The Mother of Adventure

I’ve been BOOed!

Ghost

This little sign came with my treat bag – I now have to hang it in a visible place in my window. The idea is to see how far it gets around the neighbourhood before Halloween.

I was working away on my laptop this afternoon when my cat’s ears perked up. Turning my head, I saw the distinctive silhouette of my friend and neighbour, hurrying away across my front lawn and disappearing into her waiting car. My first thought was, “What the heck??!?”

I opened my front door and smiled to find a little gift bag sitting there – with two Halloween treat bags inside, along with the following poem:

The air is cool, the season fall,

Soon Halloween will come to all.

Ghosts, goblins and spooks galore,

Tricky witches at your door.

The spooks are after things to do,

In fact, a spook brought this to you!

The treats that came with this note,

Are yours to keep, enjoy them both.

The excitement comes when friends like you,

Will copy it and make two.

We’ll all have smiles upon our faces,

No one will know who “BOO” ed whose places!

Just two short days to work your spell,

Keep it secret, hide it well.

Please join the fun, the season’s here,

Just spread these “BOO’s” and Halloween cheer!

At the end of the poem, I read these words:

You have been BOOed! Please keep it going by following these directions:

1) Enjoy your treats.

2) Place the BOO sign on your front door or visible in a window.

3) Within 2 days, make 2 copies of this note, make 2 treats and 2 BOO signs.

4) Secretly deliver to 2 neighbours/friends that don’t have a BOO sign.

5) Keep an eye on nearby front doors to see how far and fast it spreads by Halloween!

Apparently, this is a little trend that has been growing in suburban Ottawa over the past couple of years – but this is the first I’d heard of it! Thought I’d share as I thought it was a cute, little tradition. Typically, I’m not a fan of “chain letters” or those types of things, but in the spirit of Halloween I thought it might be fun to participate.

I texted my “mysterious friend” to tease her that a career in espionage was probably not in her future, and promised I’d keep her identity a secret from my girls. On the way home from school, I told the kids about it – and allowed them each to choose one friend that we will “BOO” in return.

So look out…you just might get “BOOed” next! Happy Halloween!

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Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Completed squash mealWhen I worked as managing editor of iRun Magazine many moons ago, I remember one of the bright spots in my in-box were the recipe submissions from contributing chef Dwayne Botchar. Although we never met – and lived in different cities – Dwayne’s emails always had an easy-going, positive tone – and with all of his culinary experience, I was always intrigued to see what new concoction he would cook up with next.

One of my favourite recipes – that I typed out, printed and cook till this day – is Dwayne’s Spaghetti Squash Casserole. At the time, I was new to cooking with squash – and it expanded my kitchen repertoire just a little. This recipe is a personal fave because it’s easy to make, healthy and has an interesting presentation – using the hollowed-out-shells of the squash.

Recently, I made it for our girls and they both *loved* it. Vegetarians can substitute ground beef for lentils, making it versatile for any audience.

Without further ado, here’s the recipe…thanks again to Dwayne for granting me permission to share it!

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash, halved, baked and scraped into a bowl
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ red pepper, chopped
  • ½ green pepper, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 lb. of lean ground beef or meat alternative (lentils are great)
  • ½ bunch of fresh basil, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 c. shredded Cheddar cheese
  • ¼ c. fresh, grated Romano
  • 4 tbsp. vegetable oil

Preparation

1)     To bake spaghetti squash, simply cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and centre wool, then place the halves on a deep baking sheet with some water in the bottom (this will steam the squash and speed up the cooking process slightly). Bake it for about 20 – 30 minutes, or until the skin depresses when you push into it. Cool and scrape out the spaghetti squash (it should come out in spaghetti-style strands). Set aside the skin shells for later use.

2)     Preheat a large skillet or pot. Pour in the oil and when it starts to ripple, add in ground beef. When the beef is almost cooked, add in the onions, garlic and peppers.

3)     Once the beef is completely cooked, add in the tomatoes, spaghetti squash and fresh herbs. Season to taste.

4)     Scoop the cooked mixture back into the squash skins. Sprinkle the cheeses on to the two halves. Bake at 425 F, or until the cheese has melted and browned lightly.

Cooking Tip: If you are using the meat alternative, cook the veggies first, then add in the lentils near the end to simply heat it up. And don’t forget – better to slightly undercook your vegetables; they will cook more when you bake the casserole.

Makes 4 – 6 portions.

 

 

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Free movie passes, anyone??

a1e2dd_4a7cd00d16824a04a1d635545fa1db6cIf the cost of bringing your entire family to the theatre and purchasing snacks makes you feel slightly faint, take heart – Cineplex Entertainment is inviting Canadian families for a morning of free movies on Saturday, Oct. 18.

In honour of Cineplex’s fourth-annual National Community Day, families can enjoy free movies and popcorn, soft drinks and select candy items for $2 each. All proceeds raised will benefit Free The Children, an international charity and educational partner working to empower youth as agents of change.

In Ottawa, Cineplex Theatres will open their doors at 8:30 a.m., with the following movies slated for viewing:

  • Escape From Planet Earth (9 a.m.)
  • Ender’s Game (9:15 a.m.)
  • Walking With Dinosaurs – 3D (9:30 a.m.)
  • ParaNorman – 3D (9:45 a.m.)
  • Divergent (10 a.m.)
  • Free Birds (10:15 a.m.)

For a full listing of movie titles and free show times across Canada, visit the Community Day flyer on the Cineplex web site.

 

 

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The Turkey Coma

Salad

My post-turkey-coma salad, which – if you look very carefully – actually has some tiny bits of turkey in it (the addict must withdraw slowly).

It’s almost noon, and I just awoke from what can only be described as a profound turkey coma.

Have you ever experienced this phenomenon? Turkey coma can be contracted by innocently participating in a traditional, family meal, such as that held over Thanksgiving weekend. Those affected – like me – may have a deep passion for roasted turkey dinners (and mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing…), to the point that their perspective on what constitutes “a healthy serving” may become a tad distorted.

Your chances of contracting turkey coma can be raised by returning to the aforementioned turkey and trimmings only hours later…to take yet another portion and re-heat it in the microwave. The consumption of alcohol alongside said meal can also be indicative of the onset of turkey coma.

Then…WHAM-O, turkey coma hits, and it hits hard. Symptoms include profound sleepiness, severe lethargy and a general sense of well being. Be warned, however, that turkey coma is not always resolved after a good night’s sleep. This morning – after waking up and even having a cup of coffee – my turkey coma resumed – along with a slight, nagging headache – and I was overwhelmed with the urge to go back to bed.

At first, I couldn’t figure out why. Thankfully, I have a very wise husband, with extensive experience with turkey. Slowly and seriously, he offered up his simple diagnosis, “You have a case of turkey coma.”

His remedy was to unplug the phone, then leave me curled up on the couch with a fleecy blanket while he took the kids out to a Disney movie (Isn’t he great? He happens to be pretty easy on the eyes, too…but I digress).

To be honest, I had to resist the urge to get up and be productive, and shut out the laundry list of things the logical side of my brain was telling me I should be doing…go for a run! Clean up after your guests! Respond to those emails!

When I was able to (mostly) shut out that irritatingly chipper voice of productivity, what followed was something highly unusual…there were a couple of hours that I really can’t account for because I was in somewhat of a vegetative state. I finally arose feeling an overwhelming sense of relaxation, with my headache and turkey coma seemingly gone.

But most of all, I just feel thankful…thankful to live in such a blessed part of the world that overindulgent dinners are possible, and thankful that I have a family who will gracefully step aside while my turkey coma runs its course.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Taking the ‘alternative family’ mainstream (Parenting Times magazine)

fall-2014-feature-1When my two daughters were very young, I recall several situations where a complete stranger would blatantly look at the kids, then look at me, then look back at the kids. More than once, I was asked, “Are they yours??

When I answered that yes, indeed they were my children, another awkwardly inappropriate comment would usually follow. One woman abruptly said, “Oh!! Your husband must be very dark.” In exasperation, I replied, “Yes, he’s Indian and Portuguese, if you must know.” (Inwardly thinking, “Are you happy now? And are you *seriously* so socially inept that you’re asking a complete stranger these questions??).

These memories came back to me last summer, when I was interviewing Ottawa author Stephanie Kain about Emlyn and the Gremlin, her brand-new children’s book about a little girl who has two moms. As a new mother with a same-sex spouse, Kain is no stranger to awkward questions from strangers (I’m sure she has endured many more of them than I have!).

It is Kain’s hope that her book will increase awareness and understanding of alternative families, including those with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered parents. Click here to read the full Parenting Times article about Kain and her book, Emlyn and the Gremlin.

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Indian Summer

biking-through-autumnIt was as though I’d stumbled over a horseshoe and landed on the perfect afternoon with my 10-year-old daughter.

As a mother of two, I find it can be challenging to carve out one-on-one time with each of my daughters. But on that autumn day – with her little sister at an after-school playdate and Dad still at work – Elissa and I serendipitously found ourselves with a small, golden window of alone time.

In a bid to capitalize on the gorgeous fall weather, we opted for a bike ride. The late afternoon sun seemed to be smiling down on us as we pedalled lazily around the neighbourhood, taking note of the trees that were starting to show their changing colours.

Passing an elementary school playground, Elissa asked if we could stop and play. It was only after we’d taken off our helmets that she noticed a small splash pad – and was surprised to see that its fountains were still flowing. “Hey Mom – look at that! Let’s go jump through the water and cool off!”

I was surprised and charmed to see that my gangly tween had not yet entirely outgrown the splash pad – a place I associated with much younger children. It was sweet to see her doing something so child-like; it seemed like lately Elissa’s focus had shifted from swings and stuffed toys to purses and phone calls. In fact, she even requested that her dad and I call her a ‘tween,’ telling us, “I’m not a kid anymore!”

Yet here she was, dodging between sprinklers and laughing uproariously on this unscripted, blessed day of Indian summer. I cupped some water in my hands and tried to spray her, but she moved away too quickly. I tried again, this time chasing her far into the grassy field around the splash pad; both of us laughing so hard that it was difficult to run effectively.

Amidst the joy of the moment, I felt a distinct pang in my heart as I was suddenly struck with how much time had elapsed since she was a toddler and I used to bring her to splash pads like this. I remember how I used to inwardly cringe when people would repeat that old cliché, “They grow up so fast.” Easy for you to say, I’d think to myself as I struggled to juggle life with a toddler, a newborn and a husband who, at the time, was required to travel constantly for work.

But they were right, those well-intentioned strangers. Because 10 years later I can see that it’s true – they do grow up so damn fast.

As our bike tires crunched over the gravel path leading away from the splash pad, a couple of yellowed leaves drifted downwards. Slowing her pace, Elissa called out to me over her shoulder, “I’m glad you like having fun, Mom; you’re not one of those boring, creepy moms who doesn’t like to do anything.”

I laughed at her candor and the veiled compliment, then sent up a silent prayer of thanks for this simple, precious afternoon we had together – just the two of us. The season is changing, but that day will be one to cherish forever.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mutant, move-it Monday!

Apple 3Happy Monday, all!

I decided to kick-start this week with a run. Lately, the mornings have been *such* a lovely temperature for running – and the afternoons heat up to a summer-like heat. Great to get the workout in early and set a positive tone for the day.

Typically, I run with my iPod. I get a lot of motivation out of cranking some upbeat tunes – there are certain songs that can totally inspire me to pick up my pace (runner friends – what is your fave running tune??). Today, however, I decided to leave the tunes at home – just to mix it up a little.

It was nice to break from the music and enjoy a quiet run. I found it caused me to focus on my breathing, to be more aware of the rhythm of my feet on the trail and the depth of the oxygen filling my lungs. I tuned in to the sound of the insects humming on the “off road” portion of my run, and noticed the birds sounding their chirpy, morning greetings.

Apple 2Back at home, I’ve got a pile of projects to tackle this week. One of them is deciding what to do with my crabapples – thus the ‘mutant’ reference in the post title! We have a lovely, young apple tree in our backyard, but this year its yield is nothing short of bizarre. There were not a ton of apples, and almost every one has an irregular, lumpy shape to it. Why did they grow like that? Any green thumbs out there that might know?

In addition to their strange shape, some of the apples seem to have been eaten by bugs. But it’s hard to tell, as some of them – when I slice them open have a small, black spot inside but no outside holes – which lead me to believe it’s not bugs after all.

AppleWondering what to do with these weird little fruits…I hate to waste food, so should I just salvage the good parts and bake something up? The unmarred sections taste great – a bit tart, perfect for baking.

A bit disappointed as two summers ago, I had an incredible yield of at least 100 big, perfect crabapples. Now I’m stuck with a bunch of mutants! I’ve got a lot to learn about gardening, so it seems.

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Gratitude

Trail 2I woke up in a bit of a funk this morning.

It was a choppy night; my 10-year-old daughter woke up with a nosebleed and I was up helping her for a bit. After what felt like forever, I finally fell back into a fitful sleep, filled with bizarre and unsettling dreams.

Getting out of bed, I looked out the window to see a heavy fog over the neighbourhood. It gave me the slight sensation that I was still asleep, maneuvering my way through a series of strange, unlikely situations.

I had to shake it off. So I did what I *least* wanted to do – I geared up to go for a run. I promised myself it could be slow and short; I just needed to get moving.

As I headed out to a nearby trail, the sun came out and quickly burned off the fog. My sun-splashed trail led me right by the river, which was as smooth and calm as glass.

Continuing on, I passed a seniors’ home and noticed a few people out on the grounds, enjoying the day. In the distance, I saw a man in a wheelchair; he turned and watched as I ran by along the path. Suddenly, a jolt went through me. It was one of those reality-check moments, where you’re reminded of the blatantly obvious that, somehow, you’ve conveniently forgotten.

TrailI have legs that work. I can walk, I can run. I can move freely on this beautiful, autumn day. I am so blessed.

It shouldn’t take looking at someone in a wheelchair to appreciate my own body and abilities, but sometimes complacency sets in. It’s so easy to complain about my little aches and pains, until I encounter someone who is truly suffering and I stop to realize how fortunate I really am.

I may not be the world’s fastest runner, and others might go much farther than I ever could. All I know is that on this day, I’ll breathe a little deeper, crank my favourite tunes a little louder and run just a bit farther than I originally set out to go…simply because I can.

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Strike a pose for CHEO (Parenting Times)

fall-2014-community-profileWhat do you get when you cross a passion for fashion with a heart for helping sick kids?

The answer is Noémie Pound, the adorable, eight-year-old girl from Ottawa who is organizing ‘Happy Hearts’ – a fashion show dedicated to raising money for CHEO.

I had a chance to interview little Noémie last July – for a feature article in Parenting Times magazine. Inspired by her mom’s work at CHEO, Noémie hatched her very own plan to raise funds to help kids at CHEO and the CHEO Research Institute.

The event will take place on Friday, Oct. 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Visit the Eventbrite page for ticket information - and consider joining Noémie and a line-up of child models (including past and present CHEO patients) for a fun-filled night of children’s fashions and a silent auction.

 

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Homemade Playdough

DinosaurI’m on a roll with sharing recipes this week…yesterday was Chocolate Brownies and today I’m talking playdough!

I have a lot of friends who are teachers, and with the start of school this week my friend Marnie asked if I would share my playdough recipe so that she can pass it along to her little scholars and their parents.

This recipe is uber-easy to make, and creates generous amounts of playdough offering a great consistency and a long shelf life. Last spring, my two young daughters and I made this recipe – in several pretty, pastel colours – for a spot on CTV Ottawa about fun Easter crafts. The great thing about playdough is that you can customize it with colours (and even add fragrances!) for an occasion, or just use it in everyday fun play. It even makes a great gift idea!

Homemade Playdough

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 tablespoon alum*
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • Food colouring
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

*What the heck is alum?? I wondered the same thing when I first came across this recipe…it is a safe, edible preservative traditionally used in canning. Alum is very inexpensive and can be purchased at a grocery store or the Bulk Barn (which is where I bought mine).

Method:

  • Place salt, alum and cooking oil in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add boiling water and food colouring (be cautious – a few drops goes a long way!). Stir to dissolve salt and alum.
  • Gradually add flour while continually mixing the dough. Once it becomes thick enough, stop stirring and start kneading the dough. If dough seems sticky, add more flour until a desirable consistency is reached.
  •  Once thoroughly mixed and cooled, store playdough in a ziplock bag or sealed plastic container. Keeps unrefrigerated.
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