my children to dress themselves when we are here at home, or going somewhere relatively unimportant, like the grocery store. "Mis-match" away, kiddos, just keep in mind that you might run the risk of either sweltering or freezing to death if you choose clothing combinations that are inappropriate for the season.

However, I have made it clear to my children that there ARE a few exceptions to the "clothing-free-for-all". And they are: School, Church, and Grandma's House (when Grandma is in residence, and hosting an "event").

This morning, the "School" clause was in effect.

And my usually calm, collected, agreeable third child completely took leave of her senses, collapsed her entire skeletal system, and mutinied on me.

It was chilly outside this morning, people, and it took nearly an hour to wrestle Wee Three into a tiny pair of jeans, a long-sleeved shirt with a bunny on it, and a sweater. And this was an outfit that she herself had CHOSEN just the other day at Old Navy. It was one of her "FAVE-WIT!!" back-to-school outfits. She actually BEGGED me to purchase it, and of course, I caved.

But, today?! You'd have thought I was trying to drag her to the electric chair, not to her closet to put on her clothes. I gave up completely at the point of socks and running shoes, and jammed her feet into her little pink crocs, instead. Mainly because crocs don't leave bruise-marks on my shins when she kicks.

Spawn of Satan, she was, people. I half expected her head to start spinning 360's.

It was BRUTAL.

Her father watched us, speechless, as we marched out to the driveway. The first two children, beautifully turned-out, hair brushed and faces shining, pulling their brand new backpacks-on-wheels, and The Goddess following up the rear, with a still-screaming toddler tucked not-so-neatly under her right arm, and a Strawberry Shortcake rucksack dangling from her left.

We must have been quite a sight for the neighbours to behold. Especially when the squirmy, I'm-not-gonna-be-buckled-into-THIS-carseat battle began.

It was a LOUD car ride, to put it nicely, and the two older children tore off down the street to their school playground as soon as I had parked the loser cruiser and opened the automatic escape-hatch... presumably to avoid been seen with their apoplectic, sweaty, cross-eyed mother and their way-WAY-gone baby sister.

One and Two: (not even attempting to hide their relief) 'BYE, MUM!!!!!

Little traitors.

Wee Three and I continued on our way to the Nursery, tears still flowing copiously from the back seat.

And during the drive, although I had to shout to make myself heard, I assured Child Number Three that Senior Nursery is JUST THE SAME as Junior was last year. Same nice teachers! Same friends!! Same fun crafts and toys and activities!!! Same damn ROOM, for crying out loud!!!! NOTHING has changed since last year, except that a little bit of time has passed.

It was a red-faced, sniveling child I pulled out of the back seat of my car in the nursery school parking lot. Swollen-eyed and hiccuping, she asked me to carry her into the building.

Child Number Three: (snuggling her damp little face into my neck and sighing a BIG sigh) ... I wanna be a BABY 'gain...


I ALMOST CRACKED at that point. I confess. Because this is my last child; this IS my baby. And there's nothing in this world that I want more than to hang onto my children, for as long as they will let me.

But instead, I took a deep breath, strode through the school doors, and set Child Number Three down on her own two feet.

And she took one look at the delightful surroundings, smiled an ENORMOUS smile, let go of my hand, and skipped off to join her friends at the cutting-and-pasting table.

Little brat.

At THAT moment, dear readers... there was nothing in this world that I wanted more than a couple of Valium and a shot of Jack Daniels.

We get to do it ALLLL over again on Friday morning.

I think I'd better make a liquor store run before I go to pick her up at lunchtime.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The BEST way to commemorate 9/11...

I was delighted to read this article this morning on Yahoo News...

Let us all pledge to make an EXTRA effort to be kind to one another, especially on this Day-Of-Days...

In 9/11 remembrance, a turning to good deeds

By Alexandra Marks Mon Sep 10, 4:00 AM ET

NEW YORK - On Sept. 11, Jacob Sundberg of San Antonio has pledged to make eye contact and smile at everyone he meets. Kaitlin Ulrich will bring goody baskets to the police and fire departments in and around Philadelphia. And 100 volunteers from New York – 9/11 firefighters and family members among them – are going to Groesbeck, Texas, to rebuild a house destroyed by a tornado last December.

This is a minute sampling of the hundreds of thousands of people who have pledged to memorialize those killed on 9/11 by doing something good for others.

The heroic acts of all those killed trying to save others that September morning has spawned a growing grass-roots movement. The goal is to ensure that future generations remember not just the horror of the attacks, but also the extraordinary outpouring of humanity during the days, weeks, and months that followed.

"It was the worst possible day imaginable, and in some ways, a remarkable day, too, in the way in which people responded," says David Paine, cofounder of "We need to rekindle the way we came together in the spirit of 9/11: It would be almost as much a tragedy to lose that lesson."

Sept. 11 has inspired dozens of philanthropic efforts – from groups dedicated to building memorials to foundations designed to improve education in the Middle East. But myGoodDeed has a more universal goal: to turn 9/11 into a day dedicated to doing good – from small, simple things like Lisa Scheive's pledge to help stranded turtles cross the road in Pompano Beach, Fla., to lifesaving efforts, such as John Feal's decision in New York to donate one of his kidneys to help a seriously ill 9/11 worker.

The idea has been endorsed by members of Congress, and at myGoodDeed's urging, President Bush for the first time this year included a call for volunteering in his annual 9/11 proclamation. After major disasters, Americans have historically tapped a deep reserve of compassion and reached out to others. But in the months and years that follow, those compassionate and civic urges tend to recede. Studies at Harvard's Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement in America found that in as few as five months after 9/11, most Americans had gone back to their daily lives and were not more engaged as they said they'd hoped to be. Part of the goal of turning 9/11 into a national day of service is to remind Americans of the inherent joy of giving and to hopefully spur volunteering and charitable acts throughout the year.

"I don't know of any research that's been done on one day of service, but studies have shown that people who do volunteering in high school are more likely to volunteer throughout their lives," says Thomas Sander, executive director of the Saguaro Seminar.

The idea of turning 9/11 into a day of service, charity, and good deeds came from the family and friends of one man: Glenn Winuk, a volunteer fireman and lawyer who worked a block and a half from the World Trade Center. After he helped evacuate his Broadway law offices, he grabbed a medic's bag and ran toward the smoke pouring from the South Tower. That's where his remains were found after the towers fell. Mr. Paine and Glenn's brother Jay had been friends for years. They decided that turning 9/11 into a day of service was best way to memorialize Glenn. "It completely reflects the way my brother lived his life, and it also specifically reflects how he died," says Mr. Winuk, cofounder. "He laid his life on the line for other people that day."

In 2002, Paine and Winuk sent e-mails to friends and family and suggested they do a good deed, such as donate a day's pay on 9/11. Then the idea evolved, and they founded In 2004, 100,000 visited their website and pledged to do a good deed on 9/11. This year, those pledging number more than 250,000.

"A lot of people don't know what to do on 9/11," says Paine. "This hits people in their heart and their soul. It connects with something that's fundamental."

Monday, September 10, 2007

For September 11th...



I am a comic-a-holic.

As well as reading copious pages of comic strips in as many daily newspapers as I can get my hands on, I also have several custom-designed pages of comics emailed to me every morning.

I keep elaborate scrapbooks of snipped-out comic strips the way some people chronicle their children's developmental milestones.

People, let me tell you something that I have learned about life. Sometimes, it's the funny people who offer up truth more accurately than the serious ones. I don't know exactly what it is... Perhaps people who laugh often, and who know how to make other people laugh, are somehow more in tune with what is important... what is real.

Over the years, I have found some favourite funnies. Funnies that make me think; make me marvel at their ability to perfectly capture a feeling or a situation. And these are two examples of that. They have a special place in my collection.

They are "Non Sequitur" and "Heart of the City", and they were clipped, almost exactly one year apart, from the comics page of The Toronto Star newspaper.

It's September 11th once again, everybody.

We have all learned a great deal about ourselves, about life, and about the world since then.

But, my greatest hope; something I pray for every day, is that we can all learn this:

"To laugh often and love much;
to win the respect of intelligent persons
and the affection of children;
to earn the approbation of honest citizens
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others; to give of one's self;
to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
to have played and laughed with enthusiasm
and sung with exultation;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived
- this is to have succeeded."

-- Although this work is often attributed to Emerson, the actual author is debated... This is one of many variations of a poem called "Success", and the one I like the best.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Me on Monday...

Happiness is... The Farmer's Market.


These are the flowers that I bought by the dozen at the Stratford Farmer's Market yesterday morning. I say "by the dozen", because I originally intended to buy ONLY A DOZEN of them.

Sometimes, I have to "plan ahead" to curb my enthusiasm... Otherwise, things get more than a LITTLE BIT out of hand. Usually, this sort of planning involves food items. Most often, chocolate food items.

But on Saturday morning, it was gladiolas. Because there's a fine line with these enormous, spectacular blooms. Too few makes you look as though you skimped on the bouquet. And too many makes your house look as though you might be hosting a funeral sometime soon.

My love of gladiolas came from my great-aunt, who was one of the finest and most diligent gardeners I have ever encountered. She lived alone on her enormous farm long after her husband passed away, and although her fields were rented out, she continued to cultivate her flower gardens and mammoth vegetable patch until she was well into her eighties. She was tiny, my little Auntie, but she was Mighty.

A few years ago, I telephoned her at the farm, and was dismayed when she answered my call sounding more than slightly out-of-breath. I immediately inquired if she was all right, and whether she was feeling faint or tight-in-the-chest.

"Goodness, no, dear," she replied with a laugh, "I just ran in from the garden when I heard the phone-- I've been out there for an hour digging trenches for five or ten more rows of gladiola bulbs!!"

She was sharp as a tack until the day she died at the age of 102, and I think of her bright, cheery spirit every time I see a vibrant, colourful bouquet of "glads", as she used to call them.

But, back to the Market on Saturday...

The girlies and I wandered through the maze of enormous plastic buckets, which were crammed full of gladiola stems, in every colour of the rainbow. There were so many varieties to choose from, but eventually, we carefully selected twelve to take home in a bunch.

We approached the wooden desk, where a tall, thin farmer stood. He greeted my children with a wide, warm smile.

"Leetle girls!!" he said delightedly, in beautiful, Dutch-accented English. "Leetle girls who love FLOWERS!"

"Come," he beckoned to them, "Come and pick some more for YOURSELVES!"

And he allowed my girlies to pick out MORE gladiolas for their very own selves. Then, he carefully packaged the three bunches up in newspaper to make them easier to carry. It was quite a comical sight, seeing as Child Number Three was nearly as tall as the package she was determined to hang onto... with a grin on her face so big, you'd think her round, pink cheeks would split.

I thanked him profusely, and offered to pay for the extra flowers. But the gentleman would have none of it, and simply said, "I like to see people HAPPY."

Glads make people happy.

I knew that.

Wonderful news!!

Remember "The Quilt" project?

When I was home in Stratford at the beginning of last summer, I discovered this incredible fundraiser to benefit breast cancer patients and their families. Actually, to put it more correctly, I should be saying breast cancer SURVIVORS and their families. I have learned from the amazing Whymommy, who is educating us all by sharing her experience of kicking inflammatory breast cancer's ass, ALL women with breast cancer automatically become "Breast Cancer Survivors", right from the moment they are diagnosed.

"The Quilt" project is going strong again this year, people, and I am THRILLED to share this article with you, from this weekend's local newspaper, "The Stratford Beacon Herald":

First Halifax Auction Raised $11,800 for The Quilt

by Beacon Herald Staff

The first annual reception and auction in Halifax recently raised $11,800 for The Quilt: A Breast Cancer Support Project.

"We accomplished everything we wanted to do-- introduce The Quilt and Wellspring to Halifax and provide a fun-filled evening for a good cause," said Carol Miller, spokesperson and founder of the Stratford-based charity.

Ms. Miller credited Shirley Parker and her team that sold all 140 tickets and Jim Jordan of La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries for making the event a huge success.

Apart from Halifax, the charity this year added Manitoulin Island, Kamloops (Oct 11), Toronto (Oct. 23) and Calgary (Nov. 6) to its list of auctions. A Stratford auction is scheduled for Nov. 17.

The number of quilting marathons supporting the project has risen from six in 2006 to more than 60 locations in Canada and the U.S. and to date nearly $1.4 million has been raised through the auctions.

The money goes towards supporting cancer survivors and their families.

The Halifax location is also significant. The Quilt is a key funder of Wellspring's plans to open a Halifax location for the 28,000 Nova Scotians living with cancer.

Mary Walsh of CBC's "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" was emcee for the Halifax event. When presented with a quilt for her services, she turned right around and sold it-- much to the delight of the crowd.

The Stratford and Toronto auctions will be hosted by the team of Carlo Rota, a principal character in the FOX network TV program "24", and Sheila McCarthy, Rota's co-star in the CBC sit-com "Little Mosque on the Prairie".

Zaib Shaihk, another star of the show, will host the Calgary auction.

Dear Readers, I urge you to visit "The Quilt" website, and get to an exhibition, or participate in an auction if you possibly can! The quilts and wall-hangings contributed this year are some of the most spectacular pieces of needlework I have ever seen. And the love that must have gone into creating each and every one is more than evident... it is absolutely overwhelming.

This is one of the BEST charities out there: not only does it raise breast cancer awareness, the money goes straight to work, supporting women and their families at a time in their lives when they need it the most.

Because NO ONE should have to face cancer alone!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Bought today...

"Family and Company"

It will come as no surprise to any of you that I am just a little girl trapped inside a 38-year-old's slightly worn-out frame.

Hey, at least my girlies can relate to me, right?! Maybe that's why we get on so well... It's DEFINITELY why we ate soooo much Chocolate Barr's candy today, and FOR SURE why we were still swinging at the park with ice cream dripping down our chins at a QUARTER TO NINE tonight...

And it's also the reason why, whenever we are in this beautiful town, we always make sure to stop by the most brilliant toystore in the entire world: "Family and Company".

People, they've got it all. And I'm not talking about that Mattel crap that has been recently recalled because the lead in it KILLS PEOPLE.

I am talking about wholesome, hilarious, fun, Fun, FUN. They've got board games and tinker toys and wooden puzzles and magic tricks and dress-up and craft supplies and rubber chickens and... did I MENTION the rubber chickens??! Rubber chickens are my absolute favourite toys. Except for whoopie cushions, of course. Suffice it to say that they've got 'em both, and everything else you can imagine, too. The place is crammed, floor-to-ceiling, chock-a-block, with the most incredible variety of kid-friendly STUFF that I have ever. seen. in. my. entire. life.

The girlies and I always set aside a few hours of time for a trip to Family and Company. We ALWAYS have a blast, and we ALWAYS come out with the most incredible variety of treasures, all packaged up in a big brown bag, tied with a couple of neon-pink-and-orange plastic strings (suitable for making a boondoggle bracelet at a later time...)

Look what I found today!! And this is just one of the things I bought for MYSELF:

The Voice-Changer Megaphone.

This thing is The Bomb. And my kids are NEVER getting their little hands on it, either. At the press of a button, I can change my voice to sound no less than 10 totally different ways!! And a whole heck of a lot LOUDER than my normal voice, too!

If this thing will make my kids sit up and take notice when I say stuff like "Right!! Time for bed!!" or "Hustle out to the car, we're going to be late!!" or "Dirty socks go in the hamper, not on the bedroom floor!!" or even just "AAUUUGH!! STOP RIGHT THERE, YOU LITTLE CHUCKLE-HEAD!!" then I will have gotten my money's worth and more.

And if The Husband, who, let's face it, tuned out the sound of my voice well over fifteen years ago, suddenly begins acknowledging me when I speak, well then, I'm going to have to buy stock in the company. I think I might not use voice number three on him, though-- it is the "Very, Very Low" setting and sounds not unlike the Satan character in a cheap horror flick. Hell, it's probably the one he would recognize as my "PMS Voice", anyway...

This is my home.

The girlies and I are "home" this weekend, on a sort of "surprise" visit to the place where I grew up. We hadn't planned it, exactly... Yesterday morning, I looked at our calendar and realized that beginning on Monday, our extra-curricular activities will be in full-swing once again, and we will be slaves to our weekly schedule, however enjoyable and fulfilling it may be. We won't be able to escape on a whim again until sometime around Christmas, since I'm the one who will be hosting Thanksgiving again this year.

So, I threw some clothing and my laptop into a bag, made the necessary phonecalls, picked up the girlies from school, and we hit the highway.

And oh, I am so glad to be here. My heart lifts up the moment my car enters the farm country surrounding this perfect little town. My parents' house is always exactly the same, cool and comforting. The whole weekend stretches ahead of us, waiting to be filled with fun!

And what will we do today?

After hitting the farmer's market, where I shall purchase the biggest bunch of gladiolas I can get my hands on, as well as fresh produce for supper, we will hit the parks. The girlies want to have a good, long time on the swings (the same ones I swung on for hours on end when I was a child... the looong chains make you feel like you could go on to forever...), and then we'll stroll down to the river, where the paddle boats will be waiting for us. Paddle boats, and THESE:

THESE are two of the beautiful, but more than slightly silly, persistent creatures who inhabit our river. Swans. They feel it is their God-given RIGHT to be fed cracked corn by any human who trespasses on their riverbank (because we ALL walk around with bags of that stuff in our purses, right?! Okay, okay, so I DO walk around with that stuff in my purse when I'm here... But REMEMBER HOW HUGE MY PURSE IS? I can manage it). They even swim after us when they see us bobbing around in boats. And, clearly, they feel that no photograph is worth taking without at least two swans in it...

We will also swing by the theatre, to visit with some of my old friends from my "working" days...

How incredibly lucky I am to have been born in an idyllic place like this, with parents who nurtured and encouraged every single artistic impulse I ever had. And how lucky I am to be able to return here whenever I like, so that my girlies can enjoy the same.

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