Wednesday, May 29, 2013

the ride

One of my earliest memories of visiting our local theme park (Canada's Wonderland), oddly enough, was eating a taco.  I'm sure I've eaten tacos before, but there was something about this particular one that made it memorable.  It was the beginning of summer, and with all the excitement of this brand new theme park (it had just opened in May of that year), the smells of popcorn, corn dogs and sweet soda pop, added with the feeling of pure exhilaration of being somewhere new, made this taco seem like the best thing I've ever eaten.  Or maybe it was also the year I was actually tall enough...just past that little "height line" that indicated that I was big enough to go on the "big" kid rides. That this was the first of many "big" rides that I would conquer in my life.

It's amazing how the human body works and how our senses are trained at such a young age to store little memories...little clues stored away in the back of our minds.  And when the grown up version of us needs to remember that moment in time when things were so much simpler and innocent, a heavenly scent of something so very specific to that memory does just that...releases the clues out of storage, and transports you back in time.

Many years later, I can still remember where I was standing while I consumed this crispy meat filled delight.  And to this day, whenever I eat (or smell) a taco, I can still hear the clanking of the wheels on the steel as I gripped the handlebars tightly as the car slowly approaching it's peak.  I remember the feeling of the wind gusting in my hair as the coaster rolled downwards.  I was a little scared...but at the same time, I also felt free.

As the temperature warms and the grass starts to grow, the smells of the freshly cut lawn now evokes that feeling that summer is almost here.  That soon, we will be storing our backpacks away, grabbing our swimsuits or sun hats, and heading out the door for a new adventure for the day.

And although my kids have already experienced some "big kid rides" (at Disney), I'm hoping this summer, my kids can visit Canada's Wonderland for their first time.  Now that both of them are just the right height, they too can enjoy some of the many "big" kid rides that I enjoyed.  And maybe that taco stand is still there...who knows.  But whatever we do, see or eat, I hope they continue to "conquer" the roller coasters of life...

...and enjoy the ride.

Pantry Tacos
(serves 4)

I usually don't like all the MSG in taco seasoning, so I buy just the taco shells and use the ingredients in my pantry to make the "sauce" for the meat.  

  • 10 taco shells
  • 1 lb. ground beef (I like the organic ground seems less greasy).
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. italian seasoning
  • 1 can of tomato paste (156ml)
  • 1 plum tomato, chopped
  • 2 cups shredded old cheddar (to garnish)
  • Sour Cream (optional, to garnish)
  • Avocado (optional, to garnish)
  • Brown the ground beef in a saute pan or cast iron skillet until almost cooked through.
  • Add onions, garlic, and italian seasoning, and cook until the beef is cooked and onion is soft.
  • Add the tomato paste then the plum tomatoes.
  • Let simmer until the tomato paste becomes thick and saucy.
  • Follow instructions on heating taco shells.
  • Add the beef and garnish as desired.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


It's difficult to not feel a little anxious about the tornado that hit Oklahoma this week.  As rescue efforts are underway, specifically at two elementary schools that were demolished in the path of destruction, as I read about the children who were rescued, or watch videos of the moments that parents are reunited with their children, as harrowing as it is to watch, there is a part of me that seeks comfort in hearing these stories.

As a child, I found news of natural disasters fascinating, mostly because I was more interested in listening to the stories of survival, and how the heroes and first responders are a big part of that survival. I'm not sure if I was just an inquisitive child or if I was driven by fear in the belief that if I closely paid attention to the news, I would remember what the survivors did, and then I too, would be a survivor if ever in an emergency situation.

Now as a parent, when I hear news of natural disasters, sometimes my mind runs scenarios.  You can say it is like running an emergency drill in my head. What is the fastest route to the kid's school?  Where is the nearest hospital?  What can I teach them now, without scaring them, so they are somewhat prepared? 

As much as I know one can not always be 100% prepared for everything, and to accept that the road we take will lead us to a predetermined fate, I thought I'd share some good resources to help parents (or teachers) to teach children about Emergency Preparedness.  Although this won't prevent or be a guarantee that we won't suffer through a natural disaster, it might help us be a little more expect the unexpected.

 Our thoughts and prayers are with those in Oklahoma.

Emergency Preparedness Guides for Parents & Teachers

A Parent's Guides about Emergency Preparedness
(Link here)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

great together

Like most siblings, my kids fight like cats and dogs.  They also play just as hard.  There is a special bond between siblings and although sometimes they fight (okay, maybe often), there is always this silent code of forgiveness.  When they fight, it sometimes remind me of the old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercial, in which two people, one eating peanut butter and one eating chocolate would crash into each other, one person exclaiming "You got your peanut butter on my chocolate!" while the other would say "You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!". Then they would sample the chocolate-peanut butter mixture and realize how great the combination of the two really is. "Two great tastes that taste great together." {source}

The other week, my son was not feeling well, so he had to stay home while my daughter attended school.  On the car ride there, I could sense that my daughter was feeling uneasy.  At first, I wasn't sure if she was feeling under the weather like her brother was, or if she wanted to stay home just so she can play with the dog.

As we approached the school, she said "I don't want to go to school".

After making sure she wasn't feeling really ill, I told her that she would have a great day with her friends, as usual.  But she said her brother wasn't there, and it won't feel the same.  She likes it when she knows her brother is around, you know...just in case. After a few minutes of reassurance and meeting up with her friends, she quickly forgot our conversation and headed into her classroom, giggling with her classmates.

When I returned home, my son asked sleepily if his sister was okay.  My heart stopped.  Is my mother's instinct off, and is there something that both of them are intuitively sensing that I should pay attention to?  I hesitantly told him she was fine, but missed having him there at school.  I guess I had a worried look on my son smiled and admittedly said that sometimes he checks to see what she's doing, and sometimes she checks to see him play with his friends.  They look out for each other, and he sensed that she would be feeling a little nervous at school today.

And so, all day, I thought (okay, worried a little), about how her school day would be.  When I picked her up at the end of the day, she was still all smiles and had a good day at school, but wanted to go home as quickly as possible ("to see the dog").  When she got home, she ran up the stairs to see if her brother was feeling better.  They chatted briefly, argued a little, then she ran to play with the dog.

I guess I'll have to remember that sometimes they collide and fight, deep down they do really care about each other, and really are "two great kids, that are great together".

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
(makes approx. 2 dozen cookies)

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup mini chocolate peanut butter cups (like Reese's Mini's...President's Choice also makes a good one)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. 
  • Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; stir into the sugar mixture.
  • Stir in the oats then fold in the mini peanut butter cups. 
  • Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  • Bake 10 to 12 minutes until light and golden. Do not overbake.
  • Cool for 2 minutes and store in airtight container.


Wednesday, May 08, 2013

new mom

I forgot what it's like to have a newborn in the house.  It's amazing how our recollection of life with babies seem so different when viewed in retrospect.  Sometimes those early years of exhaustion seem to pale in comparison with the new challenges each life stage brings as your children grow up with their own mind, voice, determination, and opinion.

After a few weeks of settling in with our new puppy, I was re-introduced again with that "new Mom" feeling of adjusting to a schedule that is dictated mostly by a creature no bigger than ten pounds. Trying to prepare for hosting our annual Mother's Day gathering this weekend, along with chauffeuring kids to school, swimming, birthday parties and hockey games all while trying to keep with a training-in-progress puppy's schedule has definitely been trying, and as we manoeuvre through this new phase in our lives, there are some things that I've kept reminding myself.

I looked back to when I first became a mother and tried to apply some lessons learned.  Surprisingly this has (somewhat) helped us get through this "new mother" phase with the puppy.

1)  They will sleep through the night eventually.  Just hang in there.  Be strong.
2)  What goes in, comes out.  So only feed the best you can afford.  If it's not organic, then get food as pure to it's original source that you can. (i.e. no dyes, preservatives, chemicals, artificial anything).  Remember they are what they eat.
3)  Setting a precedent with good habits as early as possible helps make things a little easier, so they don't have to be re-taught again later (usually with defiance).
4)  You don't need to buy EVERY toy/gizmo/hot-designer-item...usually just a few key basics to start will work.  As they grow, your needs and their tastes will change.  Buy accordingly.
5)  It does get a little easier (at least, less labour intensive!).  You will settle into a routine and find those moments where you can get a "break" again.

So for Mother's Day this weekend,  I hope all Mothers, both new and experienced, enjoy a little break.  Because even when the little ones don't listen, wreck the furniture, have accidents in the house, and constantly demand your attention, just stop and look into their "puppy dog" eyes...their love usually puts things back into perspective.  And that's what's being a Mom is all about.

Happy Mother's Day

Crockpot Cocktail Meatballs 

(adapted from Allrecipes).

This recipe can be made even easier by using pre-made frozen meatballs.  I go back and forth between both (although I like the taste of homemade meatballs a little better).  When you're time crunched, this recipe is quick and easy, serves a large crowd, and can give you a little break from the kitchen so you can enjoy the company of guests.


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup ketchup or bbq sauce
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (or cornflake crumbs)
  • 1/3 cup parsley
  • 1/4 cup parmesan (or 1 tsp. soy sauce for asian flair)
  • 3 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1 (8 ounce) can jellied cranberry sauce
  • 3/4 cup chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, egg, water, bread crumbs, and minced onion. 
  • Roll into small meatballs.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, turning once until cooked.
  • In a slow cooker blend the cranberry sauce, chili sauce, brown sugar, and lemon juice.
  • Add meatballs, and simmer for 2-4 hours on low before serving.


Wednesday, May 01, 2013

grand paws

When I was in labour with both of my children, there was this palpable feeling of nervousness mixed in with anticipation, culminated with this brave (or naive?) feeling that "we can get through this", which helped me get to the hospital with focused determination, even with severe labour pains.

Last weekend, I had that same feeling.  My palms were not sweaty, but slightly clammy.  Although it was only a 30 minute drive, I don't think I noticed too much other than the humming of the tires as we drove on the highway, and the whizzing sound of the cars speeding by me.  Small conversation was made between my husband and the kids, but I don't think any of us spoke too many words.  We were focused.

We arrived at this beautiful Victorian style home, and I barely put the car in park when the kids darted to the front door.  My husband and I took a deep breath, the same way we did when we first arrived at the hospital so many years ago, and followed the kids.

We were greeted with smiles as we entered the house.  This was the day we brought our new puppy home.

A few weeks ago, after we chose this puppy, we spent hours reading about about raising and training a dog.  My daughter spoke endlessly about our pup, and counted the sleeps until we could pick him up. When we first met the puppy litter (and the parents), it was a joyful dreamy time, like a baby shower, where all you can think of is the fun and sweetness of a newborn entering the home.  How wonderful our lives will change.  And we felt prepared.

The day we actually brought the puppy home was a different story...the conversation was different, and we weren't sure if we were really prepared.  Do we have everything?  Are we ready for the sleepless nights?  Will everything turn out alright?  Will this puppy fit into our family and lifestyle? My son asked, "Are we really ready for this?"

I didn't say much during our payment exchange...just the usual health and vet questions. Before we left, I guess I had that "what do we do now...we can't turn back" look on my face.   The breeder looked at me knowingly, and before we left he said "Don't worry.  If there are any questions, ANY questions...we're HERE.  Call me".  He looked at my kids cautiously playing and protecting our new puppy, then said "They'll be great parents...things will turn out great!".  Right then I realized that they were experiencing what I did when I first brought them home from the hospital.

When we took our new pup home, the kids played with, hugged and kissed our new puppy for hours and hours.  At dinner, they said our lives are now changed forever, and although it is a lot of work, getting this dog is one of the best things that has ever happened to us.  They said this dog is "so right for our's like WE'RE parents now!"

I looked at how happy they were, and how much maturity they've gained even in just a short time since that day we brought our pup home.  I've never seen our daughter get up so early on her own and get ready for school just so she has extra time to help me feed and train the dog! And our son is learning about the dynamics of "alpha dogs" and setting behavioural precedence.  They're learning so much about responsibility...that it's not just about being responsible for their own behaviour, but also understanding their influence on their "little baby".

Maybe this is a glimpse of what I'll witness as a grandparent someday.  Ok...I'm getting ahead of myself way too quickly.  If bringing a dog into our home brings my kids the same joy as I have (and will always have) raising them in our world, then maybe the breeder is right...things will turn out great.