Wednesday, July 27, 2011

a birthday toast

It was my husband's birthday yesterday and we have three, established birthday traditions at our house.  One is champagne.  The champagne definitely comes from my Argentinian in-laws, I did not grow up with a champagne toast at every birthday (I am not complaining--I love this tradition!).  Another tradition is a homemade cake.  I usually try something overly ambitious that ends up being mostly a yummy mess.  This year I attempted a meringue torte that only kind of worked (I need to keep working on my meringue).  And the final tradition is random numbers of candles (or number candles) on the cake.  I never remember to buy candles and we always end up using what's in the back of the cutlery drawer (my husband is neither fifteen nor fifty-one--he would want me to clarify that).   After the cake and champagne this year we went out.

We went to a play.  We always enjoy theatre and it had been a while, so we decided to check out a new play.  Unfortunately, it wasn't very good.  The actor's were so young and hopeful, that we would have died of guilt had we ducked out at the intermission (and I'm telling you I wanted to).  We stuck it out.  The play really dragged and there was some physical theatre elements that were just embarrassing.  One actress had this swooshy, hair waving thing that made me cringe every time she did it.  Oh well, they took a risk and that is something.  It wasn't a perfect birthday, but we did get a few snarky laughs out of it on the way home.

Happy Birthday D!

Monday, July 25, 2011

another sunny Sunday

We got up early and headed out for breakfast at our favourite breakfast joint.  We had a yummy breakfast and then had to go back home and get shoes for the person who had earlier gotten into the car (to go to a restaurant!)  barefoot.  And then we were off, across the bridge, and on our way to the beach.

It was sunny and beautiful.  There were quite a few people around, but it was far from crowded.  Pony rides were had, books were read, and sandwiches were eaten.  It was a glorious day.

Friday, July 22, 2011

food on Friday

I  started this blog with the plan to do food and recipe posts on Fridays.  I love to cook; I've always loved to cook.  But I made some dramatic changes in my eating a couple of months ago, and it's changed how I cook and think about food.  It's also left me uncertain about what to write about here on Fridays.  I'm in the middle of an experiment and I'm not sure if it's too early to talk about results.

I decided to start experimenting with my diet because I was increasingly not feeling well.  I've had migraines my entire adult life but they were becoming more frequent and more debilitating.  And more than that, I just felt sort of lousy and tired all the time.  I had these running goals, but was bowing out of training way too often because of headaches.  So I did an internet search and the paleo diet came up over and over again.  I was skeptical (the concept still does not sit entirely comfortably with me), but there were so many testimonials that I decided to try it.

So if you don't know, to follow a paleo diet you stop eating sugar, dairy, grains and legumes (eat only things that were available to paleolithic humans).  It is low carb, high protein and it seems impossible at first.  I'm still struggling with the meat--I've always had vegetarian tendencies.  But, the headaches are gone, even the monthly menstrual migraine.  I can't explain this and I have no idea if this would be true for other people, but it's been amazing for me.  

Also, I don't ache.  I assumed my achey joints were just a natural outcome of years of treeplanting and I never even questioned it.  Three days into my paleo experiment and the stiffness in my hips was gone.  It seemed kind of miraculous at the time.  It was so unexpected that it convinced me that I was doing something right.

I feel good and I suspect there's no going back.  So how do I write about food when mostly I just cook meat and vegetables as simply as possible?  I don't know.  I've always been skeptical of special diets and believed in moderation.  But here I am, anything but moderate; one of those annoying people who won't even have a bite of pizza.  So I'm not sure.  It's possible that next week there'll be a recipe for hemp pumpkin seed bars, or I'll just stop writing about food all together because, frankly, I'm a little embarrassed.

Completely unrelated, I did an interview with  BlogExpat.  Check it out.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

little birds

My daughter made a bird feeder for a school project.  It's funny how something so simple and small can bring so much pleasure.  We don't get anything too fancy or exotic at the feeder, but it is pleasing to watch the little birds that do come.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Against my better judgement, we got the girls a couple of baby bunnies.  My younger daughter has been asking for a rabbit every day for more than a year.  I have given her every argument: we have cats, bunnies scratch and dig, and the smell...  I have been saying no, and explaining why, for more than a year (every day).  It's not so much that she wore me down (although there certainly was some of that) it's more that it just started to seem mean to not get her a bunny.  She drew bunnies, talked about them and imagined them.  On long car trips we had to prohibit the topic of rabbits or she would drive us crazy.  She has been unrelenting and somehow it didn't seem fair to keep holding out.  And lately, holding out seems like something I do a lot.

My older daughter is the only girl in sixth grade without a blackberry, and her dearest wish is for a fancy phone.  She mentions it often but not incessantly; she was more insistant last year--I think we wore her down.  It pains me because I know she suffers.  But the phone is more complicated than the bunny.  I have ideas about materialism and overly technological childhoods; I was mostly just trying to avoid a nuisance by refusing the rabbit.  We tell her to wear her difference like a badge, "don't get sucked into all that materialistic crap."  But you know, easy for us to say, we aren't in the sixth grade.  I'm not entirely sure what to do about the phone.  I am getting my first fancy phone in the next week or two and I'm planning to share it with her.  It doesn't sit entirely comfortably with me (am I giving in?).

Funny thing about the bunnies, when we gave them to the girls my little one was strangely silent.  Later she asked me if people who get what they want are greedy.  She said she felt a little bit bad about getting the bunny; guilty.  I'm still not entirely sure what to make of this.  I told her that she shouldn't feel bad and that she should just enjoy her bunny; that we gave it with a lot of love.  She seems to be over her guilt now and is genuinely thrilled.  I'm waiting to see what her next obsession will be.  I hope it isn't a fancy phone.

Friday, July 15, 2011

when the dog bites

I am not particularly afraid of dogs.  When I walk home from school with my girls we pass several houses with dogs.  I've often been surprised by how many people here have two or three dogs in their backyards, and I assume it is for security.  There is one house that we pass that has three or four dogs in the backyard (I can't tell exactly how many because they are a just a seething, snapping mass of fur when we pass) that bark and growl hysterically at us every single day.  They are remarkably unpleasant, and I have never doubted that they would bite given the chance.  It is hard not to speculate  about people who keep a pack of clearly aggressive dogs in their backyard.  And I have often wondered about the inhabitants of this particular house.

The house is a little shabbier than the other houses on the street, and through the window, an older lady can be seen in an overstuffed chair watching TV.  There is a table beside her heaped with laundry or linen (or corpses of husbands past--hard to tell from the street).  Outside, (I assume he is her son, or maybe grandson) a thirty something man with a babyface, leans over the popped hood of a car.  He is friendly, but he does not give an impression of great intellect; he always shouts at the dogs when they bark at us.  This charming tableau has on many occasions set my imagination in motion.  I have outlined a whole short story about a drug-dealing son selling crack from his widowed mother's affluent, but deteriorated, home.  This particular house and its inhabitants have intrigued me as long as we've lived in the neighbourhood.

Last night, after I finished my run, I rounded the corner by this house on my way home.  I was sweaty and tired and thinking about some mashed sweet potato with way too much butter in it,  that was waiting for me in the fridge.  I noticed that the crazy dogs were in the front yard when they began their lunatic barking.  Suddenly one of those awful dogs was on the sidewalk growling and snarling at me.  The dog was small, and my first thought was, "oh, it's just a puppy."  And then it lunged and bit my knee cap.  I was furious.  I swore at the dog and the owner in English because I am not bilingual enough for furious swearing in Spanish.  And it's funny, because I thought about needing to say it in Spanish in the half second before I began (how do you say what the ....).  I didn't even try; I just let loose in English.  If there is ever a moment when swearing is called for, it's when someone's stupid, hysterical dog bites you.  The guy was very apologetic and hit the dog (which I'm sure does not help the situation).  I walked home wondering if my knee was injured, because dog teeth tearing at my kneecap had not felt good.

My knee seems fine; a big bruise and a puncture.  It feels sore but not injured.  Thankfully it was a small dog and even more thankfully it wasn't the whole pack!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

likes to draw

I had a meeting with my daughter's teacher yesterday.  She's had some low grades (not kinda low, failing low) and I wasn't sure if she was still missing some work from when she was sick.  Her teacher, who is very sweet and well-loved by her second grade charges, told me my daughter is doing fine, but there is one problem:  she is constantly drawing during class.  Not in the open, on top of her desk, but sneakily in a notebook hidden on her lap.  This was not surprising, she loves to draw.

I do not want to discourage her love of drawing but I would like her to pay more attention in class.  My plan is to focus on her school work a little more than I have been; pay more attention to her homework.  I'm hoping that with a little focused energy on my part, I can get her a little more engaged.  It's not that I think grades are terribly important, but she really is so capable and it comes easy when she tries and pays attention.  We will see what happens.

Monday, July 11, 2011

beach Sunday

reach the beach
As we walked down to the beach on Sunday we could hear the high tide waves crashing.  My daughter hurried ahead of me.  As she passed me she emphatically said "I'm born for the beach."  She was trying to put her big feelings into words.

It was drizzly and the sun never really came out.  But the water was warm and the beach was all ours.

Friday, July 8, 2011

on the mend

luckily, there's this in my yard because we sure haven't gone anywhere lately.

It's been a weird couple of weeks.  I've either been looking after someone sick or have been sick myself.  The fevers are all gone but we are a tired lot.  No one is eating as they usually do.  It's hard to cook when you don't feel like eating and we've been surviving on the plainest, simplest food imaginable (toast anyone?).  Every day I try to come up with something enticing, but nothing appeals to me.  The doctor said it takes a couple of weeks to fully get over a virus like this.   I look forward to feeling normal and feeling hungry.

I didn't run the 8k race I was signed up for on Sunday.  I did not feel very well and my husband was at his sickest.  It was disappointing but there's a 10k race in a month so I'm just setting my sights on that.   I'm better, but it's been really hard to get back into training.  There's a running mantra, "pain is inevitable, suffering is optional."  And boy do I suffer after a few days off.  I know it's all in my head, but honestly I always feel like I'm going to die the first day back.  My body reverts to its natural slothful state and protests wildly, "oh, god, this again?  I thought we had stopped doing this."  Last night there were a lot of people out running.  It was a beautiful evening and all I could think of was how my stomach hurt, and my foot hurt, and my back felt tight, and how everyone seemed to be going faster than me.  It  was full on suffering and I could not stop.  So much of running is in your head which is one of the great things about it but also one of the worst things about it.

I'm hoping to get my running groove back this weekend.  I also hope to get my appetite back.  I've been looking at recipes online all morning and nothing is tempting me.  (This is the reason I haven't blogged all week--whining, that's all I got.  Sorry.)  Next week will be better.

Friday, July 1, 2011

a weird virus and a chocolate cake for recovery

So we've been sick.  I still am sick.  It started last Thursday, innocently enough, when my younger daughter came home from school early with a fever.  I put her to bed and assumed she'd sleep it off in a day or two.  Her fever went up in the night but she woke feeling pretty good, with no fever.  Then her fever went up again on Friday afternoon and then again on Saturday.  Now my husband and I are on the same page about most parenting issues, but dealing with illness is an exception.  I am low intervention and he is "what can she take?" at the first glimmer of sickness.

In the past I've conceded to him, and we've taken feverish children to the freezing emergency room.  Honestly, they spend more time examining your insurance policy than actually looking at the kid.  I have been irritated and frustrated by the doctors and nurses in the emergency (we've only been a couple of times and just for fevers.  I'm sure they are great at real emergencies).  The last time the doctor wrote a prescription for antibiotics even though there was no indication of bacterial infection (he said it was "just in case").  And I haven't even mentioned the routine shots of analgesic in the bum.

So, shots are a thing here.  I was always mystified by how people would get a cold or something and go to the clinic to have an injection.  "What are these injections?" I wondered.  And then during a bad flu I got one myself.  It's an analgesic and it's administered to the fleshy part of the bum.  When I told a Panamanian friend that in Canada, there are no routine injections for the flu, that people just take medicine orally, she looked at me with such pity and disbelief, like "you poor people, how are you not all dead."  I've decided it's a cultural thing.  Still, I'm not really into the unnecessary bum injections and they are just routine in the emergency.

So, I stood my ground with my husband and said no to an emergency visit.  My position became very tenuous by Sunday as my daughter was not getting better.  Through all of this we could not get a hold of our pediatrician.  When her fever went up scarily on Sunday night, the pediatrician who was filling in finally called us back.  She agreed to see us first thing Monday morning.

I really like our pediatrician and the doctor filling in for him was excellent.  By this time, my daughter had been five days with fever.  She had no signs of bacterial infection, only a slight sore throat and the fever that would not quit.  The doctor gave us some oral analgesic and sent us to the lab for a bunch of tests (Dengue, Mono, etc..).  Her tests all came back fine.  It was just weird virus, which my husband and I can attest to because we both have it now.

It's horrible, my skin even hurt yesterday and I cannot remember the last time I was so tired.  I think I'm getting better.  I hope I'm getting better; I'm supposed to be running an 8K race on Sunday.

Anyway, in honor of Canada Day and in the hopes of tempting my daughter (her appetite still hasn't returned).  I made some chocolate cake.

Moosewood Chocolate Cake

1 ½ cups white flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup cold coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons vinegar 

Preheat the oven to 375º F.  Flour and butter a 9" round or 8" square (or similarly sized heart-shape).
Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl, mix  add  with a whisk.  Add the coffee, oil and vanilla.  Mix well and finally add the vinegar.  Quickly stir the vinegar in and pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 25 minutes.

Happy Canada Day!