Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Planning a date night, Reid style

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

I was telling Aunt Pam and Grandma Joyce about Melissa’s older kids refusing to go to McDonald’s with Ben, who is 9. Reid overheard and said, “We should go on a date night* with Ben. I don’t mind going to McDonald’s.” She is a master of understatement already! I’ll have to get something set up for a day when a second kid would make an activity more fun.

I’d been holding out for her to suggest that she and I go to Red Lobster, like she did with Aunt Karin in May. Apparently, Reid thinks
I’m not worth the big money meal.

*Date night for Reid does not require romance.

A rainbow cake for Reid and others

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Reid’s daycare teacher decided to celebrate the birthdays of all of the kids whose birthdays fall in the summer tomorrow. I immediately volunteered to bake the cake that they would share. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to try my hand at a rainbow cake, like the one Amy at Muddy Boots made. I doubt I’d enjoy the additional stress in the midst of planning for a real party but without the rest, I was keen. I started the cakes at 6 and finished by 11:25. I’m so wired from the sugar – mmmm, marshmallow fondant – and I’ve got a second wind, that I decided to write down what I did.

I followed Amy’s directions for the rainbow cake -basically, I added gel icing colouring to white cake mixes – and also followed her directions for marshmallow fondant. Her instruction to grease your hands with Crisco was critical to success!

Adding the food colouring to the cake batter was a bit like making playdough. I loved the vivid colours.

Stirring in the food colouring

Just look at them! You know the cakes are going to be amazing.

Six colours of cake batter

In order to avoid baking 6 cakes – 2 at a time in my little oven -I put two colours in each pan. Another time, I think I’ll try 6 cakes.

Pouring a second colour into the pan

I need to learn how to bake cakes with flat tops. I had to cut the rounded parts off of the first two cakes. Of course, this meant that I had to try the cakes, just in case.

Cakes ready for marshmallow fondant

I melted a small bag of marshmallows in the microwave in only 1 minute and added about half of the 1 kilogram bag of icing sugar before remembering to add the 2 tablespoons of water called for in the recipe.

Stirring icing sugar into marshmallows

The water kneaded in easily and I added probably 3 tablespoons when all was said and done.

Marshmallow fondant ready to roll

Amy mentioned chilling the fondant overnight but I didn’t have the time and it rolled like a charm still warm.

Marshmallow fondant rolled out

I measure against theh top of my cake-taker to see the size of marshmallow fondant I would need and then draped it over the cake. Marshmallow fondant is much more forgiving of irregularities in the stacked cakes than regular icing. If only I could figure out how to make cream cheese-flavoured fondant, I’d switch to it entirely.

Cake draped

I used some more icing gel to colour more marshamallow fondant to decorate the top of the cake. Reid has been very interested in rainbows lately, thanks in part to They Might Be Giants’ ROY G BIV, a song about the colours in a rainbow. I couldn’t manage indigo. She’ll have to tell the kids its ROY G BV instead.

Coloured marshmallow fondant

And here is the final product. Ta da! (If I can get a teacher to take a picture of the cake once it’s cut, I’ll post it, too.)

Finished cake

Edited to add: I asked Reid’s teacher to take a pic of the cake once it was cut since I couldn’t see the inside. She sent this piece home with Reid. You can’t taste the food colouring.
Slice of rainbow cake

Guess the food

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

As Reid and I were eating breakfast this morning, she inspected the dried cranberries, blueberries and cherries mix I put on my Red River cereal. She wasn’t interested in the dried fruit, though, and asked for “the not dried kind of cherries”. I said we’d put them on the grocery list. Reid got a thoughtful look on her face and asked if we had any “of those frozen things that I like.” I told her – not surprisingly – that I didn’t know what she meant. Reid was more precise. “You know the things I like and Daddy doesn’t. They’re kind of like a wrapped present,” and she smiled a sweet smile as she remembered. I had a flash of insight and asked, “Do you mean brussel sprouts?” Reid grinned and said, “Yes!” I had to admit that I don’t think we have any in our freezer. She wasn’t happy with waiting for the weekend, or even until Wednesday evening when we don’t have an activity, and asked if couldn’t I go at lunch. That’s a lot of love for brussel sprouts, which I like but had never thought that they looked like wrapped presents. I should probably suggest that line to the Brussel Sprout Marketing Board or some such organization.

Have a great day! I hope it includes a few brussel sprouts.

Mmm, smells like …

Monday, October 19th, 2009

f you’d been in our house, at 6:07 this morning, you’d have heard:
Reid: Mama, I smell something. Something gooood.
Mama: Oh, what is it?
Reid: Curry sauce. (I could hear the grin and anticipation in her voice.)

Several exchanges later about any number of things, including an extended period with the bathroom lights shining directly into Ken’s eyes…

Reid: Can I wake Daddy up?
Mama: I think he is awake but you should kiss him. (When a guy has his space invaded by chatter before he has listened to the news, a kiss should be offered. Don’t you think?)

Reid had left-over curry for breakfast and was a happy camper. I hope that the smell has dissipated ’cause I don’t think there is any more and it’d be sad to have her get excited for nothing tomorrow.

Wisdom from my placemat

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Reid and I went to Cora’s for lunch recently or, more accurately, we went to Cora’s at lunch for breakfast. One of the placemats had a sort of snakes and ladders game on it. At the foot of one ladder was the question, “Did you know bacon is an excellent source of happiness?” I did know that! I went straight up the ladder. Reid didn’t understand exactly why I laughed but liked the going up the ladder part.

Knowing and believing

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Reid and I went out to Eddie’s for breakfast yesterday and then went to the Ottawa Farmers Market – which is different from the Byward Market – for the first time. The colours of the fruit and vegetables were vibrant in the golden fall sun. (I love the sun in the fall!) I’m lucky the vendors only accept cash or we would have come home with much more than we’d planned. Reid found organic granola with sulphite-free cranberries for me, artisanal cheese for her dad and smoked sausages for herself; we left all behind and bought broccoli as big as a bride’s bouquet and a cauliflower bigger than Reid’s head. We got some seedless blue and green grapes, golden plums and ground cherries, too. Our only splurge was some tea biscuits that were to die for. Or to die from, if you’re Ken, who has a stronger antipathy to tea biscuits than I remember.

When we got home, Ken invited us to go for a walk at Mer Bleu Bog and, of course, Reid and I accepted. Okay, Reid accepted after I told her that we weren’t going to watch *Dora’s World Adventure* if we stayed home. She was eager for me to see the usually-villainous Swiper in a helpful role. By the time we got to Mer Bleue, though, Reid was keen for the adventure. I tried to apply some of the lessons I’d learned at the photography class I’d taken at Henry’s on Saturday but Reid and Ken were unwilling subjects and not so patient while I worked with the more willing flora. The colours in the bog weren’t quite as vibrant as they will be in a couple of weeks but the walk was lovely.

After lunch, we – mostly Reid – watched the Dora movie and then we got ready for our first ice skate of the season. Reid hunted up her Senators jersey without prompting and insisted on wearing her snowpants from home, even though it was 24 degrees Celsius outside. At the rink, Reid was hesitant to skate without holding onto me. My *knowing* that she could skate on her own didn’t translate into Reid *believing* that she can. We got a skate frame from the complex and she whizzed around the ice with it. Near the end, we returned the frame and Reid confidently skated on her own. Not fast, but certainly faster, and with the confidence that she’d lacked. I was glad I hadn’t insisted Reid tough it out without the frame. I’m finally learning that sometimes we need to sneak up on a solution.

Our skating adventure ended with a definite high and an even more definite low. When public skating finished, the zamboni came out! Yes, really! I hurried to get Reid’s skates off of her so that she could go up in the stands to watch while I took my skates off. Unfortunately, while I was taking my skates off, someone took off with Reid’s skates. I’m hoping that it was an accident, that the woman will notice them and return them to the complex where I’ve left my name and number, but I’m not optimistic that it will happen in time. We were skating on Sunday afternoon to get Reid comfortable on skates before her first hockey practice/game that will happen this Saturday. Now she is comfortable on skates but skateless. Our evenings are jam-packed this week and it seems I may have to try buying skates at lunch, lugging them home and trying them on. Sigh.

Reid asked me if I was going to tell Ken what had happened. It was a funny question. I don’t think I say, “don’t tell Daddy …” Ken and I just aren’t in the sort of relationship where I need to be afraid of his reaction. I told Reid that I would tell him, that I hadn’t done anything wrong and that he’d find out anyway. I should have said, “Of course, I’ll tell him” and left it at that. I don’t want her to think that withholding information is okay when you’ve done something wrong or when the other person won’t find out. But maybe I weigh those things subconsciously? I wish I would have seized the “teachable moment” and told Reid that adults only kids to keep secrets when they – the adults – have done something they shouldn’t have done. Maybe the next time, I’ll think of that. Probably I’ll forget.

At home once more, Reid was a hungry girl. I gave her a golden plum and she loved it! A few minutes later I noticed Reid was still eating plums and told she needed to switch to vegetables. Reid needed two more plums, or so she said. I asked her how many she’d already eaten and she said she didn’t know. I replied that I was   pretty sure she’d had more than three. Reid’s quick comeback was: “But less than ten.” Apparently ten is the minimum number of plums defined by the term “too many”, as in “Reid, you’ve had too many plums. Have some vegetables instead.” Again, I missed a teachable moment. I should have reminded Reid that when you can count something, the term to use is “fewer”. Ah, well.

Just before falling asleep at bedtime, Reid told me that she was sad because she missed her skates. Missed them? She barely knew them!

Things you learn about your kid

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Last Saturday, Aunt Karin and I had decided to have Italian food for supper – were almost at the restaurant, in fact – when we noticed a sign on an adjacent restaurant advertising a lobster fest. We instantly and simultaneously decided we wanted lobster and, since the restaurant with the sign didn’t seem kid-friendly, we headed to Red Lobster. (I love my GPS!) I said that I wondered if there would be a special that included shrimp. Reid piped up from the back seat, “I want shrimp!” That caught me off-guard. I offered Reid shrimp on her birthday and she wouldn’t even touch one. Aunt Karin explained that Shea had ordered popcorn shrimp one night and Reid had tried it and liked it. Of course, if Shea ate cardboard covered in sawdust, there is a very good chance that Reid would like it. At the restaurant, Reid ate breaded shrimp and some cooked in garlic butter and then turned her attention to the crab legs. Fighting to get to the food, especially when tools are involved, appeals to Reid. She was less interested in the lobster tail. I think it seemed to mundane, laying on the plate, waiting to be eaten with no tail to pull off and no exoskeleton to be cracked.

I’m always pleased that Reid will try most foods but it might be okay if she turned her nose up at some of the more expensive ones. ;+)

Confessions of a falsely-accused allergen purveyor

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Reid’s been at Gymnastics Camp this week at Starr Gymnastics (where she used to take classes before she suddenly stopped liking them this time last year). They ban sesame seeds, as well as peanuts and tree nuts, from their facility. I didn’t think the impact would be that much greater until the coach took Reid’s ancient grain tortilla roll-up sandwich away from her on Monday at lunch. Now, technically, she was told that she could eat the sandwich if she went to the office. What 5 year old is going to choose exile? Luckily, I’d packed lots because I wasn’t sure how much Reid would need, what with me having to pack snacks, too.

Since we had no explanation, I decided that perhaps flax seeds were also banned.  We have 2 kinds of bread and 2 kinds of pitas in our house. All have flax seeds in them. On Tuesday morning, thanks to us not having a functioning central air system, Reid and I were both up by 5:30 and thus able to bake banana muffins for her snack. All seemed to be fine at camp but on Wednesday night, Reid reported that the coach had taken her muffins away.

I asked on Thursday morning why they kept confiscating Reid’s food, since by then I’d verified that flax seeds weren’t actually banned and I couldn’t figure out what whole grain foods I could send with her. The fellow said that the flax seeds had probably been mistaken for sesame seeds and they didn’t know what was in homemade foods. There’s an endorsement for single-serving convenience foods, eh? I was told that I should label things I baked and then they’d know. Coincidentally, I’d done just that earlier in the morning. Not that there was anything in the camp info to say this was important. I also received a small lecture about the severity of allergies suffered by some of the campers. I never disputed the need for vigilance, though, just the lack of feedback I was getting. It’ll be good to get Reid back into school where all of the food she requires is provided.

Birthday celebration at camp

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

I went out to an event called Blog Out Loud Ottawa last Thursday night. It was as fun and interesting as it was poorly timed for me. I left an hour before it wrapped up to bake cupcakes for Reid to take to celebrate her birthday at camp. I planned for her to attend camp at her school this week so that she’d be able bring the cupcakes – every time one of the other kids brought something during the school year, Reid had asked if she’d be able to do so, too. All this being said, I left and caught a bus in a strange part of town but still made it home within the hour. Except the “hour” was 10:00 and I rarely stay up past 9:00 and, lately, have fallen asleep with Reid by 8:00.

I located the vegan cake recipe on the Instructables web site on the way home, just in case I was missing any ingredients. In addition to answering the “no eggs, no milk, no nuts” requirements for bringing food to school, it is a scrumptious chocolate cake that is super-easy to make. I made 32 mini-cupcakes, thinking the kids would like to have a couple each. One didn’t come out as it was supposed to and so I had to eat it. 31 wasn’t as good a number but I was too tired to make more. I did wait until they’d cooled completely before trying to take any others out of their spots. I piled them artfully on the base of my cake taker and sprinkled them with icing sugar. It looked pretty and was much less fiddly (not to mention faster) than icing a those mini cupcakes. Plus, my soy margarine has milk solids in it and it was too late to buy anything else for the frosting. Mostly I was going with the prettiness of the sugar dusting.  When I showed Reid in the morning, though, all of the icing sugar had been absorbed by the cupcakes. They were just too moist!

I’d promised Reid that I’d buy a candle in the shape of a “5″ but forget to do it. On Friday morning, I told Reid about my mistake and said we’d stop at the Metro on the way to camp. They had one “5″ candle on their rack but it was broke into two pieces. We checked at the Zellers and Food Basics in the same mall but they were both closed. Finally, I told Reid that we could wait and * maybe* find one at one of the other stores or she could use the five stick candles that we’d brought. Reid thought a moment and then said, “We should go to camp now, right, Mama.” I agreed that we should and we did. I was proud of her reasonableness in the face of disappointment. Maybe 5 is different than 4 (though she has been increasingly able to manage her disappointments over the last while).

After school on Friday, Reid reported that the kids and teachers had sung “Happy Birthday” and “Bonne fête”. They’d all had a cupcake but Reid said that none of the kids got a second one. I didn’t think to ask if she liked hers but, now that I know she didn’t eat her birthday cake or birthday pie, I probably should.

Happy birthday happenings

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Reid’s birthday was a celebration from start to finish. I brought her breakfast in bed as I read about a Andrea at A Peak Inside the Fishbowl doing for her children. I’m particularly proud of myself for remembering the idea over the last couple of months. Reid, who had already cuddled into bed with Ken, was tickled to see me with the tray. She said that it was good that she was in daddy’s bed so that her bed, with it’s new sheets and quilt, wouldn’t get anything spilled on it. I’m pretty sure that this was the sort of thought she should have kept to herself, no matter how true it was. Reid was careful as she ate her Cheerios and banana and drank her orange juice from its wine glass. Only one Cheerio got away from her. Given the number of Cheerios that end up on the dining room floor in a given week, one was a good number. After breakfast, Reid opened birthday cards from Aunt Karin and Uncle Dave (and Shea, Adam and Sulienne), Uncle Rick and Aunt Stephanie and Grandmama. She was excited to hear what each one said and who they were from. Separating the card opening from present opening made the cards seem more special and brought excitement to breakfast.

Reid went to swimming lessons wearing the birthday cake hat that I got her from the Dollar Store. She took it off before she got to the pool deck but she told her teacher it was her birthday. He’s a bit odd. He didn’t wish her “Happy birthday” as I do reflexively when I’m told about someone’s birthday. Maybe I’m odd, too, but he is odd in other ways. The other little girl in Reid’s class was absent and so Reid enjoyed a private lesson, almost like I planned it. We stopped at the Dollar Store on the way home for a few more balls for loot bags. Parents replied to the invitation as late as Thursday and so I scrambled a bit at the end. I was ever so grateful that Grandma Joyce insisted that she should make as many cloth bags as kids that we invited, even though people say attendance at summer birthdays is low. We had two left over but it was a near thing.

Reid’s party started at 10:45 at Cosmic Adventures. Unlike last year, when I dallied a bit and Ken was forced to speed across town and we were still later arriving than the first couple of guests, we got there before anyone else. We milled about in the lobby, collecting 12 of the 13 kids who were coming in the first 20 minutes. Each person entering the play area required an wrist band and I asked people to fill in “Hello my name is” stickers. It gave me hope that I’d be able to call the other adults something other than “M’s mom” or “J and L’s dad”. Unfortunately, most provided the kid’s names only. Still I did learn the names of 2 moms and one dad as well as one uncle. That uncle had never been to Cosmic Adventures before, was doing his sister a favour, and Ken told him that it was going to be very loud and that his sister would owe him big! (Sort of like I did last year, when Uncle Roger helped out at Reid’s birthday party.)

With all but one straggler accounted for, one of the party people led everyone to the little arcade to explain how the debit card thingys worked in the games. It would have made more sense to gather the parents close as most of the kids – the ones close enough to hear – didn’t understand the directions and the parents who probably could have understood, didn’t hear. Not that it’s rocket science; there are a finite number of ways to swipe a card. From the point of view of the kids’ experience, I think it was better when they got to feed tokens into the machines to play and then received a ribbon of tickets when they won. Environmentally – and economically, I’m sure – the debit cards are a better choice. As a parent who isn’t keen on the arcade, I missed seeing the supply of tokens dwindle, to mark the time I’d spent in that area. Our last guest arrived while we were still in the arcade and so we had 14 kids in total. Reid finally left the arcade without redeeming her card for the little plastic and rubber doodads that we absolutely don’t need in our house. All of the kids had some time in the climbing structure before we were called to the Mars room for lunch. Ken told me that at one point Reid went into the area reserved for kids 4 and under and he showed her the sign and told her she was too big. I bet that she liked being too big for something since she is still too little for many other things.

In the party room, everything runs with a military-sort of precision but the kids don’t seem to notice. They were enticed to all sit down by our party host who pointed out the crayons on the table that could be used on the paper that covered it. He got them to choose apple juice or Fruitopia by touching their nose or raising their hand, respectively. He made a crown for Reid out of balloons but involved all of the kids in stretching out the balloons and letting some filled ones go zooming around the room. No one seemed to mind at all that Reid was the only one with a balloon hat. The pizza was passed out efficiently – there’d been a choice between pizza and hot dogs but I’d decided it was too complicated to have both and ordered cheese pizza for all – and then another party host arrived to start painting faces. Each of the kids that wanted to got a small design on their cheek and didn’t mind interrupting their pizza-eating to do so. The party host gathered everyone together to show them the cake, a rectangle with a green and purple alien in one corner, and then asked if they were still hungry for their pizza or if they wanted cake. Reid went against the crowd and went back to eating her pizza.

We sang, “Happy Birthday” and passed out cake. Reid was excited to receive the first piece (told her dad about it later, even, though he was right there) but didn’t even pick up the fork to try her cake. This worked well because it meant we had time for a group photo and the present unwrapping. The party host sat next to Reid as she unwrapped her presents, recording who gave what on an official Cosmic Adventures form. It was like we rented a maid-of-honour. Once presents were unwrapped it was 1:00 and time for the official part of the party to end. The kids were welcome to stay with their parents until the 8:30 closing but we weren’t responsible for them. The moms were impressed by the cloth lot bags (I confessed Grandma Joyce had made them when asked) and the kids seemed to like the smiley-face ball, funny pen, notebook and Franklin story that was in each.

A surprising number of the kids had to leave immediately. I’d have been taking advantage of the no-admission-fee chance to let my kid run a bit more. A tired kid is the kind one wants at bedtime, no? Of course, there was the one kid whose parents had delayed the start of their family vacation until after the party and the others who had stayed home from the cottage in order to attend. Cosmic Adventures is a very popular birthday party location! We ended up staying until about 2:30 when the four who were allowed to stay longer left. We picked up the left-over cake and bag of presents at the desk on our way out. Birthday party packages are pretty expensive but the service is excellent.

Reid and I dropped Ken and the presents off at home and then went to buy some food for our planned picnic supper. It’s been raining so much and so often that I hadn’t wanted to commit to buying what we needed until I knew that we’d actually go. Sandwiches, cheese, veggies and the like are good for a picnic but seem weird as at-home birthday dinner offerings. It’s popular wisdom that you shouldn’t shop on an empty stomach and I can attest to the fact that it’s even worse to do when your stomach is empty and you’re tired. Everything that took *no effort to prepare* looked good. The only thing I was willing to buy that required me to expend energy were the cherries that I had to wash.

Melissa, Peter and Ben picked us up about 5:00 and we headed down to see Natalie MacMaster and the National Arts Centre Orchestra playing at one of the Orchestra in the Park concerts. We were early enough and lucky enough to find a picnic table to eat at and we enjoyed our supper and then I put a candle in the pie Reid had chosen at the store. We sang “Happy Birthday” and Reid tried to blow out the candle but the wind was so strong that the candle went out as soon as I lit it two or three times. Finally, I asked Reid to pretend to blow out the candle so that I could take the standard photo. (I’m such a cheater.) Reid refused the piece of pie that she was offered and also the ice cream that was all soft and creamy from its time in the cooler without ice). We offered extra pieces to the people sitting near us but most looked more than a little surprised that we offered and declined. One lady accepted and then her friend did, too. It was nice to share our celebration.

We tidied up and then left Peter and Ken to guard the chairs while Melissa, Ben, Reid and I went to see what else was going on. We found a water fountain that had way too much water pressure and a misaligned spout. The water’s arc was twice as large as it should have been. (I mention this only because there is a very good thing that Reid and Ben would say that it was the most memorable part of the evening. When we were walking, Reid asked me to carry her. I said “no” and noted that she is getting big and soon I won’t be able to carry her. Reid said, “Probably when I’m 20, I’ll be too heavy and too long for you to carry.” I told her that I was thinking more like 10 or maybe 7. I don’t think Reid believed me.

We saw some modern dancers (from The Dance School – Dancing in the Streets) performing on the grass. Reid watched a bit and then began emulating their poses and movements. We also went into a tent for the kids to try a guitar, ukulele (I think), drums and a violin. I’m pretty sure the Ottawa Folklore Centre provided the first instruments but I’m not sure from where the violins came. Having whiled away an hour, we headed for our seats. Reid couldn’t walk by the porta-john, despite our visit to the posh facilities (by comparison) of the Canadian War Museum. While standing in line, we got to see two people dressed in historic costumes and so it was good all around. We had to pick our way carefully to our chairs as the crowd grew dramatically while we’d been away. People were good natured about shifting, like they *should* be at outdoor concerts but sometimes aren’t. Reid and Ben had their chairs in front of ours. Reid has discovered, or maybe more accurately, finally noticed that Ben isn’t a fan of PDA (public displays of affection). He defines “public” as any situation involving more than himself and his parents when it comes to hugs or kisses. Reid likes to threaten to kiss him, she may actually carry through if she were able, and I have to tell her that everyone has the right to decide what happens to her/his body instead of smiling and remembering when little girls used to chase little boys and vice versa and it didn’t mean anything.

Once the concert started, Reid had trouble staying in her seat. She wanted to dance, had to dance, in fact. Unfortunately the closest good place for dancing was in Ben’s sight line of the stage. Still Reid listened some, danced some and talked some (it’s Reid, the talking was inevitable) for the 90 minutes the concert lasted. The sky looked increasingly ominous as the time passed. By the time Natalie MacMaster came out for her encore, people were getting antsy. As the last notes died away, the crowd began packing up their chairs and heading out. We got to the van – carpooling saved such coordination headaches – and Reid and Ken each got to open their presents before we went to out house. I was amazed that Reid didn’t fall asleep on the way home but I guess it’s hard to sleep when you’re talking non-stop.

Reid went to sleep quickly at home, or I think she did, I was out in no time flat, myself. She even slept in an hour on Sunday. It was a birthday full of happy happenings. I’m so glad that Reid had fun (and also that we only do it once a year).