Sunday, June 16, 2013


I don't need a special day on the calendar to remember my dad and how good he was to all of us kids.  I don't need Hallmark to remind me to smile or laugh out loud from time to time at my memories of him.  I have enough of those moments to sustain me until my own dying days.  He lives on in each one of us and I see glimpses of him each day and every time I'm with my siblings.  That's as good as it's going to be from here on out and I'm dealing with that knowledge better and better each day.

But I will say this (as cliche as it is), being a parent is a thankless job and sometimes it becomes too late to truly express your feelings and gratitude towards the people who gave you life, both literally and figuratively.  I have no regrets with my own father.  He knew how I felt.  But if you are one of those people who doesn't say it enough to either of your parents, start.  Pick up the phone, pop by on a quiet afternoon, send a letter, a text, an email.  I understand that life gets in the way from time to time and there are days you just can't bear to talk on the phone or go anywhere, but try.  From time to time, just try.  There are a lot of kids out there being neglected and left to raise themselves, be thankful you aren't one of them.

And if your spouse deserves some recognition, give it to them.  It's hard being a parent all by oneself so appreciate the commitment from another, if there is one.  So on this day and every day, to all the hands on parents...

Thank you!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Kickin' Butt and Takin' Names

I've struggled with writing this next post for a while now.  It's not really my story to tell so I've withheld saying anything about it, but since this is like my diary I kind of want to write something so I have it in the 'memory bank'.  These are merely my thoughts on the subject, right or wrong.  They might be so far off the feelings of his parents and I hope they understand that that's okay.  I hope I have the main details correct, I'll do my best to remember.  But first and most important...

I have a nephew.  An amazing nephew.  A nephew who happens to be autistic.  A nephew who's brain I will never truly understand.  A nephew who has been dealt a raw deal more often than he ever should have.  A nephew who is stronger than most people I know.  A nephew who has taught me to be a better person even if I screw up once in a while.  A nephew who would totally forgive me when I do.   A nephew whom I believe loves me in his own way and I love him in his own way.  My nephew is Sebastian and he's pretty bad-ass.

There are two things about Sebastian that I want to touch on here.  This is the first story.  A couple of years ago while prepping for dental surgery at a huge kids hospital here in the Golden Horseshoe it was discovered that Sebastian had a hole in his heart.  Immediate worry ensued.  How could this have gone un-diagnosed for so long?  Could this be harmful to him?  What were the doctor's plans?  Would they fix it?  If I'm not mistaken it turns out the doctors didn't think it was too pressing of an issue and let it go.  Now a couple of years later it was deemed major enough to do something about it.  The hole was creating underlying issues for my little buddy's heart.  It was working too hard and had become enlarged therefore corrective action needed to be taken.  There were two options; one of which was a lesser, invasive type.  They decided to move him to the renowned Sick Children's hospital in Toronto for the less invasive procedure.  As the day neared everyone's nerves were frayed and on edge but this was Sick Kids and they weren't doing major heart surgery (in our naive little world that meant they weren't opening up his chest) so he was going to be just fine.  That's what I told myself.  And then it went bad.  And they immediately stopped the procedure.  And the news got a little worse.  The hole was massive in terms of heart holes and there also happened to be a second one they hadn't been aware of.  Turns out open heart surgery would be his only option.

Move ahead one month and Sebastian's parents get the call that his surgery will be sooner than they had expected.  Is this to be looked at as good or bad?  Oh God, it's all becoming so real.  This is terrifying now.  I'm just his aunt (I can't begin to fathom what his parents are feeling), but I'm on edge.  I have an underlying melancholy lingering around me.  Surgery day approaches, I go to work, I leave work.  I won't be any good there, I'm too busy texting my sister in law and my sister for play by play updates.  Turns out he's a "bad motherfucker" and the surgery goes so well they are able to patch the holes with one mesh and finish up well under the time frame they expected.  His recovery overall goes smoothly and he's released from the hospital after two days!!

It's been just over a month and this kid has made leaps and bounds.  He's his usual self.  He's content showing off his battle scars to anyone who asks, and rightfully so!  He's a human machine.  I'm in awe.  He surpassed the expectations of others and then some.

Now to the second story about Sebastian that I want to share.  Up until last year Sebastian was enrolled in our public school system.  He was placed in the Special Needs classroom with periodic integration into the regular classes (I think).   But they weren't doing anything special with him.  And by that I merely mean they weren't teaching him at a level he was capable of.  He was just cruising through the system, not really getting ahead.  If he remained there he'd be forever stagnant.  A couple days a week he was removed from school to attend a program geared to Autistic children and their needs.  He was thriving on those days and because of those days.  Nothing he was accomplishing was as a result of our public school system.  Last year some of the people who ran that program decided to open up their own private school geared toward children with Autism.  It was decided by his parents that this is where Sebastian needed to be to grow, no matter what sacrifices they had to make or what the costs would be.

One years tuition is pretty much the equivalent of a year of University.  Why would they be willing to do that you ask?  Because he can write now.  He can do math!  Math!  Fractions and time tables.  All things no one thought possible at one point.  How wrong we all were.  His social skills have improved ten fold.  He is more outgoing and now asks to get involved.  He is sharing his feelings.  He instigates conversation.  Huge strides!!

So I'm posting all of this because I want you to know my amazing nephew Sebastian even if only in a teeny, tiny way.  I wanted you to understand why I'm sharing his Scholarship for Sebastian page.  His parents try to do things throughout the year to help raise money to offset the tuition costs they incur.  They try to add new ideas every couple of months and come up with creative things they can make and people can buy.  It's so much nicer than just asking people for money - a give and take of sorts.  But they can use all the extra help they can get.  Every bit they receive makes it easier to keep Sebastian going at this school.  And this school is proving they have what it takes to give these kids a life they deserve and are capable of.  So if you would be so kind as to tap dance (via your fingers of course) on over to the  Facebook page (they have set up to help raise funds) and see if there is anything on there that strikes your fancy.  There are great ideas for end of the year teacher gifts, birthday presents, homemade gifts for Christmas, you get the idea.  Again, they are always adding new ideas and items so please click the LIKE box so you can be notified when new stuff is added.  And if it really isn't asking too much, please share the page with your Facebook friends and family.  This little guy really does deserve every effort we can afford him, and then some.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Brrrr....That's Good!!

This past weekend we were invited for a sleepover (yup, I'm 13 again) and hang out with our friends, The "O" Clan at their homestead and were also joined by The "D" clan. What this basically means is there were 6 adults and 7 kidlets who would be wanting food at some point in the evening.  But more importantly we'd all be wanting dessert or something sweet eventually.  It hadn't been discussed before hand who (if anyone) would bring dessert so I thought it best to be prepared.  No one would complain about 3 choices if that's what happened.  Turned out dessert had been overlooked so yeah for my proactive measures!

The last time we congregated together I brought a humongous cheesecake dip  which was amaze-balls, but it turns out little kids aren't too keen on cheesecake.  Who knew?  Little jerks.  Shhhh  So this time I tried to come up with another easy recipe of ingredients the rug-rats would eat.  No small feat I tell ya!  So back to Pinterest I ventured and came upon this Icebox cake originally posted by Skinny Mom.  I only made a few alterations to her recipe and it seemed to be really well received by all, big and small.  Phew!

So now I'll share it with you lovely folks.  It's a great dish for a pot luck dinner or backyard BBQ, though it does need to remain refrigerated before serving. You can double the recipe or make it smaller if you wish it really wouldn't be too hard at all.

Strawberry Icebox Cake

  • 3 large containers of strawberries (but you could use four easily)
  • 2 large tubs of Whipped Topping thawed (low fat is fine and probably not a terrible idea!)
  • 1 box of graham crackers (not crumbs)
  1. Put a layer of whipped topping on the bottom of the dish.
  2. Put a layer of graham crackers on top of the whipped topping.  You may have to break them to fill up the spaces.  
  3. Add another layer of whipped topping onto the graham crackers.
  4. Add a layer of sliced strawberries all over the whipped topping. 
  5. Repeat these steps 2 more times.  You may run out of graham crackers, no big deal, it will still be awesome. 
Cover and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours.  The whipped topping will soften the graham crackers and make them into a cake-like consistency.  I made my icebox cake the evening before so it had time to soften for about 24 hours before we ate it.  You absolutely do not need to wait this long.  When we served it we cut it into squares just like cake and they kept their shape perfectly.  

Some potential alterations:

The original recipe calls for drizzled chocolate over the top.  I didn't bother as I'm not the hugest chocolate fan, but you could for sure drizzle a chocolate sauce or melted chocolate over the top.  You could also try caramel drizzled on top, or sliced almonds.   Of course you could change up the fruit too or add melted chocolate into the actual layers.  So many options!! 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Marquetry Madame

Back in April, Eric and I attended the annual wood carvers show in Niagara.  We went last year as well.  It's not a huge show but there are a lot of unique art pieces to see and Eric loves this sort of thing.  It's astonishing to me the level of talent these people have.  I can't get my head around seeing a carved bird, house, whatnot that began as a simple block of wood.  It's really is truly amazing.

This year however there was a man there displaying a piano he had made and covered in marquetry.  I really wish I'd had the camera and snapped a photo.  Marquetry, according to the Marquetry Society of Canada, is the art of assembling veneers from hundreds of species of wood, sometimes interspersed with gems, ivory, mother of pearl, etc. to collectively form a picture or design.   I'm not sure I'm using that word properly in that sentence above, but the piano was beautiful in every sense of the word and I believe it took him 10 years to make.  TEN years!  Now that is dedication to one's art.  He is currently in the process of doing a similar project, but a merry-go-round this time.  I believe he's been at this new one for 6 years now.  Eric and I spent the most time at this particular booth because his work was truly inspiring.  It's definitely a dying craft.

This is a sample of what I'm talking about taken from the Marquetry Society of Canada's website
In our chats with the members manning this particular booth we came to learn that they offer two free workshops for people who are interested in learning more about this art form.  So Eric asked me if I'd like to go with him for an afternoon to test out our skills.  Initially it's not something I would have thought I'd be interested in but because he wanted to do it and he does so many things he hates with me, I thought, "Why not?" and off we went - on a road trip to Toronto.

Everyone was so lovely, kind and helpful to us newbies.  We were each given a 'kit' with the supplies we would need provided.  The entire thing cost us nothing.  We were scheduled to be there for 3 hours.  And once we got going, man that 3 hours whizzed by.  It was truly so much fun.  I actually can't wait to get back up there to figure out how to finish the project we started.

Our projects!
The photo of the wolves depicts our two projects we completed at the first workshop.  The one on your left is mine, the one on the right is Eric's.  There are four different types of wood used in this project, yet when you run your hand across them it feels like one piece of wood.  Yah, I did that!  Crazy right???  So now we have to sort out how to mount it and finish it.  Not so much because I'm dying to display howling wolves, but more so to learn the technique so I can do something amazing (at my skill level anyway).  One man was kind enough to allow us to borrow one of his tools and gave us patterns to work on at home.  I'm going to try really hard this week to start one of those projects so I can take it with me this month to our second work shop.

I really like the idea of taking a garage sale find and jazzing it up with this technique.  Wouldn't that be great??  I know, I have high hopes for myself and Eric.  But what if?  So what are some new things you are working on?

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Crock of Sweetness

There are many days I get to work in the morning and then visually kick myself in the ass for not loading up the crock pot before I left home.  My intentions are always great, but mornings are just too 'hectic' for me to remember to do all the prep work.  I really need to start doing that stuff at night.  Sigh.  I've been sitting on a couple crock pot recipes that I've been wanting to try, bought the ingredients for them and then just plain old forgot.  So I amended the directions so I could make it in my oven in under an hour.  Second best I suppose.

We eat an awful lot of chicken in my house so it's nice to have an array of recipes to choose from.  This particular recipe was a huge success with the boys and a big win for mama!  The first set of directions are for how I made it in the oven.  The second set is the directions for cooking it in the crock pot.  If you like sweet sauces then this recipe is for you.

Honey Sesame Chicken


  • 2 lbs of boneless chicken breasts (skin removed, you could also use thighs if you prefer dark meat)
  • salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup of honey
  • 1/2 cup of soy sauce (low sodium if you are health conscious)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion (or less if you aren't a huge fan or none if you hate it)
  • 1/4 cup of ketchup
  • 2 T of olive oil
  • 2 T of minced garlic (or two/three cloves minced)
  • 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes
  • 4 tsp of cornstarch dissolved in 6 T of water
  • sesame seeds
Oven Directions
  1. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and place into a baking dish.
  2. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients minus the cornstarch mix and sesame seeds.Pour the mixture over the chicken, cover with a lid and place in the oven at 400F.
  3. Cook for 40 minutes.  
  4. Remove the chicken, mix in your cornstarch mix with the sauce, shred/cut up chicken and then return chicken to the sauce.  It should have thickened up considerably.   
  5. Serve chicken over rice or mashed potatoes and sprinkle with sesame seeds (or don't - no one is watching). 
Crock Pot Directions
  1. Follow the first two steps above except place the chicken and mix in a crock pot.  Cook on low for 4 hours.  
  2. Remove chicken from pot and stir in cornstarch mixture to sauce and allow to thicken while you slice up the chicken.  
  3. Top with sesame seeds and serve over rice or mashed potatoes.  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The End of the World, No Wait...Oh Yup It's all Over, Oh Wait....Nevermind

Oh man, we had a major crisis in our house 2 weeks ago and we're finally getting over it.  No, don't worry, no one succumbed to any injuries sustained from this particular broken heart, but it was touch and go there for a while.  (I'm not sure me rolling my eyes while I type that is coming through in my writing - I hope so though.)

Roan experienced his first break up as the dumpee.  Needless to say he didn't like it, and was actually worried for a while that he was having a heart attack because he was feeling physical pain in his chest.  I explained that the squeezing, burning sensation was normal to feel when you are sad and that he wouldn't actually die from it.  This intense whimpering and whining went on for about 4 days (3 3/4 too long if you ask me).  During this time he tried to inform me that this pain was as intense as what he felt when my dad passed away (it was about this point that I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shake him.  Hard.).  Did I mention they had been dating for maybe 4 months and he's TWELVE???  I can assure you my eyes were achy and sore from all the rolling they were doing in those four days, but I tried really, really hard not to diminish his feelings and help him work through his break up grief.  I think he milked it longer than he normally would have because of the extra tender attention he was receiving from us.  Groan.

THANKFULLY, we had booked a night at the Great Wolf Lodge months ago to help Roan celebrate his said 12th birthday with three of his friends and during his night at the GWL he met and fell madly in love with a girl from Milton.  That's right, he's already figured out how to "get over one girl by getting under another".  I swear it's genetic.  This time when the whirlwind romance ended, he was okay with it, because 'what happens at the Great Wolf Lodge, stays at the Great Wolf Lodge, Mom!'.  I kid you not, he said that to me.

But then our little Casanova fell victim to another girl and break up this past week.  Turns out she dumped him because he told her he loved her the very first day they were "dating".  I seriously had to pause for a moment just now to collect myself from the laughter I get every time I hear him tell me that in my head.  (I am officially dreading the high school years.)  After a lengthy and painful conversation about why he shouldn't tell every girl he dates that he loves her right away, he bounced back.  Thank baby Jesus.

Fast forward to this past weekend where he spent two days with another crush of his and added about 40 new grey hairs to her father's head!  On a side note, it's interesting for me to watch a father's reaction to his little girl smitten over a boy, especially because I don't have any girls and at one point I was that small girl with my own panic stricken father.

Any who, it blows my mind how totally different my two boys are when it comes to girls.  Roan can't seem to get enough of them and Gage, while he clearly likes them, likes his independence more and would rather spend time with his buddies without the drama of a girlfriend.  One of these boys takes after me, and the other clearly takes after his father.  I'm afraid.  I'm very afraid.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I Love To Watch You Smiling

What was originally supposed to be two years has been quietly extended to four.  I'm not sure he even realized it or maybe each day after the 730th day was trying and treacherous.  He really didn't complain though.  Four years without chewing gum.  Four years where eating toffee or popcorn or WORSE caramel corn was as frowned upon as breaking the law.  Four years of a cut up mouth.  Four years of constantly picking shit out of his teeth.  Four years of mouth tracks.  Four years of missing teeth.  Four years of feeling self conscious.  It all came to an end.  Today.

Gage's years of braces are finally ending.  Years of trying to sort out the mess that was his teeth.  Four missing permanent teeth and a large gaping space between his protruding two front teeth.  I'm sure there was even more to it, but those were the obvious physical ones.  They spent the first two years pushing all his teeth together only to learn that it doesn't look "natural" or as nice as they had hoped, so another two years making spaces in his smile again so they could fit two fake teeth in when it was all said and done.  A wasted two years for this poor kid.

After (looks like a completely different kid!)
Today we spent the day completing a part of him.  Today the money spent means nothing and is a distant memory.  Today they removed the tracks.  Today they filled the holes. Today his smile is complete.  He's pretty perfect to me regardless, but he'll be a little bit more comfortable in his skin now.  And there's not a whole lot in this world I love more than to see him genuinely smile.  I love his new smile.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Spiced up Side Dish

For the past year (or rather since Pinterest came along and made it easy for me to find stuff) I've been really trying to shake things up on the meal front at home.  I've been trying new recipes, some are hits (most of them) and some are misses.   However for the past few months I've been slacking off and resorting to my quick and easy go to recipes.  Blah, blah, blaaaa....   So last week I got myself back on track and the boys are grateful (so am I).  New stuff is fun to try!  So I'm going to post four adaptations to some recipes I found on Pinterest (and links to the original versions) and then tried in my kitchen.

This is a photo I found online that best represents what my end result looked like.  Mine were  slightly crispier

The first up on the docket was a side dish.  Side dishes are the bane of my existence.  I've been trained conditioned to believe that every meal should have a side.  And frankly, side dishes are relatively boring (in my opinion).  So once I stumbled across this recipe I thought I'd give it a go.  I did things a teeny tiny bit different than the original recipe at Little Grazers called for and I'm really happy with the end result.  I've posted a picture of the Cauliflower Cheese Bites (because everyone needs a photo right?) that I found online that best represented what my end result looked like, because I honestly forgot to take a photo of the end result for my experiment.  Mine were much crispier and flatter than these ones in the photo - almost like a thick sliced chip.  I also like my things extremely well done, so I'm sure that played a role in the different appearance as well.

So here we go:

Cauliflower Cheese Chips 

  • Half a head of cauliflower
  • 1/4 tsp of nutmeg (you could probably omit if you hate nutmeg)
  • 1 cup of old cheddar (though any age would be fine - pick a flavour you like)
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese (I just used the kind that comes in a can and you keep in your fridge - but you could you the fresh kind too)
  • 1 egg
  • pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes (for a little kick - you could omit this though)

**Adjust cheese if you don't like it as much as my family does. I always get yelled at for not having enough cheese in my recipes, so I added more.


  1. Boil cauliflower in a pot of water with some salt added.  Boil until softened.  
  2. Drain cauliflower well and mash up (you can use a fork, I used a hand mixer thingamajig) until you have small grains.  Set aside to cool. 
  3. Preheat your oven to 400f
  4. In a bowl mix your cheeses, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, pepper and egg.  Combine with your warmed cauliflower.  It's probably easiest to mix it using your hands.  
  5. Make little balls and place them on a greased baking tray (however I used a silicon baking tray without grease and it worked perfectly).  Flatten them down with the back of a spoon.  
  6. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 30 - 40 minutes (depending on your oven and how crispy you would like them).  You will have to flip them half way through your cooking time.  
That's it!  It's really that easy.  And they were crunchy and delicious.  Thanks to Little Grazers for the original inspiration.  Go check them out, you'll find some amazing recipes on her page.