Monday, 30 January 2012

Homemade Skor Bars

This afternoon the kids and I made a tasty treat. So simple. 4 ingredients. The hardest part is waiting long enough until they are cooled. 

While I've seen many recipes for these on pinterest and all over internet land I've been making this particular one for years. Long ago while still in high school was when I first had them, courtesy of my mum. Now my children can enjoy making them with me (or so I hope).

Warning: Do not make this without another adult present or kids in full nap mode. Last thing you need is to turn your back on a sugar and butter mixture in a rolling boil to settle a spat over whose hot wheels is whose. Just sayin'.

Homemade Skor Bars

approx. 1 and 1/2 tubes of saltine crackers
1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup chocolate chips (although I always toss on an extra handful)

-Preheat oven to 375'
-Line a cookie sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking spray. 
-Line saltine crackers on the pan salt side up.  
-Melt the butter in a saucepan
-Add the sugar

This is where is gets to the only tricky part:

-Melt the sugar and bring the butter sugar mixture to a boil
-Let boil for 3 min stirring frequently

-Pour butter and sugar mixture over the saltines and put in oven for 8 min.

-Pull out pan after 8 minutes and immediately put chocolate chips on top

-Allow them to sit a few moments to let them melt
-Once chips are melting begin lightly spreading the chocolate to cover

-Allow bars to cool and harden (I stuck mine in the freezer because I lack patience)

-Once cooled and hardened cut into squares
-Delicious with a cup of coffee or nice cold glass of milk. 


Thursday, 19 January 2012

Our Family Table

I have read time and time again how important it is for a family unit to get together around the table for meals. It keeps people together they say. I have no doubt of that. I don’t need statistics or family psychologists to tell me that. It would seem like common sense to me. 
But. We have a small house. We also have a lot of stuff (aka junk) that we have little room for in the first place. 
Soooo, last spring we made the decision to sell the dining unit to make more space for our growing family. We listed it on Kijiji but it just didn’t sell. We ended up storing the table in it’s pieces in the basement, the top hutch in the "to be renovated" back room and the TV now sits on the buffet (which makes a nice entertainment center/unit actually).
All of that meant that we were without a table. We had planned to buy a smaller one when the other one sold but since that didn’t happen were still without.
Fast forward from then to now...
I had a desk which was still reminiscent of my days as a university student. It served me well then but was just not suiting my/our needs now. I’m not siting writing papers anymore. I don’t even had a desktop computer anymore (LOVE my MacBook Pro). It was large and cumbersome for a desk as well, which was fine then, but again, not now. 
My old desk has been disassembled (carefully as Daddy has plans for the wood) and the table has been resurrected. It is sitting nicely where my desk once was. It is still large and we are thinking of taking a piece off of it to shorten it a tad but other than that it is perfect. I’m really not sure of why we never did it sooner. 
First off, it will be so nice to be able to all sit down together again. A place where our meals can be enjoyed alongside each other. I have missed eating at a proper table and was growing quite weary of our current “dining” situation. I am hoping that this will bring a much more pleasant experience for everyone at meal time. In fact, I know it will. This will also allow the children to be much more involved. I see them learning to set the table in their very near futures.
Secondly, it will provide a much better work surface for everyone. It has the clear open space needed for all the kinds of projects we have going on around here. This is truly going to go miles in my attempts at creating more this year and in years to come. I see myself sewing at it. I see us homeschooling at it. I see art and science projects taking place at it. I see myself working at it with books and papers spread about. Some of this I even see taking place simultaneously. Why? Because now it can.
Thirdly, it will give us a central place to gather. Have you ever tried to play a board game on your lap? Neither have I, which is why we haven’t played a decent board game in a while. Candyland bring it on. Monopoly come on up. There is going to be a lot of games and laughter at this table. As a gathering place too I also plan on plenty of family meetings and discussion there. This is where hashing things out will take place and where tough decisions will be made.
This is going to be a great change for our family. Sometimes people push at change but this is one that I am more than happy to accept. This is a step in a very good direction for all the things we wish to accomplish together. 
It is more than just a table. Oh, I have big plans for this table. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Max and the Big 0-3

Three years ago today our Max was born. He came into the world via a VBAC and only 4 or so hours of labour. He was 7 lbs 14 oz and 21 inches long (I loved that-I have a thing for number patterns). Labour although short was hard and with virtually no medication it was tough. It seems so long ago yet only like yesterday. 

Max is now a strapping young lad with a love of super heroes (especially Ironman and Batman-Uh oh, DC/Marvel). I have noticed such huge changes in him even in just the last few weeks. I know they get older but every time I look at him I still see my little baby.

Max at a week old and at one year.

Max's 2nd Birthday and just under a month short of three.

We had quite a time coming up with what to do to make his day special. There were a few details that were easy. Batman cake? Check. Batman balloons? Check. Activities and Fun? Uh.....what?
Since we don’t do the daycare or school thing and we are new in the homeschooling community it meant that we didn’t really have anyone to invite to a party. Our house is small too so hosting a party here wasn’t really an option either. Making the decision to keep the festivities to our fun family of five was the easy part. 
We finally settled on spending time at the Children’s Museum (as per his gift from my mum) followed by a swim at a nearby YMCA followed by chinese takeout and birthday cake.
Our day started with some hearty blueberry pancakes and then we bundled up and headed to the museum. And bundle up we did as today also brought along a -34C windchill (-29.2F).
The Children’s Museum was FABULOUS. I hadn’t been in a few years in which time renovations took place. I’m not sure how much they spent to renovate the place (it certainly needed) but I feel as though my tax dollars were well spent. The boys were able to run and play and do all sorts of activities. They even had a special place for babies but we didn’t test it out as Evelyn was happy in the carrier. It’s such a nice clean and bright space now. The layout is fantastic too as you can see easily from one end to the other and not as many places to lose sight of a kid as the old layout.

Inside the optical illusions display. Lots of fun lights and spinning things.


The boys checking out some mighty machines. The Caterpillar actually fired up so the boys could control the hydraulics. They loved the train too, especially sitting in the conductor's chairs.

They loved spending time at the water tables.

These are pictures of the Lasagna Lookout. It's a jungle gym with a full on pasta theme which includes pool noodle "noodles" a sauce section and even meatballs (like a hanging exercise ball). 

I seriously love these pin things. I can not resist shoving a hand or a face in them. 
Fortunately my family likes them too.

Making some art at the PopArt centre. Vik got right to work drawing what else? Angry Birds. Max is quite the artist too eh? Daddy actually drew the car and then Max took over :)

After the Children’s Museum we headed over to the pool. We even lucked out as it was our first time there so they waived the family drop in fee. SCORE!!! The YMCA we went to also underwent some renovations a few years ago. Our time there was a great experience. The family change room was nice and roomy, important when you have five people to get changed and keep wrangled together. 
The kids all had a blast swimming. It was surreal though sitting in a heated pool while just a few feet away people were shivering as they walked past, separated from the frigid temperature by just a few inches of glass. It was lovely though. I would have liked to check out the hot tub but I thought it would be too hot for Evelyn. Daddy and the boys went in it though after Evelyn and I went to shower and Vik told me all about the all the bubbles after.

I wish I had pix of swimming but I find they never turn out. Something about the chlorine in the air. Too bad too because Evelyn got a very cute new swimsuit. I guess those will have to wait until summer.
After swimming we hit the party store to pick up a few balloons and then picked up the cake at Safeway. My sister (Auntie Rachael) came over and joined us for the chinese takeout and birthday cake.

Of course...the Bat Man cake.

Our initial plan had involved a trip to the arcade tonight but it is just too cold. Now with the sun down we have a -41C windchill (OMG!!) which comes with a wind chill warning. I just did not want to take the kids out into that and run the risk the van not starting after. 
We are spending the rest of the evening cozied up at home. I hope after such a big day the boys go to bed easy tonight. They should be tired. I wish I could make all days like this. Full of fun activities, but I know that just isn’t how it goes. Tomorrow it is back to the regular same old.
Celebrating family and special days. That makes this Mamma and family uber happy.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Nerds in a Bowl

My dear husband just brought me a bowl of Nerds. What would seem like a bizarre or benign act to someone else actually means the world to me. Nerds themselves are laced with many a childhood memory.

Why Nerds? They aren't a particularly spectacular candy. Perhaps the fact that we were never allowed to eat Nerds in the house growing up is what made them so alluring. If you wanted Nerds you had to eat them outside the house. There was no way that my mum was going to want to vacuum up a bunch of spilled Nerds (her words). I can picture myself right now at the age of 8 eating a package of them by our bicycle racks on the side patio after being banished from the house with an open box of the offending candy.

As a young adult I bought Nerds all the time and revelled in the fact that I could eat them whenever and wherever I wanted even if that was inside. I recall a specific time in fact of eating Nerds inside that made my mums hatred of them all the more clearer. It is that specific time that involves a bowl.

Rewind about 6 years...

That day I had purchased 3 boxes of Nerds from the Dollarama. Each one a different combo of flavours. Later that evening as I was choosing which to break into first a revelation came to me. Why not dump them all into a bowl? I said to myself. I proceeded to do just that. I was impressed with myself. It was a beautiful collection of yellow and pink and green and blue and purple and who knows what other colour. Little tiny pebbles of coloured and sour and sugary goodness. 

Grinning from ear to ear I walked out of the kitchen. My dear love looks at me and says "are you sure that is such a good idea Jessica?". I begin to retort with "of course, that is the best way to get the best flavour distribution"......

What happened next was both a comic and tragic event. Literally, as I spoke those now immortal words, by whatever cosmic or karmic twist of fate my wrist gave out (as if a bowl of Nerds is all that heavy) and dropped the bowl. As if in almost slow motion the bowl landed completely on it's bottom and POOF!!!!! Out popped a mushroom cloud of Nerds. Up into the air and down. 

I immediately knelt down and began trying to rescue them all but it was a feeble attempt. I would be lying if I said I didn't shed a tear. After picking up the bulk of them I got out the vacuum and sadly watched them be eaten up by that electrical beast. 

When I have Nerds now I am transported to many memories. Those of childhood. Those of our one bedroom apartment where the Nerd debacle took place. When I was handed the bowl of Nerds not long ago, be danged if it wasn't the same, small, green plastic bowl.

For the record I do not hold any ill will towards the Nerds as my mother did. In fact my boys will enjoy a bowl of Nerds alongside me. It is STILL the best way to get the best flavour distribution.

Having memories like these and making new ones with my children makes me very happy.

Hey what's you favourite childhood candy?

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Holiday Wrap Up

Today is the "twelfth" day of Christmas. No, my true love did not give me 12 drummers drumming or 12 silver crosses as per the Twisted Sister version (hilarious by the way). I have an interest in these twelve days and I blame my mother (as don't we all, for everything) for that. Growing up we had a felted and fabric twelve days of Christmas banner and when that got old and tattered she made little wall quilts to represent the days. Mostly though it was due to a fantastic article she read in some random Christmas book that explained the symbolism.

It should be no secret that I love me some symbolism. Signs and omens, can't get enough of those either. Anyways, before I do the full wrap up I would like to share with you the symbols as I have learned them. It all goes back in history to the 16th Century when during religious wars Christians needed to keep their faith under wraps. These symbolisms allowed them to profess their faith without risk of persecution. Yes it is possible that it is totally a secular song with no religious intent however with out anything to disprove that I choose to believe because faith is about believing not seeing.

To begin...True Love (God)

1st Day...Partridge in a Pear Tree (Christ)
2nd Day...Two Turtle Doves (Old and New Testaments)
3rd Day...Three French Hens (Three Theological Virtues)
4th Day...Four Calling Birds (The Four Gospels)
5th Day...Five Golden Rings (First Five Books of the Old Testament)
6th Day...Six Geese a Laying (The Six Days of Creation)
7th Day...Seven Swans a Swimming (Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit)
8th Day...Eight Maids a Milking (Eight Beatitudes)
9th Day...Nine Ladies Dancing (Nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit)
10th Day...Ten Lords a Leaping (The Ten Commandments)
11th Day...Eleven Pipers Piping (The Eleven Faithful Apostles)
12th Day...Twelve Drummers Drumming (Twelve Points of Doctrine in the Apostles' Creed)

Now, I don't know about you but many people, myself formerly included, do not like this song. They find it annoying and dragging and looooong. However, since discovering the symbolism contained I actually rather enjoy singing it. Testify!! In Code!!!

Click Here for for expansion on the code and the symbolism of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Now, tomorrow being January 6th, marks the Feast of Epiphany. When the wise men came to adore and bring gifts to Christ. In my family the end of the 12 days and the feast of Epiphany pretty much wraps up our Christmas and Holiday celebrations. Tonight we will take down the tree and tomorrow the village, nativity and remaining decorations.

With that in mind I better darn well wrap up this wrap up eh?

Overall, the whole Holiday ROCKED!!! Daddy got to stay home the entire holiday and we spent a lot of lovely time together (including a nice dinner out). Everyone was spoiled as usual (including myself). We made some great new years goals and are already well on our way to accomplishing them.

Here are just a few pix I would like to share...

Evelyn in her Christmas Mass outfit. I am in love with her hat. It is from Liv & Lily. Such beautiful children's accessories and big things are happening for them (Hello, Hollywood???)

Max laying out the stockings with care. My mum has made all these stockings except for one. Her own. She has never made herself one. It is already my plan to make her one for next year.

Under the tree Christmas morning. It is obscene every year the amount of gifts we give and receive. 

Viktor with his Angry Bird

Max and the Batcave

Evelyn and her first Dolly.

This boy loved the cranberry sauce!      MMMMMMM Christmas Dinner!!!

Auntie Ang and Viktor playing Sequence Kids and Ang teaching Viktor how to use a sling shot (yes, my sister got my sons sling shots for Christmas. We Love/Hate each other)

I took this with the Instagram App (it's fun). 
The boys were having a great time checking out Grandma's tree.

Some family Bingo fun after the big
Christmas Dinner. We took home a magnifying glass and a whoopee cushion.
I guess that about wraps up the wrap up. Except, what about Daddy and I you ask? Well,  I got him a new Crybaby Wah pedal and a subscription to Guitar Aficionado magazine. I also got him a Lush Massage bar for sore muscles. In my sock he put some guitar accessories and a promise to "hot rod" my guitar for me AND despite having told him that I didn't deserve any jewellery for Christmas because I lost my beautiful bracelet from last year he got me this...

Well, that's it for the wrap up folks. 

Check back soon for a fun little project I'm going to do for my blog!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

That Closed Door Opened a Window

I'm sure you have heard the phrase "when one door closes and another window opens". There are a few variations of this phrase but they all mean the same thing. It's a phrase meant to pick you up when things go south. It is a way of looking towards the future after an upset in your past or present. In some ways it means that there are opportunities waiting in the wings that would otherwise be inaccessible if the door had remained open.

If there is one thing I am it would be upbeat and positive. I am always looking for that silver lining in a dark cloud and it usually doesn't take me long to find it. I may feel guilty about it but at times I can be gripped more by the happiness and excitement of the opened window than the grief and sadness of a closed door.

Perhaps one of the reasons that I can be so optimistic is that I know my life is only partially in my hands. The rest is up to fate, the Lord and the big wide universe. There is only so much I can do. My job is to make the best of what is handed to me. It is my faith in God and my faith in, well, faith itself that keeps me going.

With all that said I do have dark days. It's not happy happy all the time. Sometimes the rain melts away the sunshine and lollipops. I just rest assured though that when I open the window when I'm ready the light will shine brighter than before.

Having had a recent upset in my path I am using all my positive thinking to keep my eyes ahead on the big open road of life. I've always found writing to be cathartic and healing. Pain can make great poetry. Here is a little something I wrote recently. It still exists only as words but I have a melody forming in my mind to accompany it.

Ebb and flow baby
That's how life goes
Things come in
People go out
Life is one big show

Just like the tides baby
In and out they go
People leave
Leave for where
For places still unknown

The sun and moon baby
Always setting but never gone
Like angels watching
Lives unfolding
Life goes on life goes on

Yes it does. Life continues. Generations form. Families change. Babies are born and people pass. You can't change it or stop it even if you tried. If you have a similar faith to mine you can be content in knowing that while physical life has an ending the spirit goes on, and on, and on and on.....

Life and Love and Hope. THAT makes me happy.