Monthly Archives: January 2014

Feed me Fridays: Peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies.

My kids have been helping in the kitchen since they were teeny-weeny. There is so much they learn by being in the kitchen: counting, measuring, mixing, assembling, manipulating, following directions, organizing, teamwork, reading, and the list goes on and on. My kids each have their own speciality. This one excels at licking the spoon. She always has and always will.4-Blog2The other is a multitasker. He can measure, pour, stir, roll and focus, all the while sticking his tongue out. Who’s a proud momma?4-Blog3 I have a friend who has declared Thursday nights in her home  ‘Survive or Starve night’. Essentially her kids need to fend for themselves on Thursday nights, that or they starve. Her kids are older than mine, but I like the idea of fostering the skills they need to make them self-sufficient early on. My own kids have started making recipes by themselves, and the sense of pride they derive from that is priceless. It also makes them more adventurous in terms of trying different foods, although it in no way guarantees they will like them.  Today’s recipe is an easy one. Basically fool-proof. My six-year-old made it all by herself last week. I wrote down the ingredients for her on a piece of paper and she took it from there. The original recipe has only three ingredients and can be found here, on the Kraft website. I however, do not like plain peanut butter cookies so I added oats and semi-sweet chocolate chips. I love chocolate chip cookies. Thank you Ruth Wakefield. For those of you who don’t know Ruth, she’s the inventor of chocolate chip cookies. I know, it’s hard to believe there was a time when chocolate chip cookies did not exist. Off you go now, go bake some cookies.


Peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies


  • 1     Cup Kraft smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 Cup sugar
  • 1 /2 Cup oats
  • 1/2 Cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1      egg


  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until well blended.
  3. Roll into balls and place on a cookie sheet. Flatten the balls with a fork.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes (or less), until cookies are slightly golden.
  5. Let cool and enjoy.

On a side note, two recipe books that I found useful when the kids were pre-readers: Kids Cooking A very slightly Messy Manual, and Pretend Soup. Both books have illustrated versions of the recipes so that a non-reader can follow along. ‘Pretend Soup’ is for preschoolers,  and the illustrations are very clear and simple to follow. The illustrations in ‘Kids Cooking’ are engaging but not as straight forward. The  ‘Kids Cooking ‘does come with colour coded measuring spoons though, and that makes measuring a lot easier. I also think that ‘Kids Cooking’ will appeal to older children as well, and not just the preschool set.


Make: believe

There’s a high school not far from where I live. In the winter, they clear the parking lot and push all the snow off to the side, making a huge mountain. It reminds me of the huge mountain I used to play ‘King or Queen of the Mountain’ on, with my brothers and sister. To me, it looked like it was at least 15 meters high and as I grew older I always wondered what had happened to the ginormous snow banks of my youth. Why are snowbanks so small now? Is it snowing less? Is it global warming? Do the snowbanks just look smaller because I’m taller? It’s probably a mix of all those things but I realize now that our ‘King of the Mountain’ hill, was probably in the parking lot of a nearby restaurant, where they had pushed all the snow to the side.  Regardless of size, great fun was had on that mountain of my youth.  As you can imagine, I was delighted when I found the hill at the high school, knowing that my  kids would be able to create their own magical memories.

TsnowThe last time we went to the school, some other kids had dug out a cave and carved some really nice steps all over the hill; it was beautiful. I played with my two monsters for a little while; we slid down the steep side of the mountain on our bums, and used the sled on the other side. It’s not really a sledding hill; the drop is short and steep, but that’s what makes it fun. After a few rides down the different slopes, we played ‘mommy is Queen of the Mountain.’ I straddled one of the peaks and then let the kids come at me with all they had. Once they got close enough I would grab them and then fling them down the hill (anyone who knows me, knows that they were flung down in a most controlled way, with minimal risk of injury). The boy thought it was hilarious but my 6-year-old daughter was becoming exceedingly frustrated with being a dirty rascal with little or no prospect of ever becoming the Queen. Time for a new game.

zombieThat’s when “T” suggested we defend the mountain against the zombie armies marching on us. This game involves blasting the zombies with snowballs and snow boulders. Ugh, really? You want ME to pretend there are zombies, and then I have to run and throw snowballs at invisible, non-existent targets. Sigh. I don’t know when it happens, but it does happen.  There is a moment in time when you lose the ability to enjoy playing make-believe. That to me is one of the saddest things ever. What to do though? I’m the one who wants them to play outside and I certainly do not want to be the one to ruin make-believe for them …So I used their make-believe against them. Evil, you say? No, resourceful I say.

iseeI found the perfect chunk of snow, placed it on the sled and used it to prop my head up. Once I was in a comfortable position, I yelled feebly; “Help me, Help meee! I am your fearless leader and I have been injured. Save me from the zombies! You must pull me to safety on the sled.”  Lo and behold my children came to my rescue. They pulled me two meters and then left me by the side of the mountain. Pfft. Two measly meters. “No, wait children, come back! You must pull me around that block of ice. I am not safe here.” They pulled me around in a big circle, complaining about my weight the whole time. The ride made me giddy and slightly nauseous. I get motion sickness rather easily when rotations are involved. In a barely audible moan I thanked them for pulling me to safety; “thank you children, I am safe now. I must rest. My injuries will heal. Go forth and defend the hill!”  But then, I got cold, as tends to happen if you don’t move around in frigid weather. Time to go home. So in my most concerned, fearless leader voice, I yelled: “Children, retreat! Retreat! The zombies are too many. There is no hope. Let us go and drink warm cocoa and-” I had them at warm cocoa. Finally I was coming in from the cold, and they were coming in with their childhood intact. All’s well that ends well.

Feed me Fridays: Baby bok choy salad

We established last wee1-1379921_10151886658822789_1997209087_nk that I was not a foodie. The only hope of an epicurean in the family, lies squarely on the shoulders of the boy. He’s eight. Today, at four, he’s meeting a professional tea taster to discuss and sample teas (obviously). He loves blue cheese and shucks his own oysters. For Christmas this year, “Santa” gave him a pomegranate deseeder. Granted, when he unwrapped his gift, he shrugged his shoulders and the look on his face said; “Santa, what the heck? Where’s my Lego? What is this thing?” He came around when I showed him what it was and how to use it. I also told him he would be having pomegranate in his lunch  more often now. Call me  lazy, but I really don’t enjoy spending 10 minutes  deseeding a pomegranate for a lunch box.4-BlogYou’ve never used a deseeder? Let me show you how it works: first you cut your fruit in half, then you place it on the deseeder with the lid on, and then, you WHACK, WHACK, WHACK, the pomegranate with a spoon. That part is very therapeutic. Whack it again, it feels good. With the lid still on,  drain the juice to do with what you will. As a last step, you add water and the white skins will float to the top, skim them off the surface, drain the water and voila, pomegranate deseeded! Now on to the recipe.


Baby Bok Choy Salad


  • 5 heads of baby bok choy, washed and chopped
  • 3 green onions, minced
  • half a pomegranate, deseeded
  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp Bragg liquid seasoning, or light soya sauce
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar (I’ve used white vinegar and apple cider vinegar)


  1. Place the chopped baby bok choy in a salad bowl, sprinkle with green onions and pomegranate seeds. Set aside.
  2. Whisk the oil, Bragg and vinegar in a small glass container and drizzle over salad. Serve. (I only add the salad dressing to the bowl if I know the whole salad will be eaten, otherwise I let people dress their own salad).
  3. Enjoy! I know  most people crave things like chocolate, but I actually get cravings for this salad. It’s so green, and pretty, and crunchy, and yummy. (and easy!) I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.

A Beautiful Mess

wildIn my experience, art with kids is a messy endeavour. Whether it’s beautiful or not is often a question of perspective. Are you the one cleaning up the mess? Ahh, then you understand. Enough said. My kids are older now, and their ability to clean up after themselves has also improved, albeit not proportionately.  I don’t mind a bit of a mess. If you look at my house, you may even think that I have a high tolerance for it. Perhaps that’s more a reflection of my housekeeping skills, but I digress. Let’s just say that I have a certain appreciation for art activities that are high in fun, but low in mess. Enter the Sharpie tie-dye activity. It’s been floating around  Pinterest and I thought I’d give it a try. Click here and here for detailed tutorials.

I did the activity with the 20 kids, aged 6 to 9, from my daughter’s class. When I’m not at home, you can generally find me volunteering at the school.  The art table in her class needed a bit of sprucing up, so I thought it would be great to make a Sharpie tie-dye tablecloth. In my head we were going to draw  pretty flowers. I was inspired by Alyssa Burke’s tutorial that you can find here. To my great dismay (read horror), the kids in the class picked a space theme for our art project. On the outside my demeanor was open and accepting. “That’s great!” I told the teacher as I smiled. You know that smile you practice for photos. You just whip it out and paste it on your face. That’s what I was doing. I may have held it there for an unnatural amount of time. I don’t know. On the inside I was panicking. Space theme? Yuck. We were going to do flowers. I had an image in my head of what I wanted it to look like and space wasn’t the way to get there! I constantly have to remind myself that art is about the process, not the result.  Deep down I know this. Deep down I really, truly believe this, but the perfectionist in me loves to disagree.

collageI had photocopied some circles so that the kids could practice their designs before we started on the fabric. I think that was helpful. It gave them an idea of the scale they would be drawing at, and also gave them a chance to practice drawing in a circle. As a rule, people tend to draw on square or rectangular surfaces, and it can be a little bit strange to draw in a circle. I asked them to draw the main outline in black. Once the alcohol is added, the black tends to retain the shape of the original drawing better than other colours, and makes it easier to see what they were trying to draw. If you’re doing purely abstract drawings then it doesn’t really matter. For me, the outline is a matter of preference. Once the outline was done, I  instructed them to add dots,  lines, and swirls of colour,  but to leave a lot of white spaces. By leaving a lot of blank spaces, you allow the  colours to spread out more when you add the rubbing alcohol. We used paintbrushes to apply the alcohol, but the kids needed to be reminded to use them  as a “dip gift-copyand drip” tool, and not as paintbrushes.

Before doing the project at school, I tried doing a few designs at home, to see if it worked. It was fun, easy and even a little addictive. I thought it would make a great gift and so I put together a little kit, with a pillowcase to decorate. I made the  pillowcase and if you’re hankering to make your own as well,  here’s an easy tutorial. For those of  you wanting to put together your own kit, you could always use a white t-shirt  instead of a pillowcase, but do you really want the kids wearing their art? The answer to that question just  depends on whether you’re about the process, or the results. For your convenience, I’ve added a photo of the “detailed instructions,” but I forgot to mention heat setting. It’s best to iron your creation before washing it to ensure that the colours don’t wash out. Even if these are permanent markers they do fade a little. Iron when the fabric is completely dry and move away from the rubbing alcohol! Have fun!


Feed me Fridays

I was going to call the recipe section of the blog “Foodie Fridays,” but alas, I am not a foodie. I took an online test and it was confirmed. They were polite enough with the results; “Go watch the Food Network,” they suggested. Sigh.

So, in the spirit of keeping this blog real, I decided to go with “Feed me Fridays.” Imagine, iffeed me copy you will, two little monsters with outstretched arms, mouth half-open, dragging themselves home from school. “Feed me,” they moan in unison. That’s what my Fridays are like, so are my Thursdays, and pretty much every other day before and after.

This week has been a sneeze, cough, wheeze, my throat hurts, my head hurt hurts, I can’t move my joints, where are the Kleenex, kind of week. Accompanying me in my misery was monster number one. Needless to say, cooking was not one of the things I felt like doing, but monsters must be fed. So, I made soup. Soup is easy, soup is warm, and soup makes you feel gooder.  I know gooder is not a real word but maybe it should be. Without further ado, I give you soup.

Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic Soup


  • 1 small head of cauliflowercauliflower copy
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • Sweet paprika
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 4 Cups vegetable broth


  1. Preheat oven to 400F (205C)
  2.  Cut cauliflower into florets, wash and drain. Set aside.
  3. Peel the cloves of garlic.
  4. Put the florets and whole cloves of garlic in an ovenproof dish; drizzle with oil. I don’t measure the oil, but I make sure that everything is covered.
  5. Sprinkle with salt and paprika. Again, I don’t measure.  For those of you who are understandably annoyed at my lack of quantities I’ll say ½ teaspoon of each. Really though, I just make sure that every floret has a bit of salt and a bit of paprika. The paprika has a mild taste and I add it for colour. That being said, I wouldn’t omit it from the recipe.
  6. Toss the ingredients gently, cover the dish with foil or an ovenproof lid, and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the cover for the last 10 minutes.
  7. While the cauliflower is roasting, dice the onion.
  8.  When the cauliflower is done, remove from the oven. In a medium sized pot, fry the onion with a bit of oil until it becomes translucent. If the onion starts to stick you can add a bit of broth. Add the cauliflower and garlic, stir. Make sure to scrape the dish, so all the flavours end up in your pot of soup. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 10minutes, partially covered.
  9. Puree the soup and voila, you’re done. I use an immersion blender to puree the soup, but if you use a regular blender make sure to let the soup cool down first. Hot soup in a blender can cause the soup to explode.  Ouch!

I often serve this soup with roasted butternut squash, grilled cheese sandwicIMG_9779hes. Yum! I also save just enough of the soup for lunches the next day. If you’re feeling adventurous you can use turmeric instead of paprika.  It gives the soup a vibrant yellow colour and you can tell the kids they’re eating banana soup. What else would cause it to be yellow? To tell you the truth though, my kids didn’t like the banana version. I on the other hand, thought it was stunning.

The Red Wedding

Were you expecting a gory Game of Thrones post? Will you keep reading if I tell you that  blood, sweat, and tears were all involved in the making of this dress? I’ll start with the blood. Don’t be squemish; any sewing project typically involves a pinprick or two, hence the tiny trickles of blood. As I’m typing this though, I’m thinking that maybe other people do not actually prick themselves with every single project.  Maybe it is not as typical as I think and I’m just a little clumsy, or careless. I will have to ponder the issue.

Sweating – there was a lot of sweating – and hand-wringing, and an all-consuming generalized anxiety. As if that were not bad enough, the anxiety was shortly followed by a new crop of grey hair just waiting to be tweezed. Yes, I pull them out; one by one, even if I do appear to be losing the battle. Do not judge me!

You do realize there is a lesson to be learned here, right? Do not drink a few beers in the middle of the afternoon and then offer to make someone a wedding dress. This is especially true if you have never even made an evening gown before, which brings me to the tears. I haven’t mentioned the tears yet.


I cried. Once. It was on Friday, October 11, 2013 at noon. One day before the wedding. The bride came in for the final fitting and as I did up the last button on the back of the dress,      – you know  what? – I just can’t go there right now.  It has been three months since the wedding and I still get choked up just thinking about it.

Red Wedding: the technical files

This part of the post is for people who enjoy sewing; others may have a hard time stifling their yawns. You have been warned.

When I embarked on this crazy adventure there was one thing I was sure of. I did not want to design the dress or have to draft the pattern, if at all possible. Those are normally things I enjoy doing, but knew that it would be near impossible to accomplish with the kids at home all summer.  After discussing what type of silhouette would be most flattering, visiting numerous fabric stores and starting a Pinterest board, we decided that a “1930’s Hollywood Glamour” gown was the way to go. After scouring the internet, I came across this lovely online store called Decades of Style, that sells vintage patterns.

#3301 1933 Evening Gown

The fit of the pattern was beautiful and the instructions were clear, although I would have liked more information on how to sew the hem with horsehair braid. The braid is a one inch wide tape made of nylon (formerly horsehair) ,which makes the hem stiff and helps you not trip all over yourself, as you sashay across the room. The issue I encountered with the braid, was the needle hitting a strand of nylon and then pulling the braid out of shape. The first time it happened, I took a seam ripper to it and started over. The second time it happened, I held my breath, and hoped for the best. I put my head down and kept sewing. I don’t know if anyone else has encountered that issue, or knows how to avoid it, but any comments or insight would be appreciated. I had no choice but to keep on sewing for time had run out.

Why did I run out of time, you ask? It’s a funny little story really. The lovely bride (ahem, cough, cough), who is now my darling sister-in-law, could not decide on a pair of shoes to wear; and unfortunately, one cannot hem a floor length dress without knowing how high the heels will be. With only a few days left before D-Day, she finally settled on a few pairs of shoes. Thank goodness they were all more or less the same height.  I was then able to pin the hem and that is when she realized, after-standing there without moving for 20 minutes, that hemming is a time-consuming process and that time was of the essence! I am pretty sure, that the hem was responsible for most of the new grays sprouting on my head. I am still not done with the hem though. In fact, I’m devoting a whole other paragraph to the topic.

My original plan was to hand sew the 3 meters of hem with a catchstitch and use the horsehair braid in the lining, but after testing on a swatch of fabric, I knew it would be impossible. The stitches marred the fabric and caused runs, essentially ruining the dress. I tried different needles, different stitches and different threads, but all for naught. After a bit of research, I finally I used this technique. (Thank you Kristy Armstrong from Sew Kansas!) I sewed the braid to the lining, folded the hem up, and then slipstitched, the machine-hemmed lining, to the dress. This technique is not without its own dangers. When a dress is cut on the bias and you sew it to the lining, it can cause sagging on the fabric side. I know this, because I spent Friday morning ripping apart, and then resewing a huge section of the hem. Ahh, fun times. Remember the tears? I’m ready to talk about them now. It’s not what you think. As I buttoned up that dress and realized it fit, I burst into tears. They were tears of joy and happiness and utter relief. Finally, that dress was walking out the door!

mountain wedding

On a parting note, I’d like to give a little shout-out to Arnold from Mitchell Fabrics in Winnipeg.  Arnold was sent a picture of the pattern and was told that the bride wanted something in red, with a nice drape. He immediately mailed  a swatch of cranberry coloured, satin-backed  crepe, promising it would drape like a dream. He was absolutely right! Having never sewn with bridal fabric, Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide, was an invaluable resource. Now, for those of you who still aren’t convinced that red is a wedding gown colour, check out  Vera Wang’s Spring 2013 Collection.