Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I wanted to show you pictures of little Miss Alice, past and present.

I love pictures of babies sucking their thumbs. They look so sweet and innocent. All three girls sucked their thumbs (Beth included her index finger as well) and with each baby I was happy that they found their own means of soothing themselves. Somehow pictures of babies hiding behind big soothers aren't so cute. I always want to flick them out of their mouths so I can see what they really look like.

But it stops being cute when they don't stop.

Beth had a fear of looking like Bugs Buggy (instilled in her by Dr. Laura, our dentist) and she stopped on her own with tactics she thought of by herself.

Laura stopped without our knowing. I just watched her fall asleep one night and realized that she hadn't gone near her thumb in the process.

Miss Alice increased her thumb sucking in kindergarten this year. She wasn't nervous or unhappy or stressed, but for some reason she sucked her thumb as soon as she stopped moving. TV, computer time, storytime, and of course naptime and bedtime.

It wasn't as cute anymore and my nagging was starting to bother even me. And it had no effect on Alice. Nor did Dr. Laura's warnings about the shape of her mouth and the way her teeth were growing.

Even her overbite was kind of cute when she was little, but getting less cute all the time. Our financial fear of braces finally made us do something about it (besides the ineffective nagging).

In June, Alice introduced DJ to almost everyone she met.

DJ (or Dental Jewellery) is now cemented onto her back teeth and is shaped like a lovely flower in the roof of her mouth, stopping her from sucking her thumb.

The first two nights were not without struggle. For the whole of her short life she had never fallen asleep without the soothing comfort of her thumb. The first night she was up until about 11:00 with cries of "I'm never going to sleep until I'm an adult! I'm going to be so tired!" Yes, yes, she would be very tired, and she was dragging Yvon and I down with her, so at least she wouldn't be alone. The second night was easier and she feel asleep crying again, but much earlier.

And then it was over. She didn't seem to need it or care. Now DJ was truly just jewellery to be shown to everyone and she could proudly say she didn't suck her thumb anymore.

I won't get another picture of her sucking her thumb every again. Now I wish I'd taken a sleeping picture in her last days with thumb access. Maybe it was still kind of cute.

I may just be imagining it, but it's only been a mouth and I'm sure that her smile has changed. She shows off more than just two teeth for sure. She'll wear her jewellery until Christmas (giving it to Santa as a gift) and hopefully never revert to her thumb again.
And yes, that's a real baby skunk and deserves a post of it's own.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


We just came back from a short trip to the badlands of Alberta.

They were beautiful and I was dying to take a walk into the hills to explore, but I wasn't actually willing to die in order to do so. And I seriously thought I might.

Not because I'm afraid of running into one of these.

Alice assures me that they are extinct. Her kindergarten teacher told her so, therefore it must be true. If you can't trust your teacher, who can you trust really? (Certainly not your mother. I make things up on a whim if it sounds good.)

Anyway, we did see this guy in the interpretive centre there. Take a look at him -- he's huge, but there are these little annoying guys all around.

Even the face is not sacred. They can get you anywhere.

I just what you to know, I feel your pain, Big Guy. Those little guys can bring you down. They can bite you in the face. They can cause legs to swell to unreasonable size. They can cause you to itch and scratch and smother your children with DEET, regardless of the warnings. They can force you indoors, looking longingly out at the hills. They can shorten your camping trip.

After a night last week in which they received more rain in three hours than they receive in an average year, causing flash floods in the campground, the mosquitos were now hatching mere feet from our tent. By the thousands.

Do you remember Joe Btfsplk? With the cloud about his head at all times, waiting for trouble to strike? That was me. Except they were surrounding my whole body like a visible cloud as soon as I ventured onto a promising, beautiful path. Here's a visual representation of what it looked like. I couldn't take a picture because all five of my hands were busy slapping at the mosquitoes.

They weren't big, but they were actually visible in my shadow because of the sheer numbers of them. I wasn't sure I'd make it back the 50 feet to the campsite, and when I got there I actually ran around the table a few times to try to lose the pack. I think they just diversified and spread themselves among the rest of my family. That wasn't very nice of me, but it's every man for himself in situations like that.

Once again, never trust your mother. That's just a word of advice to my own children, not a generalization. I trust my own mother. She's very trustworthy, but not me.

If you would like to experience this lovely itchy scratchy slapworthy adventure, you too should travel to Dinosaur Park soon. It's a unforgettable experience. The mozzies will live on in my memory for quite some time, and for a shorter time visual evidence will remain all over my body.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Happy, Happy Birthday!

This is a slightly younger version of the man I married.

He's changed a bit, but I'm sure he's more loveable now than ever and I wish him a very happy birthday!!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Beet Green Pesto

I just have to say that I don't like beets. I didn't like them as a kid, and it's not one of those vegetables that my mature taste buds shout for joy over either.


The tops! I never thought to eat those before. Aren't those for the compost bin? I would have thought so, but because of my inability to grow enough basil for pesto, I've been searching for substitutes. And I found this -- beet green pesto. Worth a try. The blog I stole the idea from had a pinkish-purple end result. I was willing to eat that too, but I ended up with this.

Of course, the jar is clearer in my kitchen unless I take off my glasses. I'm too lazy on this hot day to take a better picture.

Rosa needed to do some serious thinning of her beets. They look fabulous in the garden, all tight and pretty looking, but there isn't actually room for the beet to develop if they stay that way, so we thinned a tiny portion together. Selfishly on my part, because I don't really care if her beets get big and round really. Blech!

Okay, so in the spirit of The Pioneer Woman, here is the cast of characters. Unfortunately for you, you will have to suffer through this post without the benefit of her wacky sense of humour. It's not my gift.

So we've got a bag of beet tops, salt, garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese and chopped almonds. You wouldn't have to chop them first, but that's the way they are in my pantry so that I can throw them in my oatmeal in the mornings. And I've taken to keeping my salt in a bowl because it's the trendy thing to do and that's the way I am.
Well, no. Actually my little Dutch lady salt shaker has a tiny cork in the base and I pushed it too far up her skirt to take it out again. That makes it really tough to refill.
That sounded rude. Sorry!
This is like making any pesto and a very inexact recipe. Stuff as many leaves into the food processor as you can. Pulse it to get the bulk down a bit. Stuff some more in, add a handful of almonds, another handful of parmesan cheese, three cloves of garlic and I added two pinches of salt. When you have salt in a bowl, that measurement actually means something. Pulse it again until you like the consistency. I've seen really chunky pesto, but I like it pretty fine.
I read today that processing the olive oil will make it bitter, so I just stirred it through at the very end. Just maybe two tablespoons.
There were only two difficult things with this recipe. I always have trouble getting my food processor to lock in place, and at the end, I had trouble keeping little hands out of the bowl. I don't know about you, but when my kids like something the recipe is a keeper.

So, this is what we had for supper tonight. Pesto chicken, broccoli stem risotto with goat cheese (shhh, don't tell the kids - they liked it), and I had the last of my broccoli head with fried mushrooms while they ate it raw.

Alice says "Delicioso!"
Rosa and I tried a few tops sauteed with garlic for lunch and that was really good too. Next year I'll add beets to my garden, but I'll donate the actual beets to Rosa. If there are any. I may just plant everything so close together that I only get a lot of good greens.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Big Heads

I'm not getting a big head about my garden. That's not what I'm referring to, but I am pretty proud of it this year. Even with my healthy respect for weeds, I'm doing pretty well at keeping them at bay and I'm starting to see some of the fruits of my labour. Yay!

This is what I picked last night to augment our supper - chives, basil, parsley and swiss chard. Mmm, swiss chard. I had blocked this vegetable out of my mind for years and was re-introduced to its yumminess last year.

And this is what became of the greenery.

By the fall, I hope that I'll have my own tomatoes to make the pasta sauce as well, but I always run out of the canned tomatoes sometime during the winter. And it would be nice if the peppers and cucumbers were my own as well, but the cucumbers are not progressing much beyond their second set of leaves and I didn't grow any peppers.

The swiss chard looks much like the mushy green stuff I'd blocked out from my childhood, but it tastes much better. Instead of boiling it or creaming it, I saute it with olive oil, roasted garlic, and always a crunchy nut. This time it was toasted almonds.

And look! I love this early brocoli. They are doing really well this year with not a sign of the white cabbage moths that I'm scared of dealing with. Last year I didn't have any bugs either, but I also didn't have this size. This is the big head I was referring to in the title.

I don't have small hands, I'll have you know. Seinfeld would call them "man hands". You people in BC are probably thinking "Big deal - we've been eating from our gardens for months". But this is Edmonton where we are still getting the occasional overnight frost warnings.
Anyway, this is supper tonight and I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Children's Lit

One of the joys of having children is that I have a real reason for reading children's literature.

I went through a phase in university where I kept buying fairy tales. Not the Disney versions. The real grim "Grimm" versions and Andrew Lang's compilations. I loved them, and then I moved on to some beautifully illustrated versions. The art of Arthur Rackham is great.

I moved on to picture books a bit and some classics like Alice in Wonderland. Then I stopped buying the books and waited until I had kids because maybe they wouldn't like what I liked. Maybe they wouldn't even like books, heaven forbid!

This is what the kids' bookshelf looks like in our living room.

Does it look like they don't like to read? Luckily it's behind a closed door because I can't stand to look at it like this. I'm almost as much at fault because I clean the coffee table by shoving all the books in here, but I do tidy it up once in a while too. As quickly as I clean them up, they pull them out again or start throwing new ones in. I can't keep up. I just close the doors. Much easier.

These are the books above Laura's bed. They've introduced me to new authors and books that are actually quite enjoyable. They are not all created equally though.

Junie B. Jones: I think she's laugh-out-loud funny (I don't like that phrase generally but it applies here). I think I've read them all and she never disappoints. For twenty minutes, I can sit alone on the couch at night and laugh at her foolishness. She's a bit like Ramona the Pest, with a new-millenium shorter attention span, faster pace and poor language. But very funny.

Geronimo Stilton: Beth and Laura have both loved him. He's a mouse editor and solves crimes. He's annoying to me, but it's one of the series that got Laura to start enjoying reading on her own so I'll love him for that alone.

Dear Dumb Diary and many others of that ilk: Yuck. They are about as intelligent as their titles sound.

Little House on the Prairie: I've tried to get them into the Narnia books, Beverly Cleary, and some other classics, but this is the only series they've really gotten into. A small victory on my part, but I'll take what I can get. Beth has also read a lot of Nancy Drew. She's read a lot of lots of things. She can't get enough of books.

And then there's this guy.

Why? Why does the fascination never die? Why do pre-teen kids like to read about teenagers and dating and clothing obsessions? I did too. These comics probably are more to blame for poor body image than Barbie ever has been.

The girls (including Alice) have been reading and reading Archie comics for a year now and can't get enough of the Riverdale gang. They read them until they fall apart and then they beg for more.

Have you heard the latest rumour? In August, in their 600th issue, Archie is going to propose to Veronica. I thought better of him, but there's no telling whether Veronica accepts. I hope she thinks she's too good for him and he can finally move on with Betty, the good and loyal friend.

I may actually buy that issue brand new if I can get a copy.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Amazing Growth

Every year it amazes and surprises me how quickly the garden develops from a dirt patch to a productive green space.

This was my front yard exactly one month ago.

I had just finished seeding in the last week of May, so most of the seeds were just starting to germinate and all you can see are the tips of the potatoes and the things I started indoors over the winter. Those potatoes were almost as big in the sack when they were in the basement. It was like some alien things trying to escape the bag.

We went away last weekend and came back to rain. It was too dark to see the garden, although I was dying to walk around and examine it. In the morning, I woke up to this sight.

In the flower beds, those five days meant that I almost missed the peonies and did miss many of my pink poppies that I love. Against all rules about weeding in extremely wet ground, I wandered around yesterday doing just that. Because of the paths, I don't have to step in the ground near any plants, so I think that's okay.

Generally I mulch the paths with grass clippings. It serves two purposes for me. It helps to keep down the weeds and makes it clear to the girls where they are allowed to walk. This year we've decreased our grassy areas so much that I can't mulch as I'd like to. I'll have to catch my neighbour one day and get his clippings.

My process sometime in February is to start with a list of plants I want to put in the garden. Somehow that makes the possibility of spring seem closer just when I'm giving up. Pictures of crocuses and tulips on the west coast DO NOT HELP! On my clean kitchen table, I start to draw out a map of my garden.

I'm not terribly good at the spatial stuff and always have to adjust the plan to what actually fits while my hands are in the dirt. That results in this:
Invariably I lose this drawing before the next February and I have to start all over again.
Germination (or lack of) means a few more modifications but this what I've got today.

I've thrown some patches of flowers into the space because I was a bit worried about the front yard looking like a farm. The hope is that the row of snapdragons will take over the space that the peas and beans currently hold and that the zuchini will take over when the bok choi is done. I don't want gaps, but I'm also not good at succession planting.
I haven't focussed on the back garden at all, but it's actually more mature than the front. Next year I'll have to ammend the soil in the front some more. Even the weeds like the back better, but I haven't gotten to them yet this week.
I've forgotten to mark some of the carrots and the pole beans and sweet peas along the fence, but you get the general idea. Every year the garden grows in size and productivity, and gets less weedy too.
This is another area of growth that struck me this week. Look how cute the girls were four years ago.
This week we treated the girls to a surprise: the Lion King Broadway Show. Knowing only that we were going out, somewhere fancy and somewhere they've never gone before, they got all dolled up, even twisting their hair up into simple French knots. They looked so old suddenly.

And they loved the show, happily staying up until 10:30. I loved them when they were cute and little, but they are awesome company now that they are getting older. We had a great night together.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pictoral Summary

I've been away. You know, living life instead of just reading or recording it. And I have so many things to talk about, but no energy to sort them into anything you would be willing to read.

So, here's how I've been spending some of my time since the kids have gotten out of school. I'll show you in pictures and in that way I'm fulfilling part of a challenge to include Mounties and Mountains for the international "crowd".

Rosa and I promoted the community garden idea at a local festival.

Then we drove to Banff to meet up with family there.

We hiked every day, some of us limited by physical restrictions. Beth managed an 8.2 km up-mountain hike one day, impressing us all. Next year I hope my knees are back to normal and I can do something like too. Banff provides a lot of flat, easier hikes though and we hiked a few kms every day.

We looked at things up close...

and we saw the beauty in the distance too.

And we toured the Banff Spring Hotel. Looking half-heartedly for the haunted stairwell was probably as bad for my knees as any uphill hike, but I love that place.

And we saw Mounties!

While we were gone the garden was nicely rained on and is growing very quickly. We've eaten twice from the spinach now. I haven't written anything about the garden for awhile, so I'll try to get my act together this week and show some before-and-after pictures.