halloween eighteen



a few of our many, MANY jack-o-lanterns

Halloween! This past weekend I joked that I was going to take this week off of work to do Halloween right and HONESTLY next year I think I really should. I don’t finish work until 5:15 and trick-or-treaters start coming at 5:30! Thankfully I had Sym and her two friends manning the candy bowl while I finished the decorations and did all our makeup and Taylor finished the dinner I had started for the kids (sweet pepper & bacon tomato sauce on spooky squid ink pasta), but I would have rather had enough time to do it myself!


This year Sym was a vampire at school and a witch at night; she wore a cute black lace dress her Grandma bought her H&and a little witch hat on a headband that she’s worn before, I’ve worn before and Gwen uses regularly for dress up. I put some dark witchy eye makeup on her and she added black leggings, a trenchcoat and boots to help keep warm and and she was ready to hand out candy with her friends Catwoman and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.



Gwen was a Rainbow Princess Ballerina, a costume inspired by one she saw in a store like last year’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Kitty Cat Princess. I really hope she never stops asking for these crazy mash-up costumes! For this look she had white leggings & a long sleeve tee dyed sky blue with RIT dye, a rainbow tutu and a pale blue cape from Amazon and a crown around her bun. Her shirt had a sun of metallic gold felt & sequins and her cape had a white fleece rain cloud with silver felt raindrops and silver sequins. The crown was gold felt, gold sequins and a piece of rainbow ribbon. I used HeatBond to attached the body of the sun, the cloud and the raindrops but all the sequins I sewed by hand and I have to say it was ABSOLUTE MURDER. It took about three days and by the end my carpal tunnels were SCREAMING. She loved it though so it was absolutely worth it. For trick-or-treating I also gave gave her some rainbow eye makeup, pink doll cheeks and shiny pink lipgloss.


Nicky was a wolf in the costume Gwen wore at his age and was cute as heck although most people thought he was a bear? WHEN DID YOU EVER SEE A GREY BEAR COME ON. I love this costume because not only is it adorable but it’s also WARM so there’s no need to bundle up; underneath it he just had on his pajamas.


I was not going to dress up at all this year but at the last minute I decided to put together a quick headband-based unicorn look using stuff I had around the house. I had no time to sew so I did the whole thing with hot glue using a plain plastic headband, black grosgrain ribbon, some thin flexible plastic, metallic silver felt, black leather, and a few fake flowers. I’m super happy with how it turned out! I created a mane look for my hair with three ponytails down the back of my head that I curled, and then wore a lot of black and silver eye makeup.

Taylor declined to dress up but we love him anyway.

Now that Halloween is over I’m to diving into the girls’ birthdays and also YOU KNOW WHAT! That’s right, it’s almost time for #MERRYLARAMIE2018

a scary story

Yesterday morning between six and six-thirty Kichou fell off the bed. He thumped onto the floor with a yelp, but I heard him scrambling down the hallway to drink some water and afterwards he got back up on the bed on his own so I figured he was okay. HOWEVER at around seven-fifteen Taylor was taking the dogs out for a walk and we discovered that Kichou… couldn’t. Like he won’t come when you call him anymore (he’s deaf) so you have to pick him up and carry him when you want him to go somewhere. Taylor plucked him off the bed and put him down in the foyer to leash him and he just sat down. He couldn’t stand or walk on his hind legs and when he sat he was sitting all weird and crooked.

We felt around his hind legs and one, his right leg, was very tight and his hip on that side felt knobby and strange. We decided we’d have to take him to the emergency vet, or rather Taylor would because I was working and all the kids were already here. I called at about 9:45 and was able to get an appointment for 10:30. Just after I got off the phone Kichou, who had been laying in his doggy bed under Taylor’s desk, yelped again, and when we went to get him bundled up and into his crate for the bus ride to the vet Taylor realized Kichou had peed on himself; we think he’d tried to getup to go to the bathroom but was too painful.

What followed next was a long and upsetting day for Taylor, myself and presumably Kichou as well (he’s not a fan of the vet). There was a lot of waiting around the animal hospital for tests and results for Taylor and waiting for texts and phonecalls for me. We were super stressing about it because well… vet bills are expensive and the day before payday we LITERALLY had no extra money to spare. Like I still haven’t recovered financially from Georgie’s emergency vet bills in the spring, and Kichou is really old so like.. at what point do you stop? But on the other hand he’s our dog! So yeah. STRESS.

The vet wasn’t sure if it was a soft tissue injury, a dislocated hip or a broken femur, but after x-rays we learn it was a dislocation. Theoretically that wasn’t the worst-case scenario, but I guess there are different kinds of dislocations: the “good” kind where you can just pop the bone back in easily and the “bad” kind where it’s not so simple. Of course Kichou had the bad kind, and initially we were given this possible course of treatment:
1. try popping it back in with the knowledge that it might not “take,” the hip socket itself might be damaged, etc etc
2. if the pop in didn’t work he’d need surgery to repair the joint
3. if the surgery wasn’t possible, the whole leg would need to be amputated.
We were totally buggin’ because there was NO WAY we could afford the surgery, and after talking to the surgeon the vet was told they were unwilling to attempt an amputation because with Kichou’s age and health it would likely be catastrophic for him. That was the word they used. Catastrophic. I mean at his age even attempting to pop the joint in was risky because he’d have to go under general anaesthesia and might not wake up from it.

The decision was made to attempt to pop his leg back into place, with the knowledge that if it didn’t work then we were going to have to say goodbye. I had to call my neighbor to pick up Gwen from school for me because I was so upset and crying so much I couldn’t face the outside world. Like… I didn’t even get to say goodbye to him that morning! And now I might not get a chance! And like no offence to this world but can we STOP with the pet injury and death already I’VE HAD ENOUGH THIS YEAR.

Thankfully a few hours later the vet called us to say the procedure was successful! The leg went back in and seemed to be holding. They had his leg stabilized so he wouldn’t stress the joint too much, and they kept him overnight for observation (and also because we couldn’t afford to pay the bill yet. The vet actually waived some of the fees, have I mentioned that I really LOVE this animal hospital?). They called this morning with the great news that he could come home so Taylor picked him up after his morning meetings. His leg is still a bit painful and we have to make sure he doesn’t re-injure it so no walks for a week and he has to sleep in a crate, but we are so happy to have him back.

Welcome home, old man dog.

(No but seriously the bill was more then we can really handle right now, please donate to our GoFundMe)

spooky pretzel sticks

I had this idea for a fun activity to do with Gwen the other day when I was in the snack aisle at the grocery store and saw some pretzel sticks. I already had white candy melts and a TON of Halloween sprinkles in my extensive sprinkle collection so it was a breeze for us, but you should be able to find both at Michaels (Homesense is also a good source for seasonal sprinkles).

We found that the type of sprinkles that worked best were the smaller ones, like coloured sugar and nonpareils. The jimmies and flat confetti-style sprinkles were harder to get good coverage with, and the larger shaped sprinkles (we had skulls, spiders and candy eyes) had to be placed individually. I think larger pretzel rods would work better with these other kinds of sprinkles but I haven’t tried it yet.

All in all this is a fun and easy activity for kids, and can easily be adapted for any occasion that they make sprinkles for (ie ALL OF THEM). I’m already planning Christmas and birthday versions (and yes I already have allllll the sprinkles I need for them).

Ingredients:
– pretzel sticks
– white candy melts
– assorted sprinkles

Line a baking sheet and cover your work surface in parchment paper. Pour 1-2 tablespoons of each type of sprinkle in a shallow bowl or small plate.

Melt the candy melts according to the package directions. Dip your pretzel stick ~2/3 of the way in the melted candy and twirl to coat thoroughly. Roll your coated pretzel stick in the sprinkles of your choice and place on the prepared baking sheet.

To add larger shaped sprinkles, use a broken pretzel stick to add to a dab of melted candy to the back of the shape and press each one to the pretzel stick.

When you have coated all your pretzels place the sheet of finished pretzels in the fridge to harden for 15-20 minutes. Keep in an airtight container for up to a week.

autumn leaves

The foliage around the city is BONKERS right now. The weather has been bright & clear for the past few days so we’ve been able to get out and really enjoy it before everything turns into wet brown yuck.

Nicky, lately

Usually by dinnertime most days I’m absolutely done. I’ll usually finish eating and then leave Taylor in charge of the kids and go lie down in bed. Recently Nicky will come and join me, he climbs up into the bed, tucks himself into the covers and snuggles up. Sometimes he’ll hide from Taylor by pulling the duvet right over his head, but most days he treats us to his “snoring” while he “sleeps.”

should you put candy eyes on chocolate brownies?

On Monday afternoon I asked Sym if she wanted to help me make brownies. She agreed but asked “can we make them spoopy?” I was like… no, I can’t think of a way to do that so instead we just sprinkled the top with come choclate jimmies (her fave type of sprinkle). When I was putting the jimmies away though, I found a pack of candy eyes and inspiration struck. THIS was how to make brownies spoopy!

I was a little worried they would melt in the oven though, and sadly this was the case. HOWEVER after I took them out I just put new eyes over the badly melted eyes and in the end our brownies looked spoopy as heck (I recommend doing this because the new eyes will stick to the melted eyes, whereas if you just try to put eyes on cooked brownies with a nice crisp top they won’t stick at all, also DON’T talk to me about putting icing on brownies BROWNIES ARE NOT A CAKE).

Brownie recipe from The Stay at Home Chef.

thankschicken

It’s no secret I’m not a particular fan of turkey, or of cooking a whole bird. I’ve only tried it once (with a chicken) and it was an unmitigated disaster. Maybe it’ll be something I tackle later this fall but not yet. Because of this I skip the “traditional” meals on Christmas and Thanksgiving: for Christmas we do roast beef with Yorkshire puddings, but for Thanksgiving I wanted to do something different. A while back I had this idea of doing fried chicken and waffles, and I’ve made it a few times now with varying levels of success. This is the first year I’ve come close to really knocking it out of the park.

For the chicken I used this recipe from Southern Kitchen. I’m not yet at the point in my cooking where I have it in me to take a whole chicken and cut it into 8-10 pieces, and chicken with bones is a bit of a hassle for the little kids to eat so instead I used boneless thighs. I also skimped a little on the hot sauce because 2/3 of my kids don’t like spicy things (guess which one loves the heat IT’S THE ONE WHOSE DIAPER I HAVE TO CHANGE). But other than that I tried to follow the recipe & instructions as closely as possible. I even bought a splatter screen (god bless it, honestly) and a frying thermometer (which I had to go to FOUR stores to find). I used our workhorsiest cast iron skillet and peanut oil (which was great btw, afterwards there was no old fry oil smell in the house AT ALL) and did the chicken in three batches while Taylor manned the waffle iron.

We’ve used a few different waffle recipes over the years but I’ve never been 100% sold on any of them. I did a bunch of research to find a new one which is how I stumbled on the Waffles of Insane Greatness. And like. These waffles. ARE SO GREAT! Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, easy to make batter (no whipping up a bunch of egg whites separately) and best of all they don’t stick to the gd waffle iron! This is def going to be our go-to waffle recipe from now on.

We kept the chicken & waffles on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper & wire racks in the oven on a low temp so it’d all stay warm until everything was ready to serve; the wire racks kept them from getting soggy. I was too anxious about my skillet full of hot oil to really get into doing a bunch of sides so we just had one: honey glazed carrots. Maybe next year I’ll do more, but all in all, this meal was a hot.

thank god it’s not too good to be true

Yesterday morning Taylor and I had a little extra time and were able to sit at the table together and have coffee. Usually we are so rushed in the morning that I don’t have coffee until after the school drop off, and I assume he has his at work, on his way to work, maybe both. But yesterday there was a lull where the kids were fed and dressed and happily watching a cartoon (they’ve been watching Hilda this week), Gwen’s lunch was made, and the daycare kids hadn’t yet arrived. A small moment of peace. I watched Taylor from across the table and I thought to myself HOW STRANGE it is how much I still love him. We’ve been together for almost twelve years now, married for nine and a half of them. You would think I would get sick of him but I don’t, I’m always happy to sit with him, to hold him and have him hold me, to look at his handsome face.

on cars and mud, or, Nicky is two!

For the most part, I really love having a car-free life. We live downtown and both work within walking distance from home (some of more than others, haha #oneroomcommute) so Taylor and I don’t ever really miss his old car. Well I assume he doesn’t, I myself have never owned or driven or even learned how to drive a car so it’s not something I think about much. But we don’t have to pay for a car or parking or gas or maintenance, which is obviously a big bonus. It also makes us more mindful of when we DO use cars; Taylor has memberships with a few different car sharing services, but before we book one we usually do a cost/benefit analysis. For example, we always used to take a zipcar when we went to Ikea, but the money we spent on the car was money we couldn’t spend on other things (like… stuff at Ikea). Last year in the summer I figured out how easy it was to get there by transit (it’s literally one train and one bus) and obviously it takes longer than driving but it’s so much less expensive! Plus any time we can avoid installing carseats YET AGAIN is a good time for us.

Now there are obviously times when a car is the only option, this summer’s day trip to Alice Lake for instance. And using car shares, especially on the weekend and double especially if you need to fit in a whole family including two car seats, means you can lose spontaneity. We usually have to book the car several days in advance, and once you pass the cancellation window come hell or high water or inclement weather you are taking that car trip! This worked in our favour for Alice Lake and we had a beautiful clear sunny day. Nicky’s autumn birthday excursion? Not quite so much.

Originally I was planning on throwing an at-home party for him and inviting his little friends, but then I thought about it and I have multiple toddlers here making a mess all week, do I really want that on the weekend too? NOT SO MUCH. Instead I decided we should go on a family excursion out to a farm for like… autumn activities. I picked Maan Farms in Abbotsford, about an hour’s drive from downtown. We never do this kind of classic fall family activity so I figured this was a perfect idea, but we’d definitely need a car for this one. I checked the weather forecast and it had Nicky’s birthday sunny and clear, so Taylor and I went ahead and made our plans. Then we watched as each day the forecast got worse and worse.

Hope springs eternal though, and rather than cancel his birthday and pay for a car we then wouldn’t be using. we pulled out everyone’s rain gear and packed a bag of towels. His birthday dawned grey and wet and I was a bit worried we’d all have a miserable time but as it turned out, it was kind of perfect? The rain meant the farm wasn’t busy, so we had all the attractions pretty much to ourselves, and while two of my three kids ended up slicked in mud from head to toe, they were also waterproof from head to toe (god bless Mountain Equipment Co-op). I had my camera but it was so wet that we couldn’t really take many pictures so instead of posing, we just had fun. Even Symphony, who can be somewhat of a difficult teen at times, had a blast.

In fact, Symphony was on cloud nine because she got licked by a goat in the petting zoo.

Taylor tried one of these pedal karts and when he sat on it his rainpants pulled down in the back and all the water went straight down his behind.

Nicky was OBSESSED with the pumpkin patch, we had to go in it twice and he wanted to bring home every gourd he saw. It was too muddy for pics though so here he is in the corn maze (also muddy).

This is the ONLY picture of me (other than a selfie with the birthday boy I posted in my instagram stories) from the WHOLE DAY, someone else needs to step up and take some pictures sometimes, maybe a person whose hobby is photography, I’M JUST SAYIN’.

After we got home we had our neighbors down for a some cake & presents. I baked the cake the day before, a 3-layer funfetti cake with cream cheese frosting.

It was a big hit (I think it’s safe to say I’ve been fully redeemed as a baker), as were Nicky’s gifts: a Green Toys car carrier truck, a Little People zoo train, and a plush surf van (finally a toy car he can have at bedtime!).

In the end I’m so glad we just sucked it up, went out and got wet and muddy, and I think everyone else is too! (Which also bodes well for the CHRISTMAS family activities I’m planning…)

reflections on a cake pan

When you are trying not to think about something the only option is to think very, very hard about something else. Like you can’t NOT think of a thing, you have to replace it with another thing. I’m trying to not think about something so every other thing I think about takes on a bizarre, almost reverent significance. For example: I got a new bundt pan this week.

I don’t really make that many bundt cakes (SO MUCH WORK) and I already had a bundt pan but I just… didn’t like it. It wasn’t cute. I bought it at a grocery store a few years back because I had a desperate need one day to bake a bundt cake, something I’d never done before, and since I was working that day I didn’t have time to go all over town looking for the perfect pan. So it’s plain and boring and flat on the base so the cakes that come out of it are flat on the top and LOOK that’s just not what I want in a bundt! Around Christmastime last year I was at my favourite store HomeSense with Symphony and she found a fancy gingerbread village bundt pan and was like “WE SHOULD GET THIS” but it was FIFTY DOLLARS and I’m sorry but I’m not paying $50 for a cake pan at HomeSense.

Since then though, I’ve found my thoughts being consumed by a desire for a new, fancy, cute bundt pan. As we headed into the colder months my mind drifted to them more and more often, and I would browse online trying to find the best price for the fanciest pan. When I ordered new rain boots the other week I almost tossed a sale-priced Christmas-themed pan into my cart as well but at the last minute I changed my mind, the sale price just wasn’t good enough. I still couldn’t stop browsing them though.

On Wednesday I had a pretty rough day of work, and so after the kids were in bed that night I asked Taylor to go for a walk with me, where else but my favourite store HomeSense (fyi I do always call it that, especially when speaking aloud). I just wanted to browse all the things and unwind from my day with no one screaming at me. I wasn’t actually planning on buying anything but as we rounded the corner into the bakeware aisle I thought to myself “I should check if they have any cute bundt pans!” and before I even finished the thought I spotted it: a Nordic Ware Fall Harvest Bundt Pan. What a frilly, fancy lil bitch it was too. A wreath in heavy cast aluminum, decorated all over with leaves and acorns, this was a pan to be proud of! I’d looked at the same and others like it on various websites in the past weeks and it was priced at less than half what I’d seen it at. SOLD.

The next day I was ready to bake. You have to wash a new cake pan before you can use it, and since washing dishes in an inherently mindless activity, as I filled the sink I could feel my thoughts veering towards the thing I don’t want to think about. I needed to focus in on something, and so I focussed in on washing the pan. I used the hottest water and some Mrs Meyers basil-scented dish detergent on a soft sponge, and after washing and rinsing the pan I held it cradled in my arms, still warm, as I gently dried it with a clean white cloth, carefully getting into all the nooks and crannies of the leaves and acorns.

I took the same care buttery and flouring the pan when it came time to add the batter; a variation on a brown sugar bourbon cake recipe I’d picked that morning. I’d wanted something worthy of the pan. Something autumnal but not pumpkin-y, something simple that would let the shape of the cake itself be the star, something fairly easy so I’d have enough time to get the batter mixed and the cake baked during the kids’ nap time. I’d picked up the butter & eggs I’d needed already, but I didn’t have enough brown sugar so I used 2 cups brown and 1 cup white, and instead of plain ol’ regular bourbon I used Kentucky Swamp Water, which is what I call a bottle in which I have mixed together all my least-favourite bourbons, including some maple-flavoured Knob Creek, so MY cake was MAPLE brown sugar bourbon. I also left off the glaze, as the directions cautioned that boiling bourbon might burst into flames, and I wasn’t keen to start a kitchen fire with a house full of toddlers.

The recipe called for a baking time of 70-75 minutes, but it was for a 12-cup pan and mine is 10-cups. I didn’t want to waste the excess batter so I quickly buttered & floured my 4-inch springform pan to make a mini cake as well, and since I was making one slightly-smaller and one much much smaller cake, I set a timer for twenty minutes and started checking from there. The last three things I’ve baked have all been over- or under-baked so I was also looking for a bit of kitchen redemption, and was bound and determined not to fuck up this time. In the end both cakes were ready after 38 minutes, which was weird because I thought the smaller one would bake faster? I’m actually baffled by it. While the cakes were baking the sweet smell of sugar, spices, and maple filled the house. All the kids were sleeping and the house was (mostly) clean so I had a minute to just sit, and as I sat there, smelling the delicious fragrance in peace and quiet I thought to myself: this.