Keeping the house, the kids and the hubby without breaking the bank, the earth, the people I love, or myself.

Watching You Watch the Rain

Watching you watch the rain:
Your lined and sagging home
of eyes that take in all
Tranquil before the gentle
Sometimes angry pattering.
I hid so you could not see
me watching you watch the rain.
The scene always held one holiness:
Your solitude among the million chattering drops.
I wanted to think what you thought,
Feel the peace I saw in you --
Watching you watch the rain
Is a thousand images
of one picture in my head
As I sit, elbows on knees,
My child nearby watching me
Watching you watch the rain. 


I have often wished I had the artistic ability to paint as this image is so clear in my mind.  It's been nearly six years and I still miss him.  I am grateful I had his love and guidance for 35 years of my life. 

Jack E. Loar August 3, 1929 - October 2, 2004


Camp foods need not be crap foods

We've recently returned from a camping trip and for once I don't need to detox from all the high-preservative foods we normally eat on a camping trip.  Spoilage was always a concern in the past, so we'd pack hotdogs and heavily preserved sausages of various sorts along with peanut butter and eggs.  We would come home and live on fresh salads for a week to clear all the heavy preservative-laden foods from our systems.

This time, we did things differently and now I can't imagine why we had never planned things out this way in the past.  I suppose we simply did what we'd always done and what our parents had always done. Here are some delicious camp-friendly recipes that will be staples of our summer camping trips from now on:

Bean Burgers
1 can beans, any type (we used pintos) drained and rinsed
1 cup bread crumbs (seasoned simplifies things and adds flavour)
1 egg
1 small onion diced fine
1 carrot peeled and shredded
2 Tbsp olive oil

Mash the beans in a bowl and mix with all other ingredients.  Refrigerate for one hour before forming patties.  I formed 4 nice-sized patties from this mix.  For camping, I sprayed foil and wrapped each burger in the foil.  We cooked the bean burgers in the foil over the fire.  When well-frozen, it took about 30 minutes over medium heat to cook to the desired outer crispiness.  When thawed, about 15 minutes.

Fire Roasted Corn on the Cob
Having farm stands nearby our campground, we were able to pick up fresh corn on the cob to serve that night.  The kids absolutely loved the fire-roasted corn and did not add butter or salt!  Fire roasting doesn't boil out the flavour of the corn, it enhances it and you get that delicious smokey flavour from the fire!

Do not shuck the corn, but do remove the cornsilks, leaving the husks intact.  Soak each cob in water for about 10 minutes.  Thoroughly waterlog it.  If some of the husk is missing or torn or doesn't cover the cob completely, use a bit of foil to wrap around the circumference of the cob.  Roast over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes.  The husks will be blackened on the outside, but the corn will be juicy and perfect inside.  Some of the corn may darken, but it won't be much and it still tastes so good! 

Campfire Banana Splits
This was a hit for everyone but one of my children.  He did not like his bananas cooked.

Chocolate chips (or a chocolate bar)
mini marshmallows
(Optional:  shredded coconut, nuts)

Peel a single strip down the center of the banana.   Make a slice down the center of the banana.  We found it easiest to scoop a bit of banana out of the center, instead of trying to shove all the filling into a narrow knife-slit.  Fill the hollow with chocolate chips and mini marshmallows. Pull the peel back up  and wrap the entire banana in foil.  Place over fire for about 10 minutes.  Open the foil and the banana and eat with a spoon.  This was a lovely treat! 

Foil-pack vegetables

You can do these so many different ways.  In one pack we did:
quartered new potatoes
diced onions
diced peppers
Seasoned with butter (buttered the foil) salt, pepper, and diced garlic cloves

Cooked over medium heat about 30 minutes.

sliced summer squash and zucchini
Diced peppers
Diced onions
thinly sliced new potatoes
buttered the foil, seasoned with salt, pepper, and diced garlic cloves

We deep-froze chicken breasts to take with us.  Once they thaw: cook them!

Hobo Pizzas
You need pie irons for these, along with:

canned pizza sauce
shredded cheese
pizza toppings (pepperoni, diced vegetables)

Butter the bread and place the buttered side against the pie iron.  Spread the bread with pizza sauce and add toppings.  Top with another buttered bread (butter side against the pie iron).  Lock the pie iron and cook it right in the coals of the fire.  Takes about 10 minutes.

You could make a ranch-chicken pizza:
Ranch dressing
canned chicken
shredded cheddar
onion diced
tomato diced
Optional:  cooked bacon or ham

Compile as you would the other pizza & cook the same.


Heartland Forest, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Less than two years ago we visited the fairly new Heartland Forest in Niagara Falls. Compare the pictures from that blog posting to this one as the changes are incredible!

*For a larger, more detailed view of any of the pictures, simply double click on the picture.  

When we first visited, we were greeted at the forest entry by this partial carving:  

Big Ted is now complete, with a cute message next to him:

More carvings can be found throughout the more than two miles of Carolinian Forest trails:

 A pond just inside the forest entry has an accessible lookout from which one can observe pond life:
So many photo ops, too: 
and opportunities for a peaceful rest surrounded by beauty:

During this visit, the accessible cabin was open for learning opportunities and activities for FrogFest Niagara.  The boys made FrogFest badges while I took pictures outside the cabin:
We were thrilled by the fauna throughout the forest.  Obviously many people have been very busy naturalizing some native species, such as Ontario's flower, the white Trillium:

We also saw a magnificent magenta trillium (it's actually red trillium, trillium erectum, the only red-petaled trillium native to Ontario):

And an excellent example of poison ivy vine:
(don't worry, it is labeled and slightly off the trail so you won't be stumbling into it)

wild geranium was in bloom and quite abundant:

At this time of year, the numerous vernal pools throughout this forest are still full and quite active:

There are just so many treasures along the trails.  The kids enjoyed sitting inside this teepee:

There were also many new-to-us additions before the trail begins. Much to the boys' delight, an incredible playground contains structures to delight the very small as well as the much larger child. Like this enormous merry-go-round:

and this incredible swing:
 and of course a huge frog swing to share:

Near the forest entrance is a pond surrounded by a boardwalk.  Bird feeders are found in many places.  Perhaps it's just my imagination, but I think the red-winged black birds' colour is particularly vibrant this year:

What a wonderful, amazing place! If you're local to the area, or just visiting, check it out. There are many activities planned throughout the year, but they aren't needed to enjoy this natural treasure.  This is a great place to go with your family.  Go, enjoy, be awed!

*The photograph in the blog header was taken within the Heartland Forest.


When You Have Eleventy-seven Hardboiled Eggs and Don't Know What To Do With Them

Deviled Eggs
My kids love these for an afterschool snack.  They like to take them to school, too, but I haven't found a way to do this without mess.  Quick, easy, and yummy. Here's how I do it:

  1. Carefully slice the eggs in half lenthwise.
  2. Put the yolk into a small mixing bowl or food processor.
  3. Add 1 T Miracle Whip and 2 tsps mustard for 6 egg yolks. 
  4. Add 1 tsp pickle relish.
  5. If doing this by hand, mash well with a fork.  If using a food processor, pulse until blended and creamy.
  6. Fill each egg half's hollow with the mixture.  
  7. Sprinkle with paprika.  (The more adventurous might like cayenne. Young kids who didn't get weaned on Tabasco sauce will not.)

Egg Salad
Use for sandwiches within three days.
  1. Dice your eggs, yolk and all.
  2. Add diced celery (I use one rib for 5-6 eggs)
  3. Add diced onion (I don't like onion much, so I add about 1/8 cup)
  4. Add pickle relish (a tablespoon)
  5. Add mustard (2 teaspoons)
  6. Add Miracle Whip (1 Tablespoon to start, may need 2)
  7. Mix.  Voila.  Egg salad.

Quick Pickled Eggs
You can quickly pickle eggs by using the liquid from canned/jarred beets.  Just cover the eggs with the beet juice from canned beets, then let them sit in the fridge overnight or several hours.  There you go, quickly pickled eggs.

A couple other options:

  • Dice the white and use as a salad topping.
  • My daughter, who is vegetarian, adds hard boiled eggs to vegetable soups.  
  • You can freeze hard boiled eggs to use another day.  Simply thaw them in the refrigerator and then use them.


Can we talk about food for a minute?

That British Woman strikes again! She posted this video on her blog and got me going.

Notice the table of food in the segment on the Edwards' family's eating habits at 7:50. Jaime says this is "normal" eating for many a family. I have never in my life known any family that ate that way. The Edwards don't cook anything, they deep fry everything and nothing they have is edible straight out of the fridge besides milk. That's not normal. That's extreme. I have never deep fried anything. My ex husband used to deep-fry french fries regularly. He cut them from potatoes, though, not by opening a freezer bag. The deep fryer went with him when he moved out, by the way.

Again, look at the food on Edwards' table. Pizza, fries, sausages, corn dogs (deep fried), pancakes, hotdogs, Little Debbie treats. Calorie-dense, fat-dense, and nutrition-poor is every single food on that table. Every food is highly processed. Anything that has been processed is easy to digest meaning it is easily turned directly into fat.

Stop for a second and think about the greatest source of processed food North Americans eat. Wheat.

This is what wheat berries look like:

I remember when I was in Junior High School and the teacher was talking about nutrition in the 1800's and how people would eat boiled wheat berries.  I said, "we do that."  He told me we did not.  "No one eats wheat berries," he said.  I said, "we do."  He insisted I was telling stories.  My mother regularly served us wheat berries for hot cereal in the morning and even for an after-school snack.  They're quite good, actually.  Rather nutty in flavour, somewhat crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.  I like them plain now, but I usually had them with some milk when I was a child.

This is a diagram of a whole kernel of wheat:  

The white endosperm on the inside is what is left after processing for the commercial food and flour market.  The outer bran and nutrient-rich germ have been removed.  Even after the endosperm is all that remains, it is processed some more by bleaching and grinding to a fine powder.  They use chlorine and peroxide to bleach the endosperm.  Would you pour bleach over your food before eating it?

What is removed from the wheat berry to make processed white flour is 40% of the kernel.  The most nutrient-dense parts of the wheat kernel are removed:  the b-vitamins, most of the fibre -- in all more than half the original nutrients are removed.  Which is why white flour has to be enriched.  But they don't put back what was taken out.  There is no replacement fibre and the vitamins added are pale in comparison to what was removed!  To learn more about the health benefits and nutrients in whole wheat, check out this article at WHFoods. 

This one simple food is indicative of why processed foods are bad for us.  The foods are stripped of their inherent nutrients and often have other things like sugar, fat, sodium and lesser vitamins added.

I caught a little bit of Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution show on tv last week.  Jaime's emotional histrionics in response to an article that had him  calling the West Virginians he was to be helping "stupid" and "lost causes" was too much for me.  His bout of crying was contrived and quite pathetic.  Grow a set, man! 

While I agree with what he's doing and the fact that the American schools' nutritional programs are idiotic at best (ketchup is a vegetable, dontcha know) I think he's missing a huge point.  I think everyone is missing a huge point.

It's not just the food that's killing us. It's the lack of movement.  Kids sit in a classroom six hours a day and are lucky to get 30 minutes of physical activity on some days.  They go home to play video games and watch tv.  And what are they doing while playing video games and watching tv?  Snacking.  Sedentary lifestyles are as much to blame as poor eating habits for the current obesity epidemic.  If activity levels are not addressed, no progress will be made against obesity.

The New York Times recently published an article highlighting the dangers of too much sitting:

"when you spend long periods sitting, your body actually does things that are bad for you.
As an example, consider lipoprotein lipase. This is a molecule that plays a central role in how the body processes fats; it’s produced by many tissues, including muscles. Low levels of lipoprotein lipase are associated with a variety of health problems, including heart disease. Studies in rats show that leg muscles only produce this molecule when they are actively being flexed (for example, when the animal is standing up and ambling about). The implication is that when you sit, a crucial part of your metabolism slows down.

"Nor is lipoprotein lipase the only molecule affected by muscular inactivity. Actively contracting muscles produce a whole suite of substances that have a beneficial effect on how the body uses and stores sugars and fats."

What are kids being taught in American schools about nutrition?  I remember being taught the four basic food groups of dairy, meat, vegetables and fruit when I was in school.  Now there are pyramids which, frankly, written by the government are not to be trusted.  I think most people would gain weight following the food guide's recommendations.  I believe an independent guide is more reliable.  Harvard came up with one based on up-to-date reliable scientific information and without major business' interests in mind.  Check it out. 

I know American schools are idiotic when it comes to nutrition.  My daughter is lactose intolerant and was identified as such in early childhood.  She had to show a doctor's note every single day in order to forgo the milk at school.  

In our Ontario school system kids are being taught at an early age to discern between "healthy" foods and "not healthy" foods.  Schools encourage parents to send nutritious lunches and snacks and limit or eliminate high sugar, high fat snacks from their children's lunchboxes.  My five year old will point out healthy foods and "not healthy" or "sometimes" foods -- sometimes foods are foods that should only be eaten occasionally, not frequently.  That's pretty much how we do it here.  90% of what my kids eat is prepared by me, full of nutrition and goodness.  Quite a lot of what they eat is raw -- fresh fruits and vegetables.  While the US aims for 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, the Canadian government encourages up to 10.  I think Canada's on to something.

Do you serve your kids fresh fruits and vegetables at meals?  Try it if you haven't done it.  It doesn't need to be a fancy tray of unusual fruits and vegetables.  I put out a platter of apple and orange slices with dinner the other night and guess what?  They all disappeared!  It's not much work at all.

Oh, and this malarkey that unhealthy food, fast food, highly processed foods are cheaper than healthful foods is NONSENSE!  Absolute and utter nonsense.  Take that burger meal from McDonald's or Burger King.  For a buck or two you can get a 2 oz burger on a bun with a bit of ketchup and mustard and pickle slices.  Well for 2 bucks in the states and 3 bucks in Canada, you can buy a pound of extra lean fresh ground beef and for another 2 bucks  8 whole wheat buns.  You can make five 3-ounce burgers and serve 5 people for less than four or five dollars.  You can add fresh onion, tomato and lettuce for another buck.  Come on people, it's not rocket science and it's not going to put you in the poor house!  And by the way, when you make your own burgers, you don't have added transfats (which will kill you and should be eliminated from the food supply entirely) or any of the chemical preservatives that will keep a Happy Meal from decomposing for years.


Culture Shocks for an American in Canada

I suppose it was foolish of me to think I would not experience culture shock when I moved four hours away from Ohio to Ontario, Canada. Foolish or not, I was wrong.

Language Differences
My husband, who is Canadian by birth and lived most of his life in Canada, has no accent or strange speech habits.  I've heard the "eh" jokes in reference to Canadian lingo most of my life and didn't get it when I became a resident.  I've almost never heard "eh" in conversation.  I have heard it, but not much.  There are other things though.

Some pronunciations are different.  For instance when I pronounce "been" it sounds like bin.  But Canadian newscasters and educators say it like I say "bean."  It makes my ears tickle.

Like Bostonians, the accepted proper Canadian pronunciation of pasta is "pass-tah".  With an emphasis on the the first syllable.  Again:  ear tickles.

The article "a", as in I ate a single grape is pronounced the same as the a in apple.  My youngest children learned to read in Canada and each would correct me when I'd correct them over their pronunciation of the article "a".  It seems odd to me to say "a" like apple and not like ape. I don't hear this in everyday conversation, though.

The letter z has a name and it is not Zee.  It is Zed.  If you say Zee you are outing yourself as an American. (Though I cannot help but see an elderly, white-haired wizard anytime "Zed" is mentioned.  "Bags!" Now if you get that reference, you're a nerd like me ;) ) 

The other ear tickler is the word drama.  It's pronounced DRAM - uh here with emphasis on the first syllable and the first "a" is clearly an apple "a", unlike what I'm used to hearing which is more of a soft "o" sound or shortened "aw" sound.

Again!  Oh man, this is like a gain.  I'm used to uhgen with a hard g.  Nope.  They really emphasize that long hard A sound in the second syllable.

Sorry...actually I think Canadians probably pronounce things more like they should be pronounced based on the sounds of English letters, but still, I'm accustomed to different pronunciations so "sorry" to me sounds very much like sari but in Canada it's like sore- ee.

I'm sure there is more but I'll stop there and move on to something else.

Canadian Cigarettes
To an American these are weird.  The Canadian government has gone to great lengths to curb smoking and prevent prospective new smokers from ever wanting to pick up the habit.  In Canada the standard pack size contains 30 cigarettes (they do sell 20 packs, but people only buy those when they're short on cash.) Canadian cigarettes are very expensive.  $10 a pack for decent ones.  $7 a pack for economy ones.  If you're adventurous you'll buy what's called "reserves" but I'll discuss that later.

Many years ago the Canadian government required cigarette manufacturers to cover HALF the cigarette package with graphic health warnings.  Those warnings are:

These are on every pack of Canadian cigarettes.  On one side they're in English, on the other side they're in French.  Same pictures.  My favourite is the impotency one.  I'm a girl and impotency doesn't scare me so much.  I hate the bloody brain, rotting teeth, and diseased lungs ones though.

Canadian cigarette packs also list all their toxic emissions and the percentage of each chemical:  Tar, Nicotine, Carbon Monoxide, Formaldehyde, Hydrogen Cyanide and Benzene. 

Those who wish to avoid the $10/pack fee for cigarettes, and those with Native status, will buy their cigarettes on a Native Reserve for about $15/carton.  They come in giant ziploc bags which contain 200 cigarettes (pictured on the bottom two shelves):
There has been a large anti-reserve cigarettes campaign, however, with warnings about the dangers of these "unregulated" cigarettes.  (They are unregulated because they're made in factories on Native Reservations, which are sovereign from the Canadian Government so unregulated by the Canadian Government.)  According to billboards and print ads that have been appearing all over Canada these "Cheap Smokes" "contain insect eggs, mold and human feces." I suspect the Canadian Government is somewhat annoyed that it's not collecting its $7 taxes per pack that it does on other cigarettes sold here. (I have to admit I do wonder how exactly human feces can be in cigarettes....?  Then I try not to think about it any more!)

And by the way, nobody smokes "cigarettes" in Canada -- they're called "smokes" here.

Highways and Byways
In the states I was accustomed to routing many drives many different ways.  Going between two main cities, I could choose a few different routes based on traffic or construction or scenery if I wanted.  That's not very likely here.

Canada's got a couple highways. I do mean a couple. There seems to be one going north to south in Ontario and another going east to west across the entire country. There are no more. That's it. Want to find a quicker route from Niagara to Toronto? Want to avoid the holiday weekend traffic?  Want to avoid the construction?  HA! Unless you're swimming or flying, there is ONE WAY to drive it and one way only.

And for those who weren't aware, Ontario is the center of the universe. Just so ya know. Other Canadians are a bit miffed that darned near everything in Canada is in Ontario, but it seems to have worked out that way. Sorry. I didn't do it. I just enjoy the benefits of it.  (40% of Canada's population resides in Ontario.  In a way this center-of-the-universe thing makes sense once you know that.)

Hopefully no one thinks I am poking fun at Canada.  I love it here.  I love the land, the scenery, the people, the sense of community in every community I've lived.  There's more, but I'll save it for another day.


Bzzing about Danactive

No, that's not a typo.  Bzzing is what a Bzzagent does.  BzzAgent is a word-of-mouth marketing company.  Bzzagents are people who receive products or offers to try products and then review and bzz about those products.  Bzzagents can earn rewards for their bzzing, but we are not paid to say nice things about products.  In fact, we're expected to be honest.

If there is a fault I have (okay, one among many) it is brutal honesty.  When I bzz about anything, whether I was introduced to it by BzzAgent or stumbled across it all on my lonesome, that bzz is my honest experience.

About a month ago I received the DanActive bzz kit which included several DanActive coupons, one for a free 4-pack, and a stack of cards containing contest pins for a current DanActive contest.

Danone (Dannon in the states) tells us that DanActive promotes a healthy immune system with its proprietary probiotic culture L. Casei Defensis(TM).  Actually, I phrased that rather mildly.  Danone tells us that DanActive "strengthens our bodies' natural defenses to harmful bacteria from our environment."

I've seen the commercials for ages.  What did they make me think?  Snake oil!  They're selling some snake oil on the heels of a snake infestation!

Danone assumes that people don't know about healthy gut bacteria.  Yes, our guts -- meaning our entire digestive tracts from top (mouth) to bottom (bottom ha!) -- contain a wealth of bacteria.  Good bacteria and bad bacteria.  It's best to have more good than bad.  That's just common sense.  Things can throw this balance off -- long term, high-dosage antibiotics for instance will often result in a yeast infection.  Yeast is a bad bacteria that lives in our guts.  Another good bacteria (L. acidophilus) fights yeast bacteria overgrowth.  Antibiotics kill good bacteria so yeast gets to grow uninhibited and you end up with a yeast infection.  (It's not the only way to get a yeast infection.  I'm trying to be brief here.)

Danone didn't go out and create a brand new bacteria.  L. casei has been around a long time.  L. casei Defensis is simply Danone's special blend.  I really don't understand how Danone's L. casei can be any more special than the L. casei I could easily replicate in my kitchen, but I'm not a biologist or chemist or whatever kind of scientist it takes to create "special" bacteria.

L. casei is a good bacteria.  It does support healthy immune functioning and healthy digestive tract flora.It lives in our mouths, stomachs, intestines.  A baby's saliva will contain L. Casei. 

My verdict:  This was incredibly sweet. It was palatable, but ridiculously sweet.  My mouth is not accustomed to this kind of sweetness.  I avoid products containing added sugar like the plague that sugar has become to Western society.  Find your live, active bacterial cultures in natural yogurt that contains no added sugars.

Because of the extremely high sugar content of Danactive, it will never be a feature in my diet.  69% of the calories in Danactive are from sugar.  (There are 14 grams sugar in a bottle of vanilla Danactive.  There are 63 calories in 14 grams sugar.  Danactive Vanilla contains 80 calories total.  13.5 of those calories are from fat.  This is all packed into 3.3 OUNCES (93 grams) of yogurt beverage.)  That's ridiculous.  Would you pour 4 teaspoons sugar into 3 ounces of any beverage?  I wouldn't.

And while Danone's "immunity" hype is actually true, you can get L. Casei from many other sources including cheddar cheese!


Conversations with a Five Year Old

My five-year-old son is still learning the rhythm of conversation.  Each night during dinner our family discusses our day, events, news, and all sorts of things.  Often my five-year-old, Ky, will interrupt another person's speaking, but most often he simply bursts out with something seemingly from nowhere.  These moments leave me wondering about the mechanics of his thought process and chuckling at some of the results. 

The other night, during a conversational lull, Ky burst out with "Kung Hay Fat Choy!"  I knew what it meant, but I like to know what my children's grasp is of their lessons so I asked, "What's that?"

Ky tells me "It's 'Happy New Year' in Chinese!"  He goes on to tell me that it's still 2009 in China and the Chinese haven't yet had 2010.  Red is a lucky colour in China and did you know that Canadian dragons are mean, fire breathing, destructive dragons but Chinese dragons are good dragons who bring good luck and help it to rain. 

I am always amazed at the wealth of information he is able to absorb in a day.  Later that evening, he read his daily message to me.  (Each day the teacher sends home a one-page message in the form of a letter.  This is the kindergartners' daily reading assignment.  I think it's one of the most brilliant ideas a teacher could have for learning readers.) After the date information, the letter begins "Dear Monkeys and Ram".  I stopped my son at this point as usually the letter begins with "Dear Boys and Girls" or "Dear Good Friends" or some variation of those two.  I asked Ky, "What is up with your teacher calling you monkeys and ram instead of boys and girls?"   

He matter-of-factly explains "We are Monkeys and a Ram!"

"What is a monkey?"  I ask. 

"A monkey is an animal with a tail who likes to eat bananas."  He replies adding an eye roll for emphasis. 

"Oh.  So you are an animal with a tail who likes to eat bananas." 

"NO moooooooooom.  I'm not a mon-KEY, I am a HUMAN. A monkey is an ANIMAL. I am a HUMAN." 

"A human is an animal, too, honey.  You just told me you were a monkey and now you're telling me you're not a monkey.  I'm confused." 

He sighs a long, exaggerated sigh and explains, "Boys and girls born IN THE YEAR OF THE MONKEY are called monkeys, but they are not animal monkeys, they are just CALLED monkeys."

"OHHHHHH.  I get it now.  So you are a boy who was born in the year of the monkey and that is why your teacher called you a Monkey."

He smiled as wide as the monkey's banana and confirmed, "YES!" 

After he finished reading his daily message, I informed him that I was a Rooster.  He giggled and told me, "No you're not.  You're mom"  in that don't-be-silly tone of voice that children do so well.

Meanwhile, my husband was across the room pulling faces.  Ky laughs at him and his daddy tells him to guess what he is.  Ky first guesses Rabbit but is wrong and immediately figures out that daddy is mimicking a rat.  Yet another thing to make me wonder how on earth his mind works as I don't think I would have guessed it correctly if I hadn't already known my husband's Chinese zodiac. 

At bedtime Ky tells me that Monkeys are smart.  Of course they are.  Mine sure is. 


Update on the baby kits and our other foster cats

Simon and Stephen graduated from bottles to soft food several weeks ago and from soft food to hard within a few days of that.  Small kittens cannot chew standard kitten kibbles so they started out on this stuff:

 Which is the cutest, tiniest kibble I've ever seen:

Normal cat food is on the right, and the babycat(TM) kibble is on the left.  

Now that you think I'm completely daft for getting all silly over kitten kibble, I'll show you adorable pictures to make you forget how daft I may or may not be.  

This is Simon at about 7 weeks.  Simon is a little love.  He likes to climb up on me, nuzzle my chin, sleep under my chin or just nuzzle on me while getting his noggin scratched.  I have never come across so affectionate a kitten as Simon.  

Simon likes to hug, too:

Simon will make someone a very good companion. 

Steven is also an affectionate one, as evidenced by his nap with my son.  

Both Simon and Steven are happy, playful kittens full of love and exuberance.  They have no health concerns or negative behaviours and will be wonderful additions to any home.  

I am so going to miss them!  

They burrowed into this blanket themselves and had a nap! 
As for my other foster cats....

Allow me to introduce 11-07 ("eleven-oh-seven").  
Odd name, you think?  Can you see why?  

Yes, she has very clear 1107 markings on both her sides!  11-07 is a bit skittish, but I think she will relax in a quiet home.  She is used to children as she's been with us since infancy.  While she does spend time with my 10 year old, she could not be bothered with my five year old.  Younger kids tend to be unpredictably loud at times and she does not enjoy loud noises.  

This is Blondie.  We named her Blondie for her blonde-coloured eyes, pale colouring and the fact that she seems a bit dense at times. (In this photo she is stalking and swatting the black shoes.  You can make of that what you will.)  I think she's actually just very skittish and her nervousness pre-empts her intelligence.  She's a funny one, that's for sure.  Blondie is still not fully socialized, despite the fact that I've been working with her for a very long time and she came to me as a kitten.  Blondie will be staying with me a bit longer as I give socializing her one more go before she goes to another home for more intensive socializing.

This is Princess.  She is completely black -- not a spot of white on her anywhere!  Princess came to me as a one year old extremely skittish cat.  She hid for the first week in the rafters of our basement.  I decided to cage her when I realized that she would live in those rafters until eternity if I didn't force her hand.  While caged I would daily remove her, hold her, stroke her, scratch her head and talk to her.  At night she would cry and cry to be let out of the cage.  Finally I gave in and let her out of the cage, but barred her access to the basement.  It took seven long months of coaxing before Princess ever let me touch her after uncaging her.  She simply came to me one day, lay down at me feet and meowed at me.  She wanted scratched!  Now she comes to us all the time for back scratching.  She does not like to be held, but will sit next to you (never on! she's not that kind of cat!) on a sofa and allow you to pet and scratch her.  She's a very well behaved, but quite skittish cat.  She needs a quiet home and will most likely have a period of adjustment when she gets to that home.  She will hide and come out only when she is comfortable.  Coaxing will not work with this girl.  If you are a local reader, I would like you to consider whether you or someone you may know would be interested in adopting Princess.  She will make a wonderful pet.  After all the work we've done with her to socialize her to humans, children, and other cats, I would hate to see her sit in an adoption center's cages before being adopted.  I think that would cause her to regress.  I know she will have an adjustment period regardless, but I think it would be FAR FAR less traumatic for her to transition directly into her forever home.  If you or someone you know is interested and serious about adopting Princess, please contact me via the comments section.  I would be happy to facilitate her transition to a forever home.  

Simon, Steven, and 11-07 will be available for adoption this weekend, February 13th at the PetSmart on Vansickle Ave. in St. Catharines. 


Screen-Free Tuesdays Spawns My First Small Giveaway

It's a new tradition in our house.  (Can you call it a tradition after one time?)

It's so easy to get into an electronic rut in the wintertime.  The kids fell into habit with the Wii, PCs, PS2 and TV.  Tired of the daily battle over who's watching/playing what, I exercised my dictatorial powers and decreed Tuesdays to be Screen Free.  Nothing with a screen is to be used on Tuesday.  This covers gameboys, PCs, tvs and all game systems.

Now, what to do?

Ah, there's the rub.

Well, I happened to be recovering from a virus so I spent the day dabbling at my housework and resting  (right after I remembered it was screen-free and pulled myself away from the PC.)  I think I might have gotten more done than on days when I'm perfectly fine but "taking breaks" on the internet!  When the kids got home, my youngest and I tried our hands at the new Battleship game.

It's really a little advanced for him, but he wanted to try.  After an hour he decided it just wasn't for him.  While I made dinner the boys played with action figures and cars.  After dinner everyone played a few rounds of Triominoes before doing homework, having baths and heading to bed.

You should know I've been on a kids' games losing streak for ages now.  I have never once won a round of Monopoly Junior against my five year old.  No, I do not stack the odds in his favour.

 I have lost every game of Mousetrap against these guys (you really cannot cheat to lose in that, either!)

  And in recent months, I haven't been able to beat my husband at a game of cards either!  (Though I did break that streak in December.)  Wouldn't you know that the first round of Triominoes was won by my five year old?  Of course it was!  He had no idea what he was doing, but he sure won!  I did, however, win the second round.  Luckily we weren't keeping score because the numbers might not have been in my favour.

The final verdict on screen-free Tuesday:  it was enjoyed by all.  The kids were already making plans for next Tuesday.

Now for that giveaway.  Up for grabs to those who follow and comment on this post is one coupon good for $10 off a Hasbro, Parker Brothers,  Milton Bradley and/or Cranium board game.  The coupon is only good in Canada so this is a giveaway just for Canadians!

Winner will be selected and coupon mailed on Monday, February 1st, 2010.  That will give the winner two months to use the coupon! 


Use for stale (rancid) brown rice found!

Any whole grain will go rancid, meaning the oils in the grain get strong and off-smelling.  It will give the grain itself a nasty flavour.  I don't think it's bad for you and won't make you sick, but it does not taste good.  It tastes awful actually.

In the interests of frugality, I knew there had to be a use for rancid rice whether it was an art project or small animal food. 

You can make a heating pad using rice grains.  Take an old, but not holey (unless you sew the holes shut), clean sock and fill it with rice grains.  Either sew or tie the open end shut.  Heat the rice filled sock in the microwave for 90 seconds.  There, you have a heating pad to apply to muscle aches or to use as a kitten warmer as I currently am.

You can freeze the same rice sock to use for first aid applications.  Reuse it indefinitely.

Here is an article on how to make a rice sock: 

Here is a very comprehensive article on the benefits of brown rice:


I thought my days of mixing formula were over...

but here I am taking care of two babies.  And it's hard to bottle feed two at once.  It's hard to clean two bums simultaneously.  It's hard to keep one from scratching the other's eyes out when they sleep next to each other. 

My husband brought home two babies on New Year's Eve.  Two baby kittens, that is!

They are roughly four weeks old, going on five.  My husband works for a company that manufactures wind towers.  These kittens were in an area where large steel plates (think tonnes) are stored.  Just as he was about to move some of this plate, a coworker heard a sound.  It was the sound of two tiny kittens mewling.  Since it was a holiday weekend, everything was going to be closed up tight and the mother, if she hadn't intentionally abandoned them, would have no way to get back to them.  The temperature was well below 0C and nights substantially below.  My husband couldn't leave them to freeze.

They were hungry and cold after a day in a box of rags in subzero temperatures.  We syringe fed them watered down wet cat food as they likely never had solid food before and they are quite wobbly still.  As soon as I could get to a pet supply store we purchased a nurser and formula.  Isn't this bottle just the cutest thing?

Cute, yes, but not quite so cute as Steven and Simon:

They're standing on top of the barrier I made to turn my living room into a kitten playpen. It's not safe for them to wander around the house.  I do cage the kittens during naps and at night, they are out of the cage during feedings and after for play time.  Obviously, the barricade isn't working so well. It only took two days for them to overcome it! As long as I'm in the living room, they will stay there.  I have become mom so far as these two guys are concerned.  They'll follow along as I walk, climb my pants' legs when I sit, and crawl up on my shoulder to sleep after they've finished their bottle:

(Try to ignore the folded clothes behind me on the couch.  It's amazing how much time these guys actually require in caring for them.  I truly feel like I have a baby or two in the house.  Though I don't mean to diminish the work of human childcare at all.  I'm only comparing the two. )
I (we) have fostered cats and kittens for the past five years for the Animal Assistance Society of Niagara.  We socialize them and get them ready for adoption into forever homes.  There are three fosters with us now in addition to Simon and Steven.  The baby brothers will also be available for adoption once they've been neutered. 

I'll tell you more about the other fosters in another post.

I suppose you might be wondering about their names.  My husband works in Stevensville.  The kittens were found next to steel plate from Seimon's Steel.  I couldn't call a kitty "Seimon" (which sounds just like "semen") so Simon it is!  How do I tell them apart?  Well, Simon has a redder face than Steven.  It just so happens that my husband has an Uncle Simon, who when he grows one, sports a red mustache!  I need all the help I can get when it comes to memory assists.


About This Blog

Saving money. Saving graces. Raising children, husbands and, sometimes, cats. Laughing. Living. Thinking. Doing. Life in the Niagara Region of Ontario.

About Me

I am a happily married woman with four children and various cats and kittens (fosters). I love to read and my favourite authors are George RR Martin, Thomas Hardy, Raymond Carver, PD James, Kurt Vonnegut, J. K. Rowling, and Margaret Atwood. I know there are only three women in that list (and none of them American), so if you'd like to suggest some I'm willing to give them a shot! And yes, I am an American living in Canada. (Hence the nick -- CannedAm.) I like it here. There are things about the states that I miss, but my love is here and this country has things to offer that my own does not. Things that make my quality of life much better than it ever was in Ohio. Guess I'm stuck here. Though there's a nice spot in the Appalachian hills where I'd love to spend my retirement.

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