BRAD     |     EMILLIE

Thursday, June 27, 2013

On a carousel of time

This week Nikolai graduated from preschool. (He had really great teachers...)
He also turned 5 years old, and threw himself a Robot themed party.  I'm a good baker, but my cake decorating skills need work.  Though I had gluten free, dairy free and sugar free diets work with!  (3 of Nikolai's 5 guests had food allergies -which did make us all pause with wonder).
 Home made decorations took all week!
The kids made robot costumes and went on parade to the neighbours houses (the far neighbour has chickens... who did seemed to appreciate the parade).
 Everyone had fun!  (The robot table centerpiece took us all week to make.)

Uliana turned 6 months and earnestly started on solids.  (And she likes sitting in the rainbows from the prisms in our stained glass windows.)

But I don't have time to reflect on how old everyone around here is getting... because we're taking Aisling and Layla camping tomorrow!  So I've got to organize gear and food for a large group... then I get to figure out the logistics of camping with a baby!
So, although I have a recipe prepared to share, I simply don't have the time to type it out.  My floor is a heap of food and camp gear.  I have two loads of laundry (plus diapers) to wash before I can pack any of our personal effects.  And I have a very hyper Nikolai who needs to go outdoors at regular intervals..!  Today I feel as though I need a good dose of luck to be able to accomplish everything.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

You and I have memories

Claire's visit was nice and relaxing.  We saw a little bit more of Victoria, but not at the fast pace of our touristing with Aisling, because Claire spent a good four (five?) years living in Victoria herself.  So the trips to Fisherman's wharf, Cook Street village and the beach were leisurely.

However, we did spend an afternoon exploring one new area of the city.  It is a neighborhood mostly perched up hill from all the normal routes of life.  I'd been to see Craigdarroch Castle in Rockland before, but I never knew that Rockland was also the location of the Victoria Art Gallery (mark that in my to-do list).

Our main goal for that excursion was the gardens around Government House.  Government House is a huge mansion where the Lieutenant Governor of BC lives. (For those not in the know, the Lieutenant Governor is a non-elected substitute for the Queen.  Totally without "real" power, but wielding a lot of colonial "figurative" power.)
The grounds were amazing, and I will definitely go back sometime with Brad in tow.  He would particularly like the orchard and the herb gardens (not to mention the tea room!)
Here is one last photo of Uliana, taken by her brother.  He's getting better a focusing the photos.  Now if only we could stop him from taking so many photos every time he finds the camera!  It's a lot to wade through.
We also spent one afternoon making various Asian inspired dishes. Two of the recipes are below.

Sesame Seaweed Salad
Put 1oz of dried wakame seaweed in a bowl of tepid water for 10-30 minutes (until soft).  If the seaweed is not already prepared, the trim away the tough spine and slice the rest into thin strips.
Whisk together 2 tbsp of cidar vinegar, 1 1/2 tsp of salt, 1 tsp honey, 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil and 1/4 cup vegetable oil. Toss in the seaweed, and sprinkle with 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds.

Garden Fresh Potstickers
Grate 115 g firm tofu, and 1/2 cup of carrot.  Combine with 1 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp sesame oil and allow to marinate.

Finely chop: 1/4 cup red pepper, 1/4 cup mushroom, 1/2 cup cabbage (or broccoli stems), 2 spring onions, 1 tsp finely grated ginger and 2 garlic cloves. Combine with tofu mixture, 3 tbsp edible flowers and 1 egg.  (Our calendula is already flowering nicely).
Stuff 1 tsp into dumpling (or gyoza) wrappers, fold in half and seal with water.  They can be frozen at this point. 
To make the dipping sauce combine:  2 tbsp soy sauce, 3 tbsp water, 2 tbsp cider vinegar, 1 tsp sesame oil and 1 tsp sambal oelek (optional).

To cook heat cooking oil in the bottom of a frying pan and arrange the dumplings in a single layer along the bottom of the frying pan.  Cook until the bottoms are just starting to brown.  Pour in 1/2 cup of water over the potstickers, put a lid on and continue to cook for 8 minutes.  Remove the lid and allow all the water to evaporate, then serve.  Serve with the dipping sauce.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Boredom Strikes Again

It was Nikolai's Grammy who filled the void left by Layla's departure.  She spent the weekend with us doing all sorts of fun things.  However, she left on Monday morning, and a week filled with playdates was not sufficient to keep the beast of boredom away.  Thursday the frayed edges of Nikolai's impatience to Be Doing Something Fun was showing through, and today the seam broke.  The monster that forms the heart of a preschoolers boredom could not be contained by a morning in preschool and an afternoon playdate.  He still spent a few brain numbing hours at home while Uliana slept and I did my mommy chores.

Luckily, Auntie Claire will be arriving tomorrow!

The major highlight of the weekend was the Buccaneer Days in Esquimalt
Basically it's the same fair (rides/food) that was at the Tea Party the week before.  But I liked Esquimalt's festival better simply because of the associated craft sale, model train display and the fact that the adjacent field hosted various competitions.
The other activity that filled our week was preparing for Nikolai's 5th Birthday party.  Truthfully the excitement and planning for Nikolai's birthday had started months ago... It's not that he expects boat loads of gifts (it's a no-gift party), it's the idea that intrigues him.  It is the thought of a party where he is the primary planner.  He chooses the activities, the food, the theme, the guests.  He made the invitations, and will be making the decorations.  The exercise that is "the birthday party" extends far beyond cake and presents to a learning experience that encompasses planning, creativity and hosting.

And although all this excitement centres on Nikolai, it does make me think of Uliana.  Christmas is already a time so full of feelings that it seems unfair to throw her birthday into the mix.  Shouldn't she be allowed time to get excited about her special day away from the bluster and bellows of the holiday season?  I am a fan of choosing an alternate birthday, a day that will allow us to celebrate Uliana without the mix of Christmas Carols, a day all of her own.
As we are rolling up to her 6 month birthday... it just happens to fall on date chosen for Nikolai's birthday party.  So I am leaning away from using a 6 month celebration as it would probably seem like a hollow echo next to Nikolai's REAL birthday.

Instead I'm thinking of moving her birthday one month ahead.  Then we could decorate, bake cakes and celebrate Uliana when she turns 1 year and 1 month old.  The end of January is a cold and lonely time.  Surely our household could use the vim and excitement of a party?  Any opinions out there in the blogosphere?  Will moving her birthday to the end of January feel like a empty replacement or a chance to truly celebrate Uliana?

Popcorn Flavours

Popcorn is a cheap and healthier alternative to commercial snack foods (especially if you pop your own).  We don't have a hot air popper, nor a microwave, so we do it over the stove-top in a lidded pot.  If you use high heat and shake often, it takes less then 5 minutes to fill a pot with popped kernels.  We have a few flavour mixes that we like to shake things up.  I use a mixture of olive oil and melted butter on the popcorn, before topping with the flavour mixes.
Sweet Cinnamon
1 tbsp granulated sweetener (date sugar or brown sugar)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger

2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt

Smokey Paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan (or I like to use nutritional yeast)

Rosemary Garlic
Add 1 clove of minced garlic and 2 tbsp rosemary to the melting butter.
Add to popcorn: 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 cup of Parmesan (or nutritional yeast).

Add 1 clove of minced garlic to the melting butter.
Add to popcorn: 2 tbsp dried basil, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 cup of Parmesan (or nutritional yeast).

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Summer days driften' away

The weather has been fantastic.  So our week with Aisling and Layla was spent visiting beaches... and since we live on an Island, there are a great many beaches to visit!

First we took them to Willow's Beach (Victoria's Palm Springs style beach with white sand). Though the water was frigid, it didn't really matter because we were there for the Oak Bay Tea Party (which may have originated as a tea party, but is more of a carnival these days).  We did it all: rides, food and stayed for the air show.

Monday we took them to Gonzales Beach for some impromptu swimming with some of our local friends.
The next day was VERY hot (by Victoria standards) so we went for a fresh water swim in Elk Lake.  But instead of more pictures of kids on the beach, I'm sticking in pictures of Uliana showing off her two front teeth, and her sitting skills. (She was a trooper, spending her time at the beach hiding from the sun.)

Wednesday we went back to our local beaches to explore the tidal pools.  We found anemone, barnacles, crabs, tiny fishes, mussels, limpets, snails, and more! (Some of those snails somehow found their way into Nikolai's pocket, only to be discovered in the bottom of the washing machine when I was pulling out the clean clothes).

Thursday we hiked the Songhees Trail...
Visiting the driftwood island...
And finishing the trip off with a water taxi ride home (only $5 each!)
This morning Aisling and Layla left to volunteer on a farm in Qualicum Beach, and it only took 15 minutes before Nikolai started complaining of being bored!  Luckily he doesn't have too long to wait... our next visitor is currently riding the 7pm ferry.

Here's a recipe that everyone helped to make this week.  I was a bit worried about the kids not sealing the pasta up well enough, but none of them broke open when boiling! If you can find pre-made wanton wrappers, then "homemade" ravioli is SUPER easy.  There's all sorts of filling options, but I wanted a super quick and reasonably healthy meal.

Mix 3/4 cup spinach (cooked and wrung out -I used frozen spinach) with 3/4 cup ricotta cheese.
Spoon 1 tsp of the mixture into the centre of a wonton wrapper.
Heavily wet around the outside of the wonton wrapper with water, then seal a second wonton wrapper on top of the first.
 Boil the pasta in small batches, cooking until the pasta floats (about 2-3 minutes). Drain and coat them in a sauce right away.  (I served them with browned butter and walnuts).

I found that these stuck together if I didn't add the sauce quickly.  After the pasta was tossed in sauce I was able to keep them nicely warm in the oven until I was ready to serve.
This was so easy that I'll probably do it again, trying out various other fillings.  It was nice to eat a ravioli that was full of flavour and not just bread crumbs!

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Cockles and Mussels

This week I'm taking a break from my constant fretting about sleep.  It's still not great, but that's totally my fault as I gave Uliana back her soother for our quick overnight trip to Vancouver.  She was not happy to find it taken away again when we returned to Victoria with our visitors in tow!

My friend Aisling and her daughter Layla are visiting British Columbia (from Ireland) for the next 8 weeks.  We will be spending time with them in between their trips to several farms as wwoofers.  However, their trip starts with 10 days at our house to recover from jetlag.

And what a time we've been having!  Victoria officially is among the sunniest places in Canada, and it certainly is the sunniest city in BC.  It's a good thing the weather's been so nice.  Nikolai and Layla have been playing together pretty much non-stop since Wednesday, and it's good to get them out of the house. 

We explored some nooks and crannies downtown but it was hard to get any shopping in with two "Tyrannosaurus Rexs" in tow.
We fed the seals with two "lions" at Fisherman's warf.
And made several trips to the local beaches with our "pirates".  (We'll head out to the sandy beaches for some swiming sometime this week).
Aisling and Layla by the Ogden Point Cruise Ship Terminal
The recipe for the week is something I call Bunnie Munchies, which provides good fuel for two exhausted children. It's a quick and easy "power bar" style snack that children love to help make.

Bunnie Munchies
Mix 1 cup honey, 1/2 cup nut butter, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 tsp salt, 6 tbsp cocoa. Bring to a boil and stir for 5 minutes.  Take it off the heat and quickly stir in 2 1/2 cups oats, 1 cup coconut and 1 tsp vanilla extract.

Allow to cool slightly then roll into balls and coat with more coconut.