Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Perfection is Overrated.

I like knitting. I've been doing it since middle school; self taught, thank you. It was surprisingly easy to pick things up just by looking at them and imagining how it might be done. I managed to teach myself how to do cable knits and switch colours. I figured out moss stitch completely by accident.

It wasn't until highschool that I made my first sweater though. Up until then, it was always scarves. I like scarves. No increasing or decreasing so you don't really have to concentrate; you can knock one out in an evening if there's a good movie on.

The year Beege started school, I went a little nuts and knitted her a dress, a hat, a scarf and four (no, five?) sweaters. Mostly because I liked the novelty of it. I found that I could sit down with one of those bulk balls of wool and make a whole sweater in 2 nights.

While I love knitting for many reasons, I think the real reason I love knitting is because you can royally screw up and still come out the other end with a wearable sweater.

Case in point:


You would never know that I made the left front side a whole inch and a half shorter than the right! And there's a whole row in there that's the entirely wrong stitch. I also lost count a few times while casting on the stitches down the front of the neck and had to add a bunch in later. Oh... I also did the ribbing for the front half an inch longer than the back.

It was also my first time doing cables on a sweater, but I didn't feel like looking for a pattern (or trying to keep track of rows) so I just kind of eye-balled it. You'd have to look pretty close to see that they're different heights though, because what's a row or two, give or take?

Looks good, though, right?* And Kee looks freaking adorable in it.



*I have no idea why it looks like salmon that's gone off. It's really more of a dusty rose.


Here are a few online resources, in case you're interested:
A free guide to knitting stitches from Craftcookie.com
Free patterns from Lion Brand Yarn
Free patterns from Bernat

Monday, May 30, 2011

Fair is Fair.


I am one of those people who believe in rules. I think that they are good things, and most of them* should be followed. Rules work the best when they are followed by everyone.

First there are the big rules: aka. "laws". These ones are very important to follow, so that people don't get killed as they walk down the street, or have their worldly goods stolen/destroyed. Traffic regulations, don't steal people's stuff, don't kill people; all good. Breaking these rules lands you in jail.

Then there are the rules we follow that aren't quite law, but that we should follow for our personal safety. Look both ways, stand back from the edge in the subway station, wear a helmet when riding your bike. Breaking these rules might land you in the hospital.

Then there is another set of rules. The courtesy rules. The rules that make it more pleasant to live all squashed up together in cities the way we do. The rules that stand between us and the murdering, ransacking, looting chaos that comes from no one caring about the stranger next to them. Say excuse me, wait your turn, hold a door, don't cut in line, say please and thank you. Kindergartners know these rules. Breaking these rules makes you a big jerk.

I try my best not to be a jerk. I go out of my way to hold doors for people, offer some change if someone is short, I smile at cashiers and ask how they are. These are not hard things to do. These are little things that can make someone else's day easier. These are the kind of things that, done regularly, let you rest easy at night, knowing that you are a decent person.

Which brings me to the Fun Fair.

The day started off wonderfully! We got there early and beat the line ups, the kids were having fun and we got to see Beege's teacher fall in the dunk tank several times. (The big baby wore a wetsuit!)

I went in to check out the baskets and other items that were available in the silent auction. The basket I was interested in, "Family Fun", was still under my price cap, so I wrote in a bid, then went out to play with my family some more.

Beege got a temporary tattoo, Kee won some bubbles, we discovered that while Kee was super excited about the bouncy house, she was actually too afraid to go in one.

When the auction was almost over, I went back in to see how it was doing. I had the winning bid! 10 minutes to closing, and I had the highest bid! I have to admit that it did keep running through my head that I wasn't winning the basket, so much as the right to buy the basket. Still! I've never won an auction before!

I chatted with the teacher beside me as the time ran down. The woman in charge called out "The auction is now closed! No more bids! The auction is now closed!" She started making her way around with a highlighter to circle the winning bids. I smiled at the teacher and let him know I'd won my basket. Then out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something.

A woman nudged her son and nodded, and he knelt down to write on the clipboard for my basket. What the hell? I went over and said, smiling, "I'm sorry, but they've already said the auction is over." Her son looked up and she rolled her eyes, and nodded at him again. He kept writing. I said, no longer smiling, "The auction is over, please stop writing." She shrugged at me and turned away.

If this woman had started writing before they said the auction was over, I would have shrugged, kept my money in my pocket and walked away. Because really? It's not that important. However, since she had knowingly, blatantly, while looking at me, broken the rules, -- no, actually, she'd made her son do it! -- I was pissed. My eye started twitching.

I am not good in situations like these. As well as being a rule abider, I also tend to be a conflict avoider. But. Not only was this woman being a first class jerk herself, but she was passing her crappy, disrespectful attitude to her son!

When he finished writing, I picked up the clipboard. I went over to the woman in charge and explained what had happened. She apologised and told me that she was sorry it had happened. I told her that it was certainly not her fault and then offered to pay above the woman's bid as a resolution.

Conclusion? I will be picking my basket up from the office this afternoon. I ended up paying $10 more than I'd planned on but, as far as I'm concerned, totally worth it. Jerk.




*Then again, some are made to be broken; things like wine pairings and art techniques...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lima Beans Don't Suck!

My kids are pretty used to eating whole wheat this, and healthy that. They very rarely eat white bread, and I sneak extra veggies and fiber into most baking where I can. They generally don't know the difference, and on occasion, when they've had the "healthy" (ie. my) version of something as well as the "unhealthy" (ie. store bought/mass produced)version, they seem to prefer the one I make.

Usually, when I bake things to send to school, I just make it out of a package and send it in, without bothering to up the nutrition. I'm a jerk like that. This time, when I decided I'd make cookies for the school to sell at the bake sale tomorrow, I decided I'd also fill them full of whole wheat-y, extra fiber-y goodness.

I came upon a recipe in "The Sneaky Chef to the Rescue" by Missy Chase Lapine for chocolate chip cookies that also contained... lima beans. Yes. Lima beans. I myself am not a huge fan of lima beans, so I was a little skeptical, but we decided to try it out.


So - first you've got to puree the lima beans. I had to add some water to make it really smooth. Start with a tablespoon and add slowly as needed.


"Unbelievable Chocolate Chip Cookies"

1 cup "flour blend" (1/3 cup whole wheat flour, 1/3 cup all purpose white flour, 1/3 cup wheat germ)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup oat bran (I smashed some bran flakes with a rolling pin, it worked fine.)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed (I used demerara, which is not quite the same..)
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup lima bean/butter bean puree
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Optional: 1 cup chopped walnuts or raisins. (I didn't use either, because of allergies)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and oat bran (ie. smashed cereal). In another bowl*, beat the butter and both sugars until creamy. Beat in egg, vanilla and lima bean puree. Add dry ingredients and combine. Stir in chocolate chips (and walnuts or raisins, if applicable.)

Make 2 bite cookies by dropping rounded teaspoonfuls, spaced 2 inches apart, onto non-stick or parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown.

If all goes well, you end up with some cookies that look kind of like this:


Still skeptical... really? Lima beans? The girls and I tried some. They're yummy. They really are. Kee asked for seconds before she'd finished the first one.

So, the school gets some yummy, lima bean filled cookies to sell to unsuspecting children tomorrow. HA!



*The recipe, as written, calls for a mixer at this point. It would definitely make getting the butter and sugar creamy easier... but an arm and a spoon work fine too.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Weekend of Fun...

This weekend is going to be a pretty big one for Beege.

First, she's got a trip to the annual Kindergarten Zoo Trip tomorrow morning - for which I've got to get her to school four hours earlier than usual. Thank goodness, unlike last year, there is no question about whether she's going or not. It's supposed to rain, but the kid has got boots, and really? Rain just does not bother kindergartners as much as it bothers us old people.

On Saturday is the school Fun Fair, which is a huge deal over there. It'll always hold a special place in my heart because we took 2 year old Beege to it a couple of days before Kee was born.

This year, Beege and I are baking cookies for the bake sale and I've volunteered to stick around afterward and help clean up. Even if it rains, there's a pretty solid back up plan and I'm actually looking forward to it almost as much as she is. There is a class basket raffle* to enter, and I've got my eye on a couple. Also? Bouncy castles. Nothing excites my kids more than bouncy castles. (This is the one from last year.)


On Sunday, Beege and I are going on an expedition. Mostly, we're going to go downtown and do some shopping for Kee's birthday. (Which is next Thursday, ohmygod!) But! We're also going to be picking out the nail polish that Beege will get to wear when she stops biting her nails!** Nail Polish? Five year old? She's so excited.

I was trying to remember the last time she and I just went out together and did something fun, and honestly, I think it was on her birthday. A year and a half ago. Shocking. So, don't tell her, but I think I'm also going to take her out to dinner all by herself in a "big people" restaurant.

Here's hoping your weekend is as exciting as mine promises to be!


*Each class gets together a collection of themed items to include in the raffle, like "crafts", "fun in the sun" or "gardening". I've got my eye on "family fun" and "camping".
**Because I've discovered an eco-friendly, hypoallergenic, non-toxic nail polish called "Piggy Paint" which I think will erase any guilt I may have had regarding bribing my child with nail polish.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Location, Location, Location

One of the most important things, when deciding where to live, is of course, location. So important. Are there good schools around? Are there places to get groceries? Parks? Recreation centers? Most of all, is the area safe?


Will a giant door open at least 20 times a day and eject/swallow the scary creatures that you're convinced might eat your babies?


Maybe, if this mama bird had considered location more carefully, she wouldn't need to dive bomb me and my children as we leave our house.


That's right. Dive bomb.


Although it's almost worth it to see Kee waving her hands at the bird and trying to placate it by yelling, "it's okay, birdie! We're not going to eat your babies!"

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Should I Have a Baby, or Get a Dog?

The only way to decide is to make a pros and cons list and compare, I suppose. That's how big decisions are made, right? So here goes:


Dog:

Pro - a dog will probably want to snuggle you forever.
Con - dogs can stink so bad that you wouldn't want it to.

Pro - you have to walk it, so there are health benefits.
Con - you have to walk it, or it craps on your floor.

Pro - dogs are very loyal.
Con - it will crap on the ground forever. You will never get to stop stooping and scooping.

Pro - it will never pull teenage moody bullshit on you.
Con - it doesn't eventually get a job and take care of itself.

Con - they need a lot of room to run around.
Con - in general, they seem to lack respect for furniture.
Con - did I already mention they smell?
Con - they shed.


Baby:

Pro - baby cuddles and snuggles are the absolute best.
Con - it breaks your heart when they start refusing to snuggle.

Pro - babies smell SO good.
Con - except when they don't.

Pro - they eventually become self sufficient.
Con - when they become more self sufficient, they think they know everything.

Pro - they eventually move out.
Con - they eventually move out, and may not visit you as much as you like.

Pro - if you're nice to them, they may send you on a cruise at some point.
Con - I'm scared of cruise ships. I should never have watched Titanic.

Pro - I would be less of a burden to my current children when I'm old and they're fighting about who has to visit mum this time.
Con - I would have less to give each of them.

Con - we don't have room for another baby.
Con - I was just starting to get to sleep through the night.
Con - it's probably a sign of mental instability to even be considering having another baby.
Con - we're almost through the diaper years. A new baby would mean starting again.



You know, I think I'll look into getting a fish. A nice, cuddly, stuffed fish.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Desert Islands, and Tina Fey.


Every once in a while, the question of who, or what, I'd bring with me to a deserted island comes up. It's usually because "Survivor" is on.

Anyway. The list changes from year to year; the only constant being soap. Sometimes I want to bring a chef, sometimes the professor from Gilligan's Island. It really depends.

I have a new addition to my list. It's Tina Fey.

I'm pretty sure that she is going to be a permanent fixture, just like soap, because I am madly in love with Tina Fey. She is one of the funniest women ever and I love everything she does, almost without reservation.

We'd have so much fun! Her sense of humour is a little wierd, so's mine. We both love our children. We've both written award winning television shows. Okay.. I haven't done that, but I wish I had. We did both marry guys named "Jeff" though, so there's that.

Depending how long we were stuck there, I'd like to think that we'd end up with either a full length feature or a really good pilot. So I guess I'm adding Tina Fey and an unlimited supply of pencils, erasers and paper. Maybe a solar powered laptop.

I would also like mysterious food deliveries. Oh, and Amy Poehler. I heart their comedic love children.

So, Tina, Amy... in case you're reading this, I love you. If you ever feel the urge to work with an untried mother of two, who may be the only one who thinks she's funny, I'm totally in.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Before I Was a Mother, I Never...

(I got this idea from A Lot of Loves. Today was a "volunteer at school" day, which means my brain is incapable of original ideas.)

*******************************************

Before I was a mother, I never...

... wiped someone else's butt.

... discussed bodily functions quite so much.

... licked food off someone's face because we were out and I forgot wet wipes.

... had to tell anybody to leave me alone while I was on the toilet.

... had two people throw up on me at once. Or even one person throw up on me, for that matter.

... considered frozen pizza a meal.

... wore the same shirt for 3 days without noticing.

... enjoyed sloppy kisses.

... set up scavenger hunts, made dress up clothes for no reason, or celebrated "Bug Day."

... knew how much I could love two little people.

... felt I needed an excuse to sit down with a cup of tea and read a book.


If I filled this list out completely, you'd still be reading next week, so I think I'll leave it here for now. Suffice it to say that there are many things I never even thought about doing before becoming a mother (wiping someone else's butt, for one).

Even if you're not a mum, do you have a list of things you never thought you'd do? Like "If you'd asked me ten years ago, I would have said I'd never..." or "Before I moved out of my parents' house, I never..."?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The "F Bomb"; Who Cares?

Beege is such a reader now. It's almost hard to believe that this time last year she was sounding out three and four letter words and now she can read almost anything. Which is great, and I love it, but it does present a problem.

I love to read as well. I do it all the time. I often have more than one book on the go and I leave them laying around the house, bookmarked with socks and things. I love it that we can snuggle up together on the couch and read our separate books.

Recently, I went on a Sophie Kinsella binge. I got out five of her books from the library and read them one after the other. They weren't bad; although I do have to wonder why the majority of her lead female characters are flaky, lying scatterbrains who are in over their heads. Who happen to end up married to millionaires.

Anyway. One of them happened to be in "large print", which is actually great because then I can leave it open on the coffee table and still read it while I knit a sweater or something.

Of course, I may not be able to do this anymore. Beege is curious, she wants to know everything and (despite the fact that "mummy books don't have pictures!") she will read whatever is in front of her.

Which is why, when Becky Brandon (nee Bloomfield) started yelling "FUCK!" in large print and I realised that Beege was indeed hanging over my shoulder, I practically threw the book across the room.

Although, she probably didn't even notice. And if she did... well, how would she even know it was a "bad" word? She wouldn't! At least until she said it to her teacher and I got a call from the office. Besides that, she generally asks what words she doesn't recognise mean, so she'd probably say it to us first.

At which point, we'd say... what? That it's a crude word that people use to mean any number of things but which originally meant "to perform the sex act"? Because that would mean explaining sex. Which I'm not quite ready for. I mean, she knows that boys have penises, girls have vaginas and grown up women have babies. I think that's enough for the moment.

Actually, if it comes right down to it, I think I'd rather that she swore at her teacher.

At which point, I'll tell her what I believe: swearing is for people with small vocabularies and no imagination. Or comedic effect; but that's a later discussion.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

In Which I Make a Kid Cry.

Not my kid... that would hardly be news, would it? My kids cry when I tell them they've got to put shoes on. No, this was a kid that I've never met before, and until I made the poor kid cry, hadn't even noticed.

Why, you may ask, have I started terrorizing random kids on the playground? Well, let me tell you.

Okay. I have started volunteering at the school again, once a week, which actually has nothing to do with this story. So I'll just say that Kee is behaving (mostly) with the aplomb* of a kindergartner, ie. sitting on the carpet when she's supposed to and not getting too pissed off when snack time's over.

Anyhoo, back to being evil.

After school, on any given day, there are a bunch of kids who hang out and play on the playground. I tend not to, just because it's hard to keep track of both kids at the same time, and while I'm not too worried about Beege scarpering**, Kee is a runner. (One time, she got all the way to the parking lot before I caught up to her; I need to sign her up for sports.) Occasionally, though, they manage to talk me into it.

There is a certain slide on the playground that has been dedicated as the "Bey blade slide". For the record, I hate bey blades. I think they're stupid and should not be allowed at school. However, there is a contingent of boys who like to play with them, and there are three other slides, so it doesn't seem a big deal to let them play there.

Beege, having been told that she couldn't slide down that particular slide, figured it was okay to sit at the top and just hang out and look at clouds. And really, it should have been.

Unfortunately, for everyone involved, this other kid decided to climb up the slide where she was sitting. (Climbing up the slide is, in itself, against school rules.) So. He ran most of the way up the slide and started hauling himself up the rest of the way by her clothing.

She was upset, to say the least. Not nearly as upset though as when he climbed over her, then turned around, peeled my crying child's hands off the sides of the slide and hurled her down to the bottom.

This occurred as I was looking on and making my way across the playground. I made it over at just about the time he shoved her.

I am proud to say that I did not (entirely) lose it. While I did raise my voice, it wasn't that crazy person shrieking that sometimes happens when you're scared and angry at the same time. I said "NO. You do NOT treat other children that way. It is NOT okay to run up the slide. YOU WILL APOLOGISE." Then I went to the bottom of the slide, picked up my weeping daughter, brushed her off, made sure she was okay and then brought her to the boy and let him stammer an apology. This all happened in a matter of a minute or so.

I didn't feel too badly about it until I looked over a bit later, and the kid was still sitting there with his knees pulled up to his chest, rocking, like he'd seen a monster. Me, I guess. Then I felt kind of bad.





So here's the question: What would you have done? Would you discipline someone else's child if their behaviour is out of line?




*Yet another word that looks like nonsense if you stare at it too long. I wiki'ed it to make sure it really was a word, and not only is it a word, but it means exactly what I thought it did. Yay, me!
**Me mam's bri-ish an' I like foony wurds.

Monday, May 9, 2011

I'm Having a Baby!!


Okay, okay, fine - I'm not technically having a baby. My sister is though, and seriously? That's almost as good! I am so super-excited! And I've known for a couple of months, and not even told anyone! (Well... except my friend Mary. Because, you know, conversation.)

Really though; I get to have cuddling, and new baby smell, and baby giggles, and tiny toes, and I don't have to do all the work! I'm guessing this is how my husband felt about it when I was pregnant.

I've decided to call it "Spud." I'm pretty sure they're not going to go with my pick.




*BTW, the thumbs up ultrasound is Beege.

Friday, May 6, 2011

In The Presence of Presents.

I love presents. Especially from my husband and kids. LOVE THEM!! I wouldn't mind getting a present everyday. Nothing big, you know, just something to show that the people I love have been thinking nice things about me and appreciate me and want me to know it.

I remember magnanimously telling my husband one year "it's okay, you don't have to get me anything." I so didn't mean it. Not even a little bit. And the more I thought about it, the more I realised that if he actually didn't get me something, not even a card, I would be so disappointed. I would, inevitably, take it out on him in some passive-aggressive way.

Instead of letting such a horrible thing happen, I went to him, sniffling and holding back tears and told him that I didn't mean it, I DID want presents. Crisis averted. Lucky for me (and him), he never thought I meant it anyway; he knows me so well!

I also love giving presents. Finding something (or making something)perfect for someone and taking the time to wrap it nicely and getting to see their face when they open it... *sigh*... joy.

The only problem with this is the buildup. Which, unfortunately, can often lead to disappointment. What if I think that I've been picking up hints of something special and it turns out it's really some stupid electronic thing that's not for me after all? Or what if I spend a tonne of time making/buying/arranging something for someone that I think is perfect and will make them super happy, and it turns out that it WOULD have been perfect a year ago, but now it's just kind of meh?

This year, I've finally decided that while I do love surprises (LOVE THEM!), sometimes the disappointment after the buildup isn't worth it.

That's how I know that this Sunday, I will be having a medium french vanilla coffee, fresh fruit and a sausage breakfast sandwich. There will be a bouquet of fresh flowers (not too big, because I want to put it in the white jug) and we'll all sit at the table and eat together, and the TV will not be on. It's going to be lovely. Any other surprises will, of course, be joyfully accepted.

Have I mentioned that my husband reads my blog?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Get Your Own Milk! Oh.. No, Wait, Don't.

There are certain things that I (and I'm sure my mum) don't remember from my childhood. Things that you wouldn't even think were important. Until you're staring at an entire jug of milk spilled at the feet of a helpful (almost) 3 year old who was just trying to pour herself some milk.

When exactly did I start pouring my own milk? That's one of those things. Also, when did I start having a bath by myself, brushing my own teeth and picking out my own clothes? Not exactly earth shaking events; I suppose that's why they didn't register so much.

I suppose, what I'm basically asking here is this: should I still be hopping up every two seconds to get them refills of things and grabbing extra forks, or can I start making them do it? Because I'm just getting into this book here and it's a pain in the ass to have to put it down every five seconds.

Seriously though, at what age do you think kids should start taking up some minor responsibilities?

Because I could really use some input.