Thursday, May 29, 2008

So, it's true!

The grass really is greener......

(........on the other side of the property line where people only have one child and a cleaning lady and have time to fertilize and water and baby their grass)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How I Make Yogurt

I started making my own yogurt a couple of months ago when our family consumption skyrocketed. It is not unusual for us to go through a 750 g container in one or two days. This was getting rather costly. One of my friends has a fancy yogurt maker that I borrowed and had fun with. When I got serious about making yogurt I decided to try making it without a machine before we shelled out money for an appliance that we didn't have room for on the forgotten appliance shelf in our pantry. (That space is taken up by a Juiceman and a pasta maker)

I started by doing research online and figured out the best way for me to incubate the yogurt without a machine. The only fancy equipment you need is a instant read or candy/deep fry thermometer. Nice but not necessary is an oven thermometer.

I followed the steps at this website to prepare the milk for incubation.

Here are some extra tips I have learned:
  • I find that my microwave takes between 7-8 minutes on HIGH power to scald the milk. I like using the microwave because I can heat the milk in the same container I plan to incubate it in. One less pot to wash!
  • My yogurt has the best consistency if I let it incubate at least 12-14 hours. To incubate it I preheat my oven to it's lowest temperature and then turn it off. I turn the interior light on and place my tightly covered milk mixture inside and leave it overnight. I also remind Richard not to make nachos for his bedtime snack!
  • The quality of your starter is important. I prefer to use full-fat commercially prepared plain yogurt. I find as my starter ages I have to use a bit more than the required 2 tablespoons. Reach to the very back of the dairy case and get the freshest yogurt you can.
  • To sweeten my yogurt I love a small drizzle of honey or some ripe mashed banana mixed in.
  • For a really delicious treat strain the yogurt in a coffee filter for several hours. It takes on a wonderfully thick consistency, almost like goat cheese. Drizzle this with honey and sprinkle with walnuts or pecans and cinnamon for a decadent treat. Chocolate milk mix stirred into homemade yogurt is pretty yummy too.
  • Home made yogurt has a milder flavour than commercially prepared yogurt. Be sparing with the sweetener at first.
  • Because it has a milder flavour, strained yogurt is a really great substitute for sour cream.

Pictures for my mom.

My mom is working night shifts this week. She always bugs me for new pictures of the kids she can look at on her coffee break.

Here you go!!!

Charlotte is standing in her puddle. (It's a very small puddle)

Our resident Fashonista

Emmett is demonstrating the sign for "Help"

Matthew likes his bath.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Beauty where you'd least expect it.

What do you see when you look at this picture? A dumpster? A little girl running through the rain?

Look a little closer.......

Johhny Jump Ups!!! I love these little purple flowers. They show up in the oddest places. I think they are lovely little flowers even though some people just think of them as weeds. They brighten up my trips to dumpster, at any rate!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What was I thinking????

A little high school flashback for you. Feel free to giggle. I insist.

Which is a bigger crime? The outfit the dog is wearing, or the hideous perm that makes me look like.......

Getting back to basics.

Food and fuel prices are getting higher and higher. I need to do my part to stretch our budget. Now that the weather is getting nice and I try to take the stroller shopping instead of our minivan. I make more things from scratch. My mom gave me a beautiful bread maker for Christmas this year so we only buy bread on very rare occaisions. I have started making yogurt from scratch. I think I have perfected my technique and I don't even use a yogurt maker. I have also started making my own laundry detergent. I feel so much better now that I don't have to drip $20 on the giagantic plastic jug of what I now know to be mostly water.

I thought I would share the recipe I use for detergent with you, my five loyal readers. All the ingredients are readily available down the laundry aisle of your local supermarket and are all quite inexpensive. This makes a fairly small quantity so even if you are short on space it is easy to store and use.

Powdered Laundry Detergent
1 bar plain soap (I use Sunlight, but I have heard of people using Ivory, or Fels Naptha as well)
1 cup Borax
1 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
1/2 cup powdered Oxy clean (I use the generic brand)

Grate the bar of soap and then grind in a food processor until granulated. You should have around 1-1/2 cups of soap. Mix soap with remaining ingredients. Store in a covered container. Use 2-3 tablespoons per regular load.

This makes a plain, unscented detergent. If you want it to be smelly, add 10-15 drops of your favourite essential oil to the mix. The Sunlight makes the detergent smell lemony, but there is no lingering scent on the clothes. The oxy-clean is optional, but I found it makes a real difference in how stains come out of the kid's clothes.

I like to add the detergent first and let the water run over it to dissolve a bit before adding clothes.

Here is a nice site to start with if you are interested in making detergent.

Anyone want to know how I make yogurt???

Friday, May 16, 2008

My boy is the cutest.

Emmett is the sweetest boy on the block. You know what he just did??? He wrapped up a couple of his computer games in paper. Apparently I have to bake a cake, and then he will give his gifts to Charlotte and Richard when Richard gets home from work. this just a clever ploy to wrangle some cake?????

A new playdress.

My little girl has a long torso. This means that most t-shirts don't fit her properly and her little belly hangs out. I don't particulary like that look on three year olds.

I have an addiction to plaid. Madras plaid sundresses on little girls make my heart sing. Char had a couple of sundresses that fit her well last year, but due to a growth spurt they are far too short. There was still a lot of wear left in the fabric, the colours were still lovely and I hated to see these dresses out of the wardrobe.

What's a resourceful momma with a sewing machine to do? I chopped the bodices off the sundresses, gathered the skirts to fit and sewed them to the hems of the t-shirts. Voila! New playdresses for free!

A beloved Dora shirt. I am so happy the fabric I had available matched the t-shirts so perfectly.
This was a very hard shot to take--my girl doesn't stand still for long.

See? This is much closer to her natural state. Clearly these dresses are comfy to play in.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Extra! Extra!

We got our new camera a couple of days ago. Here are a couple of shots: It has an in-camera red-eye eraser. (Your monitor isn't dirty. That's pureed peas on Matthew's face)
It has a kalidescope function. I don't really know the point of it, but I will play with it and get back to you.
Oh yeah. One more thing......
Emmett has had a major, major breakthrough. This week has seen a huge increase in his desire to try out new combinations of sounds and make words. One morning he handed me his favourite cereal bowl (blue) and said "bwoo" while signing "blue". Yesterday he asked for an apple and while signing said "abo".
Last night as I was saying goodbye to the kids and leaving them with their beloved respite worker Emmett ran up to me and pointed to himself and said "Emmeh". He kept repeating it while smiling and nodding his head.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My girl.

My Charlotte is a busy girl. Her mind and body run at full tilt all day long. She must touch everything and taste most things. She must see must see how much she can cram into the furnace ducts, vacuum outlet and flush down the toilet. She doesn't let much stop her. I have locks on all of the doors, the backyard gate and shelves are being built ever higher on our walls to protect things we don't want broken (we are on to our second digital camera). There is crayon and marker on the walls. She tires me out and the mischievous glint in her green eyes always has me on high alert.

I live almost every day in frustration and am exhausted by bedtime. I need to keep reminding myself of a few things:
  • Charlotte is a free spirit. She is energetic and creative. These things are going to make her a fantastic adult some day. She is going to give this world great things.
  • I need to spend more time trying to help her brain grow and stimulate her. She can't sit still with a colouring book without drawing on the wall. She can't sit with a story book without tearing pages. A couch is for bouncing on. A rocking chair is a launch pad. She can't walk past a puddle without jumping in it. Her feelings get hurt because the birds in the yard don't want to play with her and she will run down the street to follow them.
  • She doesn't mean to be as destructive as she is. She just needs to fully immerse herself in life to figure out how it works. I need to make her world safe so she can freely explore.
  • She is a constant source of frustration and joy for me. Just when I think my head could explode she sings me a song (with her own improvised lyrics and choreography) and I can't help but laugh through my tears. The outfits she puts together are very original and always fun to see.
  • Matthew worships her. All she has to do is look at him and he is convulsed with laughter. At 8 months of age he already knows which buttons to push to make her scream. I look forward every day to watching their relationship grow.
I just needed to remember that the things that make her a challenging preschooler are going to make her an amazing, adventurous adult. I can get through this, right???

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Getting Ready to Par-tay

I got some awesome alphabet cookie cutters for Christmas this year. I decided that Char needed her name spelled out in cookies to go with her cake at her party. Here are some pictures of the cookies being decorated by Char and Emm. I am hopeless with frosting bags so I had the kids paint the cookies with an egg yolk glaze tinted with food colouring.

The recipe for the cookies can be found here.

I am also very proud of the cake I made and decorated for Char. This is the first time a home made decorated cake has turned out so well for me. It was really fun to make.

More pictures of the party will follow....we are using a combination of ancient digital camera and film camera right now as our *nice* digital camera is out of commission at the moment.

Click on any picture to embiggen.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Birthday Food.

Tomorrow is Charlotte's birthday. Tonight I am sitting here trying to remember what I was doing at this time three years ago, waiting for her arrival. I remember the hard labour coming much later, in the middle of the night. I remember not wanting to call the midwife at 0300AM because every other night that week I called her thinking I was in labour and I wasn't. I didn't want her to tell me I would have to wait even longer.

My memories are fading. I remember only isolated moments of the hours of labour and the very short delivery. I remember that we got to the hospital with only minutes to spare and I gave birth in the clothes I walked in off the street in. I remember cradling a slippery warm Charlotte against my belly while still squatting on the birthing stool seconds after she came out of me. I remember Richard sitting on the toilet in the bathroom talking to me while I took a shower afterward. He was sent in there by the midwives to help if I keeled over. He helped dry me off and dress me when I was too shaky to do it myself.

There is one thing I remember vividly: the food. I gave birth to Char at 0744AM--one minute before shift change. By the time we were both cleaned up and tucked in it was breakfast time. Since I used to work at the hospital where I gave birth I knew there was much better things to eat for breakfast than the tepid tray that was placed before me. I sent Richard to the cafeteria in the basement where I knew there were hot gooey cinnamon buns fresh out of the oven. It was the one and only time I ate one of those giant buns happily and without a shred of guilt!!

A lot of my memories revolve around food. Emmett's birth is an even hazier memory than Charlotte's. (That's for the best--it was a grueling ordeal that ended with days of crying) I still remember what I ate after we were tucked in. He was born later in the afternoon. I had roast beef for supper that night.

Of course Matthew's birth is still fresh in my memory. I remember acutely the smell of the leaves turning on the trees as a warm breeze blew in my bedroom window. I got Earl Grey tea and fresh apple pie after Matthew was born.

Moms out there....what do you remember about your baby's birth day? What did you eat??