Sunday, February 28, 2010


The boys and I have been loving learning about the Iditarod lately, and are so excited about the race starting next weekend (YEAH!) Today, to help get us fully in the mood, we went to check out some dog sled races at a local conservation area. The weather was less than ideal for the races ( a little warm, and the snow was sticky, wet and melting) but the dogs were fabulous. I was so surprised at how small most of the dogs were, and how much they had to say!! The mushers are obviously dedicated to the dogs, and the other way around. The dogs also love to run. As soon as they see the harnesses coming their way, they start to bark and talk, pulling at their chains and waging their tales. When they see the sled pulled up, they absolutely go crazy. The sleds of most of the teams were actually tied up to cars so that the dogs wouldn't start running before everyone is ready. We all really enjoyed the day, and came away trying to convince ourselves (halfheartedly) that we really don't need a second dog...or a third...or a fourth...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What I'm Loving Today

Today I have a big smile on my face because of...
*Williams grin missing 3 of his 4 front teeth
*Waking up with a little boy waving his favorite book at me
*Big soft ginger cookies baking in the oven (recipe to follow)
*Only five more hours until a night out with friends
*The woman at the post office knowing my address just from my sons name on a postcard
*Seed exchanges, gardening shows and spring thaw festivals showing up on our calendar
*Tickets ordered to see Peter Pan at the Stratford Festival in the fall
*Jump hugs from my babies
*Reading The Tomten by the fire
*Chai Tea in my favorite mug

Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.
-Kahlil Gibran

Monday, February 22, 2010

10 Centimeters of Snow

I love days like this. Ten centimeters of snow in the forecast - not enough to worry about, but enough to justify staying home if we want to. We did enough 'productive things' to feel good about the day (lots of laundry, a thorough clean of the toy room, table time done, and over-ripe bananas turned into banana bread). Still, we had lots of time left over to really enjoy the day. We refilled the bird feeders and watched the chickadees stock up before the storm, played with our geometric shapes that have been 'lost' in the bedroom for many months, and read 3 chapters of Matilda by the fire. The boys had a pillow fight that managed to end in laughter instead of tears, and went on a lengthy adventure together - I was not included, but I did hear a smattering of 'Yes, Captain!" and "Come on - we are there!". Finally, video games with Daddy - always a hit. It is 6pm, and the boys have not yet gotten dressed for the day. Bliss.
Who among us hasn't envied a cat's ability to ignore the cares of daily life and to relax completely?
-Karen Brademeyer

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gourmet Club

Last month, a group of friends and I decided to reincarnate our book club, alternating each month with a Gourmet Club. Today our Gourmet Club theme was Indian Food. Each of us brought some delicious food to share - food that we might not prepare every day, that are a little different from our usual, and perhaps a little more challenging to cook. The results were divine: vegetarian curry, biryani rice, naan, channa, mattar paneer, and a delicious spinach dish whose name I cannot remember. All of the dishes were vegetarian, which was an added bonus. I was tempted to make Indian sweets for desert, but when I looked up the recipes, well, I couldn't identify most of the ingredients. Unfortunately, the small town that we live in doesn't have a very well stocked grocery store. Instead, the boys and I headed into a bigger city close by, and tracked down a sweet shop. The lovely woman behind the counter didn't even bat an eye when I asked, somewhat sheepishly, to "fill the box with whatever she would recommend". She had great tastes, I must say..

I will definitely be making some of these dishes more often.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Dog Days of Winter

One of the cities not too far from where we live was hosting an Ice Dogs Festival today, and since we needed to vacate the house (Jim worked last night and was sleeping today) we headed over. William was in all of his glory - a whole event devoted to dogs!!!!

There were autism service dogs...

Sparky the fire dog...

Sled dogs (by far the best, and the furriest!!)...

An ice sled - not dog related, but still a whole lot of fun...

Ice sculptures...

Lots and lots of dogs walking around...(I really, really want a Bernese Mountain Dog like the one on the left)
And of course, snacks.

Put this all together with hot chocolate and whipped cream and audio books for the drive home and it was a lovely morning.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dollies for Haiti

We have all been effected by the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and wondering how we can help out. Sometimes the magnitude of the tragedy puts us into paralysis - what could we do to make a difference with something so big? But still, we try. We send the money that we can, and raise more through the generosity of our friends and neighbors. Our home school group is doing a toilet paper drive (which has been so much fun, as well as much needed!) and many of us are taking part in a Dolly Drive for the Abundant Ground Foundation, an organization that has an orphanage in Haiti caring for 181 children between the ages of birth to 12 years old.

Here are the three dollies that I managed to pull together. They are all packed away with another 27 or so dollies that other members of our homeschool group made, and are on their way to Haiti and into the arms of little boys and girls who need something to cuddle. If you are able to help out, please follow the link - there is a downloadable pattern, and simple instructions that anyone can follow. Their goal is to collect a hand made doll for each of the 181 kids who rely on the orphanage before March 31, 2010. I am not kidding myself that this will change very much in their hard lives. I know, though, that if my little ones ever found themselves without me there to care for them, I would be overcome with gratitude if another Mama, somewhere in the world, shared a little bit of her hand made love with my children.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hurry Hard!

One of the great things about homeschooling, ironically, is that the kids become exposed to so many things that our own little family does not normally do. One of the Moms in our homeschooling group was wonderful enough to organize a curling lesson for the kids. William had a great time, and is excited about doing it again with this same group of friends monthly for the next while. This is just the sort of thing that will help the last few weeks of winter fly by.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Local Museum

We haven't been to this local museum in a while, but an exhibit on Ancient Chinese Civilizations on loan from the ROM drew us there today with some friends. The exhibit was wonderful, with hands-on activities for the kids, and beautiful artifacts for the adults to admire. It is astonishing to look at a beautifully lacquered bowl and know that it is 3000 years old. WOW. The kids were particularly drawn to the Navy play area on the main floor, and had a blast playing dress up and protecting their ship from attacking pirates.

Julia Butterfly HIll

Some wise words from Julia Butterfly Hill on turning our attention away from what is wrong and focusing instead on what is right.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My New Idea

Our approach to homeschooling is mostly child-led, with a few exceptions (we use a math curriculum, and I do make sure that the kids are making some progress with reading). And most of the time, I really love it. I love the ideas that they come up with about things that they want to explore, I love the interesting places we end up going, I love how much I learn along side of them. I know that many families really enjoy them, but I can't imagine having to follow the imposed structure of a full boxed curriculum. Still, every once in a while, the Type A personality that I try desperately to repress comes out. On those days, I am sorely tempted to plan out learning objectives for the kids for the whole of their primary education, complete with time lines and check lists.

Today, watching the kids play, I came up with an idea to quiet that nasty voice inside my head. It came about as the boys were playing. Charlie wanted to put together the Alphabet Train Puzzle, and then, totally undirected by me ( I swear! ) they spent a half hour playing various kinds of 'letter tag' - asking Mama to call out different letters and then racing up and down the alphabet train, pointing to that letter with their toes.

So, I have started a 'log book' for want of a better name. This is only to be my book - the kids don't even know it exists. My idea is this - whenever I 'catch' the kids doing something that strikes me as easily catagorizable (like my new word?), I will jot it down on the corresponding page in my log book (science, geography, language arts, world issues, math....) You can see my inner control freak rearing her ugly little head, can't you?? What I will end up with, I hope, is a way to reassure myself that the kids are in fact getting a very well-rounded education, without my having to tie them to the kitchen table for 4 hours each day.

I started by writing down just the few things that I can remember from over the past week or so, and it is amazing how much they really do in a day. Conversations in the car about why some kids are adopted, the story William is writing using a letter stencil that a friend left here by mistake, the research on Moles after the boys saw a little black furry thing scamper across the road...I may just become the relaxed, easy-going Mama that I want to be, yet!

It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play, without seeing the vital connection between them.

-Leo F. Boscaglia

New Bread Recipe

Nothing better to do on a 'home day' than try out a new bread recipe, is there? I have been making an effort to bake my own bread whenever I can, mostly using this recipe, which has never done me wrong. Still, today I wanted to try something new.....I found this recipe submitted by J. Crury on and it turned out wonderfully. It is light and soft, and the oats give it a nice mild flavour. Next time I may try to 'healthy' it up a bit by increasing the amount of whole wheat and maybe replacing the brown sugar with honey - I will let you know how it goes. Be warned: this is a big recipe, and makes 6 average sized loaves. I baked up three today (some for us and some to share) and froze the other 3 loaves after shaping them, but before the final rising. In theory, I should be able to take them out of the freezer and let them thaw and rise at room temperature before baking the next time that I want a fresh loaf.

Homemade Bread Recipe

1/2 cup warm water
7.5 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup bread flour
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups quick cooking oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
4 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tbsp salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
10 cups bread flour

Stir together 1/2 cup warm water, 1 tbsp sugar, 1/4 cup bread flour, and yeast. Let grow for approx. 5 minutes.

Add in the rest of the ingredients, except for the bread flour. Stir to combine, then add bread flour 1 cup at a time. When it is too thick to stir, turn out onto a floured surface and knead in the rest of the bread flour.

Place dough into a large greased bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until double in size (about 1 hour).

Punch down and divide the dough into 6 loaves. Place each loaf into a greased 8 x 4 loaf pan (or wrap individually and freeze). Let rise until double in size (about 1 hour).

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and brush top with melted butter.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Family Day - Heritage Museum

One of the greatest things about Family Day (apart from the extra STAT Holiday, of course!) is all of the wonderful community events that take place. One of the local heritage museums opened their doors for free and had crafts for the kids, hot apple cider by the fire, and tours of the farmhouse. Unfortunately, we were too late in the day to make it for the cookies and maple taffy on the snow. Maybe next time!

Family Day - Art Gallery

We have never before been to this particular local art gallery, and Family Day seemed to be the perfect opportunity. Not only was admission free (always a good thing!) but they had great family friendly activities. My sister and her two children came along, and we met up with more friends there. Add in some time at the play ground outside the gallery and it was the makings of a great day.

I was really impressed by how well thought out this event was - it is certainly not a big gallery, but there were enough activities and stations set up to keep the kid enjoying the space for almost 2 hours. Certainly a much friendlier way of exposing the kids to art than we received at the McMichael Gallery.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentines Day

Hand made cards from the kiddies (with book store gift cards inside, no less!)....
Red roses....

Some time alone with the sewing machine while Jim and the kids played downstairs...

And Nigella Lawson's Triple Chocolate Loaf Cake (the photo does not do it justice!!)

I am a very lucky Valentine, indeed.