Chasing Mail and Other Family Rituals

I’m sure we all have some similar family rituals. You must have experienced or at least heard of someone who has  taken a road trip that included a parental threat of ‘don’t make me come back there’.  Then there are the traditional family celebrations, sometimes with a twist; a favourite dish passed on through generations (I’ll give a shout out to Nana Ana’s fried cauliflower; I never met her but she must have been a good woman if not for anything else but passing this recipe forward). But I don’t want to talk about these ones.

There are also the family rituals we’ve been told by the experts that will contribute to our well being as a family unit. You know, the ones we try really hard to do consistently and then feel really guilty about when we fall behind?

  • Dinners at the table together;
  • Reading stories before bedtime;
  • Board game nights.

I don’t want to take away from the importance of these because of their contribution to learning on a whole other level beyond just encouraging healthy family functioning (i.e. helping your kids develop language, communication  and social skills, although for the record, you will likely experience some set back once the teen years set in, trust me).  But I don’t want to talk about these ones either.

I’m digging deeper, for the ones that really connect us as families. The ones that no one but your family will understand or put up with for that matter,  like a secret code. These are usually manifested by a particular family member’s ridiculous need and then take off from there. For example, your kids will likely start some funky ritual that will eventually morph into something considered perfectly acceptable. Case in point, every night for years I insisted my dad sing the Canadian national anthem before bedtime. The man obliged and so did everyone else in the house who had to listen to him. Totally normal.

Then there were the fire drills. Being the fire chief he was, my dad insisted we needed to have drills on a fairly regular basis. Personally, I’d like to think all families conduct them but I’m thinking probably not (but you probably should so you’re kids don’t just associate the sound of the fire alarm going off with dinner being ready). Sure, normal.

Fast forward to when my husband and I first moved in together. We would race to the mail box.  If you reached it first then you won and it felt good to be the winner. If there was mail addressed to the loser? Awesome. If it happened to be personal mail? Mind blowing. I have no idea how this ritual actually started but I can tell you that it got to the point where we were trying to take each other out on the lawn. Two grown adults jumping over flower beds, tripping and hanging off each other to GET THE MAIL! Uh, yeah, normal.

After having our son, we added to our repertoire. Like my father, I too have belted out my fair share of song at bed time. While it’s freelance it must include lyrics pertaining to all the people and animals in this house (I must say it really is quite the laundry list for a small family).  I thought our son would outgrow the need for this  (did I mention he’s a teenager?) and I can generally get away with no tunes for lengthy periods of time but every now and again I am sucked  into doing it out of sheer necessity to keep the ritual alive.  Funny how payback is a bitch like that. OK, normal.

Add to the list:

  • playing ‘boop boop’ with the dogs (don’t ask, but I can tell you it’s a totally legit game, that is for us);
  • eating pretzels with hot sauce…and a side of water;
  • arguing about the difference between a ‘California roll’ and a ‘complete stop’ on a fairly frequent basis;
  • doing under cover agent voice overs for crows (aka-men in black);
  • pouring cold water over the shower curtain

I’m sure this list goes on but sometimes it’s hard to identify those things that underneath it all,  keep us connected. Rituals are signs of comfort and security. They are integral to our childhood memories and motivation to pass onto the next generation, even if they are just in the form of storytelling (because goodness knows I do not insist anyone in this house sing me the Canadian national anthem before bed. Just for the record.).

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Monday Memoirs

I hope everyone had a great father’s day spending time with the ones they love. Mine started out with the dogs barking their faces off at 6 a.m. to alert me of the murder of crows on the back deck.  Seems that someone had taken the compost bag from the kitchen and placed it on the back deck overnight as opposed to placing it into a secure container thereby leaving it for the birds to spread all over. How fitting is it that they call a group of crows a murder? All I can say is that Father’s day around here = immunity from what would otherwise be, well? let’s just leave it at that. Oh, then there were hamburgers and cheesecake later in the day.

So apart from patience, gloves for garbage picking and love for my husband, here are some other awesome things I’m thankful for:

  • Used goods. I am slowly but surely decorating our humble little home in a French country style. The boys simply roll their eyes at me but my husband had some choice words when I hauled this thing home and asked him to hook it up:

CHANDELIER

This gorgeous thing weighs a ton! I say it’s a great find.

Now, you are probably wondering why half the shades are missing. Personally, I like it without the shades. My husband likes it with the shades. This is called compromise. It will last until someone concedes. Which do you prefer-please do tell!

  • Flowers. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this countless times. I am so amazed at where they can grow and how they can look. I love that they are used as a way to communicate among people. They are like fireworks; refreshing, exciting, colourful. Ok, I’ve gone on too long but I will say this, I am going to be adding a section to my blog called ‘Bouquet of the Day’. Please stop by for a look and enjoy! I hope they will fit whatever mood you’re in and make your day.

BOUQUET 2

These are beautiful silk flowers-don’t they look real? 

Cheers to the week!

Thoughts on Body Image

For no other reason than being random, I wanted to take a moment to share how I’m feeling about the topic of body image these days: 

Generally, I make a conscious effort not to mention how I feel about my body to others; let me confess,  ‘it’s complicated’. During my 42 years here on this earth, I have been held captive by my fluctuating sense of body image for at least 32 of them.  Excuse me while I take a moment to mourn the time I’ve lost thinking about how my weight, height and shape defines me.  It’s like a merry-go-round. What I wouldn’t give to get off.

How I see myself is my business, or is it? Doesn’t my personal sense of body image affect how other people view me, themselves and others? Thinking of the people who are near and dear to my heart, I’ve ripped them off somewhat.  I haven’t been 100% ‘present’ in our experiences together because there’s a part of me that’s distracted with my sense of body image. Cases in point:

  • Getting ready to go out for dinner and changing a few times over because I ‘look fat in that dress’ followed by asking my husband and son how I look (followed by telling them they don’t know what they’re talking about);
  • Chastising myself for eating something ‘bad’ and proceeding to ruminate about all the exercising I will need to do in order to rid myself of the potential consequences;
  • Feeling awkward in social settings when I am feeling less than stellar about how I look.
  • Letting my body image even be a part of how I define myself.

What do these actions tell the people I love?

  • I don’t trust their opinions;
  • They should be worrying about their body image and everyone else’s for that matter;
  • Who I am depends on the way I look;
  • The time we spend together isn’t enough to fulfil me.

I’m sad that I’ve wasted so much time.  I’m worried my actions have impacted how my son views himself and others. I’m confused because I don’t agree with using body image as a source of judgement but then use it to self judge.  Frankly, I’m rather exhausted of the whole idea that body image is even part of what defines me or anyone else. Of course, I think overall health includes exercise and healthy eating but I need that mental picture I have to move beyond the physical and include way more focus on soul.

Oregon 2011 173

Now, go outside and play with all abandon

Cupcakery

Since last Friday, I feel like all I’ve been doing is making cupcakes. I swear I had a dream that my yard was filled with children asking if they can have yet another one. ‘Please ma’am, just one more for the road?’ They kept promising to leave only to return and demand a different flavour. Well that’s just about enough!

It all started with me volunteering to make something for a fundraising cakewalk. Do you remember those? Such a classic event that all kids LOVE. I am not much of a baker but every once in awhile I get into the groove until I manage to wear myself out, which I did.

Here’s the scoop:

cupcake ingredients

This is a fairly inclusive picture of the ingredients used

cupcakes

Into the oven at about 350 degrees

I like to add more than what the back of the cake mix suggests because it just seems to make the cupcakes a bit more moist and flavourful. I also like icing that tastes like something other than just plain old icing sugar.

Cupcake ingredient list:

  • cake mix of your choice (I made two different batches-chocolate and vanilla confetti. I was also going to do lemon but decided I could live with the 50 plus cupcakes I was already creating)
  • pudding mix that is complimentary to your cake mix (I used chocolate and vanilla. If you like lemon, well then use lemon pudding)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil (you could also use apple sauce)
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt (or sour cream)

Icing ingredient list:

  • 1/2 cup butter unsalted and warmed up on the counter (don’t microwave it!)
  • 2 cups of icing sugar
  • about 3/4 cup of hazelnut spread (for one flavour of icing-turns out brown)
  • about 3/4 cup of marshmallow mix (for another flavour of icing-turns out white)
  • (If I was doing lemon, I would have tried lemon extract or curd-adding slowly to control the consistency)
  • about 1 tbsp heavy cream
  • some hershey kisses of whatever kind you like (keep them wrapped in the foil -I used the cookies and cream. If it was lemon, I would have used lemon rind or better yet? Stick a lemon lollipop on the top!)

Cupcakes:

  • set the oven for 350 degrees Celsius
  • Mix the whole mess together-doesn’t matter what goes in first or last.
  • Place your batter in some lovely cupcake wrappers-probably about 1/2 full depending on how big you like your cupcakes (as you can see from the pics below, I experimented)
  • Bake for about 18-23 minutes
  • Let them cool completely before icing!

Icing:

  • Mix the butter with your electric mix to get it creamy
  • Add the icing sugar and mix with the butter
  • Add your flavour (hazelnut or marshmallow or lemon)
  • Add just a dash of the heavy cream to a consistency that works for you-I like really thick icing so I can stick the candy into it and I just think it looks pretty.
  • place the icing in an icing bag (I used a plastic disposable one with a monster round tip) or use a knife to ice your cupcakes
  • place your wrapped (or unwrapped) candy on the top! Or be creative and think of something else to stick on the top-paper umbrellas, plastic rings, etc.

Extra special note: if you really wanted to out do yourself, you could stuff your cupcake with filling. An apple corer could work (I’ve used a melon baller) to take the middle of the cooked cupcake out and then fill it with a complimentary filling (strawberry preserve, lemon curd, hazelnut spread, peanut butter are a few ideas). Once you’ve added the filling then ice over the top!

vanilla cupcakecupcake result

The end result of your efforts-a lovely cupcake!

Now watch the kids enjoy your efforts! Or better yet, have a taste test yourself.

Monday (evening) memoirs

Hope you all had a great Monday!

My poor husband came home early this afternoon to find our new area rug COVERED IN CRAP. Seems one of our shitzu’s got into something that didn’t agree with him. I would complain more but I wasn’t the one who cleaned it up, unless of course you count pointing out the spots he missed with the carpet cleaner. Apparently, he didn’t need my help after all.

Apart from being extremely thankful for a dog crap carpet cleaning husband (if it was me that had arrived home first, he would have been a wife barf, dog crap carpet cleaning husband) here are a couple of other things I am thankful for:

Tea parties. Every year, the City I live in hosts a weekend long ‘tea party’. It’s down by the beach, has a midway and serves tea in addition to all the typical fair food (i.e. mini donuts and smokies). There is also an air show that includes a demonstration by the Coast Guard:

coast guard heli

This helicopter took off from the beach and so began the picking of sand out of my teeth, hair, eyes…how the heck does sand manage to get into certain unmentionable places? 

kamikaze ride

Just watching this ride is enough to make me dizzy!  Way too terrifying for me. 

ferris wheel

This is way more my style. It’s such a classic. 

Perseverance. My son spent the weekend  trying to showcase how ‘mature’ he is in an effort to get me to agree he could buy an air gun. I told him I’d ‘think about it’ and then proceeded to bask in the glow of his efforts. The bathroom was cleaned, laundry was folded, dogs were walked and cheery attitude was presented. Frankly, this is just too good to give up right now and so I am still having to continue ‘to think about it’. I’m not entirely sure how long it will last but I suspect I’m running out of time.

In the meantime, I’ve hinted that even if I was to agree I would not be interested in buying it for him. This has led him down a new path-hunting for his first job. He proceeded to go around the City to various businesses asking whether they hire teenagers and whether he should drop a resume off or fill out an application. Some places responded with a big fat (and rather rude) NO. Others said he had to wait until he got another year older. Just when his heart started to sink, the last place he went to told him to bring in a resume! It was just the boost he needed and I’m so proud he put his little self out there. Fingers crossed that he’ll find his first job and that it will be a good fit for the summer!

What was your first job?

Home Alone!

Back in the day, I never appreciated being by myself. If I happened to be in this most unfortunate position,  I would spend the entire time wondering where everyone was and why I wasn’t invited. Oh, the waste of it all.

Now? A night alone is like winning the jackpot! Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with my boys (hubby and son). It’s just every once in awhile, there is a need to rebalance the energy around here with a little less testosterone and a little more fabulousness.  In other words:

  • hockey or football do not need to be playing on the ridiculous number of TV’s we apparently need;
  • making the dogs bark for the sheer entertainment of it all is not necessary or desirable;
  • ice cream every night is not essential to your survival; and
  • trying to outdo each other’s farts and burps does not  establish ownership over the household.

Last night, the boys went on a school camping trip and I got to be ALONE. In other words, I:

  • exercised out on the back deck (without any hecklers trying to disrupt my concentration);
  • ate half of a leftover burger and some salad followed by half a cookie, a tablespoon of peanut butter, a glass of wine and a cup of detox tea (without having to explain why this wasn’t weird or contradictory);
  • watched taped reruns of the Bachelorette and Housewives of who knows where (without any comments about how dumb these are);
  • had a bath (without anyone banging on the door telling me to hurry up); and
  • appreciated the silence (no one asked me where anything was).

It was a great night, the goal of doing absolutely nothing of substance was accomplished and I am ready for the crew to arrive home today with their dirty laundry in tow and fill the house back up with the bantering that makes it a home sweet home.

Monday Memoirs

Lately, I’ve been preoccupied with the drama that is our ‘new’ home. I won’t go into any great detail at the moment but let’s just say that my perfectionist tendencies are being tested to the extreme (that is, for a perfectionist).  I really need to pull myself together and get on with life, regardless of its lack of order at the moment. Sometimes, that’s really hard for me and it’s easier to act like a possum and FREEZE. Which is what I’ve been doing lately!

Despite it all, here are 3 things I’ve been grateful for:

  • Optimism. Thank goodness for the ability to regroup, rethink, refocus and see the glass as half full. In fact, despite the stress I’ve been experiencing, I see the glass as way more full than half! There is always a lesson to be learned and I truly believe everything happens for a reason, even if we don’t know what that is until somewhere down the road.

Strongbow

That glass is totally half full…of only the best cider ever!

  • The boys. My husband and son are so good to me. They went and bought me a canister of cinnamon tea and a fancy strainer. I have no idea how the strainer works and am completely fascinated by it. The tea tastes like those cinnamon hearts you get at Valentines.

Tea 2

Can you see the Canadian flag ‘photo bombing’ in the background? No, I didn’t do that on purpose. 

  • The art of experimentation. Lately, I’ve felt compelled to try some new things in the kitchen. I came across a recipe for cauliflower crust pizza. I am not a huge fan of pizza but I have to say that this turned out really well and was not ‘heavy’. Very easy to make and will definitely stick it on the list for Friday nights.

Pizza

This has spinach, kale, feta and some mozza and cheddar on it. Yum! 

Have a great week 🙂