The day the kids went to camp…

…started out with younger kid declaring that, well, she thought about it, and, she wasn’t going to go.

What’s a mum to do when she sees 2 days before her, no school, M.Ed coursework to do, martinis to drink, and no kids to pick up, cook for, bathe, or referee?

Well, she convinces her daughter that going to camp with her school is the best idea because staying at home will involve NO TV and NO playing with mum because she has work to do.

My own mother’s voice trickled through the air all the way from another province and into my head: “Never force them to go to camp! I was forced to go to camp, and look what happened to me.” It’s a good point.  Unfortunately, the 2 days of freedom before me was so enticing, I started to empathize with my grandparents, who completely destroyed my mother’s ability to be within 15 feet of a  canoe, paddle, outhouse or lifejacket by forcing her to go to camp year after year. Continue reading “The day the kids went to camp…”

Tonight’s menu: Gum and popsicles

It is 9:30 pm. For the last hour and a half, I have been sitting by the fire, reading the paper, reading emails, and sipping my favourite red wine. My kids went to bed happy and I have no dishes to do. Oh, well, I rinsed the pot of defrosted baked beans. Don’t know why I bothered with a bowl, I could have eaten right out of the pot.

I have been able to do this because tonight, I decided not to serve dinner. Well – correction – I served Gum as an appetizer (choice of 2 kinds; all-u-can-chew) and Popsicles as a main course. Interspersed between courses were such fun and stimulating activites as bike-ride-dog-walking, sunflower-planting-and-watering, board-game-“playing”, and our new favourite, “Choppy Chopperstein”.

Ben is away for a couple days, and I was able to manage all this entertainment after work, and serve dinner too!

Last night, I spent the better part of an hour in the kitchen after work, repeating the phrase, “I can’t (Frida/Elsie), I’m making dinner”. Perhaps 8 or 10 times. Also intervening as the girls checked off everything on the “don’t do it” list.

When dinner time rolled around (chicken & barley soup cause they have runny noses; isn’t that so maternal of me? I don’t even like chicken soup and I think it’s a myth that it makes you better), they didn’t eat it.

Not surprising. BUT very, very, very annoying. A complete waste of an hour, 8-10 repetitions of the same boring phrase, and numerous interventions. Boring mum, for naught. Add stress, frustration, a bit of yelling and…dishes.

So tonight? No dinner. BOOM!

True. They could have all the gum they wanted, and eventually out of irrepressible mother-guilt I asked them if they were at all hungry for a bowl of cereal or … a popsicle? (with yogurt in it, OK?) And I got to take them for the first outside bike ride of the season, help them sow 24 sunflower seeds, play a stupid farmer board game, have a round of Choppy Chopperstein, and then put happy kids to bed and come down and eat my warmed-up baked beans with red wine.

Look, I am not even exaggerating one bit here. They never, ever eat dinner. So why do we bother? It creates frustration, no fun at the table, stress, and time loss. Yes, it’s important, traditions, education bla bla. But right now, I am NOT STRESSED AT ALL and we had a super fun evening. It’s even super windy out, and – no stress. Win.

Dinner tomorrow night? I think we’re on to something here…. (so much faster shopping at the dep than at the store!!!)

PS stay tuned for a Choppy video…

Richard Burton’s Favourite Dish

So on friday, I decided to try this lasagna recipe from Peter Berley’s book for Flexitarians. In fact, I decided to embark upon a whole menu – no, 2 menus –  cause they sounded so good and cause I have so much time on my hands.  The lasagna part called for squash, mushrooms, spinach, sage béchamel and gruyère… yeah, yum. It also called for homemade noodles but I was like, “no way! who has time for that?” The rest of it sounded great.

I read the ingredient list and smugly crossed out, “homemade“.  I did not read the instructions, because they went on for several pages and I didn’t have time.

The astute among you will have recognized immediately that this was A BIG MISTAKE.

I got home from grocery shopping and flipped open the book. And was unsure of where to begin. The dicing and roasting of the  4 1/2 pounds of vegetables? The sautéeing of the onions with garlic and herbs? The preparation of the béchamel? The wilting and draining and chopping of the 2 pounds of spinach? Heck, good thing I had noodles in a box!  If I had read the recipe ahead of time, I would have noticed that Berley mentions that almost each step can be done 2 days ahead of time: Clue. There was 30 minutes of roasting, a good 30 minutes of sage-infusion in the boiled milk for the béchamel BEFORE the making of the damn sauce, plus another 40 minutes in the oven, not to mention chopping a 3-pound squash into 1/2 inch cubes… “all this for kids who won’t even eat it”, I glumly posited as I contemplated my tried and true 20-minute liz-on-ya that I had forsaken for the novelty of…squash.

The lasagna, despite my shortcuts with the noodles, béchamel, and several other steps, was delicious and if you have 2 days ahead of you, I would recommend it. It’s earthy and comforting and makes you feel wholesome cause of the squash and spinach. You know, it’s all seasonal and everything. But my friends, if you are like me, you will make a full-blown béchamel lasagna once every 5 years cause it is just too damn much trouble (and it dirties about ninety bowls). Instead, you will keep on hand the following ingredients:

  • Can of crushed tomatoes
  • Pesto (Basil)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Frozen spinach (2 boxes)
  • Ball of mozzarella
  • Oven-ready lasagna noodles
  • Parmesan cheese (real)
  • Lemons
  • Salt n pepa

And you will do the following (vary amounts to fit your pan. These instructions are for a  9 x 13″. Alternately use a loaf pan for 2 or 3, or 8″ square for the family with no leftovers):

  1. The morning of, or the night before, take out 2 packages of spinach from the freezer (2 packages for a big pan) and put it in a colander in the sink to thaw and drain. If you can get those cube ones, they take no time at all to thaw!
  2. When you are ready to cook: In one small-ish bowl, get your 2-year old to mix up some pesto with the crushed tomatoes. For a 9 x13″ pan I would use about 3/4 of the can of tomatoes. She could use it all if she’s feeling saucy, which she probably is. Pesto it to taste (don’t be shy).
  3. In a medium bowl, have your 4-year old mix the spinach with a container of cottage cheese (500g for a big pan of Liz), salt, pepper and the zest of your lemon. Note: that’s 2 bowls. Far from ninety.
  4. Cut the ball of mozzarella into thin slices or grate it. Finely grate a bunch of parmesan or do this directly on to the lasagna when it’s time.
  5. Sauce the bottom of the pan, layer on some noodles, pile on some spinach mixture, some parmesan, some sauce, some more noodles, spinach, parmesan, sauce, …. till you have no more room/sauce/spinach/noodles.
  6. Layer or sprinkle the mozzarella on top and grate on more parmesan.
  7. Bake at 400 F for about 30-40 minutes till it’s bubbly, browning, and you can stick a skewer through the noodles.

Seriously, if you’ve got your spinach thawed, you’ll have liz-on-ya in one hour, from start to finish (Richard would have liked that!). And the thing is: IT’S FUCKING AMAZING.  Yes, once again: less work, better food. I think that’s going to become my mantra.

So easy, toddlers can do it. Those aren’t apples on top.

I keep meaning to take a picture of the finished product but it doesn’t stick around long enough. Just make it, and take your own picture.

Nice to be back. Pin this someone, will ya?