Saturday, June 30, 2007

Canada Day Fudge

My friend Sarah makes the best fudge - it is Samantha's absolute favourite! Sarah's recipe has peanut butter and milk chocolate, and I thought it would be fun to make a Canada Day version. It's not so red and white, but more pink and brown... oh well! Here's the recipe:

White Chocolate Raspberry Chocolate Fudge

Mix 1/2 can sweetened condensed milk with 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips and melt in microwave for 1 minute. Stir and return to microwave for 15 second intervals until melted (stirring in-between). When melted, stir in 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp raspberry essence/flavouring, and a few drops of red food colouring. Pour into greased 9 X 9 square pan. Cool in fridge.

Mix remaining 1/2 can sweetened condensed milk with 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and melt in microwave (see above). When melted, stir in 1 tsp vanilla. Pour over top of raspberry layer. Cool in fridge until set. Cut into squares. Enjoy!

Happy Birthday, Canada!

It's so nice to have a long weekend once in a while. I know Scott really looks forward to an extra day off these days. We went to Brett & Jesse's soccer game this morning, then stopped by Scott's office on the way home. It was my first time actually seeing the inside of his office building. It was empty, so we got to explore the whole place without disturbing anybody. It was fun for our kids to go see where Scott goes to work every day, now that he's not working from home anymore. Scott went golfing this afternoon and I took the kids for a walk down to the movie store to rent some Scooby-doo DVDs. We're hoping to get together with Scott's family tomorrow and Monday.

We don't really have any traditions for the July long weekend. We have done fireworks in the past, which is always fun for the kids. They've been keeping track of how many Canada flags they've counted today, and get excited when they see people "decorate" for the holiday.

My most memorable Canada Day was probably 5 years ago when I was 9 months pregnant with Brett and 3 days over due...! It was a hot summer and I remember the bottle of castor oil was looking pretty tempting at that point. I've learned now that babies eventually come when they're good and ready, and that maybe a lesson in patience was just an early introduction to motherhood.

I hope you all have a happy, fun, and safe long weekend and that you enjoy whatever it is you're doing! Happy Canada Day!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Learning to Sit Up

Today was the first day of summer vacation. We spent a lot of the day hanging out at Jesse Davidson Park. We had a picnic, played at the playground, and then spent the afternoon at the splash pad there. The weather was beautiful - not too humid today - and it was a lot of fun. The park is named after Jesse Davidson who's father started Jesse's Journey to raise money for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. I went to high school with Jesse Davidson, and remember when Jesse's Journey first began. I'm sure we'll be spending lots of time there this summer as it's a fun park and really close to our house. Jesse calls it "the other Jesse's park" :)

Nathan is starting to learn how to sit up. He's still quite wobbly, but I managed to snap this picture before he toppled backwards onto the pillow.

Teacher Gifts and Birthday Invites

I've been doing a little stamping lately - something that I love, but really don't have much time for these days. But with Brett's birthday coming up, I needed some invitations to his "Diggin' Dinosaur Party" that we're having at the Children's Museum. These had to be quick and easy because I totally left them to the last minute!

I started making card sets for end-of-the-year teacher gifts for our kids' school teachers a couple of years ago when Samantha started school. This is the set I made this year. I made both sets the same so I could mass produce 2 sets, 8 cards in each. This was a fun project. But talk about leaving things to the last minute... I was finishing them this morning before school!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Emma's Grad

Yesterday our dear friend Emma graduated from Public School. I can't believe she will be starting high school this fall. She is such an amazing young woman. Sweet, fun-loving, thoughtful, quick to smile, and she gives me a hug every time I see her - I love that! She has watched our children on a few occasions, and they all adore her too.

We went over to help her get ready for her Graduation Ceremony and dance. It was so much fun and Emma was a great sport! (Although I don't think she'll let me near her with a pair of tweezers ever again...) :)

Congratulations Emma! We're all so proud of you!

Last Day of School

Today was the last day of school for Samantha & Brett. Looking back, I can't believe how fast this year has gone by. It seems like just yesterday I was fretting over how Brett would do with his first school experience (I was worried over nothing - he did awesome and loved every minute). I was concerned for Samantha too - as she was going into grade 1 and starting full time school for the first time. She has had a great year too. Her French is very impressive and it is amazing how good her accent is too. When I try to reply to her "en francais" she is always correcting my brutal pronunciation!

I'm looking forward to having Samantha and Brett home for the summer. We have lots of fun activities to do that we've been planning for a while. It's going to be busy - it will be the first time for me to have 4 kids home full-time. But they're excited about it and so am I. The older ones are good helpers (most of the time...) Bring it on!

This afternoon, just as I was picking up the kids from school, we had this crazy thunderstorm. It started pouring rain and then actually hailed for about 10-15 minutes! The hail was HUGE! We were in the van and it sounded like big rocks hitting the doors, roof, and windows. Then it all ended, just like that. I hope it's nice tomorrow as we've planned a picnic and trip to one of the splash pads in town.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Spotlight on Brett

We have two sick kids today - both Brett and Samantha have really high fevers and poor Brett was sick to his stomach this afternoon. I'm not sure if they caught a bug, or just got too much sun yesterday at the Baseball Tournament, but hopefully none of the rest of us get it. While Brett was laying on the couch resting this evening, I started asking him some questions...

Full Name: Brett William Hill
Nickname: Bretzky
Age: 4 and a half (he turns five in less than 2 weeks!)
Favourite colours: blue and red
Favourite food: red peppers and corn on the cob
Favourite book: my dictionaries
Favourite treat: chocolate
Favourite animal: cheetah's are the fastest - that's why I like them
Favourite movie: Scooby-doo
Favourite subject at school: gym and building with blocks
Favourite song: Backyardigans Music and "I'll Follow Him in Faith"
Favourite sport: hockey
Favourite things to do: be in charge of activity and refreshments (at FHE), play in the backyard, go to school, play with Nathan
Best friend: Aaron is my best friend at church and Idrees is my best friend at school
What he's doing for his birthday: having a dinosaur party at the Children's Museum
What he wants to do this summer: go to a water park
What he wants to be when he grows up: a person who rides a dune buggy
What he loves most about himself: sometimes I'm funny

If I had to pick one word to describe Brett, I'd have to say he is just so GOOD. As Brett's teacher at school said to Scott a couple of weeks ago, "Brett always makes the right choice". Brett loves to follow rules and is extremely responsible. He is highly organized and detail-oriented, and sometimes a bit of a worrier.

Brett loves nature and is fascinated with extreme weather conditions such as tornadoes, blizzards, hurricanes, floods, etc. He also loves animals, insects, dinosaurs, sea creatures, and outer space. He really enjoys sports and is playing on a soccer team this summer with Jesse. He loves to sing and has a talent for learning the lyrics to new songs in record time.

Brett is a loving, caring, and loyal brother. He has a great sense of humour and likes to be around people who make him laugh. Brett is very wise for his age and also extremely empathetic. He is a joy to raise and one of the most lovable people I know!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Nathan at Five Months

I love this picture of Nathan in his bouncy. He loves to be in there watching everything going on around him. When Scott is in the room, Nathan likes to show off by bouncing really high and smiling. Nathan is quick to smile and has the sweetest little laugh.

I thought a few weeks after Nathan was born the novelty of having a baby around would have worn off for our other children. But they are still enthralled with him. Brett and Jesse argue over who gets to hold him first when they wake up in the morning, and Samantha says she doesn't like being at school all day because she misses Nathan too much.

Nathan is rolling over now - mostly back to tummy. He likes to be sung to and is starting to grasp onto some toys. Anything he gets a hold of goes straight to his mouth.

I actually feel a tinge of sadness as I see him reach these baby milestones. The busier life gets, the more quickly time passes, and I feel like Nathan is growing up before I'm ready to let go of these precious young moments.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Easy Cheese Biscuits

These are the best cheese biscuits and are super easy to make. This is a Kraft recipe that I actually haven't modified (*shock*), except for once when I threw in some dried herbs just for variety.

Tip of the day: Instead of trying to cut in the butter, take it straight from the fridge and grate it into the flour mixture with a cheese grater. All you have to do is mix it with a wooden spoon and you're good to go!

The original recipe says it makes 9 servings, but I double it just for our family alone. I still cut it into 9 portions, but they're pretty big.

Easy Cheese Biscuits

1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold butter
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, sugar and salt. Cut in butter (or grate and add - see note above) until mixture resembles course crumbs. Stir in cheddar cheese. Add milk; stir until mixture forms soft dough.

Place on lightly floured surface and knead 6-8 times until smooth. Pat dough into a square and cut into nine squares. Place on baking sheet and bake 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bringing Home the Lobster

One of the best things we did while in Halifax on the weekend was go out for dinner on Saturday night. We went to the Keg, which has become kind of a tradition for us as we've been to the same one downtown three times now. Being in the Maritimes, we couldn't pass up the opportunity for fresh seafood - which we both love. Scott had crab with his steak, and I had lobster. It was so good!

So, we thought it would be fun to bring some lobster back from Halifax as a thank you to Scott's parents for watching our children. We went to the Lobster shop at the Halifax airport and Scott picked out the two biggest lobsters he could grab. We got them boxed up and took them on the plane with our other carry-on luggage. (Those of you who have been to Nova Scotia probably know that this is the "thing" to do when you leave Halifax. There must have been at least a dozen other people on our plane with the same lobster boxes).

Scott's Dad brought the lobster home and put in in the fridge for his Mom to see the next morning... (What do you mean they're ALIVE?!?!?)

Pat was a great sport about learning how to cook them, and from what we hear, the lobster was a hit at dinner that night. She said she'd take some pictures for me, so hopefully I'll have more to post soon. In the meantime, here are a couple pictures of Scott with the lobster (before and after it was boxed up). We are definitely making this a Halifax tradition!

First Airplane Trip

Nathan had his first ride on an airplane this past weekend, as Scott and I took him with us to Halifax for a Play On! street hockey tournament (more about that later).

He was very well-behaved on the airplane. He slept most of the flight on the way out, and on the way home he made friends with the flight attendants while Scott and I slept. :)

Here we are at the Hamilton airport getting ready to board the plane.

Fortunately, the flight wasn't full so we were able to take his car seat on the plane with us.

Coming home on Sunday evening- can you tell we didn't get much sleep on the weekend?!? I think I've slept over 20 hours since we got back and I'm still yawning today...

Brett, Jesse, & Samantha had a great time at Nana & Papa's house this weekend. They went to Colisanti's, a pig roast at the church, and a Bar-B-Q at Grandma Paton's house on Father's Day.

The weekend went by so fast, it feels like we never left!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Up Close and Personal: Samantha

I feel like Samantha has become really grown up all of a sudden. She's about to finish Grade 1 and is starting to mature in a lot of ways. Some days I go crazy trying to figure out how to be a Mom to a seven year old. I try to give her the independence and freedom she wants, but at times she's reluctant to own the responsibility that goes with it. I know that I'm hard on her - partly because she's the oldest, and partly because she's my only daughter. I hope one day she will understand that I only have her best interest at heart.

I love having alone time with Samantha after the boys have gone to bed. She's definitely a "night owl" and loves to stay up as late as possible. Tonight I thought it would be fun to ask her some questions. Here are her replies:

Name: Samantha Jean (after her mom, grandma, and 2 great-grandmothers)
Age: 7 years old... (going on 13)
Best Friend: Christine
Favourite colour: light blue, white, & light pink
Favourite food: mashed potatoes
Favourite show: Scooby-Doo
Favourite subject at school: Science
Favourite song: This One's for the Girls (Martina McBride)
Favourite book: any Cam Jansen mystery novel
Favourite sport: tennis
Favourite things to do: word searches, ride her scooter, lose teeth
What she wants to be when she grows up: a vet or a figure skater
What she's looking forward to doing when school's out in a couple of weeks: going swimming and going to the movie theatre and *hoping* to go to Build-A-Bear workshop (we'll see about that...)
What's her pet peeve: bug bites
What she loves most about herself: "I'm really good at drawing" (yes she is!)

What I love about Samantha: She's smart, helpful, fun-loving, creative, curious, kind and sensitive. She's a great reader, singer, and big sister... she's one of a kind!

What do you love about Samantha?

Scott and I are running around like crazy trying to get ready for the Play On! Tournament in Halifax this weekend. I think next week will be the week to catch up on sleep before the kids get out of school for the summer!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Banana Wildberry Explosion Muffins

Those of you that know me know that I love the kitchen. I love cooking, baking, and I LOVE recipes. I could read recipe books (or watch the Food Network) all day. I love trying new recipes, and modifying recipes to fit whatever ingredients I have on hand. And I rarely measure ingredients when I cook (but always when I bake). Usually this method of cooking turns out pretty good, sometimes it's fantastic, and once in a while it's a complete disaster.

The ironic thing is that my Mom also cooks without recipes (or uses recipes as *guides*) and this used to drive me crazy when I was younger. Now when my Mom sees me cook like this she just laughs. I'll probably share a few recipes on here every once in a while. I'll try to post ones that are fairly edible, but try them at you're own risk :)

Today I had some over-ripe bananas and 1/2 a can of wildberry pie filling to use up. So I modified a favourite banana bread recipe and came up with this. If you don't have pie filling on hand, you could add 1 cup of blueberries to the batter instead.

Banana Wildberry Explosion Muffins

4 ripe bananas
3 eggs
1/3 cup shortening (could use softened butter)
1 cup white sugar (I might cut this down next time as they were very sweet)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (this is a great substitute for oil and fats in baking)
1 Tbsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 can wildberry pie filling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin tins or line with muffin cups. Mash bananas in a medium bowl and stir in eggs until well blended. Cream shortening and sugars. Add vanilla and banana mixture and mix well. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Blend into batter (don't overmix).

Spoon a small amount of batter into muffin cups. Scoop 1 Tbsp pie filling into centre of batter. Spoon additional batter on top of pie filling, until muffin cups are almost full.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until muffins are done. Enjoy!

Catching Up

Thursday night I went to a baby shower for our friends that had a baby boy. Now, I'm not that old, but it sure makes me feel old when kids that I used to baby-sit get married and have babies of their own! This was my first time meeting Sasha, Michael's wife, and their baby Karson is so sweet! Jesse helped me pick out some baby clothes at Old Navy, and all of the clothes had cute little green alligators on them. He even picked out a little stuffed alligator / baby rattle. This is the card I made to go along with the gift.

Friday morning I dropped off Brett and Jesse at a friend's house so that Nathan and I could volunteer at Samantha's end of the year field trip to the Children's Festival. There were tons of games, crafts, and fun activities and booths. Samantha never passes up a chance to get her face painted! It's been one of her favourite things since she was old enough to walk. Samantha and her friend Kayley made lots of crafts, including a mask, a kite, a clothespin hand, and a fun-foam flower. They also won some prizes and got to watch a musical performance at Museum London (en francais).

Friday night we travelled to Kingsville for Scott's cousin's Wedding Reception. Heidi made a beautiful bride, and it was a wonderful evening filled with great company, delicious food, and lot's of dancing.

With soccer pictures, a Primary Activity, a friend's birthday dinner, and Samantha singing in church on Sunday - the rest of the weekend flew by. Now we are getting ready for our Play On! Tournament this weekend in Halifax. Hopefully I can squeeze in a few of posts here and there. Thanks for those of you that have subscribed to my blog. I'm enjoying this blogging hobby, as it's kind of an outlet for me as well as an online journal for our family. The fact that some people actually want to read it is totally a bonus. So, thanks!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A Painted Room

Did you ever read the novel, "A Painted House" by John Grisham? It's not his typical lawyer-type book, but rather a story about a 7 year-old boy growing up in the deep south. I think I've read almost every Grisham book out there. This one was very different, but equally enjoyable.

Anyway, we now have "a painted room" in our house...

It all started several weeks ago when my sister (the Interior Designer) was coming to visit for a weekend. We had recently purchased a new sofa set for our living room, and I thought it would be a great idea to rip down the 35+ year-old vinyl wallpaper and paint the room while she was here - something I've been wanting to do for a while.

The day before Mona came to visit, I decided to peel a little corner to see how easily the wallpaper came off. The vinyl part came off readily, and before I knew it the kids were in there helping me and we had about half of the room done within the hour. Little did I know that the paper underneath the vinyl was pasted on so well that it would take literally hours upon hours of spraying, scraping, washing, scrubbing, and sanding, to get these walls ready to prime & paint.

Four weeks, a dozen trips to Home Depot, a few favours from friends & family, and several hours later, we finally had our painted room. We got the second coat of paint finished late Thursday night - just in time for Samantha's slumber party the following day. So much for my little "weekend project", eh? I'm glad it's done now, but I'm not in a hurry to undertake any other home renovations in the near future.

The painting above our sofa is one Scott gave me for Christmas a few years back. It's by Liz Lemon Swindle, called "Let the Little Children Come". I love her artwork, and this painting went really well with the new room, which actually wasn't planned originally, but worked out nicely.

Here are two pictures of the boys stripping vinyl. Jesse was having fun playing in the piles of paper strewn all over, while Brett, true to form, was busy accomplishing the task at hand. The next photo is a little dark, as Scott was in the midst of priming the walls long after sunset. And finally, the (almost) finished room. I still have to put books on the shelves and hang up a mirror and a few more pictures. Oh, and I really want to get a brown leather ottoman too. And Scott and I have been talking about how great it would be to replace that old carpet.... and... and...

(See, this is why we can't buy any more new furniture!)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Buzz Cuts

The boys needed haircuts last week, so I decided to get them totally buzzed. I told them it would be nice and cool for summer (not that the extra inch of hair really made a difference...) I personally like them with a little bit more of a hair "style", but they both hate to get their hair done every morning, even though it takes all of two minutes.

Anyway, I took them outside for some pictures together. Jesse wasn't too happy about having to pose for photos... can you tell?!? :)

Monday, June 4, 2007

A Wonderful Weekend

Scott and I had such a great time at the cottage this weekend. It was so relaxing to get away, and the weather in Tobermory couldn't have been better. The highlight of the weekend for me was our hike at Bruce Peninsula National Park on Saturday. We always go for a quick swim in Georgian Bay... key word being quick. I'm telling you, this water is COLD!

I love how every trip to the cottage is filled with what have now become family traditions. Swimming in Cameron Lake and Georgian Bay; hiking along the Bruce Trail; staying up to talk until all hours of the night, usually with a fire crackling in the fireplace; whitefish dinners; getting ice cream at The Sweet Shop in town; strolls along the Tub (harbour) to name a few.

Here are a couple of pictures from the trip. The first one is a picture of Scott at the Tub, which is basically downtown Tobermory. We went into town on Saturday night and had white fish at the annual town Fish Fry. It was fun, but not nearly as tasty as the whitefish we usually buy fresh and cook ourselves.

We always have lots of trilliums up at the cottage, and I was having fun trying out the settings on my camera.

Sunday morning we woke up to see two families of geese hanging out in Cameron Lake right by the dock. As soon as I stepped outside to get some pictures they swam away pretty quickly, but I managed to snap a couple.

It's wonderful to go away, but it's great to be back home again. The kids had a great time with Scott's Mom, although I don't know how they ever survived the weekend. We came home to find that our house had no hot water, no air conditioning, and no phone, internet, or cable service! Everything is up and running now, thankfully, but I have to hand it to Pat for being able to survive the heat and 4 crazy kids all weekend under such conditions and still be smiling by the time we got home.

We got some exciting news last night that Scott's brother and wife are expecting their first baby in December! We are so excited to have another baby in the family - and how fun that he or she will be born the same year as Nathan!