Vegetable Adorable & the Salad Days

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More tiny foods! Extra-small orange bell peppers, grape tomatoes and mini cucumbers. I have no idea what I’m going to do with the peppers, but the other two I use to make this cute salad:

Salad by TanieThis picture was actually from last summer, and I used a regular cucumber. This resulted in a lot of waste, a problem eliminated by using mini cucumbers.

Making vegetables fun with interesting or unusual shapes and sizes is a great way to get otherwise-picky children to eat them, and using mini-cookie cutters (I got mine at Yokoyaya123) makes it fast and easy.

2-3 mini cucumbers, sliced and cut into shapes
1/2 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup cooked frozen corn, chilled
1 tbsp lemon juice (I hate 99% of salad dressing)

What I’ve Been Reading

I’m not reading this book but I made Taylor get a picture of it because the cover was too amazing:

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I guess now we know what’s wrong with the economy: Deatheaters. You put down that real estate market right now, Lucius Malfoy!

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The Center of Winter, 2/104
On Friday night I finished reading Marya Hornbacher’s The Center of Winter. I’ve read it before but I still really like it, and not just because I loved Wasted back in the day, like all teenage girls with weird, disordered eating habits.

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Spook Country, 3/104
Currently I’m reading Spook Country and eurgh, I’m really not feeling it. It’s Taylor’s book, not mine, and I’ve actually gotten further in it than he did. I read a bunch of William Gibson’s stuff way back in the olden days of the 90s and I liked it well enough, so maybe this one’ll be okay in the end too. It has about 250 more pages in which to redeem itself.

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Even though I’m not supposed to be buying books right now I still went with Taylor to the bookstore on Saturday so he could pick up a birthday card, and I totally slipped and bought World War Z to read next, oops!

Lazy Weekend

I think I really spent more time asleep than awake this weekend! I keep trying to past the weird schedule I was on during the holidays but every weekend it comes creeping back.

Friday night was Family Fun Night, we ordered pizza, watched some Sailor Moon and played Apples to Apples. I thought it would be kind of lame playing with Sym since she’s only eight and doesn’t know what half the cards are, but I swear she’s like some sort of Apples to Apples savant. Even when she threw down random cards it would turn out to be eerily perfect or hilarious. Taylor ended up winning the game, but I think I laughed the most. After Symphony went to bed I worked a little on a painting and then Taylor and I watched the first two episodes of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. If you haven’t seen it it’s a Bristish show from about five years ago, except it’s supposed to be a program from the 1980s that never aired- until now. here are the opening titles to give you an idea of what it’s like:

Saturday I slept in and then spent the day doing I don’t even know what. I think Sym and I did some work on our Farmville farm, and I made bagel BLTs for lunch. After Symphony’s dad picked her up Taylor and I went out shopping so he could get a birthday gift for our friend Rich. I picked up a grey tri-blend raglan pullover from American Apparel which I proceeded to wear for almost the whole rest of the weekend, until I spilled cranberry juice down the front. I also got Symphony some new socks at H&M, idk how but all her socks are disappearing at an exponential rate. She was down to all odd socks, so I made sure she brought home any socks that had been left at her dad’s, but they were all different odd socks so she sill had no pairs.

On Saturday night we went to dinner for Rich’s birthday- we were late because as usually I underestimated how long it would take to straighten my hair. I wore my new top with dark skinny jeans, grey platform heels and my black crystal bead necklace. the shoes would prove to be my downfall as later in the evening I would almost fall over in them, and, when we were heading home I ended up having to take them off and run across Burrard Street in my bare feet to get a cab. Note to self: next time, wear flats. Anyway the dinner was pretty funny- there was a hockey game that night and the whole restaurant was filled with another birthday party that seemed to mostly consist of screaming sports fans. After watching Vancouver lose in a shootout we headed back to Rich and Jenn’s apartment for drinks and cake, but I think we came home quite early. As it turned out, Taylor had fallen asleep during Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace the night before so I found the episode he’d missed on youtube and we watched it in bed.

Except for going out for brunch, I spent almost the whole of Sunday in bed until the evening, when I had to get up and clean the apartment. Since I have to keep the place clean during the week I often have a hard time motivating myself to tidy anything on the weekends, so it often turns into a total disaster area. Sometimes I’m too drained on Sunday night to accomplish much and have to get up extra-early on Monday to finish up, but luckily that wasn’t the case last night so this morning I got to snooze my alarm twice!

Choosing Child Care can be Complicated

I have a love/hate relationship with alliterative blog post titles.

Yesterday I had my first prospective client meeting of the year, and I’m happy to say it went perfectly! The mom brought her little girl over during nap time and we ended up talking for over an hour. The kids I was looking after yesterday woke up before they left so she got to see me interacting with children other than her own, and also see her baby interacting with the children who already come here. Barring complications I’ll have a new one-year-old baby starting at the daycare in the last week of February. Yay!

During our meeting, the mom said one of my favorite things: “I really like talking with you and your whole setup here and I feel good about leaving my baby with you.” I can literally never hear that too many times! Wooing new clients is tricky; first-time moms are justifiably nervous and skittish about leaving their precious wee baby with a total stranger who they picked off a list. I do get some clients via referrals from other families I work/have worked with, or from acquaintances or other child cares, but most people who call me have gotten my child care’s name and number from the Child Care Resource and Referral Centre, which keeps a list of all the registered and licensed child cares in the city.

There are tons of things for a parent to consider when selecting a child care, practical things like:
Are the hours suitable for the family’s needs?
I’m open from 7:45 until 5:15 so obviously someone who starts work at 7am or doesn’t get off until 6pm wouldn’t choose to send their child here, but someone who works from 8am until 5pm could easily drop their child off and pick him or her up on time.
Are the fees reasonable/within the parents’ ability to pay?
My fees are about average for the part of the city I live in, but like most things in Vancouver, child care isn’t cheap.
Is the child care conveniently located?
It totally is! My apartment is in a nice residential neighborhood in the West End, near parks and schools, but also within walking distance to the business, financial and shopping districts.

While these things are all important, the most important thing of all is this: Do the parents like and trust the child care provider enough to leave their child with them? If someone had a daycare half a block from you and charged well below the average fee, but the provider gave you the creeps or seemed nasty, you would probably keep looking! This is why I like people to come by to meet me and see the space, even if they don’t need child care right away. I had one client who, before coming here, had been 99% sure she was going to go with this one daycare. After a year of emails and phone calls, she finally went over to see the child care in person and the place was filthy and smelled bad and the provider had a weird vibe. It could have been super nice and fun for the kids there, but the parent didn’t feel comfortable so she ended up starting her daycare search all over again.

When selling prospective clients on choosing my child care over another, what I’m really selling them on in me. Is my apartment clean and safe enough for their child, with plenty of room to play and grow? Do I provide fun and suitable games and activities for children of that age group? Am I going to take good care of their baby for them, love and nurture him or her while they, the parents, are at work? How can you even tell that about a person when meeting them for the first time, talking for 30 or 40 minutes?

I really can’t even imagine, I didn’t have to worry about this when Symphony was a baby. I didn’t go back to work until she was three, and when I did start working part-time she first went to my friend Jenny’s child care downstairs from our old apartment, and when I went full-time she started going to the YMCA group daycare two doors down. I had seen both Jenny and the women who worked at the group daycare interacting with kids every day for years before my daughter ever went to those daycares. I guess I was pretty lucky then, but I’m also pretty lucky now, that I’m one someone who people do trust to take care of their kids, so I get to do this great job!

I Thought I Heard a Baby in Here

Vacation time is over! I was kind of dreading getting back to work this week, mostly because the ridiculous 3 to 10:30 am sleep schedule I’ve been on for the last couple weeks really doesn’t mesh well with my 7:45 to 5:15 work day. I had to get up extra early this morning to tidy up. For some reason last night I started building my new bookcase and rearranging some furniture, and I left a huge mess in my wake. Yesterday I decided to turn the nap room (a small-ish third bedroom used only for the daycare kids to nap in) into a mancave-slash-study for Taylor, so in the middle of sawing and drilling bits of wood I dragged the grey couch in there from the library. It was totally stupid too, since the couch is too big to fit on the south wall where I want it, but at least it gives me more room in the library to practice my woodworking and cabinetry skills!

It’s actually been an alright day so far, mostly because I only have two kids to look after right now. This is nice because less kids obviously equals less work, and also the opportunity to do lots of things around the house I would never get around to otherwise. For example, this morning I repacked some books into smaller boxes while the 2 1/2-year-old played Legos and the 16-month-old supervised me and critiqued my work. Right now they’re both snoozing away- having a workday with a scheduled nap is great, even if I’m not the one napping! It gives me time to catch up on housework, have my own relaxed lunch and sometimes, just sit on the couch and read. And write blog posts, of course.

Of course, having less kids in the daycare has its drawbacks, or rather one huge drawback: I am totally broke! For some reason I just started hemorrhaging clients last fall, not because of me, just different things for each family. One little boy left in September to attend the same suburban child care as his older sister, another little boy left in November because his mom had a new baby and it was more practical for them to have a nanny, a girl left in December because her mom had a baby as well (seriously, if you’d like to get pregnant with your second child, send your first to my daycare. One of my current clients is pregnant right now as well!), and due to complicated financial issues another little boy is gone. At the same time, there seems to have been a real lack of people looking for child care, so out of the four that left I only filled one spot. My neighbor who also does childcare had the same problem, she was down to I think one part-time client. I’ve been walking around like Abby Elliot’s Angelina Jolie asking everybody if they have any babies, because I could always use more babies. Did someone say baby? I thought I heard a baby in here.

However, this morning started out with my first prospective client call of the year, and we have a meeting set up for tomorrow. I always like people to come by and meet me and see the space as a soon as possible, even if they don’t need child care for months and months or even years (I already have someone on my waiting list for spring 2011), but this woman is looking for child care for late February, which would be great. Everyone keep your fingers crossed that this one works out- I had a few meetings in November and December but nothing came of them- because really, I could always use more babies!

What I’ve Been Reading

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The Zombie Survival Guide, 1/104

I technically started this book before NYE but I was only as far as machetes so it’ll be my first book for 2010. Taylor got this for Christmas from his mom, I think because a few months ago we spent an afternoon coming up with our own zombie survival plan and he mentioned it on facebook. I’m out of my own books to read, and I can’t reread anything because when I took down the bookcases in the library I packed all our books away in a particularly inaccessible way. I guess now I’ve given myself some real motivation for getting the new book cases built!

Happy Twenty Ten!

Last night Taylor and I celebrated a quiet New Year’s Eve. I made dinner using some oddly-coloured food- roasted blue potatoes and pink navel orange chicken (I thought they were regular oranges until I cut them open and saw the colour) with a leafless salad, which was supposed to be a regular salad until I discovered that my spinach had gone wrong. With dinner we had some Veuve Clicquot Rose- pink champagne for my pink orange chicken!

Later we watched the Yeti episode of The Mighty Boosh, mostly because we’ve both had this stuck in our heads this week:

Genius. Genius.

Afterwards we had our Second Annual New Year’s Eve Viewing of the Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. To me, it just isn’t NYE without Sex Panther by Odeon. While we watched the movie we had more pink champagne (and when that ran out, a few glasses of regular champagne, which we didn’t finish but I miraculously managed to recork) and a snack buffet I’d arranged with some of our precious Bean Boy hummus & Que Pasa red corn tortilla chips; strawberries, grapes and more pink orange; and a bowl of the white, grey and green M&Ms I got in my Christmas stocking. We ate and drank so much that wen we went to get ready for bed I could hardly even bend over to pull up my sweatpants!

No, I don’t generally do New Year’s Resolutions, but I do have a few goals I’d like to set for myself in 2010:

1. Start going to the gym again and get back into shape. Note: I don’t set weight loss goals. I just want to take the weight I have and reconfigure it into more muscle, less fat. Last year when I was working with a trainer I only lost about 10 pounds (most of that after I stopped eating starchy foods after 6 pm) but I went from a size 12 to a size 10 and reduced my body fat percentage by 10%.
2. Read 104 books.
3. Paint a smaller version of Sym’s deer, and a unicorn version, and have prints made to sell. This was supposed to be my January project, but since I was too sick and exhausted to do any of my holiday projects I started them already, doing the sketch for the unicorn while laid up in bed. My goal is to get this done by my birthday (February 5th) and the profits from any sales are going to be put towards Symphony’s college fund.
4. Do all the things around the house I wanted to do in the last two weeks but couldn’t!

What I’ve Been Reading

I had insomnia again last night, after Taylor fell asleep I stayed up reading and did the dishes after midnight. Clearly, I’ve gone crazy. I didn’t sleep in this morning though; instead, I got up early and made blueberry mini-muffins (tiny food!). Double crazy.

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They came out all different sizes because I have zero patience for spooning batter into into muffins trays, and I just made them from a mix, not scratch, but I’m pretty sure getting up early and baking anything gives me tons of homemaker points.

On to reading- I mentioned yesterday that I’ve read 89 books so far this year. Clearly, reading is something I do a lot of, all the time. I’ve always loved reading, ever since I was a little kid. Some of my fondest memories of childhood are of the hours I would spend curled up behind the woodstove with a book on cold winter days. I easily become lost in books and tune out the whole world- it used to drive my younger sister buggy (we shared a room) because she’d spend fifteen minutes telling me some complicated story and in the end I’d look up and go “Huh? Did you say something?”

I’ve been keeping a list of what books I’ve read this year on Shelfari. I don’t tag or review them, partially because I have a hard time expressing what it is I like or don’t like about a book and partially because I’m usually already too busy reading the next book! In fact, since yesterday I’ve read Audrey Niffenegger’s The Adventuress (it’s actually a picture book, or “a novel in pictures”) and the first 258 pages of When Autumn Leaves by Amy S. Foster, a book I picked up because I liked the bright orange on the cover- yes, that’s how I judge books!

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Holiday Sickness Blues

This vacation is turning out to be a lot less fun then I had hoped! I had that big list of all the things I wanted to do and see during these two weeks but I’ve actually been pretty sick for a lot of it, exhausted and nauseous and just riddled with phlegm. My sleep schedule has been all out of whack and I’ve had terrible insomnia a couple nights. On Saturday I was up until after 4 am, then slept until three on Sunday afternoon. I tried to regulate my schedule by going to bed early-ish the last couple nights and getting up at eight yesterday morning, but lo and behold I didn’t wake up until noon today! I feel like I’m wasting my holiday.

I have gone out and done a couple things- we went to the bookstore on Sunday and Sym and I got new books. She chose Knuckleheads, a book of fairy tales in which the characters are body parts- Handsel and Gretel, Nose White, etc, and I got Mommies Behaving Badly by Roz Bailey and Inside Out Girl by Tish Cohen. Last December I set a goal to read 52 books in 2009 so I tend to just pick whatever books are in the bargain price bin at Book Warehouse. I’ve already finished both of them, which brings my books read total to 89. I think I should set next year’s goal a little higher!

Yesterday we went out post-Boxing Day shopping. I didn’t find either of the things I was actually looking for (California fleece tulip skirt from American Apparel and this amazing swan sweater my e-friend Hana got at H&M) but I did get a grey twill anorak and some tank tops from the Gap. I swear, Gap tank tops are softer than any other tanks in the world. The anorak was a little overpriced, but here in Vancouver the Gap is running a program called “Sprize,” where if something you purchase goes on sale within 45 days, the difference is automatically put on your Sprize card in the form of store credit. Which you can use to buy more tank tops! Taylor is a twelve-year-old boy and got comic books and a new video game, and Symphony got a big-eyed stuffed turtle that makes a bubbling sound when you squeeze him. Taylor and I have christened him “The Turtle Who Sounds like a Bong” (disclaimer: we don’t smoke pot, but who doesn’t know what a bong sounds like?).

Now I get to spend the afternoon catching up on housework, especially laundry, which has been spiraling out of control, and hopefully if I feel better this evening Taylor and I are going to have a movie Date Night and go see The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Fingers crossed!