Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Faster, Higher, Stronger...Coffee, that is

I would like the thank Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) for making the consumption of cold caffeine so much tastier and the delivery far more expedient.  The Perfect Iced Coffee recipe is now the gold standard for an afternoon pick me up 'round here.

It's delicious and convenient, and did I mention delicious?  I have just made my second batch this summer.  Suffice to say that my daily coffee routine has expanded.

While I do enjoy being spontaneous, I have a few routines that make my life really good.

The coffee routine goes like this:

Josh, my man servant of 16 years, makes me a fantastic latte in the morning.  We savour that morning quiet time together.  Mornings are always better when we start this way.
Good Morning, good morning, to you...

For starters, we peel ourselves out of bed at six.  It's not so morbid once you get used to it, seriously.

Liquid Energy?
Some days we talk about the plan for the day, or upcoming events, other days we just sit outside in silence, begging our eyes to stay open.  Usually, by 7 o'clock, when the kids are allowed out of bed, we are ready for the day.

That used to be it for regularly planned injections of caffeine, unless a friend stopped by for a visit.  But now, I can enjoy my vice over ice in seconds.  I usually start with a full cup at 2, and then refill at 2:15 and 2:30 - cause, with all that ice, it's hard to get a full glass.  I could quit at any time.
Beauty is everywhere
Try it for yourself.  I actually do a half recipe at a time, cause it all fits perfectly in my super-sized pitcher.
Perfection - even if it's the fridge and not the coffee that is in focus

True, there is now no large container available for making iced tea, but I think the kids understand that sometimes in life you have to make sacrifices.  I am always looking for opportunities to teach life lessons like that.

I just have to remember not to leave it unattended.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hi-Ho Cherry-O!

We are getting some out-of-towners visiting here for Christmas this year.  Out-of-Continenters, actually.

We are very excited.  Keaton's new daily question is "Matt & Fify here today?"...Not yet, Sugar - but oh, so soon.

We hear the Missus really, really likes BC cherries.
Handwashing is a must before helping - hair brushing, apparently not.
So we're getting ready and freezing a bunch so we can enjoy all things cherry when they arrive.  Ideas for frozen cherries include:  Cherry Granitas, Cherry Scones, Waffles with Cherry sauce, Cherry pie...Merry Cherries!
Quality Control
I'll not be canning any though.  Just can't do it.  I never like them as a kid, and I still don't really like them in the canned form.  Sorry Mom.  I know you did it cause you loved us, and Mark and Dad really liked them, but a "no-thank-you" helping is all I need.

I had never bought a cherry pitter before.  Considering it cost a whopping $3.49, I am not sure why I never did it before.  So, I made up for it, and bought three.  That way, I could  put my slaves to work let the kids help.

Morgan was not wooed by the promise of easy cherry-pitting.  But I am sure she will be voluntold to do a batch before the week is out.

The boys were totally excited to help.
Tyson:  "Mom, it's like we are a cherry factory!"

Tyson and Keaton weren't quite co-ordinated/strong enough to make it work.  So Tyson happily took to de-stemming for us, and Keaton just took to stealing pitted or non-pitted cherries and eating them.

I love "putting away" fruit in lots of forms.  It's satisfying to see the freezer full of good things, and the promise of good times and good memories shared with others in the future.

My freezer tells me it's gonna be a great Christmas this year.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Just Add Water

At the beginning of summer - otherwise known as the first week of August, we spent the day at our friends house.  They live on a lake.  It's beautiful; a close second to paradise.

What's even better though, is that they have cameras and take pictures of my kids, and then they remember to send them to me.  I wish it were just an old, overused joke - but they have bailed me out of many cameraless situations - it pays to have them belong to the same dance studio, for example.

We love spending time with them. Everything about getting together is always good:  the kids, the friends, the conversation, the food, the water.  We always leave looking forward to next time.

I wanted to call the post "friends with benefits" - but I hear people might think I was talking about something other than really good friends who take us on boat rides, feed us ridiculous amounts of fabulous food and teach our kids (and maybe me, next time, if I don't over-stuff myself at dinner) to water-ski.  

The benefit of friendship with the Olsons started in highschool, and it just keeps getting better with time.

It started with just Josh and Josh - J-squared. They were friends before Josh and I started dating.  My Josh... the Josh I am still married too, not that Josh- confused yet?   We usually refer to him as just "Olson" otherwise it feels too much like my husband is talking in third person.  It works, anyway.

Then he met Katherine, and it got sweeter. Now I no longer had to try and keep up with conversations on Quantum Physics (I could never keep up) and "Darmok and Jelad at Tenagra" (I could sort of keep up).  We could talk food, and life, and other important girl stuff.  I also love Katherine because she has a sweet-tooth that matches my own - remember the fabulous brownie recipe?  It's hers.

So good, and so good for you. 

Then they had kids, and now the sweetness can barely be contained.  I reserve the right to marry off at least one, if not more of my boys into their family of girls.

I love it!   Right, Katherine?

Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.  

Friday, August 12, 2011

Family Matters #3

It's that time again - my August post is up on Family Matters blog today.  As always your comments and feedback are appreciated on their website.  If you have any other blog post ideas, I'd love to hear them here!

Here's a teaser from this month's post:

Being busy is a fact of life.   But is your busyness a blessing or a burden? Are you so busy you only have time to do and none to be?  Both are important, but the being often gets neglected for the sake of doing.
Here are some thoughts on why we get ourselves burdened by busyness and some ideas on what we can do so we can feel blessed by it instead!


When someone asks us how we are doing, we get far more attention and sympathy by complaining about how busy and stressful our lives are than if we say otherwise.  We live in a world where dramatic sound bites get the most attention, and it’s not terribly different in the world of mom-to-mom conversations...
Thanks again for your encouragement and support - now let's get UN-BUSY!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Way Back When, Or, A Few Months Ago

I was looking back through my pictures and realized there's a whole lot of memories I forgot to blog about.  I'm sure you appreciate that if I wait any longer these moments will be forever gone from my memories,.  I just lost too many brain cells growing babies to think I could remember this many things.  It's one of the reasons why I started blogging in the first place!

Please pardon the flashbacks.  Better than hot flashes at any rate - which I am sure are only a few years away!

Big E, Little E, What Begins With E?
Easter, Eggs, and Elephants, E, E, E...

Once upon a time, it was Spring.  Which around here, looked a lot like winter, and the fall before that.  We did as much as we could to make things seems like they were coming to life inside the house.  Outside, things were just drowning in downpour and darkness!

You'll notice I went for the terrarium look this year.  'Twas a happier option for keeping the littlest of fingers at bay.  Or at the very least, it made more noise when El' Destructo was at work.

I need to give kudos to our babysitter, Rachel for making the very fun dyed eggs with the kids.  Maybe she'll teach me how to do it next year.

Sorry, there weren't actually elephants. Maybe next year.

Bake Your Own Sunshine
We tried embracing the wet and rainy-ness by making perfect comfort foods as often as possible

Pictured here.:  real corn bread with honey, followed by the most sacrelicious maple-bacon scones. I told you there would be bacon in the next post featuring food!
Mmmmm.   Bacon makes everything better.  I might have to revisit this recipe soon, who says scones aren't summer food!  

The recipe is actually just a maple-oatmeal scone which, I am sure, was fabulous all on it's own.  I'd like to think I improved it by 26% by adding bacon. 

You can find the recipe here, and then bake a pound of bacon in your oven, chop it, and add it at the perfect time.  Then men in your life will thank you for making scones manly enough for them to enjoy. 

Another Birthday Boy
And in between all the other things going on, this little guy had the nerve to grow up and turn five on Easter Sunday.


We didn't have a big shin-dig this year, but we had some family fun, and it included a bouncy castle - but, as I have lamented in the past, I didn't bring my camera.

As is usually the case, these two celebrated their birthday together.  They go way back.

Does this make you want to cry, Loni?  I might.
Tyson and Jackson both had the nerve to grow up, and I can't quite make myself believe that in a few weeks they will be starting school.
Look at my muscles, Mom.  I'm tough.
Oh Tyson, you are so sweet- in the most manly, big-boy, tough-guy kind of way. I know it's tough to figure out how your cousin who is 3 weeks younger than you could be taller, but not older.  You'll get the hang of it one day.

You are easy-going and are consistently hilarious.   "The world is coming to a bend.!"  has to be one of our favourite Tysonisms.

You are gentle and strong.  Dad and I love it that we can count on you for a big good morning hug and a kiss, just because you love us so.
Your smile always wins!
You are ready to start school.  I'm so excited for all you will learn this year.  You already have a good start with knowing your alphabet and your favourite word:  T-Y-S-O-N.   I am so lucky to get to be your teacher!

But please, don't grow up too fast, little man.

Saying Yes Takes Practice
Some other good times:

Bubble baths in the soaker tub.  Saying yes to bubbles is always the right choice.  Saying yes to the big tub in my bedroom is also something I have finally learned to say yes to a lot.  Soon the days of tubs and bubbles and little Santa Claus faces will be behind us.  I hope I will have learned to say yes to a great many more things by then.
Ho-ho-ho, Merry Christmas!
I also said yes to playing games with the kids more often.  Probably not as often as I could have or should have, but I attempted to say yes to that more!

Full Confession:  I am not a good game player, in fact I am not good at playing anything, except for the piano and even that could be debated. It's not because I'm competitive or a sore loser, but because my hyper-productivity gene kicks in at about the 15 minute mark, and I find it hard to stay focused on the game/play and not start folding laundry or making scones - or something.  I have always been a teensy bit jealous of my Mom's ability to play.
Jenga is a perfect  >15 minute game!
I hope I get better with age.

Note to self: make time for more games...maybe add it to the Fall List of fun.

The Best is Yet to Come
I'm trying not to panic that the last few weeks of summer are upon us.  Panic has a way of eating up the joy in the room.  We are making good headway on our summer list, and making the most of many moments.  We're even making new friends doing it all, so there's solace in that.

We finally have summer weather; it may even stick around long enough to make some more hot weather memories.  Solace can be found there too.

I find solace in solace.

In fact, looking back helps me remember that for all the imperfect moments that I don't blog about, my socks are blessed clean off with good things.

Memories uploaded.

I am surrounded by good things, most of them: people.

Now, we keep moving forward - there are more good times ahead.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Power of Together

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labour.  Ecclesiastes 4: 9.

I was reminded again today, that the best cure for a Pity Party is to harness the Power of Together.

I find if I don't accomplish some of the many things on my to-do list with someone else, using this magical power of together, I start to get overwhelmed and cranky because I feel like I am trying to conquer the world on my own.  But let me share a vision of something that I want to accomplish, and join me in my quest? Now we're talking.

The pity party I threw for myself  last night lasted through till the morning, and I'm so glad that there were already plans in place for Sher to come over today, otherwise I might still be pouting.  Pouting isn't cute on a five year old, but it's really ugly when you add 29 and 3/4 years to that. 

I think I'd live in a commune if I could.  People that live in communes understand the power of together like no one else.  And while I believe it's important to know yourself and not feel like you have to be like everyone else, I really believe life and love and living are better when they are shared.  

She came with the intention of getting a jump start on post-camping laundry, and so she kind of had to listen to me kvetch while her quilts were being rid of all of those things that smell so good when you're camping, but are totally "ick" once you get home.  

After a while even I got sick of the sound of my whining. 

Sher must have been too, cause she offered to vaccum my floor.  (A good friend knows that a clean floor says  I care about you almost as much as chocolate)  So we got the kids together and we blitzed the house back in order with a big group Ten Minute Tidy.  I  was starting to feel better.  Then, I did what I always do when I'm starting to feel better.  I convinced Sher that she really needed to do a project with me..."together".  

She was really lucky to be my friend today.

I do especially love the power of together when everyone working on it can benefit. So we conquered pie making.  It's probably not the last time I'll do it this summer, cause well, if i don't make a few peach pies for the freezer, I might get the bends.  

On the menu today:  strawberry-rhubarb and apple.
This pie crust reminds me that I need to go bathing suit shopping

Remember the rhubarb?  Yeah, it's that stuff. 
I'm a slave driver, and yet she keeps coming back for more
We made seven fantastic pies, that are freezing as I speak.  The kids, who all played superbly with one another while we toiled in the kitchen were also rewarded with the best part of pie making - cinnamon-sugar twists with the leftover dough!

The kitchen got messy once, but now we each have some pies to share with once, have a bunch of good times - that's my kind of math! 
7-8 minutes at 350 deg. F
So good, and so good for you
Today, as I changed my focus from all about me, to all about doing something together with someone else, I began to notice how the power of together makes life so much better.

Doing a Ten Minute Tidy on my own might get a floor swept.  Having five, or more, kids join in the TMT?  The whole house feels better.
Harnessing the Power of Marvel Superheroes doesn't hurt either.

Making a fort on your own is really hard, but put your hammers together, and you've got a perfect place to be on a sunny afternoon. 
Thanks Rupi for the hammer - it made doing the project together even better!

One rose is beautiful,  but a bouquet of roses?  Stunning.  

One pie makes a yummy treat, but a stack of pies for the freezer?  Multiple Happy Times ahead, baby. 

We build more with the power of together.
We grow more with the power of together.
We share more with the power of together.
We accomplish more with the power of together.
We love more with the power of together.  
We are more, when we are together.

How does the Power of Together make you better?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Heart My Family

I love my family - as in the big, big family.

I say it like it's some big secret I had to get off my chest...or not.

This weekend was a perfect example of one of the things I love most about my family - spontaneity.  I don't know for sure if it's the first time my siblings and I managed to pull off a "gathering" without my parents, but I am sure we pulled it off in a way they would be proud of.

This means:  lots of food and less than an hours notice.

Mark called at 8:30 when Josh and I were having  a very late-for-us morning coffee, and by 9:30 I was on the road, with everyone, save for Josh who had to work, and headed for the farm.

No rest for the wicked, I guess.

I grabbed hot dogs and buns from the freezer, snatched a perfect-for-a-bunch sized watermelon from the fridge and was out the door.  This could have been enough to feed everyone in a family that isn't obsessed with food being the main feature any time two or more are gathered together.  But fear not, this was only my contribution - reinforcements were coming with my siblings as well.  The well would not run dry!
This was only the beginning...

I got to the farm first, which I always enjoy, especially this time of year, and especially when Mom and Dad are away.

I check on the chickens, gather eggs, weed the garden, transplant beets that need thinning, peek in on the zuchinni,  just to see if any are ready to be harvested and made into fantastic dinners or delicious baking. All the while my children play, nay, they frolic through the yard.   I take time to survey the bounty and beauty that surrounds me and I say to myself..."It is good."  I love everything about being on the farm, but am so, so glad not to have to maintain it.
We frolic like bandits
I also like being there first because I get to then steal as much rhubarb as  I like.

Or maybe I like it because it's just a chance to play pretend, like it's all my own, and my survival through our tough winters depend on it.

This is clearly a result of a still over-active imagination.  That and reading Little House in the Big Woods like it was my job, growing up.  Am I the only one who wanted to be Laura?
Eventually everyone showed up, bearing baskets and bags of food to share with one another and a great party ensued.

Mom and Dad were still on holidays, and we missed their presence, to be sure. It wasn't the same as usual, but, oh we had a good time!  I was so sad we had to be the first to leave.

The kids played, pretending not to hear us when we told them to stay of out of  the "chicken poop", as one nephew mistakenly called it.  The babies pretended they didn't need naps, cause who could sleep when there's a party?  And we laughed.

We made jokes about a certain one of us who pulled a "mom" and "just picked up a few things" to add to the party - to the tune of a hundred dollars.  

We polished off a box of fudgeos and oreos before we even unpacked all the grocery bags.  The speed and volume at which we can eat, is something I am sadly, quite proud of.
my favourite equation:  food + family+ more food = fun

We passed around babies and started telling stories only to have them interrupted by children passing through the kitchen.  The kind of stories and jokes that make you wish you all spoke German, around the kids that don't,  so that you continue on talking about what you'd rather not have little ears hearing, followed by more laughing.

Nobody thinks they are funnier than all of us together.  And it's because nobody is.  

I hope my kids love each other and feel like they're lucky to have each other when they get together.  I hope they do it even when we're not around to make it happen.  I hope they know they will always be welcome home, even if we're not there to open the doors for them.  I hope my parents feel like they've done something right when they come home and find the house tidied up, but the pantry and the freezer a little emptier than when they left.

By the way Mom, you're out of ranch dressing.

I hope we get to do it all over again soon.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Almost Fun Parents

Were were almost fun parents last Tuesday night. We almost took our kids to the theatre to see the new Winnie the Pooh movie. We went because my friend Monica suggested we go together, and it was a capital idea. However,  after a few tries, we have had to collectively admit defeat. Winnie-the-Pooh on the big screen was just not meant to be.  One week we double-booked, so we re-booked.  For the re-book we didn't pre-buy tickets. Then today, we were all ready to buy tickets in advance of tonight's show, and the show is no longer in theatres.  Cue:  wah, wah,

We were planning to go to the theatre in town that was, back when Josh and I were dating, brand new and fancy and everything.  It's now the smallest and oldest theatre in the general vicinity. Amazing what 20 years does to a city!  For the summer it has been having Toonie Tuesday movies, which is the perfect price to pay for an admission when you are paying for seven - or any number, for that matter.  

For some reason we didn't expect there to be many people there, being that the theatre is so small an Un-Colossus-y.  It's not even a little bit Silver City-ish, so we didn't even think to pre-buy tickets.  We arrived half an hour early only to find the parking lot 100% full, and a line out the door and winding almost into the jam-packed lot.  Oh dear. 

We still had high hopes that people were there to see something else - I mean we still had half an hour to go - but 5 minutes into our waiting a staffer came out and announced that all of the early shows, save 3 were sold out, and yes, that included Winnie the Pooh. 
They're all sad we didn't see them in a theatre near us


There are few things I like less than disappointing my kids.  We rarely, if ever, go to the movies, so this was a really big deal.  Although, if any theatre executives are reading this blog, we would go a lot more if it didn't require taking out a second mortgage to see a film on the big screen. And poor Monica, because she is way nicer than us, felt even terrible-er.  

The adults did what adults can only do in a situation like that.  We started to really up-sell the benefits of coming back next week instead of watching the movie that night. (Nevermind that it turns out it's not showing anymore)

The bigger kids were able to understand very quickly how out of our hands the whole thing was, but Keaton was very disappointed, and he wanted no part in getting back in that van.  It turns out though, that he can bought with a bag of chips and a video rental.  Phewf.

Now the kids can talk about "remember the time when Mrs. Monica came over for dinner and we DIDN'T go see a movie" about great memories. 

To be fair, dinner with Monica was a great memory - the not going to the movie part, not so much.

At least we have our summer is an attitude moniker to get us through.  And we're going to hopefully see "The Smurfs" tonight, albeit without the fun addition of Mrs. Monica.

I hope it works out, or I might have to take a big black marker to any of our movie watching aspirations to our summer list!

A Very Overdue Thanks
Monica has a very special place in my heart.  She gave me a chance over 13 years ago and believed in my potential at a point in my life when I really, really needed it.  She gave me a job as church secretary when nothing on my resume would have led her to think I was qualified for it. 

It absolutely changed how I saw myself.  Somewhere along the way, we started referring to each other as Pinky and/or the Brain.  I never could remember who was who - but I loved that job, and we loved working together.  She embraced the creativity I brought to the office, and did her best to teach me to keep my desk clean.  (That may have been a lost cause, although I would do better at it now - maybe she did teach me something in the regard after all!)

So Monica, thank you for being a very positive part of my history. You made a difference then, and I have no doubt you will continue to bring out the best in those you work with now.  

And thanks for keeping in touch, what a gift when your former boss becomes your friend!