Monday, July 19, 2010

what makes summer great

In Canada we live with extremes. -40 C in the winter and +40 C in the summer...I can't imagine how peopled lived here 100 years ago without heat and electricity. The last couple of weeks were so incredibly hot that without AC I don't think we would have slept a minute. Entertaining our toddlers proved to be a challenge when you can't spend time outdoors because of heat stroke danger.

Now, all of this changed last weekend when the thermometer dropped a couple of degrees and we enjoyed amazing summer weather. A thunderstorm here and there to water the garden, but generally two beautiful days.

Our weekend was filled with summer activities. Playground in the evening, playing in the sand, flying a kite, picnic, splash pad, wading pool and BBQ.

This is what makes summer great and so much more pleasant than winter. Spending times outdoors without dying of heat or being eaten by bugs. Our kids behaved wonderfully, no fits, no breakdowns and happy as can be. Were they happy because they could jump around outside, enjoying different water activities and enjoying a BBQ burger or hot dog? I think they were and I hope that our week at the beach will prove to be as successful as the great summer weekend we just had.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Montreal - the good, the bad and the ugly

Why do we travel with kids? Is it because we like the torture? Or do we crave the change of scenery so much that we put up with the inevitable difficulties that traveling with toddlers brings along with it. Or are we just not used to jet setting with little ones (others do it all the time, right?)

So we ventured to Montreal last weekend - we took Friday off, had a leisurely breakfast at home, packed up the car with stroller, our suitcase, M's pink suitcase, camera bag and a collection of dolls, cars, books and snacks. The drive went off without a hitch, one stop and we arrived at our nice hotel right in the midst of old Montreal.

Now what? We meet up with our friends and their toddler, the rooms is getting crazy now! We face the challenges of kids on different schedules, feeding times, bath times, bed times etc. and after a nice day of walking around (and M cutting her foot on a shard of glass) we are ready to settle the kids in for the night.

And here is where the torture starts. Laughing, giggling, crying, pulling at sheets, picking up the phone, poking his sister, hitting her brother, another story, another song...who thought putting the two to sleep in the same room would be such a task? Two hours after bed time they are finally sleeping!

Our first evening of socializing with adults is shot...we head to bed exhausted and end up having our son sleep with us in our bed. Funny how we spend a fortune on a beautiful suite and our daughter is the one lounging in the Queen size bed with multiple pillows and covers while we end up on the pull out couch, a metal bar in our backs and feet hanging out over the edge (note - I am only 5 foot 4!)

Next day we are ready to go...Metro is a grand success with our kids, they love it! Biodome is closed because of strike! oh no! what do do. Caleche ride through the old down, build a teddy bear, finding of food, walks and the day has passed quite successfully. So tired though!

This time we put our kids to sleep in different rooms! Much better. We actually have a nice evening with our friends eating some Thai food in the room next door. Still not an exiting evening out, but an adult conversation, albeit a little influenced by alcohol for some of them.

Next day, we say our goodbyes and head to the Montreal children's museum...they love it! The drive back home goes off without a hitch and we are all glad to be home.

So, was it worth the trouble, bad bed, money, fits and packing? If I think really hard - Yes it was. Overall there was more good than bad and ugly and we changed our routine and ventured out of the city - what a feat! I am just amazed how the world travelers have turned to non-travelers in such a short time!

Now - the next one will be further away. Two weeks to go and I can't wait for the beach! I don't care how hard they'll make it - the smell of ocean will be worth it, right? (I'll keep you posted :))


Thursday, July 8, 2010

A really great chocolate cake

So I usually like to try different cake recipes for different birthdays and have had some great results...yummy red velvet for M's
first birthday, peanut butter/chocolate cupcakes for her second and a carrot cake with cream cheese icing for D's first cake, which I found to be a little too heavy for my taste.

So, along comes M's third birthday and I try the Martha Stewart chocolate cake! SOOOOOO good, light, fluffy, chocolatey and best of all, made in one bowl.

I liked it so much that I think I'll only make this cake for every upcoming birthday. I iced it with vanilla icing, but it would work well with any flavour.

My main challenge was the 35 degree weather which made icing a 3 layer cake really, really hard..but the end result looks pretty good...?

Makes one 8-inch layer cake (Note that this recipe makes enough for 3 layers if using 8" pans)

1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups hot water


-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper, and butter paper. Dust the pans with cocoa; tap out extra.
-Sift cocoa, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar into bowl. Beat in oil, buttermilk, vanilla, eggs, and hot water one at a time, using a mixer set at low. Beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.
-Pour batter into pans. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean; an adult should rotate the pans halfway through and remove cakes from the oven.
-Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks, 20 minutes, before inverting to remove. Discard paper. Cool completely on racks, top side up. An adult should cut off top of one layer.
-With a butter knife, frost top of trimmed layer.
-Place the other layer on top. Frost top and sides of cake.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The good and the bad of long weekends

Everybody loves long weekends, right? I do as well, especially when this year's Canada day falls on a Thursday, I take Friday off and that gives me a full four days away from work.

A holiday it is not though when you have two toddlers. It once again proves why I am not meant to be a daycare provider...I am so exhausted after these four days that I am looking forward to work. Ahh, the silence of the office, the piece of mind of working on your computer, walking away for food and drink at your owns schedule, managing your time...and to top it all off, you get paid for this?

The four day weekend was lovely, sunny, hot...a real summer treat. Canada day celebrations and M's birthday party. However, the weekend was loud, demanding, schedules needed to be made, food and drink brought, drives made, naps enforced, meals planned, swimsuits found, towels dried, laundry washed, bumps and cuts cooled, dinners cooked, flowers and plants watered, toys put away, groceries bought, beds made, teeth brushed, birthday cake baked, gifts wraped, dishes washed, etc., etc...and most of this not at my own schedule, but rather enforced by a little loud and demanding girl and a non-speaking little boy. Uffff...thank goodness for a hands on husband!

So, to all of you who feel that a long weekend is by no means a holiday - I feel your pain and let's just say I am very happy to return back to the normality of my day job.