Thursday, July 21, 2011

book worm

I'm so thrilled to say that Lulu is now reading independantly.
Actually she's been able to read for a while now, but these days she's reached a whole new level.
I often find her quietly reading chapter books on her own.
Currently she is totally into Ivy & Bean.
She loves these books and I have to say, that even I find them to be very cute and funny.
Perfect for 6-8 year old girls.
I love hearing her laugh out loud while turning the pages.
Even better, is watching her read to her friends (especially ones that are a bit younger than her.)
It melts my heart to see her reading them stories.
I couldn't be more proud.
I'm glad to know that all those stories that Big Daddy & I read to her every day were not in vain.

As far as my reading goes these days, unfortunately I'm currently in a bit of a book slump.
Nothing that I've read or am reading, I'm loving.
Currently I'm reading The Hungry Ghosts By Anne Berry.
Kind of having a hard time getting into this, but I've been told it's good, so I'm going to soldier on.
Also on my summer reading list is
A Visit From The Goon Squad- Jennifer Egan
Amaryllis in Blueberry- Christina Meldrum
The Story Of A Marriage- Andrew Sean Greer
A Field Of Darkness- Cornelia Read
I'm going to revisit The Catcher In The Rye-J.D Salinger as well.
I recently finished reading How I live Now- Meg Rosoff and A Mountain Of Crumbs- Elena Gorokhova
Both of which I didn't love and forced myself to finish for a book club.
But maybe it was just me?
I also got half way through We Had It So Good- Linda Grant, which unfortunately I also had a hard time getting into.
So basically three duds in a row.
Hopefully some of the books on my summer reading list will be good ones.

How about you, what are you reading these days?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

cool as a cucumber

I love all the fresh summer produce available at this time of year.
That being said, I can't say I love spending too much time in the kitchen in July.
A. I would much rather be outside enjoying the weather.
B. If the weather proves to be unbearably hot (like it has been for the past couple of weeks) the last thing I want to do is turn on the stove or oven.
And you can only eat so much BBQ.
So my solution to this, is this amazingly simple, yet totally deliciously refreshing cold cucumber & avocado soup.
Usually I'm not a huge fan of cold soups aside from a good gazpacho.
But trust me this one's a keeper.
I've been making it for a few years now and it seems to taste better and better with each spoonful.
Bonus that's it's so good for you too.

Cold Cucumber & Avocado Soup


1 English cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
2 avocados, pitted and peeled
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice + the zest of one lime
1 minced small jalapeno chile (seeds and ribs removed for less heat, if desired)
1/3 cup sliced scallions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
12 medium shrimp (about 6 ounces), peeled and deveined or cooked frozen

In a blender, combine half the cucumber and 1 avocado with the yogurt, lime juice, jalapeno, scallions, 1 tablespoon cilantro, 1 cup ice water, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Puree until completely smooth. Transfer to a large bowl.

Cut remaining avocado into 1/4-inch cubes. Stir avocado and remaining cucumber into soup. Thin with 1/2 to 1 cup ice water, as desired. Season again with salt and pepper. Chill, about 1 hour.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook shrimp, turning once, until opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes. Ladle soup into bowls; garnish with shrimp and remaining tablespoon cilantro.
If you want you can also use cooked frozen shrimp, which I did this time around.
Even less cooking involved.
It would be nice with the grilled shrimp on a skewer placed on top of the bowl as well.

Enjoy and stay cool..

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

a good start

I love a good breakfast, and I love it even more when Lulu has a good breakfast.
They don't call it the most important meal of the day for nothing.
We aren't really big cereal eaters around here (aside from late night emotional eating..I mean snacking)
and Lulu isn't really a fan of oatmeal.
I have oatmeal several times a week, she really is missing out on this, but hopefully with time she will love it too.
Ditto with my morning smoothies.
I don't like to give her toast too often because lunch is often a sandwich or soup & toast.
And the past few weeks she has decided that she is over eggs.
Not sure what's up with that, since she never seemed to have a problem with them in the past, but I never like to force the issue.
So with dwindling options, every couple of weeks I make a big batch of these delicious & nutritious pancakes and freeze them.
They are packed with goodness and are super easy to make.
I can use up left over buttermilk (why do they not sell smaller containers of the stuff?)
They are super economical.
And best of all, she loves them.

Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes

2 1/2 cups nonfat buttermilk, (see Tip)
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ or ground flax
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
Chocolate chips (optional) or blueberries

Combine buttermilk and rolled oats in a small bowl; let rest for 20 to 30 minutes to soften oats. Stir all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk egg, egg whites and 1 teaspoon oil in a separate bowl. Add the oat mixture and the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.
Lightly brush a large nonstick skillet with a little of the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and heat over medium. Not too hot otherwise they will burn. Using 1/4 cup batter for each pancake, pour batter onto the skillet and cook until the underside is browned and the bubbles on top remain open, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the pancakes over and cook until the underside is browned, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Bonus that I'm able to sneak Oats and ground Flax in there.
Oh and make sure to separate each pancake with a small square of waxed paper or parchment to prevent them sticking together.

Friday, July 08, 2011

ghost town

I feel old saying this, but times sure have changed since I was a youngster.
Okay maybe I'm laying it on a bit thick.
"Since I was a kid".

Summer holidays growing up meant staying in my P.J's watching Captain Kangaroo & The Price Is Right while eating bowls of puffed rice with 4 tablespoons of white sugar until my mom told us to get dressed and go outside for some fresh air.
Back then the air was actually fresh.
I would probably then hop on my red & white Banana seat bike and find some sort of an an adventure with my neighbourhood friends.
Gasp! Imagine that?
Maybe it was hanging out by the creek in the woods.
(I was so lucky to grow up surrounded by a conservation area.)
Collecting frogs or making clay sculptures.
The creek had gray clay in certain parts.
We would often have clay fights- a bit Lord of the Flies, but super fun.
This sounds very Leave It To Beaver, but I spent hours skipping stones into that creek.

Every summer we would try our hand at building a fort, tree house or a go-cart.
I loved doing stuff like that.
Or some days were spent just playing on the swings in the backyard, jumping through the sprinkler, having water balloon fights or just hanging out and doing nothing.
Life was so simple back then.
The only caveate was that I always had to head home when the street lights turned on.
Of course we never strayed too far from home and would periodically check back in to be fed and watered.
We really had so much freedom.

In those early years, I didn't go to camp or have organized play-dates.
I'm not even sure that the word "play-date" existed back then.
My dad would take two weeks off every summer and we would go on a road trip somewhere fun.
But other than that, we would stick close to home and just enjoy summer in a small town.
Oh sure, we got bored sometimes, but that's part of being a kid.
Or should I say a luxury of being a kid.
Boredom breeds curiosity and imagination in my opinion.
At least at the age of 6.
I'm sure its a different story when you hit the adolecent years.
Boredom in small town= getting into trouble.
But that's another post.

These days I feel like I have to plan activities for every day of the summer for Lulu.
Not that I really want to, it's just that it seems as though our entire neighbourhood, a.k.a Lauren's play-mates, have either gone away for the summer to the cottage or are booked into camps all summer long.
Sure, I have her signed up for 2 weeks of camp in July.
Those 2 weeks can't come fast enough let me tell you..
Silly me thought this year we would try things old school and just take the first couple weeks of summer to wing it.
Not sure if that was the best plan of action.
I'm already getting the whiny "I'm Bored" & "I'm lonely"
The kid really knows how to pull on my heart strings.
But I don't get that, as I have tried to line up some sort of activity every single day so far.
She's had several play dates, we've gone to the park, splash pads, had a camp fire, gone to the toy store & book store for a few treats to play with, done crafts not to mention I've been trying my best to play with her as much as possible.
And grocery shopping & running errands counts as fun too right?
I wish I could just tell her to go outside and play, but we live in a big city on a relatively busy street, not to mention all the construction going on.
It's barely safe to play on the front lawn as there are giant holes dug up by the city to replace all the gas lines.
Good times.
But even if the construction wasn't going on, I still wouldn't let her play in the front yard unsupervised.
The world just isn't the same.
I do feel bad that she is lonely and for the first time in 6 years there is a tiny part of me that feels bad that we didn't have a second child.
I keep telling myself that this is her reality, and as sad as it can be sometimes, that's life.

I really wanted to try to revert back to "old times" and try to keep things simple this summer.
Like the way things were for me growing up.
Because I'd like to think I had a pretty awesome childhood.
I just want Lulu to have the same kind of happiness and fun that I did growing up.
Because G-d forbid she gets bored and is forced to use her imagination..

Friday, July 01, 2011

Our Home & Native Land

Woke up this morning without any plans and on a whim decided to go to a baseball game.
Lucky for us there were seats available and the weather was spectacular.
So that's what we did.

Bonus that we live 10 minutes from the Sky Dome.
Even better, we had no problem finding parking or with traffic & crowds.
Lulu loved all the pre-game activities outside the stadium.
Big Daddy & I enjoyed the cold beer, hot dogs & fresh peanuts.
Why is it that hot dogs taste that much better in a ball park?

The game was a close one (even though the Jays lost to Philly 7-6 boo...) but we had so much fun.
Going to a Blue Jays game wasn't officially on my summer to-do list, but I'm so glad we went.
We really have to do things like this more often.
Being spontaneous made it an even better experience.
It was one of the best Canada Day's that I can remember.

Those of us born in Canada often take for granted the physical beauty of this country and the amazing freedom we enjoy.
So happy 144th birthday Canada!
I'm very proud to call you my home.