As a moderately busy family with a small child, we tend to have a difficult time getting everyone together without someone throwing a temper tantrum (and by "someone" I mean any of the three of us). Between all of our work, school and social commitments, often the only time S. and I are able to share quality time with Leith is during dinner.
Anyone who has a toddler or preschooler will understand when I say that dinner is not our finest hour. Leith is acting persnickety, I am flustered and tired from a long day at work and if S. is not actually in class, he is studying, working on a paper or grading tests and papers. Lately, it has been more than tempting to simply throw the meal on the table and allow everyone to just zone out in front of the television. I hate to admit it, but we actually do that sometimes. I am aware that this doesn’t qualify as quality time spent with my family and recently have been trying to think of new ways to optimize our "witching hour" to get the whole family together, on gracious terms.
When it comes time to prepare dinner, Leith is always buzzing around the kitchen looking for something to play with or snack on. I have started trying to involve him in the cooking process – either by helping out in the kitchen or just simply allowing him to pretend cook on the kitchen floor. He loves to get ingredients out of the fridge and can be trusted to cart items to the counter and back (he’s even managed to lug eggs from the fridge to the counter without dropping them!) while I am cooking. He has also recently graduated to tasks such as cracking an egg, mixing ingredients by hand, adding various ingredients to the mixer, separating onion slices and piling on pizza toppings. There is nothing wrong with a boy who likes to cook.
Depending on how busy a given week is, I do still see the importance of organizing at least one night when we can all enjoy each other’s company for more than a few fleeting moments. I urge S. to abandon his text books and computer, and we all sit at the table, with the television off and talk about the food, or what we did that day, or our plans for the upcoming weekend. Sometimes we even try to have some fun with this "special" night by having a themed dinner like homemade pizza night or cooking Leith’s favorite breakfast food ("Bacon and eggs! Bacon and eggs!" he chants) for dinner. This is a great way to bond and cook up a creative and tasty dish that all of us enjoy. Family time shouldn’t be limited to eating whatever happens to be on the table – it should also include the fun and creativity put into the meal so that everyone feels included and excited for the delicious dishes ahead.
Along with having the right cookware sets, I have a few stand-by recipes that are good for these sorts of evenings – I hope you will try them with your family and let me know what secrets you have come up with for dealing with the dinner-time disaster hour.
(1) Brie and Asparagus Tart
(2) Creamed Corn Cakes
(3) Spinach Pesto Pasta with Chicken
(4) (Dino) Chicken Fingers
(5) Eggplant Parmesan Panini
(8) Mom’s Cream of Broccoli Soup
(9) Simple Samosas
Never one to need an excuse to indulge in a little bit of comfort food, I really, truly deserved some last night. Actually, what I was honestly worthy of last night was a husband without his nose buried in a book and two essays to make me dinner, but let’s not get into that right now. Where was I? Oh yes, comfort food. I needed it badly last night.
You see, we have very nice stairs in our lovely, slightly run-down 100 year-old house. They are oak and nicely polished. They’re a bit narrow but no one has yet to fall down them so we continue to put off covering them with carpet for the time being. I like our stairs, but someday someone is going to really hurt themselves falling down them.
Yesterday in the mid-afternoon Leith and I were getting ready to head out to visit my parents. I was busily gathering the necessities (diaper, pajamas, sweaters, sippy cups) and attempted to hurry past Leith on the stairs so I would be in front of him on descent. I’m not sure why but I still like to hold his hand or walk close to him on the stairs, even though he is always very careful and very steady on his feet these days.
Of course, I have no idea from whom he inherited those steady feet because I am a certifiable klutz. I fall all the time and am always sporting one if not a few lovely, eggplant-coloured bruises. I fall going up the stairs. I fall when walking across flat floors. I have even been known to fall when standing still. So why do I tempt fate and rush up or down our precarious stairs in slippery socks?
I won’t go into the gory details but I think I have bruises in places that most people never even thought that they could get bruises. I have a few scraped knuckles and a very, very sore bum. Today, walking was difficult, bending was painful and sitting for more than 20 minutes at a time was excruciating.
Needless to say, some comfort food was in order last night. After Leith went to bed I managed to stand up in the kitchen just long enough to make some truly delicious corn cakes. They hit the spot, and trust me, I know all about hitting since yesterday.Read More
Friends are amazing – long term friends, short term friends, friends you see only at work, friends you see once a year, friends of the family, friends who live close, friends who live far. “Friend” is one word that is really indefinable – it can expand or contract to cover any number of different people in your life at one time or another.
I generally tell people that I don’t have a lot of friends – life is easier that way, really. I don’t feel obligated to help a bunch of people move or to invite a whole lot of people over for brunch or even feel as though I have to talk to a myriad of friends on the phone or communicate with them via email. I have just enough friends – some whom I almost never see and some who I see on a regular basis. Some with whom I have a great deal in common and have known for what seems like forever and some who I am only still just getting to know. All of them are important in different ways and each of them offers me something that I can’t get from anyone else…whether they know it or not.
One friend who I don’t know quite as well as I would like is Kat. I know a lot about her and her life and her husband and her son, Max – pretty much all through her blog. But as far as friendships go, the two of us haven’t even scratched the surface yet, although I have a feeling we will in time.
Recently, Kat’s son Max was diagnosed with Autism, and when I first found out it was a complete shock. Max is only two months older than Leith…so you do the math I was doing in my own head. I know quite a bit about the Autistic Spectrum; I’ve met kids with the diagnosis and worked closely with them and their parents. That next week I searched my own still non-speaking child’s face for signs I had been hoping would not appear in any child. I was over-reacting and Leith soon after started speaking (I think he was saving his speech until he knew he could really irritate us with “WHY” and “CUZ” and “NO” and “BANANA CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE CHIPS”) and there were no other remote signs. But Max didn’t get better. Max got worse.
Kat and her husband have ridden the storm with him and he is thankfully doing quite well now. Kat, on the other hand, is up to her armpits in legal mumbo-jumbo trying to get funding for her sweet child to have treatment for his diagnosis.
A few Christmases ago, Kat and I decided to do a “sweets exchange” with each other. My decadent Peppermint Bark for her tantalizing Cranberry Almond Bark (shown above). I have to say it was one of the nicest gifts I received that year and I savored each and every one of those delicious cranberry almond chocolate shards. Friends can indeed come in handy – especially friends like Kat.
Right now Kat needs some support…and couldn’t we all at one point or another? So if you want to support a friend, please go to Mabel’s Label’s and vote for Fickle Feline 2.0 (voting closes Feb 23rd at noon) to send this amazing mom of an autistic boy to Chicago so that she can continue to advocate for funding for Autism through her blog.Read More
Everyone has days when they wonder why they got out of bed, don’t they? I know they must – I can’t possibly be the only one.
You know what I’m talking about. It’s raining outside and your alarm clock goes off. You stumble to the bathroom only to stub your toe on the door to the linen closet and hobble through the door while narrowly escaping being hit in the head by the hook on the back of said door as you close it. Through some kind of minor miracle you don’t drown in the shower but you do discover your hair conditioner is all gone and somehow there is no soap. A makeshift set of ablutions later and you carefully pick your way through the land mines of toys and make your way back to your room.
And the day only continues along those lines.
Slam your finger in filing drawer.
Catch your finger on a staple and snag it.
It seems that the world is indeed trying to tell you to go home and go back to bed, but for some unknown reason you refuse to listen. You soldier on through the day of dreadfulness, just looking forward to being home again. Home is your sanctuary – at home you will relax and put your feet up and not have anymore accidents.
Of course at home, waiting for you is the world’s largest IKEA dresser, that for some reason your husband has decided would be best for you and your 2 ½ year-old son to put together…together.
A few hammered thumbs (yours) and a couple of pinched toes (his) later and the dresser is together. No one is missing any body parts and there are only a few screws and bolts left over. You decide to treat your little helper to something really delicious for dinner and make one of his favourites: home made fish sticks. Your asbestos fingers take yet another beating at the hands of your oven but your son smiles as his takes his first bite. All is good with the world.
Of course it is only later, when your husband arrives home and points out that you put the drawers together inside out that you start to shake and very carefully climb back into bed and pull the covers up over your head…praying that tomorrow will be even just slightly better.Read More
The frigid air rattles against the kitchen window, trying to get in, as I stir a pot on the stove. Its contents bubble and roll and I think briefly about climbing in and allowing the soft, warm food to envelop me. The daydream ends in a cacophony as Leith tumbles into the kitchen, rambling in his own two year-old language about cars and dinosaurs and trains. He’s managed to wrap them all up in a "blankie" (nee tea towel) and would like me to put them to bed.
Various inanimate objects all tucked in nice and warm, dinner is finally ready and Leith and I gather ourselves together at the table, one of us in a highchair with a sippy cup and plastic plate, the other with a wine glass and cutlery without rubberized handles. S. is at school tonight so we are on our own, which, admittedly, is nice, though he is missed by both of us.
After dinner a warm bubble bath is in order for Leith and a few of his "baby dinos"; a treat for him. His bath is a treat for me as well because I get to sit in a cozy bathroom and read while he splashes, washes and thoroughly enjoys himself – tiring himself out completely at the same time. A pair of dino pajamas and a good-night story later and Leith is in bed and I have the house – and the evening – to myself.
What to do…?
I have turkey stock in the fridge that needs one more strain before it can be frozen. I have chutney and chili jam in the cold room that still needs to be labeled. I have recipes that need organizing and weekly menus and grocery lists to update. There are dishes to do, laundry to fold and of course emails to answer and voice mails to attend to. And I could easily go on…
I decide to reheat those delectable kernels of creamed corn from dinner that Leith enjoyed so very much, park myself on the couch with a bowl and a spoon and enjoy my one evening alone and do absolutely nothing. I didn’t even turn on the television. It was heavenly. If S. hadn’t returned home, chilled to the bone and tired from a very long day at school I doubt I would have parted company with that couch for at least a few more hours.
The corn by the way, reheated one more time, banished his chills and brought a smile to his face. Food just seems to have a way of curing that which ails you.Read More
For me, Christmas really is all about giving. I love to give people presents any time of year, so when the holidays roll around I tend to go overboard and dole out the gifts to one and all with reckless abandon. I remember in years past (pre-husband, pre-baby, pre-illness, pre-house, pre-new job) when I seemingly had all the time in the world; I would bake treats and lovingly prepare packages for everyone I knew. A dozen different types of sweet delicacies wrapped tenderly in wax and tissue paper, addressed only to the luckiest of people in my life.
The recipients would gush and smile and peek inside, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the contents while they mentally tried to decide what they would break into first. Of course I ate up the adoration with a spoon and it only served to spurr me on the following year when I would go through it all once again.
But that was pre-everything that rules my life now (see above), back when time was not quite so scarce a commodity. Even last year I toned things down a bit and cut the dozen treats to about half and the packaging was not quite as nice as I would have liked.
This year I’m not quite sure what happened. I had lists of people, lists of foodstuffs and lines all over these lists attaching names to preferred treats. I was organized with shopping lists and recipes and schedules. And then whammo! It didn’t happen. The weekend that I was supposed to be baking up a veritable storm I ended up on the couch, half asleep and stuffed up with an awful cold. All that following week I kept promising myself I was going to tackle the baking and everyday I just…well…didn’t. There was work-work to do, house-work to do, husbands and sons to take care of, laundry to fold, sleep to catch up on…and the baking never got done.
I ended up finally, the day before I wanted to give out my gifties, taking a vacation day from work. I spent it in my kitchen, making a gigantic batch of utterly gorgeous Chili Pepper Jam. While it might not have been as taste-bud tempting as my usual sweet delights, it is absolutely striking, and quite festive with it’s flecks of red throughout. Sweet and quite spicy, this "jam" goes great with cheese, eggs, and is particularly good spread on a turkey sandwich…maybe even with a little cranberry chutney (recipe to come soon) joining it.Read More