Wednesday, June 26, 2013

learning begins

As school starts to wind down, I start to pack away some of the papers that came home.  The purging of the classrooms began last week, and all of the hard work and effort, reflected on painted paper, typed projects and old tests, have started to make it's way into our memory files.

I had an interesting conversation with my husband about all the grandiose ideas of avoiding brain drain this summer, and keeping up my children's reading, writing and arithmetic during the time off.  He smiled in agreeance but I knew in that smile, that he thought I was setting myself up for dreams that won't necessarily become reality.

Maybe instead being a "teacher" this summer, this time I'll be the student instead.  Maybe I'll learn and be inspired to enjoy the bewilderment of seeing, smelling, experiencing the freedom of summer through my children's eyes.

My delightful daughter knows that you don't need any reason to dress up as a superhero and wear a tiara at the same time.  That every day is a day to become a superhero in your heart, to conquer the world, with a tiara, knight's shield, or princess gown in tow.

My inquisitive son knows that sometimes he will do things that test his mother's boundaries (and patience), and he too is exploring the world of adolescence, and trying to build a solid bridge that will connect between his childhood and manhood.  And although he will get frustrated with the limitations that will certainly greet him, he will keep on trying until the act of trying is no longer difficult.

So as school is done for the year, my kids will put away their backpacks and test the world around them.  And while doing this, I guess the real learning for me...begins.

Easy Oven Fries

During the summer, one of the rare treats I love to indulge in, is eating a tray of fries from a "chip truck".  Here's a more healthy, non fried version of those "chip truck" delights.

  • 2 large baking or russet potatoes, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves


  • Heat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Cut the potatoes in half horizontally, then cut into strips, approximately 1/3-inch-thick 
  • Place the potatoes in a bowl of cold water for approximately 10 minutes.
  • Remove from water and dry thoroughly. 
  • Toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and rosemary. 
  • Place fries on cast iron skillet.  (a cookie sheet works well too).
  • Roast until browned and cooked through, turning occasionally, approximately 25-30 minutes.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013


When I engage my children in conversation about what they did at school, one of the most important subjects that I usually pay closest attention to, is recess.  I know that sounds counter-intuitive to what I "should" be interested in, because of course, when you send your child into an academic environment, the most important thing should be those academics, right?

When I listen to my children talk about which group of friends they played with at recess, what games they played, or how they resolved any playground conflicts, for me it's peek through a window into a part of their lives that is a little more difficult to control.  Sometimes the playground stories are a little heartbreakingly difficult to hear as a parent.  Stories of teasing, accidental injuries, disagreements...yes, many of those conflicts are common among the school set. But when I hear some of these stories, I have to admit, sometimes deep down I just want to go to their school and make all of their problems go away.

But we have to remember that the playground is filled with children with various backgrounds, ethnicities, traditions...or just kids with their own "story", and that parents who micromanage their children's relationships, I think, do more harm than good.  If the parents are always solving problems for their children, how can these children learn this very important lesson on their own when their parents are not around?   How will they ever learn to cope, deal, understand and get along with those who are different from them.  Because EVERYONE is different.

I've come across a beautiful documentary, "@Random", about those affected with Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder that affects 1 in 100 North Americans (the average age of onset is 7 years old, so if you look around the playground, there is a good chance you'll see someone with Tourette). The filmmakers collected many films and arranged them randomly, so every time someone watches the documentary, it would be different.  Just like Tourette Syndrome.

And today, the Tourette Syndrome Foundation launched an awareness campaign that touches on that very point of experiencing what it's like to be in someone else's shoes.  For 24 hours, you can experience what it’s like to have Tourette Syndrome by giving up control of your Tweets. (For more information, see or follow the hashtag #SurrenderYourSay on Twitter)

Watching the @Random documentary is an amazing reminder that we are all different, we all have a story, and as adults, we need model and teach our children that understanding each other is the first step to getting along.

It also is a reminder to me, that as my children get older my need to control is the one thing I need to learn to surrender, in order for them to grow.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


I remember when I was a young girl, I would visit my neighbour's house to play, and on lazy summer afternoons, we'd get two large bowls in her kitchen, as she would sift through her mother's cupboards for anything that was sweet and sticky.

We'd spend the afternoon together, creating an interesting concoction...chocolate sauce, maple syrup, bananas, cookies, cake mix...we'd dump it ALL in our bowls, and eat our new found recipe.  Her Mother would walk in, and we'd coerce her to "taste test" our new culinary delight.  And through her grimacing smile, she would always say, "delightful".

The other day, my daughter wanted to make her Dad, a Father's Day breakfast.  She took some pecan tarts, removed the pecans, added nutella and topped it all off with marshmallows.  It was an interesting mixture, although the only thing my eyes saw were the mounds of sticky pecans stacked on the table....and what it at first seem to resemble (at a glance)...a "present" from our dog.

After a few laughs with my misunderstanding, she showed me her lovely surprise.  Four lovely tarts, one for each of us to enjoy (with a birthday candle, no less!), for Father's Day morning.  Now, I'm not sure how long these would stay fresh...or if they would possibly be consumed before Father's Day this Sunday.  However, I neatly packed them in containers in hopes we could try them on the weekend.  I couldn't help but wonder if this is the beginning of my child's culinary experiments.

I hope it is.  And with every bite we'll taste on Father's Day or with future "taste testing experiments" will always be delightful.

Happy Father's Day

Dump Cake
(makes approx. 12-16 servings)

  • 19 oz. (540 ml) can of cherry pie filling
  • 19 oz (540 ml) can of apple pie filling (or omit the cherry pie filling and use two cans of apple).
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 white cake mix
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup of almonds
  • Lightly grease a glass 9x13 dish.
  • Layer or "dump" the above ingredients in order as listed.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes to an hour, until cake is brown on top and bubbling on the sides. 
  • Serve warm with ice cream.


Wednesday, June 05, 2013

smell the coffee

With a plethora of options that bombard us on a daily basis, both with the everyday (like buying groceries), to the more complicated (like the path to raising our children), sometimes I think having too many choices have actually paralyzed us from making one singular, intelligent, well informed decision.

I remember a simpler time, when as a child, ice cream primarily came in three flavours:  vanilla, chocolate or strawberry.  I remember a time when ketchup came in a glass bottle, and not two shelves with variations such as organic, sugar-free or an upside-down-so-it-is-easy-to-pour version.  I remember a time when finding something to do after school was easy...I'd roller skate along the sidewalk, with the theme to "Ice Castles" (a popular 70's movie) in my head. And although my parents did their share of chauffeuring my brother and I around to various extra curricular activities, the choices were limited...and back then, it seemed our decisions on "what to do" seemed so clear.

With summer around the corner, I've yet again started to create a list of things to do this summer.  But like last summer, my list is a little different than your average "what to do" list.  It speaks more to what I want my children to remember about summer...not what I want them to accomplish.  They are only so young for such a short period of time, and instead of signing them up for more schedules,  I've changed my outlook on this precious time we have together, and plan on exploring life's little pleasures.

Like biking to the creek to find crayfish (do those still exist?).  Or lying underneath the sprinkler in the backyard on a hot summer day and just watch the curved water drops sway back and forth on top of the grass.  Or just rest on a picnic blanket to read or see shapes in the clouds.

And as the kids create those wonderful childhood summer memories, I too, will enjoy waking up to the aroma of freshly made coffee, and now and then, enjoy a little cake for breakfast (gasp!) start our summer day discovering life's little pleasures.

Streusel Topped Coffee Cake

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cups white sugar, 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 
  • Grease and flour baking pan (I used a loaf pan, bundt pans work well too)
  • In a large bowl, cream butter and 1 cups white sugar, 1 cup of brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, sour cream, and vanilla extract. 
  • Add flour, baking powder and baking soda, then beat until well combined.
  • Pour batter into Bundt pan. 
  • In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, cinnamon. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over the batter.
  • Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean.