Friday, March 13, 2015


Hello again. It may seem like I've turned over a new leaf with two posts within days of each other but this is the beginning of a new chapter for me. I've left my full time job after many, many years of commuting and working and have started on a new adventure as a work from home, part time consultant and full time advocate for my boy. Whether he will think this is a good idea remains to be seen. So far my first week has been all about our other boy, the furry one.

 He's been to the vet twice and to the groomer and looks a lot different than he did when the week started
all groomed and trimmed

after surgery he is so quiet the cat is quite worried about him

 and he may or may not be my friend after his vet visit yesterday. I have to remind myself it is the best thing for him as a male dog but my boy is still a bit groggy and finding his feet. I'm sure he'll be back to his terrier ways soon.
someone's been digging in the garden

Early spring still continues here and yesterday it was so warm and lovely after a soft rainfall the day before.
our two tone camelia

The cherry trees are out, the magnolia are blooming, the daffs are out and waving in the park and I can feel the green about to burst forth on the trees.

 It makes the scenes on the weather reports back east seem rather surreal. We've had a couple of stellar Saturdays which made the last day of winter soccer season an excellent day

 and then we had an even better day for the end of season celebration, which turned out to be a pick up soccer game, boys vs dads with snacks and water at the park.

 It was a fabulous day and we hope to do it again tomorrow if the rain holds off. And it makes for lovely days for spring break adventures at home which is where we are this year.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Skittles cake 2 ways

The boy turned 9 a few weeks ago

and as one of his besties has a birthday just 2 days later the boys decided to have a joint birthday bash. So we mums got together in front of their Christmas tree and planned with the boys. They settled on a party at the climbing centre and our boy convinced his pal they should have a Godzilla cake (Godzilla is a newish obsession). But a few days later as I was musing on how to make a Godzilla cake, the boy arrived with another plan and showed me this awesome video. Everyone else agreed and as one of their other pals is celiac, I did a gluten-free version. The cake was a big hit and there was enough left after the party for the parents to sample as well.

gluten-free Skittles cake for a party (adapted from here)

2 packages of gluten free vanilla cake mix (I used Betty Crocker)
2 bags of Skittles, sorted into colours
1/2 c ground red skittles
1/2 c butter
3 c icing sugar
4 tbsp milk
3 packages of  Glutino chocolate wafers

Prepare one big 9x13 cake using 2 boxes of cake mix, following the directions. Once cool, square off the sides and put it on a foil or paper surface suitable for display.

While the cake cools or a day or so in advance make Skittles syrups of various colours. For each colour of syrup, place 1/4 cup of Skittles in a small pan with 1/4 c of water and heat until the Skittles are all melted and incorporated into the syrup. Pour the mixture through a sieve into a clean glass or jar to cool. Repeat with other colours to get a variety of syrups.

When your cake has cooled, poke holes at 1" intervals around the cake with a chopstick or large skewer to create holes in which to pour the syrup. Once the holes are done spoon the syrups over the cake and let them soak in. Try and alternate the syrups over all the cake so each piece will have a variety of flavours.

Grind 1/2 c of skittles in a food processor or blender until finely ground. If you want a fine powder with no chunks, pass through a sieve. Blend the Skittles powder, butter and 2 cups of icing sugar together until fluffy and well mixed. Add in a couple tablespoons of milk and the remaining cup of icing sugar and beat for a couple of minutes. Add in the remaining amount of milk slowly until the frosting has reached your desired consistency. (Try and keep any children in your kitchen from eating all the Skittles frosting). Frost the cake sides and top.

Size the wafers so they are just a bit higher than the sides of your cake and press them into the frosting all around the sides of the cake.

Decorate the top of the cake with the Skittles. Take pictures to share your triumph on social media and then eat.

A couple of weeks ago we went to a potluck Scouting dinner and my boy requested I do another Skittles cake. For this one I passed on making the syrup, instead I ground up orange, yellow and green Skittles into powder, and sprinkled the green and some of the orange powder into the cake batter and swirled it through the batter in a marbled fashion prior to baking. I used yellow and orange powder in the frosting and left the red and purple Skittles for decoration, and skipped the chocolate wafers on the sides of the cake.

Both cakes were a big hit although the syrup one is a bit moister.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

counting down the hours

On the way home from a Christmas open house the other night, the boy asked me how many hours left until Christmas. This year he is struggling with believing in the jolly old elf but he is still caught up in all the excitement of the holidays. It broke my heart a bit when he said the other night, "really mum, is Santa really real? Because you know they've explored the north pole and didn't find any workshops with elves". But having just watched Miracle on 34th Street I had the answer. "Of course they didn't because Santa is magic. You can't find the workshop otherwise everyone would be going there." He didn't buy it, not really. 

He's a black and white boy, no room for magic in his world, just the facts, mum. But then I brought out my big guns, if you don't believe, then you don't get presents from SC. 

Still there have been moments this week that made me blink and ache for the little boy that was. The little boy who crept down the stairs, gasping louder and louder as he crept closer to his Thomas the train table and railway set, til he almost couldn't breathe he was so excited. And my little kindy, in his red shirt and paper Santa hat, singing "nous vous souhaitons une joyeux noel". Now he's a gigantic boy in Grade 3 with his recorder and Santa scarf.

Still I hope I've done alright by him. My boy. He loves Christmas. The same way I loved Christmas when I was a kid, and still do. We have our traditions. Different from the ones I grew up with but ours none-the-less which makes me proud that I've created despite a resident grumpy Grinch. Our yearly gingerbread house 

(which now looks as though it has a bad case of mange or has been nibbled by very large mice or hit with a minecraft bomb).

 Our advent calendars. The tree ornaments. His transformer tree. My traditional Christmas cookies, pfeffernusse and almond cookies. New activities added to the mix this year and hopefully continued, Carols and Bonfire on the beach night, Christmas open house with friends.

New goodies this year are sweet and spicy nuts and caramel chocolate popcorn (Christmas crack!).

 Both delicious and tuck nicely into gift bags. But I think my favorite tweak was the reworking of one of our favorite cookies, for the boy's newly diagnosed celiac friend. He loves my ginger cookies and was sad to miss them this year so I made a batch just for him.

Gluten Free Pfeffernusse (tweaked from here)
1/3 c molasses
1/3 c butter
1 egg, beaten
1 c quinoa flour
3/4 c brown rice flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp each cinnamon and ginger
1/4 tsp each cloves, black pepper and nutmeg

Heat oven to 375 deg F.

In an saucepan over medium heat, mix the molasses and butter until melted, then remove from heat and cool. In a separate bowl, whisk the flours, baking soda and spices together. Whisk the eggs into the cooled butter mixture and then add the flour mixture and mix well with your hands. Form 1 tsp balls with your hands, roll in granulated sugar to coat and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the bottoms are browned slightly and cool on a rack. Reroll in granulated sugar if desired. Makes 20-30 cookies.

These turned out really well and looked prettier than my non GF ones.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

dinosaur days

I don't know whether I've mentioned this here but our boy knows a lot about dinosaurs. And consequently, I have learned, over the past few years, more about dinosaurs than I could ever have imagined. I felt badly about my lack of dinosaur knowledge for a while until the recent discovery that when I was back learning these things in school, (back in the Triassic practically) there were only a handful of dinosaurs to learn about - triceratops, stegosaurus, brontosaurus, velociraptors, and good old Mr T-Rex. Of course now a days they discover new dinosaurs every week which makes me feel so much better. Ok, well slightly better. So this past winter we tossed around the idea of a vacation to the dinosaur trail in nearby Alberta. I had briefly visited Drumheller and the Tyrrell museum (as it was then) when I moved across the country but a visit to the Alberta tourism website promised so much more. So the trip was planned and a few weeks ago we set off for our dinosaur adventure. We started off in Calgary, visiting the wonderful zoo there. The boy was extremely excited about seeing the Komodo Dragon exhibit there but to our pleasant surprise, when we got to the zoo, they have a large Prehistoric Park which features a large landscaped area with features similar to the Badlands and large dinosaurs looming in all directions. Very cool.

 We toured the Canadian Wilds, the African savanah and the boy nearly had a melt down before we finally made it to the Asia pavilion with the Komodo Dragon. She was a bit smaller than we anticipated but for our boy it was very exciting to see one in person so to speak. And then to be able to sit on the large Komodo Dragon sculpture afterwards.

From the Zoo, we drove to Drumheller. First stop was the World's Tallest Dinosaur, climbing the inside of the T-rex to view the landscape from inside a T-rex jaw. A brief tour around Reptile World and a visit with Fred, the 600 lb aligator, a crodile lizard (the longest lizard in the world, the Komodo Dragon is the largest lizard), several extremely venomous snakes and the chance to hold Jose, the boa constrictor. Boy fascinated, mummy not so much.

 Onwards to the Royal Tyrrell Museum, which is much expanded since my last visit. Beautiful museum, with fascinating exhibits. Well worth the trip to Drumheller. The following day we did the Badlands interpretive hike and the boy dug for his own dinosaur at Fossil World. We also toured an old coal mine. My husband found the town's dinosaur focus (as in fiberglass dinosaurs on every street corner) a bit over the top but all the kids we saw loved it all.

From Dumheller we moved on to Brooks and a visit to Dinosaur Provincial Park. After miles of canola fields and grazing pastures for cows, sheep and the occasional llama, Dinosaur is once again back in the Badlands. The park is beautiful and seemed quiet after Drumheller. We had booked a Fossil Safari tour which takes groups into the park reserve (not open to the public) to a bone bed, so named because even though this particular area had been excavated already for 11 years, there are still bones underfoot. Our guide made us take an oath to leave all fossils, rocks, etc behind and then told us how to distinguish between a bone and rock or wood. We then spent some time searching for microfossils - small bones, shell, teeth etc. I found bits of tortoise shell, both the boy and I found lots of fossilized crocodile poo (which made him very happy) and my husband found a champasaurus vertebrae (prehistoric crocodile) and a hadrosaur tooth. It was very windy that day, which meant lots of sand in our eyes, but kept the bugs to a minimum. We drove around the public part of the park, viewing the fossil displays along the way, did a couple of short hikes and had a picnic near the campground. I found the park beautiful and awe inspiring. The sense of time and history is amazing, as you are literally walking in prehistoric pathways.
some of the fossils we found

we didn't meet a snake in the wild, thankfully
 On the way back home, through Calgary, we visited the War Museums as both my guys love tanks, airplanes, etc and the boy was in tank heaven. A wonderful and different trip.

Spike the Spinosaurus and Al the Allosaurus

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

meatballs for "omnivores"

We're moving in a new direction soon with food therapy. It will be up to us to keep the boy on track as we are moving into the parent phase of training. As in, we have to be trained to introduce new foods and maintain newly added foods to the boy's eating. Deep breath.

Our boy has been more adventurous lately - the willingness to try new things is continually amazing to me. After years of "no, I don't like it" without even a taste, a lick or a sniff, even. Apple cereal bars " can I try them Mum?" They got an ok, good even. Lavender honey at the market. A taste and a "can we get some?" I'll take it all.

We've moved on to meat during food sessions. Easy, portable, reheatable meat options. For me this has meant our version of meatballs or mini meatloaf muffins. Recently the boy decided that lamb was going to be his next meat option (instead of turkey or chicken). So initially I went with a lamb mixture I used to fill eggplants with for us (loosely based on a recipe from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem) but the boy balked at the nuts. So I made lamb meatballs and it worked a treat. Now I've got bags of beef, lamb, pork and turkey meatballs or mini muffins in my freezer. I guess parent training starts with those.

Mini meatleaf muffins
1 lb ground meat (beef, turkey, pork, lamb)
1/2 small onion, finely diced
smidge of garlic
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c breadcrumbs
2 tbsp ketchup, chili sauce, pesto sauce or other flavoured sauce (for pork meatballs, I use BBQ sauce)

Add the ingredients to a bowl and loosely mix with your hands until all ingredients are incorporated. With a teaspoon or a teaspoon scoop, fill mini muffin tins with the mixture. I usually get 24 mini muffins with about 1 pound of meat. Bake at 400 deg F for 18-20 minutes. These freeze and reheat well.

pork and lamb meatballs from the freezer

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Creating a fiend

A bacon fiend that is. The boy has gone from being a non meat eater, looking at me with all seriousness, "mum, I'm an omnivore ", to eating bacon, even pinching it off our plates. As in " is there anymore?"  At least twice in a row at breakfast. Although, true to his recent history he likes the right degree of fat and juiciness to his rashers and this week's batch from the butcher was not quite to his standards.

So I used bacon as a lure to try something new. A version of an old family recipe. The recipe my dad made and then we kids made on Saturday evenings when my mum gave up cooking for the week. Mum said she couldn't make this, and the one time I watched her try it, the dough didn't really hold together the way it should have. For everyone else, it works well. Especially with bacon on top.

No yeast pizza dough
2c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1tsp salt
1/3 c vegetable oil
3/4 c milk

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Roll out to the desired size. Can make 2- 12" pizza crusts or 2-9x13 rectangle pizza crusts. These will be fairly thin. I made 1-9x13" crust and 1 -8x8" crust, slightly thicker. For this version, I topped the dough with a layer of marinara sauce, some cut up bacon and then some grated mozzarella. You can use any of your favourite toppings.Bake at 325 deg F for 10 -12 minutes.