Thursday, 31 January 2013

Pet peeve - Articles on choosing a day care centre

Although I really like their magazine, I am always bothered by articles like this recent one from Today's Parent: 10 Things Your Daycare May Not Tell You.

Well-intentioned, yes, and true, it provides valuable information. But I find it frustrating.  And here's why:

To begin, the idea of 'carefully selecting' the right child care is difficult to comprehend. For many families who are living in cities with very limited child care spaces, who have spent months, even years, on wait lists for a spot in regulated child care centres, "choosing" the right day care centre for your child is not really an option.  As your maternity leave nears its end, after months of desperately searching for any day care centre with an opening, most families excitedly accept and register their child at the child care centre which has granted them a spot.  

Please don't make me feel guilty about not having performed a whole research, audition and selection procedure.

I was also bothered by the concern for poor communication between the parents and the child care staff.  I don't know about you, but the end-of-day-day-care-pick-up-rush-home-to-make-dinner time is my least favourite time of day.  The child care centre is a flurry of activity as most parents arrive at about the same time, the children are crazy or clingy or excitedly telling me about their day, and I have three different rooms to visit to pick-up three different children.  

I, for one, am certainly not in the right state of mind for a detailed delineation of my child's day.  Our centre has used daily or weekly logs at different times, particularly for the infants and toddlers.  But let's be honest, the routine is fairly consistent day-to-day, and the paper logs are just another piece of paper junk I 
need to bring home and recycle.  I'm confident that any major issues will be brought to my attention.  

Please don't add to my guilt by making me feel as though I must actively interrogate the staff each day.

I'm fortunate, I guess, but I truly believe that my kids are being cared for by qualified and caring staff in a high quality centre.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Crock-pot Challenge - Weeks 2 and 3

This will be quick, since I want to start getting ready for our ski trip to Smuggler's Notch (we leave tomorrow :o) !!!), but I wanted to remain accountable to my challenge.  So here's the update on my crock-pot activities for the past two weeks.

Pulled Pork
I'd never made it before, but it's the one thing that is consistently recommended to make whenever I ask for crock-pot recipe recommendations.  I'm sure there are more complicated recipes, but I went for quick and simple: 

  • pork tenderloin
  • can of root beer
  • cook on low all day
  • shred the pork
  • drain the excess liquid
  • mix in some barbeque sauce
  • serve on toasted buns

Couldn't be easier!  And it tasted good too.  We served it with some cut up vegetables for the kids, and coleslaw made from the cabbage I picked up at the local CSA winter market box.

I understand now why it is always recommended as a go-to crock-pot meal.   Quick, easy and yummy.   Sold.

Sausages, Potatoes and Cabbage
When looking for a crock-pot meal for this week, I found this one here.  It seemed perfect.  I had everything on hand: yummy sweet Italian sausages from our favourite local butcher, the Sausage Partners in the freezer, and of course, potatoes, onions and still more cabbage from our winter market box.  All I needed to do was chop it up, add some water, and cook it on low all day. 

Unfortunately, we were disappointed.

Our house smelled like cabbage.  Which was overcooked.  The potatoes were soggy, and the meal did nothing for the sausages.

I only had three sausages on hand.  Not really enough for our family.  But I was actually quite glad that we had sacrificed more of the most delicious sausages we've ever eaten to this disappointing meal.

Fortunately, I had also made applesauce.   The applesauce saved  the meal.

I think I agree with the recipe author, it might have been improved by adding some tomatoes and turning it more into a stew.  But as it stands, we won't be making this one again. 

No crock-pot next week - HOLIDAY!!!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Kale Challenge - weeks 2 and 3

I wasn't feeling very inspired in week 2, but I did make good on my challenge. 

As suggested by many, we tried kale chips.  I used this recipe from  However, based on a previous experience which resulted in burnt kale edges, I lowered the temperature to 250 degrees and increased the cooking time.  

They turned out perfectly!

However, my oldest daughter refused to even try them.  The 4 year-old ate them somewhat reluctantly, while my youngest munched away happily.  I enjoyed them too.  They have a very satisfying crunch that then kind of melts in your mouth.  But I can't eat very much at once before I feel like I'm just noshing on overpoweringly green health.  Perhaps it's the slight aftertaste.  I'm not entirely sure.

Another suggestion was to throw some kale into a smoothie.  So I did.  To our traditional smoothie of milk, yogourt, frozen banana and berries, I tossed in some chopped up kale.  Maybe I tossed in a little too much.   Again, my oldest daughter refused to even try it.  But the other two didn't seem to mind the little green bits in their smoothie.  I  was a little put off by the chewy green blobs.  I'll try less kale next time. 

I froze the leftovers into smoothie popsicles which all of the girls have enjoyed without any concern about the kale at all.

For week 3, I tried this recipe for kale with hazelnuts and cranberries.  Except I used walnuts.  And I served it, as suggested, with quinoa and dressing as a warm salad. 

It went mostly untouched by my children, but my husband and I thought it was delicious.  And, it was even better the next day for lunch!

Sadly, there was no kale in my winter market mix this week, so my stock has been depleted for now.   Plus, I'll be away next week so kale probably won't make it into my meals. 

But keep posted - I hope there's more kale to come!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Breaking the Rules

My husband and I consider ourselves reasonably strict parents.  After all, we need some order just to control the chaos.  But sometimes, there seems to be an awful lot of rules.  I know that the kids feel that way too: I've seen how they love to play school so they can be in charge and make the rules up for themselves.

Some of our house rules are etiquette rules.  Some rules are in place to guide our children's behaviour so that they can develop into considerate, courteous adults.  Others are about making sure we keep our kids healthy and safe. Some, admittedly, are made up on the fly.  Others are enforced inconsistently, depending on my mood; how tired I feel; if other parents are around; how many kids are involved; and mostly, if I really feel like insisting the rule be followed and then following through with a consequence at that given time.

The ironic thing about all these rules is how good I am at monitoring and guiding my children's behaviour and how poor I am at doing it for myself.  There are lots of rules that I try to enforce with my kids that I don’t follow myself.  

At all.   

Some of the double standards in our house are:

1. The two cookie rule.  According to Bill, there was a strict 'two-cookie-rule' in his house when he was growing up.  I'm sure we had something similar when I was a kid.  In principle, I think it's a good rule for teaching and practicing moderation, and we use it with our kids too.  But not me.  I allow myself three cookies.  And I've often been known to go beyond that limit too.  I should probably start enforcing this rule for myself.

2. No snacks before dinner.  The 'no snacking' rule seemed so revolutionary to me when I read about it in French Kids Eat Everything.  I was ready to whole-heartedly embrace it.   I haven't.  It's hard.  I'm much better at managing my kids' snacks than my own.  In addition to a glass of wine, I've ashamedly been known to nosh on some chips, crackers or cookies in the midst of making dinner.  Usually while shooing the kids down to watch TV so I can get away with it. I also confess to doling out a small, usually healthy, snack between getting home from the daycare pick-up and making dinner.  It just makes things a little easier.

3. Unless you’re wearing sandals, you need to wear socks with your shoes.  As for me, except in really cold weather, when my toes can no longer stand it, I avoid socks.  I can't stand wearing socks.

4. Keep your shoes on outside, even at the playground. I mostly follow this one.  Unless I'm in sandals and need to break into a run to save someone (usually my four-year-old) from some daring feat on the monkey bars.  It's hard to run in sandals in the sand.  However, my husband is a barefoot runner. While he doesn't technically run barefoot (he wears aqua socks to protect his feet), he often 'conditions' his feet in warmer weather by walking outside in bare feet.

5. If you get up from the table during dinner, it means you're finished - no dessert.  "Can I have some milk?" "I spilled my milk." "My fork fell on the floor."  Enough said.

6. No chocolate for breakfast.  For me, this rule generally only applies if there is no chocolate available for breakfast.

7. Sunscreen and hats.  I shouldn't admit this one.  I usually do, but not always, wear a hat.  And my face moisturiser has sunscreen in it.  But sometimes, that's all I get.  Especially as the summer wears on.  By mid-August, I'm tired of slathering my kids in SPF60.  I call it sunscreen fatigue.  After getting them all sun-safe, the extra time it would take me to do the same just seems like too much.  And I certainly don't reapply every 2-3 hours like I'm conscious of doing 
for them.

8. Wearing coats or sweaters and hats outside when it’s chilly.  I don't like being cold.  But I certainly worry more about my kids being warm than me.  And there are many times when they're wearing winter hats, but not me.  Why is hat head okay for them, but not me?

9. Put one activity away before starting a new one. Yeah, right. 

10.  No eating in the car.  I wish i didn't do this. It's right up there with the no snacking rule. But I do. Worse than that, it's usually chocolate.  Sometimes more than two.

What about you? What double standards are there in your house?

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Kale, a crock-pot and a ukulele

Week one of my challenge and I’d say I faired pretty well. Three for three, actually.

The kale is the challenge to which I feel most accountable. We’ve been getting a bunch of kale each week from our local winter farmer’s market, and knowing that I’ll be getting another bunch each Sunday challenges me to use it up by the end of the week.


 On Tuesday, I simply sautéed some kale with mushrooms. It was alright. But nothing special. I know, I know… it’s kale. How exciting can it get? We’re eating it for its nutritional benefits, not its taste.

On the recommendation of another market volunteer, I used up the rest of this week’s ration but chopping it thinly and adding it to our chili con carne. I was also inspired to add some thinly sliced radishes which worked well, but next time I’ll skip the thinly sliced parsnip. As for the kale, it was picked out by the girls, but enjoyed by me.  My husband was a little less convinced and suggested blanching it first.  Maybe.

Using the slow cooker is an amazing dinnertime saviour during the work week. All day long, I pat myself on the back, knowing that dinner is preparing itself at home while I am at the office. I’ve received a few new slow cooker cook books lately, and since my husband professes that all crock-pot meals taste the same, I’ve been both limited to using the crock-pot more than once a week, and challenged to find some good recipes.

This week I chose Chicken with Baby Portobello Stroganoff:

Of course, I adapted the recipe.  I rarely follow a recipe exactly.  I used normal mushrooms instead of portobellos. Chopped fresh onion instead of frozen pearl onions.  And since I couldn’t find cream of onion soup, I used cream of mushroom. Plus, I only had half as many chicken thighs as the recipe required.

But it turned out fine. Tasted decent. Definitely acceptable for a weeknight crock-pot meal. Although, as far as crock-pot meals go, I prefer the ones that require little, if any, last minute preparations before eating. For this recipe, I had to cook the egg noodles, of course, but it also required about 20 minutes of thickening with the flour and butter mixture, and then with the sour cream.

However, the girls mostly ate it. There was some mushroom- and onion-picking out, needless to say.  I ate everything.

Finally.  I did it! I played and practised my ukulele at least twice this week. And it reminded me how much I enjoy it. Enough to make me want to do it more.

And maybe learn some new chords.  I think I'm ready to graduate from "Skip to my Lou" and "You are my sunshine".  

Suggestions for kale and crock pot recipes and ukulele songs welcome.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Maybe a career counsellor would help

Every year around this time, I seem to fall into a bit of a motivational slump at work. It may have to do with the reassessment of personal priorities at New Year's, thoughts of career objectives for the current year, or the flurry of activity in the office that doesn't seem to involve me. Whatever it is, I start to feel quite conflicted about what it is that I want to do with my life.

Should I be striving for more, climbing for the next level, changing career directions? 

Is that even possible for me? 

After finishing my undergraduate degree, I couldn't decide on what further education I'd like to pursue, and I considered myself lucky to land a good job.

Then, before I could decide what I really wanted to do when I grew up, I kind of did. I got married, and later had our three kids.

Now the idea of getting another degree or going back to school to pursue a different vocation is overwhelming. And although I don't discount it completely, it certainly would require a shift in mindset, a huge leap of faith, and lots of support. 

Plus, I still don't really know what I'd study.

So for me, although part of me aspires to being more influential and important in my career, at this point of my family life, I just don't see how it's possible.

But then I also worry that I use having a young family as an excuse: "maybe I'll go back to school, focus on career development when the kids are a little older."

Or, maybe I'm just not driven and bright enough to move up the "ladder".

As you can see, I can get myself caught in a real spiral of self-doubt over my true potential and desire.

However, whenever I worry that I'm not doing enough, I remind myself that to my kids, at least for now, I am the most important thing in their world. 

Mostly, it helps.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Little Challenges

I'm not really big on New Year's Resolutions.  

After several years of resolving (and failing): to work out more, to take the stairs at work, to cut out sugar, to abstain from chocolate, to spend less money, to lose 5, 10, 15 pounds... I've decided to change my approach.  

I'd rather feel proud of little incremental accomplishments throughout the year instead of suffering the defeat of a failing to achieve some larger goal. I'd prefer to set myself small goals and challenges to meet little-by-little, rather than trying to commit myself to some lofty ambition for the year. 

I've also learned that I'm usually more successful at goals to do or add something to my life, than goals in which I try to give something up.

So, I've given some thought to some small projects I might be able to work into my life this year:

1.  Eat more kale.  
2.  Use my slow-cooker more often.
3.  Go to the hair-dresser more than once a year.

And, oh yeah,
4.  Play my ukulele more often.

And since all goals should be SMART goals, I'll aim to eat kale, use the crock-pot and play my uke (not necessarily all together) once a week, and to keep me accountable, post my recipes and experiences here.   

As for the hairdresser, since I obviously need some help in this department: does every three months sound right?