Thursday, April 23, 2020

learning at a distance

Somewhat naively, I thought this coronavirus distance learning was going to be a cake walk. One kid is dealing with a light semester and the other has always been a solid, nothing to worry about here, student. Yep, those were good times.

One kid is struggling with time management while questioning her ability to understand and complete the assigned work. Away from the physical classroom and the in person support of her teachers and classmates, she is quite simply struggling. Today after losing many daylight hours to the struggle of school work we took a break to watch the Meghan Markle narrated Elephant documentary, which we loved. Elephants are so fascinating. Later when heads were cool and our thought process no longer stressed, we discussed what we could change to help her be successful.

We both thrive on being organized, we like lists and planning out our time. Sundays always finds us together at our table laying out our week ahead in our agendas. It is a powerful tool that we are under utilizing at this time. I think we both feel into the feeling that with so little going on, it wasn't necessary, but that seems to be the wrong approach. So we re-group and try coming at it from a different angle. On top of the actual public school education that is happening, there is a big opportunity for the development of important life skills in problem solving, adapting, and overcoming adversity. Sometimes you just have to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight. Wish us luck.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

facebook noise

I have always been a big fan of facebook and I find it an incredibly useful tool for the volunteer based projects I organize, but it can be a bit of a dumpster fire can't it? Personally, I love it for the ability to connect with people, like far flung friends and family or to share/learn abut community events or catch up on the latest cute/viral animal videos.

I also enjoy reading articles friends share, often it gives me a greater insight into the person who posted it as well as the topic presented, and typically I have opinion about what I have read. A lot of times it is easy for me to tell if typing out my personal opinion of the posted piece is worth the time...... spoiler alert, it often isn't.

A friend shared an article as well as her opinion of it and I instantly began typing out my opinion which basically was I understood the point being made, but questioned the approach. Now, I have zero ego about my own opinion, which has nothing to do with how strongly I may hold it. There are topics you would be hard pressed to change my stance on,  but I am always willing to take the time to try to understand an opposing position. Of course, I am only human, so there is at least one topic my husband and I have such opposing views on that we have agreed we should never discuss it. Well I agreed, he likes to bring it up every now and then for "fun". You might wonder what heavy hitting topic it might be, but it is likely less and more controversial then you'd probably guess and has become of thing of family lore with those in the know.  And this is called vague-booking on the facebook, but honestly it all boils down to a conspiracy theory... don't get me started.

To circle the wagons back, I was typing out my thoughts on this article I read and then I just stopped and deleted it. Not because I was concerned with how my friend would take it. Quite honestly, I think she would have seen some validity in what I was saying, but I just didn't want to get caught up in the potential dumpster fire that a comment section on the internet can become. That, to me, is disheartening and it makes facebook just a lot of noise, which is unfortunate.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

planning things

Our town has a huge community wide food drive every year around this time. I always have the best intentions, but I won't lie I am usually scrounging around in the pantry trying to cobble a donation together that won't deplete our resources and also looks like it was more than just the eventual after thought it ends up being. What is even more embarrassing is I don't even have to take the donation anywhere. A massive team of volunteers goes door to door, neighbourhood by neighbourhood and collects the donations right off your front porch. You just have to leave it out there. Yeah, it is really that simple.

Recently two things happened, first, I hopped on board the Happy Planner train after I fell in love with a friend's. It was exactly what I was trying to achieve via a bullet journal, but all the time consuming lay out stuff is done. I love a beautiful bullet journal layout, but I don't have the talent, the time or the inclination to figure one out week to week. Anyway, the Happy Planner offered multiple layout options, multiple sizes, easy customization and they have so many stickers. It's really all about the stickers, amirite?

Secondly, I was part of a conversation about food bank donations that included a very dear friend of mine who sits on the board of one of our local food banks and she said something that really stuck with me. "Okay, but make sure what you are donating can actually be utilized by the food bank." Well..... boom. I am 100% guilty of not doing that.

In the great words of Dr. Maya Angelou, when you know better, do better. So, I did the research, figured out what the big asks were of the food drive and then I scheduled weekly additions to my grocery shopping list in my Happy Planner. We order online and pick up at the store, so each week in my planner has a space for our grocery lists. When I sit down with my laptop to order, my grocery list and the week ahead are right there for me to glance at. This week, I added a dozen packages of noodle soup, last week was cans of tuna. You get the idea. As these items show up I have a box ready in the mudroom for it all to go right into. Then on the appropriate date, out the front door it goes for pick up.

This blogging shift is kind of weird, I spent years just writing about the kids, this change of focus feels self indulgent, but this really isn't a humble brag. I don't mean it as a pat on the back. It is just literally not a thing I really thought about before. I think the more prevailing thought was, oh well they can just take what I have, it's better than nothing, right? Here is the thing though, in the past couple of years I have been working very hard on being more intentional with my time and resources and one of those things made me realize I was missing the mark and the other helped me organize my way to hitting the mark.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

wedding things

We went to a wedding recently, which isn't something that happens often just because of the season of life that we happen to find ourselves in. Our friends are, by and large, already married and our friend's kids are just starting to get to that stage of life. So it happens, but infrequently. This wedding was for a sweet friend that I think the world of and having spent many many months listening to to how the plans were coming together, I was excited to see it all come together.

Guys, it was spectacular. Just a lovely day, that was so indicative of them.

Sidebar - it's an interesting experience to be writing this, after such a long hiatus from public blogging. The landscape has changed, a lot..... as have I. I am attempting to write things from my own perspective, but at the same time being mindful of how much of a shared story is mine to tell in this public space. Tricky, but I'm game to learn and adapt.

And back to the wedding. It was all around lovely. I wanted to move into the venue and just live there forever. The ceremony was sweet, the party was hopping and the company at our table was top drawer.

Specifically though, I wanted to share with you, the wedding favours because I thought they were the sweetest.

They were wine glasses, sourced at local thrift shops.  Each one different, all interesting shapes or colours. Each tag had a cute saying on the back about filling your glass with what tastes right. It was a perfect fit for the overall vibe of this wedding while also checking those eco friendly boxes that are so important these days.

Since the wedding we have used our glasses often and it always to make me smile. I never fail to think of my friend, their beautiful day and, often, how lucky I am to have crossed paths with her in this life.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

the scurge of the school lunch

It is true friends, I am a meal planner and a batch cooker. You can usually find me at some point on Sunday, happily listening to a podcast while I whip up lunches, treats and doing a little pre-cooking for the week. I always make a week's worth of my own lunch to take to work because I have zero interest in figuring that mess out every single day. Also I am very much a creature of habit when it comes to breakfast/lunch which makes it ridiculously easy to whip up. These days it's always a spring mix salad with a protein and a cheese with a lot of bang for the buck. So typically goat cheese or feta, dressing is a sweet hot mustard because, 1) I love it and 2) it is next to no calories for a lot of taste and that right there is my jam.

I will also whip up some cookies, muffins, or a quick bread for the kids and Mike to have through the week as a lunch extra or an after school snack. In the colder months I will simmer a pot of soup or chili. I may pre-cook something like taco filling and grate cheese if we have a busy night coming up through the week so dinner is half way done when I am pressed for time. Summer I may whip up a salad of some description that will stay stable in the fridge, but also carry us through a few meals with a barbecued main.

Now that September has arrived with it's glorious promise of cooler weather, hoodies, pumpkin spice everything and the return of the school lunch  I also make a week of lunches for my youngest child and this little chore has been a major bone of contention between my oldest and I because I do not make a week's worth of lunches for her. In fact it has been a few years since I have made her lunch at all. On our uglier days a lot of emotional statements get thrown around. Imagine things like, you love her more than me. You baby her. Why do I have to do everything, while she does nothing. Obviously it is apparent, if you look at it intellectually, that none of that is true, but some days get fueled by emotion, while intellect takes the back burner. Life with teenagers, am I right?

Recently though, we were able to have a conversation about this topic that didn't veer into emotion and provided an answer that she could completely understand and agree with. The basis, they are two very different people. One is still a tween, while one is in her middle teen years. One is very capable, very independent and able to plan ahead to meet her needs, which in this case is, I'm going to need lunch later. The other, thinks, well I'm not hungry now, so I will probably never be hungry again and would happily go off to school with next to nothing and be starving by the time she gets back home.We are a double income household, so that going to school with nothing but a granola bar was a real thing that was happening.

It has nothing to do with babying one kid. I do not want to make her lunch. Trust. I barely want to make my own lunch, but given she still falls in the child category and not damn near close to an adult category I am legally and morally obligated to make sure she is taken care of. So if that means her ability to plan ahead despite how she feels at the moment  isn't fully developed yet, I kinda got to step up and make sure she gets taken care of.  If the other kid is the valedictorian of planning ahead, well I am going to surely nurture, encourage and take advantage of that quality for my own selfish, non-lunch making game.

To clarify, I am not, not taking care of the older one. Obviously I am legally and morally obligated to take care of her as well, but she doesn't need me in that way. She is more than capable and I feel if she went to school empty handed at this age, well that's on her. This is the kid taking meetings and accepting work opportunities based on where she needs to be in the future, two full years from now. Me making her lunch is a want, not a need.  Additionally I think it is important for her to see that the world is not equal or sometimes not even fair, by her way of thinking, anyway. I think it's valuable for them to see that as a parent I sometimes need to have a different approach for each of them because they are different people and different does not mean less. That is a big one I think. Different means not the same and that's it. It certainly isn't a unit of measure.

So as we head into this new school year, her and I were side by side this morning both prepping lunches for the week. Both of us ready to get back to structure and routines. Both of us already over making school lunches. One week down, many, many more to go.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

basic square crust pizza dough recipe

For a lot of years I used the same pizza dough recipe. It was completely fine. We had many a make your own pizza night with that very dough recipe with no complaints, but it really was nothing spectacular. It was just a nice serviceable pizza dough recipe.

Earlier this year I, along with a couple of pals, led a group of kids in a Bread Club. Over several weeks we taught the kids how to make things like king cake, rye bread, sourdough, english muffins, pita, and pizza dough. I am not going to lie, I had as much fun and probably learned as much as the kids did. That's what happens when surround yourself with rock stars.

And this pizza dough recipe that TQ showed up with, also a rock star. Even though it was easily identifiable as a rock star recipe, it was a little bit before I made it at home for make your own pizza night and it was such a slam dunk with the entire family they asked, very politely, that I rip up my regular recipe and kindly never make it again.

This recipe makes a basic square pan pizza, although if you wanted to make it round I am certainly not going to narc on you, so feel free to play around with it. Based on the name you can correctly assume that this is a thicker pizza crust, so thin crust pizza loving friends, move along. Nothing for you to see here. This recipe originates at Serious Eats, which I had never heard of before Bread Club with my rock star pals. You can check out the original instructions at this link. What follows is my experience and hacks for making it.

Basic Square Pan Pizza Dough

  • 17.5 ounces (500 grams, about 3 1/2 cups) all-purpose or bread flour
  • .35 ounces (10 grams, about 2 teaspoons) kosher salt
  • .18 ounces (5 grams, about 1 teaspoon) instant or RapidRise yeast
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 12.25 ounces (347 grams, about 1 1/2 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoons) water, room temperature

*Right out of the gate I already veer off the path. I use traditional yeast, so my room temperature water is hot water and I bloom my yeast before I throw it all in my kitchenaid.

Once I have bloomed my yeast I put the flour, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and the water/yeast mixture into my mixer at low until all the ingredients come together and no dry flour can be seen. At that time I bump the speed up to medium high and let the dough hook do it's thing for six minutes. The dough should still be stuck to the bottom, but pull away from the sides. It will also be on the sticky side.

Now typically, I have made this dough earlier in the day that I want to use it, so I let it hang out in an oiled bowl until I am ready for it, but if you plan on using it in the next two hours you can move it from the bowl to a rimmed 13 by 18 inch sheet pan that has been rubbed with the remaining olive oil. I actually go very light on the olive oil in the pan. I put some in and then give it a wipe to make sure there is a nice thin coating over the whole pan. This is based on my personal experience with my pans and oven. You may want to follow the directions exactly the first time and then mess with it. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it hang out there for 2 hours. 30 minutes before you plan on baking this turn your oven on to 550 degrees Fahrenheit.

As this point you can remove the plastic wrap from your sheet pan and very gently, you don't want to ruin all those great air bubbles, press and stretch the dough out until it completely fills the pan by pressing out from the middle and stretching the corners out past the pan, that should allow them to settle back into the pan. Top your pizza as you wish and bake at 550 for 15 to 20 minutes. 17 minutes is the sweet spot for us, but obviously start with 15 and add more if you need to.

 I always double up the recipe and make two pizzas because my kids are picky AF when it comes to their pizza. They like simple, a teeny scraping of sauce, mozza and pepperoni. Mike and I prefer a normal amount of sauce, a bit of pepperoni and lots of veggies. This one had mushrooms, tomato and onion.

 And two pizzas allows for leftovers which are inventoried by the parties involved for lunches. Lord help you if you make a move on someone's pizza. They take their leftovers serious here friends.

Really, who can blame them? Look at how that dough cooks up!

So that's it, this pizza and a few games of cribbage or sequence is a pretty great little weekend night for the fam jam. I recommend reading over the original recipe as well as what I have here and then give it a whirl some night. It is pretty spectacular.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

play ball

For the first 14 years of my parenting career my kids had zero interest in any kind of team sport. They appeared to be only drawn to solitary sports like gymnastics and horse back riding or artistic pursuits like cartooning class and pottery with a fair smattering of life skills clubs like sewing and cooking thrown in for good measure. Their lack of desire to play soccer, for example, concerned me zero percent. I, myself, never played an organized sport of any description and I turned out pretty okay. My husband dabbled in hockey as a tyke and played baseball until his late teens, but the kids non-interest in this area didn't seem to concern him either. To be honest, I think he was just happy they didn't ask to play soccer. Sitting on the side line of the soccer field was not his jam, no offense to any soccer loving folks out there. It's just there is usually no trees, which means no shade and he ain't into that.

We have been known to take in a Jays game or 162 and our youngest had silently started watching along with us in the living room. More importantly she started asking a lot of questions about how the game worked and why plays and calls happened the way they did. My husband was thrilled to share his baseball "expertise" with her along with a lot of double bubble. She talked about perhaps playing baseball for a year or two before she finally took the plunge. She was very concerned about getting hit with a pitch, which actually happened at her very first game and it was totally fine. She's taken many more pitches like a seasoned pro since that time and they have all been fine. Even the last one, that you could tell stung. A lot, but no way was going to let it show. Bit back the tears, took her bag, and kept her eye on second.

My major concern with the kids playing organized sports, were the other parents. Not all of them of course. You know the ones I am talking about. "The sports parents". The ones that yell, that are critical and just make it not fun. I am not about that life. First off, they are 12. This is not the MLB and it is not game seven in the world series. Also my very firm belief is people do more, do it better and enjoy themselves when they feel appreciated and supported. A person needs to hear 5 positive comments for every negative comment and that's not my opinion, that's science. So I was concerned. My husband had spent his teen years and beyond working at our local hockey arena, so he has more than his fair share of "Sports Parents" stories.

For the past two summers our youngest has been playing with, largely, the same group of girls. Many of the families are interconnected in a variety of ways, so our family came in as outsiders, so to speak. These girls have been very welcoming to our daughter, several weeks ago, after what she felt to be a rough outing for her personally one of her teammates was there in a flash with an arm around her shoulder and some words of encouragement. It touched this sappy Mama's soul for sure.

As for my own personal concerns, well I am not sure if we just got super lucky or this is the way of the future, but the team parents have made this so much fun for us and I wanted to thank them for that. For cheering on all the kids on the team. For encouraging all the kids when they are struggling at a game. For celebrating the big moments with them and for always just keeping it on the positive side. It has been an absolute treat to watch the girls grow and improve together and to cheer with all of you from the bleachers.