Category: Swimming

A Week in Suppers: 6

Monday supper. Grilled sausages (breakfast, because that’s all we had left in the freezer). Mashed potato casserole (lots of cheese). Squash and beets cooked whole in the crockpot. Swim lessons were cancelled, so I had more time than expected after school to prepare supper. Not that it mattered. I’d made the casserole the night before and popped it into the fridge. It needed about twenty minutes in the oven. Most of us liked it. I would make it again, as a way of using up leftover mashed potatoes. Anyone out there have ideas for leftover potatoes? I’m stuck in a cottage pie/shepherd’s pie/casserole groove. I mashed the squash with a touch of maple syrup, and butter; always good. That was the last “keeper” squash and it was a bit soft at the top. The beets were so far gone I wasn’t sure they could be ressurected, but they steamed up nicely, and despite a slight overall rubberiness, when sliced and salted, they were sweet and tasty. But I’m tired of beets. And no one else will eat them. Kevin had soccer. I swam in the morning. In between, the kids had school, and CJ stayed for the “lunch bunch” at his nursery school, giving me an extra half hour to work. Or to nap, as the case may be. Then we went shoe shopping (for him) and clothes shopping (for me). It felt very car-based and suburban. Especially when I filled up the truck with gas. Good grief!

Tuesday supper. Curried carrot soup. Quinoa. Squash and egg casserole (big-time 70s recipe). On the soup, which should have been good: the curry flavours needed to be stronger. A friend sent the suggestion when I complained about the blandness of last batch of carrot soup (thank God, this batch marked the end of our carrot invasion). She suggested grating in fresh ginger at the very end to add an extra pop. But I cooked everything together and was far too conservative with my spice amounts. I froze the leftovers for a quick meal another time: will bump up the spices upon reheating. I would call this meal not a flop, exactly, but tinged with disappointment; nobody but Kevin and me ate the squash casserole, which was almost dessert-like and delicious, but decidedly unattractive. I napped early, almost immediately after getting home from spin class, and had lots of energy all day, enough to make it to yoga before supper. AppleApple had an outdoor soccer practice, so Kevin had the unenviable job of packing up CJ, and driving to pick up Fooey (on a playdate), then AppleApple (on a playdate), then Albus (on a playdate), and then racing to the soccer field. We ended up eating supper together, minus AppleApple, whom I picked up after supper. She’d eaten a bunch of snacks on the way there, but was famished enough to have a helping of squash casserole. CJ insisted on riding along to the soccer field, but I made him promise to listen to the federal leaders’ debate on the way. It put him to sleep (gah!), but somehow we managed to transfer him from truck to bed, and then to fool him into thinking it was very very late at night when he woke restlessly around 8pm. He must have been tired. He slept for a full 12 hours. The rest of the family stayed up watching the whole debate, and talking about what we’d heard. Then Kevin went to hockey.

Wednesday supper. Crockpot lentil soup: the harira recipe on this blog, over rice. Nice. Could have used a side veg, but I had nothing convenient on hand. This was an oddball day. CJ stayed for lunch bunch again, and my friend J picked him up, and I got to go for a massage instead! Woot! It was my gift to myself post-race. I also met with my brother in the morning to talk about cookbooks. I was floating the idea–the underdeveloped notion, more like it–of making a cookbook loosely based on this “week in suppers” theme. Talking to him (he works for a company that publishes a lot of cookbooks) put it into perspective. The work involved would be staggering. It might not be the best use of my time. Unless I do it slowly, over time, gradually gathering recipes and photos until I have enough material to justify putting a book together–and then arranging for recipe testing, etc. Fiction-writing is a better use of my time: that’s what it confirmed for me. Other nice things happened today: I went for a morning run with my friend N; I ran a quick errand uptown all by myself; I ate a spinach and feta pastry for lunch; my friend M took the little girls to their music class so I didn’t have to leave the house; and Kevin came home early so I could go to yoga. I took Albus to his piano lesson and read Annabel, by Kathleen Winter, a book I liked so much–loved might be the word for it–that I think I will blog about it soon.

Thursday supper. Beans and rice, with quesedillas and red cabbage salad. This entire week had flop written all over it. I don’t know how I managed it, since beans are my specialty, but somehow, when suppertime arrived, these were still hard in the pot and required a full hour of extra cooking time. So I fired up the cast-iron skillet and made a pile of quesedillas using corn tortillas (like a Latin American grilled cheese sandwich). Albus ate about six. AppleApple was at a birthday party, from which Kevin picked her up early to go to another soccer practice. The little kids played outside, and no one complained (too much) about being hungry. We ate late, when the beans finally softened. I forgot to take a photo. Instead, here’s AppleApple from another afternoon this week: yay! We have new space to play, now: it’s called Outside! (Or we did last week, before it decided to snow again). And we have big plans for backyard improvements (though I think we’ll pass on the water slide from Albus’s bedroom window down to a trampoline, as was brainstormed during Saturday night’s supper). Kevin and I had kundalini yoga, and then I put on my dancing shoes, and drove to nearby Guelph with two friends to go dancing. My siblings’ band was playing a show. Here’s a link to their latest video. If you ever get a chance to see Kidstreet play live, go go go! They throw down an instant dance party. That was a late night, especially considering my day had started at 5:15–to go swimming. But that’s okay. I told Kevin just before I ran the half that this coming week would be my party week.

Friday supper. Finally, success!!! I made miso soup and pad thai. Both were fabulous. The pad thai recipe was different from the usual ones involving ketchup: the sauce was 1/4 cup of fish sauce, 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice, and a whole lot of sugar. I had some frozen cilantro that I added to the mix. The miso soup is so good and so simple that I made it again for the kids’ lunch the next day: it’s basically instant soup, if you have the ingredients on hand (miso paste, seaweed, and tofu). I was thrilled to have made a meal that everyone loved. AppleApple was at a playdate after school and arrived home toward the end of the meal. My late night/early morning combo (plus a morning run) caught up with me around 7pm, so Kevin did the dishes while I crashed out on the couch for about an hour and a half (!!!). Woke in time to tuck kids in, then we flopped and watched tv: Parks and Rec, and 30 Rock, and we tried out Modern Family, which I liked more than I’d expected to. Albus tried to stay up too. “What are you up to?” I asked him, when I discovered him hanging around the kitchen past his bedtime. “I’m observing,” he said.

Saturday supper. Take-out Indian from our favourite spot in town: Masala Bay! Kevin worked today, and I was tired. I managed to bake bread and granola, and to take the kids to the little park in a rainstorm, and to arrange transport for AppleApple, who has both Singer’s Theatre in the morning, and soccer practice in the afternoon (I asked her yesterday, picking her up from her FOURTH practice of the week, whether she feels she’s doing too much, to which she replied, “No!!!” She loves soccer. She likes being busy. She had difficulty imagining that a parent could push a child to do something the child wouldn’t want to do, anyway.) I had zero inspiration for supper. What a treat to order food that would have taken me an inordinate amount of effort to prepare. Samosas, pakoras, nan, black lentils in cream and butter, a fiery eggplant dish, butter chicken, chicken in chili and coriander. We feasted. We stayed at the table for over an hour, talking and laughing. CJ is still a bit young to participate fully, and he does end up interrupting and yelling sometimes, or dropping his fork to get attention, but I am otherwise relishing the stage that our family is at, and how much pleasure we get just from spending time together around the table. That evening Kevin and I got to party some more, to celebrate my friend J’s graduation from midwifery school. More dancing, and free drinks. Another late night.

Sunday supper. Leftovers and scrambled eggs. There were enough Indian leftovers for an entire second supper, to which AppleApple added scrambled eggs made-to-order. I’ve been giving the older kids more freedom in the kitchen, and they spent a lot of time last week making tea (after getting permission to use the stove). AppleApple was keen to learn how to make scrambled eggs, envisioning herself rising early to cook herself breakfast (which would be, frankly, awesome). It was a fairly tricky process, but by the end, she made a batch without anyone watching over her shoulder. The gas stove makes it feel more dangerous, but it’s time for the kids to find real independence in the kitchen. And it’s time for me to ease up and let them. (On a side note: CJ agreed to be three this week: because he wanted to take a turn at cooking, and I told him that it starts when you turn four. “And you’re still two, so that’s a long way to go.” He considered his options briefly, and told me, “I’m three now.”) We’ve noticed some improvements in responsibility, and I think it’s more to do with my own expectations than with their initiative (or lack thereof). Tidying the house yesterday was so much easier with everyone responsible for their own spaces, and helping out overall: they helped because they were expected to help, and they got that. But I’m a bit of a control freak in the kitchen (just ask Kevin), so I’m reminding myself to back off and make space for everyone else to help out here, too. No exercise yesterday or today. Yup, it was a party week. We ended the day with homework completed, piano practiced, and a planning meeting over a pot of tea: always a good entry into the new week ahead.

Reading Tonight

I couldn’t get the poster to upload, but wanted to let you know that I’m reading tonight in downtown Kitchener at The Museum (formerly known as the Children’s Museum). Doors open at 7pm, but the readings don’t start till 7:30. It’s a free event. I don’t know whether or not there will be drinks available. Should have asked.

:::

Back from my early morning swim, feeling buoyant. Seems to be the feeling I get after my early morning swims. Could also be due to a piece of good news received in the mail yesterday. I opened the non-descript envelope hurriedly, on my way into the house to turn down the crockpot, with CJ waiting in the truck outside in the driveway (yes, I’m that kind of mother; but the truck wasn’t running). I was running late for an appointment, and didn’t want the lentils in the crockpot to scorch. Then I saw the envelope. It was from the Ontario Arts Council, and I knew what that might mean–grant application denied. Or, the opposite. Ripped it open, read the first line, saw the cheque, and began bouncing and screaming. Remembered to turn down the crockpot. Raced outside to tell CJ. Wondered whether I had indeed remembered to turn off the crockpot. Raced back inside to check. Yes, crockpot turned down. Raced back to truck. CJ mildly interested. Should I really be driving under the circumstances? I asked. It was a brief spell of intense joy, and I’ve learned to embrace those spells full-on when they come, because they don’t last, they can’t, and the intensity quickly dissipates. That’s okay. But the huge smile and feeling of goodwill toward all humankind–that was nice. I will try to keep the feeling of goodwill going.

Improvisation

Stepping into the green dream confessional. Ahem.

Working more makes me lazier on the ecologically sound homefront.

I am not taking time to hang laundry very often; instead, tossing everything into the “home sterilizer unit” aka the drier. (This decision is also based on several lice notices from children’s classrooms, and not wanting to risk an invasion; but when will I stop? I haven’t gone back to the clothes rack yet). I am also choosing to drive on occasions when I could walk. Yesterday, I drove to swim lessons, a walk of no more than fifteen minutes one way. But with the vehicle, I could toss the kids in the car last-minute, endure thirty minutes in the pool with CJ, shower, dry off, dress, and return home in exactly one hour. Which shaved time and stress off of my day’s beginning, and allowed me to invite friends over for a morning play. And then I drove to school yesterday afternoon because doing so allowed me to nap for an extra ten minutes (I’d already napped for ten when the buzzer alerted me to walk-to-school time). I hopped up, added another ten minutes to the timer, and fell back to sleep instantly. I can fall asleep in two shakes, and nap virtually anywhere, including my favourite spot: flat on my back on the the living-room floor. Wouldn’t want to get too comfortable.

(Side question: is my instant-sleep ability a talent, or a symptom of sleep-deprivation?).

:::

Have you read The Road? I ploughed through it almost against my will two nights ago, and it shook me to the core. I can’t recommend it–it terrified me utterly–but it is without a doubt a fabulously imagined creation. I won’t spoil the plot, promise; if you haven’t read the book and want to, you can safely read on. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, it seemed to ask me: could you live without hope? And I’m not sure that I could. Is all of my spirit-searching a meaningless enterprise? Would I have the inner resources to cope with extremity? Are inner resources something that can be built or honed, a skill-set like any other? Of course, the nightmare world imagined in the book is extreme, but as an extended metaphor could stand in for any difficult experience that any of us might face (and most of us will face something–how could we not? We are alive and human, and our world is unpredictable, our fates perhaps unwritten, and certainly unknown to us). Most particularly, the book explores a parent’s love for his child, which might be the spark that keeps him hoping and alive. But the love is explicitly terrifying, because he cannot protect his child absolutely. None of us can. But somehow I let myself believe that everything will be okay, that we will all be strong enough to get through anything we need to, that my children will experience love and joy and comfort. I am almost incapable of contemplating the reverse. That is why the book terrified me. It made me contemplate the reverse, and question my inner strength, my resources. There is no way of knowing how–what? who?–we will be until the moment is upon us, and we are required to respond. This applies to everything we do. I am fascinated by the improvisational nature of living. Yet I also want to keep working–not to memorize my lines, but to trust in my responses, to trust in some inner core of calm and strength.

A Little More Summer, Please

Feeling vaguely melancholy; end of summer-ish. Pulled into the driveway this afternoon and noticed fallen leaves on the pavement. noooooooo! But, yes, the days are narrowing ever so slightly. The early morning run happens at the edge of sunrise, not in full light, and nights are cool, almost cold. My sweaters are starting to look comfy and appealing once again. But I’m not done with summer yet!

Witness, these tomatoes picked from our front yard veggie garden–almost exclusively cherry tomatoes, since that’s what we planted. I find the skins a little tough, so Fooey helped me make a recipe from one of her cookbooks, for roasted cherry tomato sauce. Nothing fancy, but it did require slicing each little tomato in half before drizzling with oil and roasting in the oven: Fooey’s job. Nothing makes her happier these days than a job. She is never more cheerful than when she’s been asked to help, and when the job’s done she declares, “That would have been a lot harder without me!”

Often, that is true.

The recipe called for a lot of fuss at the end because it had to be pressed through a sieve to strain all the skins out; only a whiff of roasted tomato remained in the sauce, which we tossed with hot pasta and served with queso duro blando, which I substitute regularly for feta. Albus declared it a bit bland. My kids are used to a chunkier sauce. I am not a sieve-it cook. So I won’t bother to post the recipe. 

:::

In other news, I am considering training to complete a triathlon. I am working out a regular training schedule, and I am even learning to swim (kind of critical to the whole triathlon concept). In fact, I think I’ve learned (front crawl, head in water, breathing to the side), though my neck feels a bit stiff after a lot of practice. The technique will need to be finessed, but I feel a sudden understanding for people who love to swim in all waters, even deep cold Canadian lakes … it’s peaceful under there, calm, all noises stilled except for the underwater sounds, and the sound of the body itself, experienced from the inside. I might just become a swimmer at the age of thirty-five. That would be something. I’ve always wanted to learn … and I’m not sure why it took me this long to jump in and try.

Mama’s Hair Salon

Before and after. I didn’t think she needed a haircut, but she was adamant (everyone else was getting one, you see).
On the other hand, Mama’s hair salon was inspired by these locks, above.After! Now he can see and breathe during swim lessons (that is the hope, anyway.)
No real before/after for AppleApple, because I simply trimmed her ends. And we worked through those dreadlocks that had formed on holiday, due to complete lack of hair-care. This girl is a wild child (for which I love her dearly, though it is my motherly duty to tame her just a wee bit). We were eating out at a restaurant yesterday evening, a stop on the drive home, and in horror Kevin and I watched her devouring clumps of rice with her fingers and sucking soup down the wrong end of the spoon, with hair that suggested we’d captured her in the wild and that our attempts at civilizing her had not been promising.
Before. As if this needs improvement! Yowy.
Well, he can see better after a tiny front trim. But I took one look at those long long long goldilocks curls down his back, and went, nope. Can’t cut those off, can’t even come near them with the scissors.

:::

Yup, we are home from cottaging. Walked through the door and thought, wow, we should go away more often because this place looks GREAT! Totally forgot we’d gotten the place cleaned during our absence, and that it wasn’t by magic that the counters shone and there were no crumbs anywhere.The holiday lethargy never really abated. Kevin felt it too. We rode right into holiday mode and one outing a day was enough to attempt. Which was awesome.
Coming home means looking around with fresh eyes and making to-do lists and discovering energy anew for new projects and familiar routines. Top to-do list is: things we must do before summer’s out! (One thing I can now cross off: cut the kids’ hair).
Three weeks of summer vacation remain. Three sweet weeks.
One thing on our future hopes and plans list is hiking together, now that everyone can do it independently. (Biking together, with everyone on his or her own bicycle is still a few years away, but we’re looking forward to that, too).
We went for a hike around Jones’ Falls locks, on the Rideau Canal, which is very near where Kevin’s family lives. And now we’re considering hiking the Bruce Trail, bit by bit, as a family activity on weekends.While at the cottage, the kids organized and performed a concert, now a tradition in its third (or even fourth??) year. Each year they’ve become more independent, culminating this year in complete artistic autonomy, no adult input whatsoever.
“My name is Albus, and I am the piano artist. My name is AppleApple and I am the singer. My name is Fooey, and I am the dancer. CJ is a dancer too.”
They opened with a solo by AppleApple, Kevin accompanying on the guitar, of “Whisky in the Jar.” Albus played “Axel F” on the portable piano, plus “Wavin’ Flag” (beautifully sung by AppleApple), plus a too-brief invention to which Fooey danced like a dolphin. Then Fooey danced “freestyle” accompanied by a boomboxing Albus (and the rest of us were invited to sing along with any song we’d like). They finished with “Down by the Bay,” a perennial favourite, calling for audience participation. The photos which included all of them were blurred in one way or another: it’s rare that I can capture all of them holding perfectly still at the same time.I had a moment yesterday, walking with them all, when I felt overwhelmed by fortune: look at these children, aren’t we fortunate? I said to Kevin. I can think of nothing I’ve done to deserve such riches, and appreciation seems the least that I can do in acknowledgment and gratitude. Yes, we are often overwhelmed by things other than fortune, such as noise and chaos and mess and complaints and fighting; but heaven help me if I whine too loudly about those incidentals, and lose sight of the beauty and creative energy that surrounds me RIGHT NOW.

She Took Notes

I keep finding scraps of paper around the house with paragraphs in tiny printing: AppleApple recording and making up stories about our daily lives. This overwhelms me with happiness. A child who loves words! I do hope she’ll finish her newspaper; however, she’s currently sidetracked by a school project on orcas, which she is typing up on my computer.
Here are excerpts from the writing I’ve found; I’ve corrected some eccentric spelling and grammar.

This one is from a school assignment, asking, If your mom told you the three most important things to remember, what do you think she would say? Why? “Keep earth clean. Stay safe, and have fun. I think she would say this because she wants to be environmentally friendly she doesn’t want to worry about us and she likes us to have fun.”
{side note: YAY! Talk about affirmation. I think she’s bang on.}

Here’s an advertisement she wrote for a school assignment, selling a candy of her own invention: “Have you ever tasted a yummy healthy morsel that will last forever? Would you like to try one? Is your wish to fly? Well you will get it if you eat this. Is your wish to talk to animals? Well you will get your wish if you eat this. You know how mom says don’t play with your food? Well you can with this and it won’t get dirty. Do you get bored of going over and over in the same swimming class? If you eat this it will make you swim better. Are you worried that you will waste your money? That’s not a problem because my special candy comes with ten and multiplies twenty. So amazing saving 20 dollars! Now you must try this now. Come on kids. Don’t sit there. Come and buy it now.”
{side note: re doing the same swim class forever: She passed, FINALLY! Unfortunately, her brother did not. And somehow, Fooey managed not to pass after having already passed the level three times previously (which likely says more about her instructor’s standards, than Fooey’s accomplishments).
Also, it would appear that AppleApple has her mother’s head for math …}

“Things I like to say at lunch. Can I fill my water bottle? Can I have your autograph? Can I go to the bathroom? Can I get a drink of water? Can I get an apple?”

And this might risk scooping her newspaper, but here’s an excerpt from the notes she’s taking toward that project: “Dad’s crazy about the world cup. Right now he’s watching the world cup. It’s the main subject at home today and yesterday.”
{Totally and completely true. He’s “cleaning up the living-room” right now.}

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