When I’m Dead

The Captain found a 10 cent coin (or 10…somethings) from Hong Kong in his room. We have no idea where it came from or how it got there (worm hole through the Earth? STRONG POSSIBILITY), but between this and our recent visit to my friend Miker’s coin collection, he’s now all of a sudden enamoured of Coins of the World. He’s my junior numismitist.

I have a handful of coins from other countries that my grandparents brought back for me on their various travels (sadly, a much smaller collection than it was, as many were stolen in a break-in at my mom’s house many years ago, and that makes me SO angry, because I’m sure they got like, a dollar for my 25 cent Chinese coin, but it meant something to me, and thieves SUCK THE BIG SUCKAGE, so there). Anyway, I got out the coins at the Captain’s request so he could pour over them.

So he’s looking at the coins, then every three minutes or so I get this: “Mom, when you’re dead, can you leave these to me?” And also, “I mean, in your will, after you die, you will say these are specifically for me?” And this too, “I can have these, right? After you’re dead?”

Sure, buddy, although please try to remember I am currently still breathing over here. Memo to self: put poisonous cleaning supplies on a HIGHER shelf.

This comes soon after I was snuggling with Gal Smiley on this green chair we have in our family room, a few days ago. I warned her to be careful of the arms because the chair used to belong to my grandmother and it was special to me. So Gal Smiley asks if that means I will be passing it on to someone when I die, and if so, could it be her, and would I mind mentioning that in my will?

VULTURES.

Evolution of the Bathroom Door

My use of the bathroom door has changed. Here’s the history:

Baby in the house: Bring baby with you to bathroom, leave door open, you’re half naked anyway from nursing.

Toddler in the house: Bring kid to the bathroom with you, sit them on the floor, lock door to keep them from creating any disasters while you attempt to pee as quickly as possible.

Preschooler in the house: Pee with door open to reassure them you are not dead.

Age 5-6: Pee with door closed and locked, otherwise kid will freely enter and ask a lot of really embarrassing questions.

Age 7-8: Pee with door closed, but with child on the other side yell-asking if you have seen their blue socks, not the ones with Buzz Lightyear, but the Thomas ones, and also, can they have a cookie?

Age 9-11: Pee with door closed, then open it to find kid waiting on the other side with fresh bottle of juice they’d like you to open, and also, can they play video games?

Age 11 and up, I am guessing: Never see the inside of the bathroom again, as it is always full of some kid or another.

Remember when a trip to the bathroom meant some nice, quiet, private time? When does that come back? SIGH.

At Home

We’ve been hit again – this time, a crappy chest cold is making its way through the family. I came down with it yesterday and I feel pretty darn crummy – not bad enough to avoid my usual chores and work, but bad enough to want to whine a whole lot, drink copious amounts of tea, and wear the biggest, fuzziest, socks in the world. You know how it is.

The kids all have it too, to some degree, which means we have been doing the usual dance of Who Should Stay Home? There’s no doubt in my mind that the following symptoms mean staying at home: fever, vomiting, listlessness to the point of being willing to or even asking to take a nap, breathing or asthma issues, and possibly broken bones.

It’s the grey areas that kill me, and almost always leave me feeling like I’ve totally wimped out. So I’m looking for some feedback here – would you keep your child home under the following circumstances? Or would you send them to school?

Situation A – Child has plenty of energy, but has a sniffly, runny nose, which you suspect will gross out the teacher and probably spread germs to most of the other children in the class. But if the child stays home, you will end up with tissues on the floor of every room and a kid at your elbow declaring themselves SOOOOOOO BOOOOOOORED every five minutes until you want to give them up for adoption. What do you do? Does your answer change if you have a dentist appointment that morning?

Situation B – Child has plenty of energy for annoying his sisters, and no symptoms other than a chesty cough. You know that he has asthma and gym first period, which will likely combine to cause some sort of incident if you send him to school; but if he stays home, he’ll likely cough once an hour then spend the whole day playing video games and rotting his brain. Do you send him to school with a note to sit out of gym, knowing he is going to throw it away in embarrassment and run around anyway? Or do you keep him home and try to convince yourself that six hours of Mario Kart is educational?

Situation C – Child complains of vague symptoms like “sore throat,” “stomachache,” or “headache,” but seems otherwise fine. Do you send them, risking a call from the school an hour later reporting your child has vomited on the classroom floor? Or do you keep them home, only to find them jumping on the couch after snarfing a secret loot bag full of Skittles they found in the back of their closet? Does your answer change if said child pulls this kind of complaining all the time, or is a rock of stoicism and never usually complains about anything?

Parenting – it’s all grey areas, isn’t it?

Skating Rink, Bowling Alley, or Indoor Pool?

So I realize these are not the most exciting photos in the world, but here you go:

newfloor1

newfloor2

What we are looking at here is a newly re-poured concrete floor. That is flat. And level. And GORGEOUS.

I mean, the kids are going to have to live with crooked overbites now, and we’ll probably never take another family vacation again, but who cares, have you SEEN the sheer flatness of our basement floor?

newfloor3

This means our plan to solve the basement issues with plenty of excess dollars has worked, we think. It has to cure now for two weeks, and then hopefully we will be back on schedule. Big shout out to Floor Solutions, who did this work super speedy and super well and everyone there was so nice and kind and really cared about our project.

(But apparently, cared nothing at all for the straightness of our children’s teeth.)

In other news, it is back to being True Winter outside in Ottawa, with windchills of up to -25 and tons of dire warnings about frigid temperatures in the news. I feel like I have been a relatively good sport about winter up to this point, but now there is no amount of hot cocoa in the world that can make me feel like re-embracing winter. We had two nicer days last week and that is IT, Mother Nature – TIME TO LET IT GO. I MEAN IT.

No, I did NOT mean that kind of let it go. SIGH.

Skiing and a Recipe

Vegan Black and White Cookies

We had a lovely family day yesterday, with all of us heading out for some downhill skiing. Sir Monkeypants took the older two kids for the first time in December and since then the three of them have been hooked; yesterday they convinced me and the Little Miss to try a beginner lesson. I doubt any Olympic events are in my future but it was fairly fun.

Also, the way Gal Smiley yelled “PIZZA PIZZA PIZZA PIZZA PIZZA!!!!” at me all the way on my first trip down the bunny hill will live on as one of my favourite memories of all time. Pizza it is, honey.

Anyway, just a quick post today as I’m swamped with work (catching up from last week), dealing with The Basement Crisis (we have decided to just throw money at the problem and hope it goes away), and of course, those Olympics are NOT GOING TO WATCH THEMSELVES. Mostly I wanted to post the recipe for the Black and White cookies, as requested by Sarah and Javamom.

This recipe is from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. If you have any interest in vegan cooking at all, I highly recommend buying everything Isa Chandra has ever published. I have several of her cookbooks but her cookie book, plus her little cupcake book and pie book, are priceless. I love it that her recipes always try to use generic ingredients in inventive ways – I mean, I CAN figure out that a regular recipe that calls for yogurt can be “veganized” by using soy yogurt instead, but her recipes don’t just swap out butter with “vegan bread spread,” but rather actually bake with real stuff.

I have made dozens of recipes from the cookie book and they are all delicious and fabulous. But one word of warning, if you do buy this book: for some reason, I always have to add more flour to have the recipes turn out. I do not have this problem with any of her other books, and the cupcake and pie books are fine. But in the cookie book, it’s standard to add about 1/3 cup more flour for every 1 cup the recipe calls for (so, 1 1/2 cups becomes 2 cups, for example). I don’t know why this is – she talks in the intro about how she measures her flour by scooping, while I am a strict Grade 8 Home Ec Spoon-and-Level-with-a-Knife measurer, so maybe that is it, or maybe it’s the flour I use (Five Roses Unbleached). It’s a mystery.

Anyway, here is the Black and White cookie recipe, with my change for additional flour added. These cookies are a little fussy, but WORTH IT. They would make an excellent substitution for birthday cupcakes or for fancy Christmas parties. I froze some as an experiment and they freeze and thaw well, but they do stick together if stacked so it’s best to freeze them on a pan then bag them, or at least put a little wax paper between layers.

The NYC Black and White Cookie

1 cup soy milk (I use rice milk as my son can’t have soy)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract (find it at the Bulk Barn, or use 1/2 teaspoon zest)
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (original recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt

For the icing:
4 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup boiling water, plus several additional tablespoons of hot water
2/3 cup chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life brand for allergy-safeness)

Preheat oven to 350. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper – actually, three is probably better.

Mix the soy milk and lemon juice, and let it sit one minute to curdle (if using rice milk, it won’t curdle, but that is okay; real milk can be used if you aren’t vegan and it’ll curdle something awesome). Add the oil, sugar, vanilla, and other extracts and whisk until blended into a smooth caramel-type mix.

Add the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir well to form a very thick batter, kind of like very thick cake batter.

Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup or an ice cream scoop, scoop up a bunch of batter and pour it out onto the cookie sheets. The pile of batter will spread quite a bit – if you have large cookie sheets you’ll be able to barely fit eight cookies on a sheet (the recipe makes 16 cookies), but if your sheets are smaller you might only fit six or even four per sheet. If they end up spreading so that they touch it’s not ideal but won’t hurt the tastiness, so just throw them in the oven and break them apart when they come out. Don’t worry too much about making perfect circles, either, since they spread so much they will turn into circles on their own.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let them cool for about 2 minutes on the pans, then peel them off of the parchment paper and place them face-down on a rack to cool. They’ll be lightly curved on the bottom (what was the top when cooking) and nice and smooth and flat on the top (what was the bottom when cooking).

While they are cooling (it doesn’t take long), mix up the icing. Mix the powdered sugar with the boiling water and stir very well, then dribble in more hot water a bit at a time until you can stir it smoothly – it should not be runny but should be easily spreadable and kind of glossy. Frost the entire smooth tops of the cookies with the vanilla icing, right out to the edges. You should have about 1/2 cup of icing left over at the bottom of the bowl – don’t eat it, you need it!

Now take the chocolate chips and melt them in the microwave or in a double boiler (in the microwave: 1 minute on power level 60, stir, then 30 seconds to one minute more at 60, stirring every 30 seconds). Make sure it’s really melted well or your chocolate icing will be lumpy.

Add the melted chocolate to the leftover icing and stir well – I had to add a little more boiling water to the mix to help it be spreadable and to keep the chocolate from lumping up.

Test the cookies with your finger to make sure the vanilla icing has developed a bit of a crust. Then, spread the chocolate on half, and put the cookie down to finish drying completely.

The recipe suggests that they are best eaten the day they are made, but trust me, I had NO PROBLEM eating them on the second day. Plus, as noted above, the frozen ones turned out well (good thing, because if I didn’t freeze them I would now have 16 black and white cookies in my belly).

The recipe makes 16 palm-sized cookies but you can also make 24 smaller ones if you like. They’re quite sweet and eating one of the regular sized-ones is on par with having a cupcake, I’d say.

Enjoy!

Look To The Cookie, Elaine

I made these yesterday:

Vegan Black and White Cookies

Unity Cookies! The Black and White! As made immortal by Seinfeld (“Two races of flavor living side by side in harmony.”)

They are vegan, so my son can have them, and they are divine. They are TOO divine. I am still on shaky stomach ground and the last thing I need is a dozen palm-sized discs of pure ambrosia just sitting there in the kitchen. On Valentine’s Day, no less, when dessert calories are FOR FREE. Sigh.

So I’m back to eating more-or-less real food (if cookies count as real food), and back to working, which means I can only tangentially check in with the Olympics from time to time during the day, which is just so sad. But while we’re talking Olympics, some random thoughts on that:

Why was Sochi selected as a Winter Olympics location, when it was like, 18 degrees Celsius there yesterday? Clips I’ve seen of the city show palm trees – PALM TREES – and no snow on the ground; snow on the ski slopes is said to be icy and they are actually salting it (which I totally do not get) to keep it in good shape. I should probably just go and Google for info about the climate of Sochi, but I’m too busy eating cookies and watching coverage. But I do wonder: what made them think this was a winter-type playground area?

And this: I watch a lot (A LOT) of figure skating, and I have noticed that Western/American culture seems to be the de facto culture of figure skating. There were Russians skating to The Addams Family and Jesus Christ Superstar, Germans skating to the Pink Panther, I saw some guy from the Czech Republic skate to Dueling Banjos. What’s that about? Are these people training in North America, maybe? Or is The Addams Family actually a world-wide phenomenon? I am mystified.

And lastly: I have discovered I have an endless appetite for any and all Olympic sports, except hockey. The hockey games (which, amusingly, feature the exact same break-time cheers, like DAY-O and We Will Rock You and CHARGE!, meaning, I guess, American Culture really IS universal, and the unity cookie was right all along) are just like any other hockey game and I can’t get invested. Meanwhile, listening to the commentators for things like snowboarding and biathlon and luge is SO charming, because they are so deeply passionate about their sport, and know all the inside details and scoop and history, and when they start squealing with joy over the tightness of the competition it’s just delightful.

Now I’m off to work, and eat cookies, and sneak glimpses of the figure skating, and ponder race relations. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Just Like TV

So we watch our fair share of home decorating shows, and there’s always a Moment Of Drama on those shows where they discover something about the house that was previously unknown, that is going to be an expensive fix. And now, part of the family’s Big Plans must Come Off The Table, and it’s a tense and emotional moment, then there’s shots of the designer huffing and puffing over a calculator and some sheets of paper (likely grocery lists), while they try to stretch the budget and dip into contingency reserves and otherwise stress about designs.

But surely, that would not happen to us! Our basement remodel was so simple! And our guy had already done two others on the street, with no problems and big success!

FAMOUS LAST WORDS.

So our basement project is, supposedly, in its final stages, at least for the professionals. They should have been wrapping things up today and tomorrow. But as they were laying down the subfloor, it became apparent that our concrete slab is warped. Like, really, really, warped.

Usually basement floors have some ups and downs, and the contractor can work around that with a little shimming and fancy woodwork. But ours is beyond saving. There is a high point in the centre of the house, and the edges slope away, ending up several inches lower at the outer walls. There is just no possible way to lay down the subfloor and actually have it turn out level.

That means that we cannot possibly put down a laminate floor, because the floating floor would crack and buckle because the subfloor is not level.

Remember how we paid extra and went way out of our way so the stairs could be wood? To match the laminate? And there’s a whole other story about the laminate itself that I won’t bore you with, but to sum up, we have been through a bit of a wringer at two different stores just to get the stuff we wanted. So to be told now that our best solution is to accept the sloped floor, and just cover it up with carpet, taking a loss on the stair work and flooring, is not going to work for us, I’m afraid.

(Well, it might work for us as a last-ditch solution. But first we are going to look into every other possible answer.)

So now we have halted all basement work while we a) get an engineer in here to figure out why the foundation is so slanted in the first place, b) get a concrete company in here to talk about re-pouring the basement floor, c) have our basement guy rip out a bunch of stuff he has already done, and d) get resigned to having even MORE of the basement crap on the main level, for an even longer amount of time.

Not to mention the possible expenses involved – at the moment we have no idea what any of this will cost, and if we’re looking at a serious foundation problem it might even mean the entire basement is off the table for now, and instead our budget will just go to repair work.

So the lesson here is: before finishing your basement, you should have it inspected for possible foundation problems.

Live and learn, I guess.

The Gatorade Stage

Ugh, I am just so very, very sick. Last night I was finally able to keep down about a half cup of Gatorade, which I guess signals a turning of the tide. But this morning I am back on the couch, making those little groaning noises of pain that drive my husband up the wall, sipping Gatorade slowly and wanting to feel better.

But of course, I still have the energy to blog, because: PRIORITIES.

Also, Nicole from the boy house tagged me in a meme, which means I don’t even have to be creative…someone has done all the “ideas” work for me! Meme it up!

1) If Jane had 3 apples and John had 78 nails, how many layers of clothing are you wearing (how is the weather in your neck of the woods?)?

I hear it is back to Nuclear Winter level temperatures outside this morning – something like -19 degrees. However, I haven’t moved off the couch in two days, so I’ve been kind of shielded from all that. One thing I can say is that I am almost never without my Dead Kitty Socks, which are actually T-Max Heat socks from Mark’s Work Wearhouse. They only carry them in the fall so are mostly sold out now until next winter, but if you can find some, BUY THEM. We call them Dead Kitty Socks here because the inside is so soft and fuzzy, it’s as if they made them from the skins of dead kittens. But I will gladly walk all over those dead kittens for the powerful, powerful warmth involved. They are AWESOME.

2. What is keeping you sane during these long winter months?

Um…very little? The basement remodel has taken a left turn into Expensive ProblemsVille (more on that later, I’m sure) and the cold and the sickness are a drag. Oh, but the Olympics! Olympic coverage, 16 hours a day, every day! I love it so much. I even re-watch the same stuff I’ve already seen. Three or four times over. I’m a junkie.

3. If you were on a boat with a box of chocolate and your Mother In Law, who would you throw overboard?

Now why, exactly, are we throwing anything overboard? Are there chocolate-loving sharks circling? Or are we having a lifeboat weight limit issue? I need more info on this one.

4. What’s in your underwear drawer besides underwear?

Ha! Exclusively underwear. I have SO MUCH underwear, it’s ridiculous. This is because I can never seem to find the perfect combination of fit, flattering look, and comfort. So I continue to buy packs of new underwear to try, but am unhappy, so must buy more new stuff, yet cannot get rid of the other stuff that I’ve only worn like, twice, and so yes, I have an entire drawer dedicated to nothing more than underwear.

5. Do you trust yourself with sharp objects near your face? (as in, do you pluck your own eyebrows? Do you have any eyebrow horror stories?)

I do pluck my eyebrows, but only half-heartedly. Really, my complete lack of body maintenance is becoming an issue, especially as I get older. My middle daughter asked me just yesterday if she could start plucking and while I think she’s a little young for that still, I’m kind of hoping she will take me to the spa and otherwise force me to take better care of myself.

6. I am terrified of dead bodies, spiders, and the dentist. What are you scared of?

Spiders, for sure. I am a shrieking mess whenever one shows up in the house. All bugs in general, actually, can cause me to totally lose my shit.

7. Are you wearing nail polish?

See above re: doing very little for body maintenance. I actually cannot stand the feeling of polish on my hands – it’s so weird, it’s like my nails can’t breathe, I walk around with my hands held stiff in awkward positions and feel like I can’t touch anything or move them normally. I do like a nice pedicure but it’s been years now since I had one – I think the last time was when I was pregnant with the Little Miss.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program of Gatorade sipping and Olympics watching. FLOP.

Flag Geek

I’ve caught the bug that the Little Miss suffered with all weekend long – a general need for one’s body to expunge everything you’ve ever eaten, ever, as quickly as possible, as violently as possible, from all available outlets. GOOD TIMES. I really, really hate being sick like this. When I have a cold, life continues as usual really, only with more grumbling from the kitchen area about how other people don’t have to keep working when they have a cold, and instead, other people get to sit on the couch and be fussed over. But illnesses that confine me, groaning, to the couch, are even worse, as all I do is fret about what isn’t getting done (work, housecleaning, feeding of the children) and how much my husband has to do (lunches! He had to make the lunches!) and generally spend the whole time feeling crummy AND guilty.

At least I have Olympic Coverage to keep me warm. Man, I could literally watch Olympics until my eyeballs fall out. Update: two more gold medals for Canada so far this morning! We are officially at the top of the leader board!

We are done with flag-making, although really I could have kept at it until I got through all 198 countries in the world, but sadly, we ran out of space along the bannister. The second image here is our official “leader board” – the flags are hanging by paper clips, and at the end of each day the Captain rearranges them based on medal standings.

Stairs With Flags
Olympic Leader Board

That Olympic flag at the far right there almost killed me. It was so intricate to get all the tiny rings to overlap just so, then figure out how to glue them all down successfully. People out there are working towards world peace or doing heart transplants, and here I am all proud of myself for figuring out how to recreate the Olympic rings in paper, but there you go.

The winter Olympics are like, 75% European countries (at least, the top contenders are mostly European, and those are the ones we made), and so making of all those European flags has us noticing that the Europeans are not exactly creative when it comes to flags.

For example, here is Hungary’s flag next to Bulgaria’s (apologizes for the crummy photos, I’m sick so I took them quickly by hanging my head upside down over the railing):

Hungary versus Bulgaria

Really. These are their flags. Don’t you think, on the field of battle, this might lead to some confusion?

Here is Austria versus Latvia:

Latvia
Austria

Difference, in case you can’t tell: one has a fat white line, one has a thin white line. When I see flags like this, I wonder if they have a long-standing feud. “I used it first!” “No, you totally copied!” “France! I don’t want to sit near Latvia any more!” Etc.

Here are Belgium and Germany, demonstrating the classic European technique of Turning-It-Sideways-So-Now-It-Is-Totally-Different:

Germany
Belgium

My kids love these two – Iceland and Norway, doing a mirror image thing.

Iceland
Norway

And here’s Russia versus The Netherlands, which in this household are constantly being confused for each other, despite the fact that Russia is the HOST NATION, and I’m thinking The Netherlands should maybe reconsider its flag design, before being bullied by the big guy into making it happen.

Russia
Netherlands

That’s not even the worst of these – here is Slovakia versus Slovenia, both of which have used a Russa-With-One-Piece-Of-Flare motif:

Slovakia
Slovenia

We didn’t make the flag for Serbia, but it’s ALSO almost the same – Russia-Upside-Down-With-Bling. SERIOUSLY.

Those last ones in particular could learn a thing or two from Asia – here is the flag of Kazakhstan:

Kazakhstan

Pale blue, featuring a yellow sun, outline of a yellow bird, and Arabic blingy design down the edge. Now that’s how you announce your presence with authority.

And we thought Canadian school kids had it hard, having to freehand maple leaves on Canada Day. Imagine being a Kazakh kindergarten kid and doing a flag craft. Good luck, kiddos.