This is really more of a summer toast but I couldn’t wait three more months. This is super delicious and comes together in just a few minutes.
makes 2 servings
4 slices thick cut Italian bread olive oil 2.5oz fig goat cheese* 5 medium strawberries 1tbsp balsamic vinegar 3 mint leaves
Set your oven to broil. Lay your four slices of bread on a foil lined baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Wash, hull and thinly slice the strawberries, chiffonade** the mint leaves and if necessary, mix the fig goat cheese. In a very small saucepan over medium heat simmer the balsamic vinegar for 1 to 2 minutes to slightly reduce. Set all the toppings aside.
Toast the bread under the broiler for 30 to 60 seconds, keeping an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn. Remove from the oven, flip each slice and brush the other side with olive oil. Spread each toast with a thick layer of fig goat cheese and arrange the sliced strawberries on top. Return to the oven for 1 to 2 minutes, again keeping a close eye on it. Once the cheese and strawberries have softened, remove from the oven. Drizzle with the balsamic reduction and garnish with mint leaves. Enjoy!
*None of the stores around here have had fig goat cheese for months, so I made my own by mixing 2 oz of plain goat cheese with one tablespoon of fig jam and half a teaspoon of honey.
**To chiffonade the mint leaves simply stock the leaves roll them up together and slice.
Every season I make a new playlist of melancholy songs to listen to (actually I will take ANY reason to make a playlist, I recently made one just of songs about bananas which I don’t even like). I started with a winter one in 2019, then followed summer and fall last year. You may have noticed that I didn’t do a spring playlist and that’s because typically the vibe for spring ISN’T MELANCHOLY.
Spring is all about rebirth, renewal, the end of darkness, blah blah blah, which is not the mood for my seasonal playlists! Every other season has been so easy but with spring I didn’t even know where to start. I knew it would be my greatest challenge as a playlist curator but after researching some good depressing music I was able to make a start and now my playlist is almost two hours long. It’s constantly evolving as I find new sad songs to add so if you think I’m missing any please let me know!
Aside: it turns out blogging solely from my phone is a little annoying and difficult, I’m starting to think I should have spent the insurance money from my computer being stolen on… a computer. Maybe that can be the 2022 house project (provided I accomplish everything on the 2021 list).
I think every year I come up with a big list of projects I want to do around the house. In the last few years I’ve gotten a lot done, like painting or repainting almost every single room, as well as adding proper curtains and blinds to most of the windows. What’s left now is mostly just organizational and decorative stuff.
Entry •paint walls and bench •acrylic bins for reusable bags •organize shelves •storage hooks for wagon & stroller •umbrella stand? •replace/refinish ugly boot shelves
This was the first room that Taylor and I painted in this apartment way back and I guess 2007, so it’s definitely overdue to be repainted! It’s also perpetually disorganized. Between all my family’s shoes, boots, coats, and sports equipment and all the daycare kids’ shoes, boots, coats, and miscellaneous I need a lot of places to hang stuff, stack stuff, and store stuff in here.
Office •file boxes for work & personal files •organize cabinet
This place doesn’t need a lot done to it as I just put a large cabinet on the side of the office where my desk used to be. One of the cupboards in it is supposed to be for my work files, etc., and that’s really the only space that still needs to be addressed.
Playroom •curtains? •move 3rd crib to kids room closet •bins for toy shelf •bins for toy closet •organize bedding baskets
The playroom is another space that doesn’t need a lot done to it, mostly I just need to come up with a more organized storage solution for the closet that has all the extra toys that aren’t currently out.
Dining Room •attach camera cable to wall with cable clips •build height chart
The only thing I want to do in the dining room this year is build a height chart. We’ve been tracking our kids heights on the door frame of the powder room door (which is right beside the dining room, hence why this project is in this list) and I just want to make something that I can attach to the wall to mark and record these things instead of on the door frame which I couldn’t take with me if we ever moved (not that we ever will lol).
Kitchen •paint walls •build window shelf •clean & organize lazy susan •organize herbs & spices (still need 12 matching jars for remaining herbs and spices) •new fridge & freezer bins •new curtain/Roman blinds?
I’m currently holding off on things like painting and building shelves in the kitchen because there was a leak in the ceiling this week that dumped water all over one side of the room. It well and truly fucked up some of the cabinets, so I’m kind of hoping to get a full kitchen reno out of it (fingers crossed my landlord feels the same way).
Pantry •paint interior •build shelves •cohesive bins to optimize storage
I have the pantry seperate from the kitchen because I have specific plans for it. The pantry is a shallow closet between the kitchen proper and the powder room, and right now there is only one shelf built in, up at the top. It’s one of those wire shelves that stuff topples over on all the time which is super annoying. Other than that I have two metal Ikea shelf units in there which are okay, but I would really love to maximize the available storage by building wooden shelves wall to wall and front to back. I’d also LOVE to put a mini upright freezer in there but that’s a big We’ll See at the moment.
Powder Room •attach shelf to wall •hanging plant •bins for extra diapers & toilet paper This is where I have all the diapering, hand washing and cleaning supplies for the daycare kids so I need plenty of storage in here, which previously the room had none. I recently got a new tall metal shelf and I just need to figure out some way to attach the wall.
The linen closet has the same kind of annoying wire shelves as the top of the pantry, just more of them, so I want to build in similar wooden shelves as I’m planning for the pantry.
Bedroom •finish emptying narrow dresser/clearing dresser tops •move furniture: dressers to west wall, bed to south wall •paint east wall •get double curtain rod & blackout curtains •put up art •shades for hanging lights
This room was the biggest change because even though I’ve gotten new furniture over the years I’ve basically always had it in the same configuration, especially the bed which has always been under the window (despite Taylor’s insistence that I once had it in the southwest corner of the room). There was a lot of furniture in there and a lot of things inside of and under that furniture, plus due to daycare regulations anything over 3 ft tall has to be attached to the walls so moving things around was kind of a huge production.
Taylor and I got it done over the long weekend and in the end we changed our original plan and put the dressers on the (still unpainted, but there’s curtains across the whole wall so it’s fine) east wall underneath of the window. We also came up with a lot of interesting ideas involving replacing the bed frame with one with storage and replacing the dressers with smaller dressers or cupboards, or, depending on how much storage we end up needing, a nice little accent chair and side table. We took out one whole dresser and a large storage bench that was at the end of the bed and there is so much more space in there now (who knew, right?)! There’s also room now for both Taylor and myself to have proper nightstands, before I only had a tiny little shelf on the wall so that’s pretty great for me!
Kids Room •move toy shelf out of closet •put small shelf up •organize toys & books •put up more art? •pink curtain for closet •put up pom pom garland with command clips
A few months ago I moved to the kids toy shelf into the closet to make space for a third daycare crib but I really hated how the room was that way so I decided to move it back out. The biggest challenge in this room is that I put up pink curtains on the window so now I need to get a pink curtain for the closet doorway. I got the pink curtains of Facebook Marketplace for super cheap, and at one point I was going to go pick up a third one from someone across town but it was rainy and I didn’t want to so I cancelled, and I haven’t been able to find another one for a good price yet. I’m full of regrets about that one.
So they’re it is, all the stuff I want to get done around the house this year. Mostly, kind of, because I keep adding more stuff to the list! But hopefully putting this here will keep me accountable and on track.
On New Year’s Even we usually have what I like to call The Feast of 1,000 Frozen Appetizers, which is exactly what it sounds like: we buy a bunch of frozen appetizers (spring rolls, mozzarella sticks, meatballs wrapped in bacon, etc etc), make them all at once, then FEAST. However this year we switched it up as Symphony was going to be at her dad’s and the little kids don’t go for those kinds of frozen appetizers.
Instead we elected to do a semi-kid friendly charcuterie/cheeseboard spread, with a variety of meats, cheese, fruit & veggies, breads and crackers, jams and sauces and honey. One thing we included to make it extra kid friendly with some plain sea salt kettle chips, and I decided to make a dip to go along with them. LET ME TELL YOU, this was the best dip I’ve ever made in my life! It was super easy to do, well dicing and caramelizing the shallots was a little tedious (when are shallots NOT tedious?) but it was worth it in the end for the delicious reward.
I didn’t take exact measurements of anything but I feel this is a pretty forgiving dish and you don’t need to be too precious about it. You can adjust, substitute and add to as you like. I’ve guesstimated my amounts for you below.
1 tbsp olive oil
3-4 shallots, diced
salt & pepper to taste
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 oz parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 1/2 tbsp thinly sliced green onions
In a small saute or saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add shallots, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently and taking care not to let the shallots burn. Once they are nicely caramelized (about 15-20 minutes) transfer them to a bowl and allow to cool slightly (5-10 minutes). Add sour cream and 1 tbsp sliced green onions and mix thoroughly, top with remaining green onions and serve with chips, crackers, crudité, cheese stickks, literally whatever u like. You can make this a day ahead and keep in the fridge, but set it out 15-20 minutes & stir before serving.
Last week was really something else, and something I don’t want to repeat any time soon. On Tuesday (I think? could have been Monday) Nicky tripped up the stairs out of the back garden and the child-size metal gardening trowel he was carrying went straight up his nose. It cut up the inside of his nostril but thankfully it wasn’t serious enough to require medical attention. Once he’d stopped crying and bleeding we had a learning moment about how to carry sharp and/or pointy objects, and we were all just really relieved it hadn’t gone in his eye!
On Thursday was a more serious event. The kids were outside in the backyard in the afternoon and I don’t want to get into specifics here because it really was an accident but there was an incident with a stick and a metal stair railing and it ended with a Gwen breaking a tooth. One of her to front teeth which happened to also be a permanent tooth so it absolutely sucked. We were able to get her in to see the dentist on Friday morning and in a bit of good news the tooth actually broken in the best way a tooth can break, of you have to break a tooth. I mean obviously the preference is to not do that, but at least it was broken cleanly with no exposed nerve. Our dentist (the same one who fixed my two front teeth when I badly chipped both of them, one on a beer bottle and the other on a peach pit) built her a new tooth and while we still have to keep an eye on it for increasing pain, swelling or any discoloration it’s basically good as new.
Lately I’ve been trying out this anti-frizz hair product, Dry Bar Liquid Glass Miracle Smoothing Sealant. I got it in my Christmas stocking so if any of my kids are reading this YES Santa shops at Sephora. This is not a review by the way, so please don’t judge this product based on this post. I will say though, it’s a very scented product and when you first spray it in your hair it has a subtle base (bass?) note of fish.
You spray it on clean, damp hair, comb it through, blow-dry and finish with some kinda heat styling. This is WAY more styling than I do normally but it’s supposed to last through three washes. I’m not a big hair washer so that’s like… 2-3 weeks for me. The first time I tried it I curled my hair but I feel that didn’t really heat seal (???) it from root to tip so I can’t properly judge the results, although when I told Symphony I had tried a new anti-frizz hair product she looked at me and said “it didn’t work.”
For my second attempt with this product I straightened my hair instead, and now that I’m center parting it, this really gave me Rachel Green I’m-so-happy-and-not-at-all-jealous hair.
I actually learned how to blow dry hair when working in a salon in the mid-nineties, round brushing classic Rachel shags for 8 hours a day. I have a more-defined bicep on my left arm to this day from wielding the dryer. Anyway I feel like ending up with Rachel hair of some kind myself was inevitable (although mine has grown out bangs I mean curtain bangs, this was a deliberate choice NOT serendipity).
ANYWAY AGAIN. Straightening rather than curling my hair has made it glaringly obvious that the real problem with my hair isn’t even frizz or flyaways, it’s that all the hair that I lost after Nicky was born (postpartum hair loss is a thing, look it up) only grows back to be two to six inches long.
It’s been four years, all those hairs should be two feet long now, but they just don’t grow past these shorter lengths. It’s like I have a short haircut within my long haircut and when I put my hair up (but not out) or back, which I do often, all these hairs just stick out like a big halo. I tried to take a picture of this but my hair is a light colour and my walls and curtains and doors are light colors so I couldn’t get a good contrast, although if you look closely at the picture above you can see what’s happening on the top of my head. I can’t do anything about it other than loading up my hair with heavy product which I don’t like to do because as I mentioned, I’m not a big hair washer. So the real lesson is: children will ruin your hair, or in my case, take all your hair power for their own.
On Saturday night I got a fever. It wasn’t high, it was specifically a mild fever. I’d been feeling sore and achey for a few days before but I thought it was from sleeping on my neck funny one night followed by overdoing it with yoga so I’d been trying to take it easy. But then I got the fever and used the Covid-19 online self-assessment tool to see if I needed to get tested. They now actually recommend anyone with flu symptoms, no matter how mild, get assessed for testing, so on Sunday morning even though my temperature was back to normal I went to the urgent care clinic.
By the time I walked there (it’s about six blocks away) the fever was back and after a very short wait I was called back to the exam room. At this point I was still hoping they’d just tell me to go home and take some Tylenol but after looking in my ears and throat and listening to my lungs it was clear I have some kind of upper respiratory infection so I had to be tested. You may have heard that it sucks, and that is accurate! Also terrible for the woman who administered my test and has been inadvertently smacked by people (not me) flailing their hands when the swab goes all the way in their nose.
Anyway now I’m self-isolating in my room and hoping I get a negative result soon. Sym is staying at her dad’s for the time being and Taylor has taken time off of work to look after the little kids (including Gwen’s distance education, which, more on that in another post) and house and pets by himself. And also me, even though now I feel fine and not sick at all, but still need to be waited on because I can’t get my own food and am also bored and needy (but trying not to be a burden).
I’m really hopeful that I don’t have coronavirus (although I guess who wouldn’t be, right?) and just have some regular, casual virus. I don’t have a cough or difficulty breathing AT ALL, but I know you can have it very mildly or be completely asymptomatic so I don’t want to get my hopes up. I just really don’t want to be stuck in here away from my family for weeks! The kids are good and they can talk to me from the door but Gwen says “I want to hug you with touching” and Nicky says “I need to SEE mama” and it’s hard hard hard. In just a day I’ve gone from being totally touched out from having them constantly in my personal space to being completely desperate to squeeze them tight (and Sym and Taylor too).
A long time ago I saw a picture of a wooden bocce ball set on like… tumblr. I TOLD YOU IT WAS A LONG TIME AGO!!! I loved the idea of it but that particular set was very expensive and sold out. In fact most bocce ball sets are pretty expensive, the cute ones are often sold out and the rest are very ugly. NO OFFENSE TO UGLY BOCCE BALL FANS.
So of course I did what any normal person would do and decided to make my own set! I figured… how hard can it be? I scoured the internet for some 3″ wooden balls (the largest size available, this is smaller than ~regulation~ bocce balls but a nice size for little kids hands, and the wooden ones are also quite light and easy for them to throw) and ordered them, along with a 1 1/2″ ball for the pallina, from an Etsy shop based in Ukraine. Why Ukraine? I think it was just the best price I could find. However it took forever for them to arrive and by that time the bloom had gone off the rose somewhat and I had no interest in completing the project.
I’m not actually sure exactly when I ordered all these wooden balls but I did find an Instagram picture from when I was sanding them- they were quite rough when they arrived and more ovoid than spherical, which was a little annoying. But there is evidence that I did eventually sand them, it was in June 2017 and after that I put them in a ziplock bag in my craft cupboard and left them alone.
I have a couple of ideas for why I never got around to finishing this project. First of all, option paralysis: since I was painting them myself I could pick any colours I wanted, but I couldn’t decide between a bright, pastel or neutral color scheme. Secondly, I was worried I’d fuck it up. Drawing a design onto a curved wooden surface neatly and evenly and then painting inside those lines by hand? I was terrified! And finally, time. Each color took several coats and I could only paint 2-3 spots at a time. When, exactly, would I find the time to work on this?
Enter a global pandemic. Now I’ve got all the time in the world AND I’m desperate for things to keep me busy.
As you can see I decided to go with an Easter-y pastel colour scheme, which the kids really like. If I was to make another set (which I want to do, it was fun!) I think I would do a neutral set with black, grey and white, like my minimalist wooden doll family.
Originally I had planned to add black stripes to one ball of each colour and white stripes to the others so in addition to a four-player game of pink, purple, blue and green, there could be a two-player game of black and white. I eventually abandoned this idea as being too hard, but partway through painting I realized I should have painted the spots on one ball of each color and the negative space around the spots on the others. Innies and outies. I’ll do that next time!
To make the spots I used a biscuit cutter as a template and traced it with a pencil. I had to sand off some marks where the pencil slipped so I think for lighter paint colors using a white pencil crayon for the design would work better. I didn’t measure where I put the spots, just eyeballed it, so some are a little too close together but I think it’s fine. They’re rustic, ok?
To finish & seal the balls I used a simple, natural polish made from 4 parts jojoba oil and 1 part beeswax- I got the instructions from this site. It’s very easy but I do recommend getting the wax in pellet form; I have a big block that needs to be grated and it SUCKS. I actually made Taylor do it for me.
I finished the whole project yesterday afternoon and we went out in the backyard with the little kids to play. We played to five points and I modified the rules to allow two players to score per round so Gwen and Nicky would have a better chance of earning points. In the end the final score was Taylor 5, Gwen 4, Nicky 2 and Tanie A BIG FAT GOOSE EGG. All that work and it turns out… I am terrible at this game.
I’M SORRY that title is abysmal but this is where we are at now. I also apologize for the puns you are about to encounter, I couldn’t stop myself.
Back in the early days of this current global crisis when people in Vancouver were starting to stockpile supplies, Taylor and I made a conscious decision to NOT stockpile toilet paper. We were using a lot, but we usually buy just one pack at a time because we live like, right by the store. Back in early March we did buy one extra 12-pack of double rolls but for a family of five… that really isn’t much. Buying two packs of toilet paper for a whole family is normal, probably more normal than just buying one and running to the drugstore at 11pm on a Tuesday night because you just realized you are on your last roll, every time. So no, no toilet paper stockpile.
We did however, buy a bidet. This is something Taylor has been wanting for a long time but I always pooh-poohed the idea, saying it wasn’t something we needed. I wanna go on the record right now and say this: I WAS WRONG. I WAS WRONG ABOUT BIDETS. I VERY MUCH regret not getting one sooner and I REALLY wish we had had one when I was pregnant in 2012 & 2016 and… having problems. Hindsight is 20/20 I guess.
Anyway. We’ve had it for close to a month now, I remember Taylor and I messaging back and forth about it while he was at work (remember going to work?) but I wasn’t working (I think) so it must have been the first week of Gwen’s spring break (she finally starts online learning tomorrow, or at least she’s supposed to, and I’m wondering if it will make our days HARDER or EASIER?).
The exact model of bidet we ordered from Amazon is out of stock but is most similar to this one, tbh that’s probably the exact same one, just from a different seller charging more money. I think we paid about $50? $60 Canadian dollars for it. It was pretty easy for us to to install and we haven’t had any problems with leaks; we left bowls under the hose connectors for a couple days after installation just to make sure.
It has two different nozzles, one for “🍑” and one for “””woman cleaning””” lololol. It also has warm water! For that you have to connect to the hot water supply under the sink so if your sink is very far from your toilet that might be a challenge, but our sink is right next to the toilet so it wasn’t hard. I did have to drill a hole in the side of the vanity to run the hose through, but I love drilling holes in things so that was fine with me haha. Once I was sure there were no issues with the hoses I used some cable clip nails to attach the hot water hose to the baseboards and cable ties to bundle up the cold water hose and it honestly doesn’t look messy at all imo.
There was a small learning curve with regards to temperature, water pressure, sitting angle (I sat… wrong once and it was very clear very quickly lol), etc but I think we are pretty used to it now (Taylor and myself, the kids don’t use it yet). I found some little baby washcloths (from Gwen’s infancy) to use for drying off that I keep in a box on the shelf right above the toilet, and got a small wastebasket from the dollar store to act as a laundry hamper for them. Each day used cloths get washed with bleach (along with all the other things I have to wash daily with bleach to comply with daycare regulations, just because I’m not working right now doesn’t mean I’m letting standards slip!). And that extra 12-pack of double rolls we bought in March? We haven’t even opened it yet.
(Also YES the first thing we did was crank it to the max to see how far it would spray, the answer is ACROSS THE ROOM.)
Like I mentioned in my family dinner post I’ve been getting pretty bored with making the same stuff all the time and lunch is no exception as it’s very often one of two things:
peanut butter sandwiches
That’s it. That’s the list. I’ve made a lot of variations of the latter but not the former, so this week I decided to try something new with peanut butter and stuff it into some French toast. I added a strawberry syrup to make it a true pb & j experience and 2/3 of my kids really liked it.
Peanut Butter Stuffed French Toast with Strawberry Syrup
for the toast:
1 cup milk
1/4 cup flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp honey
10-12 slices day old sandwich bread
1 tbsp unsalted butter
powdered sugar for serving (optional)
for the syrup:
1 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup + 1 1/2 tsp water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp potato starch
to make the toast:
1. In a wide, shallow bowl whisk together the milk and flour until smooth. Whisk in the eggs, then the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, use a fork to mix together the peanut butter and honey. Use the peanut butter honey mixture and the bread to make 5-6 sandwiches (depending on how much bread you have).
3. Line a rimmed baking sheet with wax paper and place wire racks inside. Dip both sides of each peanut butter sandwich in the egg mixture and place on the racks. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook one to two stuffed French toasts at a time for 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown. Serve immediately, topped with powdered sugar and strawberry syrup.
to make the syrup:
1. Combine frozen strawberries, 1/2 cup water, sugar and lemon zest in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until sugar is dissolved and strawberries are soft.
2. Remove the pan from heat and puree the strawberry mixture using an immersion blender. Return to heat.
3. In a small glass or bowl, mix together 1 1/2 tsp potato starch with 1 1/2 tsp water. Pour starch mixture into strawberry puree, increase heat to medium high and cook, stirring constantly, until it reaches a syrup-like consistency. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
My bread was frozen so I toasted it in the oven at 300°F for a few minutes to defrost and dry it out a little; if your bread is very fresh & soft you may wish to do the same.
In lieu of regular sugar and vanilla extract I used sugar with vanilla beans ground in it, this is only because I already had it on hand and I’m trying to make my actual vanilla last longer because it is expensive!
You can use corn starch in the syrup if that’s what you have on hand, I used potato starch because it’s what I had on hand and I’m not trying to make frivolous shopping trips!