Monday, September 19, 2016

Chloe's Macaron Mission (CMM)


Chloe made her second attempt at the perfect macaron today. 

Things appeared to go much better than last week. The eggs nicely stiffened to meringue and the texture of the batter felt right. The situation looked promising right until until they came out of the oven.



They were super flat and spread out. We had a good laugh. Chloe is a little discouraged but there are a couple of things she will do differently next time. Stay tuned!

And they actually tasted better than last week so that's something!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Weekend report



I've already posted this on Instagram but I just wanted to cover all my bases and post it here too. Dale took this picture and he included the cat. Of course. This was Chloe's third day of school and the other kids' second.

It was a decent first week back. The nice thing is that no activities had begun yet so we could ease into things. All five of us were home for dinner on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. That's probably three more days than all of June, July and August and I'm not even exaggerating. To top it off, we played a round of Dutch Blitz or Anomia after dinner. I don't even know what is happening anymore. The downside is that we need to cook dinner every day. That doesn't come easy for me. Chloe is stepping up and cooking tonight so I'm looking forward to that.

On Friday, we hung out with Teresa's daughter Gabrielle for a bit (during Neve's lunch; Gabrielle's school hadn't started yet). We went to Kawaii Crepe and made a little pit stop at the water taxi dock on Wellington and Jenna Rae Cakes. Later, my neighbours came for Happy Hour and we enjoyed the lovely fall-ish weather.




So far, Chloe seems to have more spare time than she did in high school. She's starting to get more assignments and her part-time job starts this week so I'm sure that will change soon. But in the meantime, she's started a quest to bake the perfect macaron. Her first try this weekend (red velvet) wasn't bad. But the egg whites didn't stiffen so the macarons were pretty dense. The recipe was supposed to make 25 filled cookies but there was only enough batter for seven. Hmmm. We'll see what next week brings.




Yesterday (Sunday) was a great day. We went for lunch with Bob, Janet & Tia after church. I hadn't been to Garbonzo's for about 25 years, but it was good.


After a long afternoon nap (after just telling Bob and Jan that I never nap), Dale and I went for a bike ride. Manyfest was going on downtown and there were blocked-off lanes for bikes all the way there. If only it could always be like that. We walked our bikes along Broadway and stopped to listen to some bands, then zipped over to Assiniboine Park, then to Assiniboine Forest, then home. It was such a perfect day for a bike ride.

Helmet hair, don't care. Actually it looks like that even when I haven't worn a helmet.
A hair appointment has been scheduled.


After dinner, Dale's mom joined us at BDI for ice cream. The line-up was super long as always, but it's all part of the experience. At least that's what we told the kids when they complained.



Bean the kitten is still here. Her rightful owner offered to pick her up last Friday but we postponed it for a few more days. She'll be going home this week though. If I wasn't so cold-hearted and didn't think only of myself, I would let her stay (if her owner would let us). The girls love her so much. They cuddle with her and play with her and can't wait to get home to see her.

But here's the problem: cats kind of scare me. They make sudden movements and pounce on my feet and jump up on the couch where I'm sitting. It scares me every single time. There's also the allergy issue. One of Neve's good friends was over on Saturday and despite taking Claritin before coming over, she was stuffed up the rest of the day. And sometimes Bean steps in her own poop and licks her paws clean and then licks Neve's face with that same tongue. I know this is all normal cat stuff and the cat people among you are going, "yeah, so??" But I'm just not wired that way. I wish I was. I'll admit she's cute. I don't mind seeing her from a distance. I love that the girls love her. But I just can't do it. Luckily Bean has a loving home to go to and we can just be happy for the time we've had her.


"I have succeeded in making Girl put down her book and give me all her attention."

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Back to School - Part 3

 
The back-to-school pics were complicated this year: Chloe started school yesterday, Neve started this morning, and Spencer started this afternoon. I'm hoping I can get them all assembled tomorrow morning for a group photo. Chances are not good.
 
Spencer started Grade 10 this afternoon. He is not happy that summer holidays are over. He left the house as seldom as possible during the last two and a half months. If his teacher asks what he did this summer, he can answer in one word: read. You can see that his eyes are having a hard time adjusting to the sunlight. And it wasn't even sunny. Wait, I see shadows so I guess it was.
 
As much as he insists he doesn't like school, he actually enjoys learning. He is a fountain of knowledge on anything relating to history, geography, or music from the 70s. That's bound to come in handy sometime. He is entering the IB program this year (the same academic program Chloe did) and also planning to continue on with Reach for the Top and Improv. I can't complain too much about his lack of desire for social interaction outside of school because he seems to be with people a lot at school. In fact, when I was waiting for Neve after school, I saw Spencer walking home WITH A FRIEND. He had biked to school (see below photo - he loved that I took a picture) so he was walking his bike while talking to his friend. That is pretty much unprecedented. I asked him a few fact-finding questions after school but even though I bribed him with cookie dough, answers did not come easy.


The girls' first day(s) seem to be a success. Neve likes her new teacher (brand new to the school) and stayed after school to hang out with her friends. Chloe is optimistic that her classes will be interesting. She has met up with old school friends, bumped into other friends and relatives, and is making new friends (including a boy that she hung out with after class today...).

As for me, you ask? I have yet to spend a whole day at home by myself so I'm not feeling the full effect yet. I'm looking forward to some good uninterrupted work days ahead. Stay tuned.

Back to School - Part 2

 
Today was Neve's first day of the last year of elementary school. Neve loves her school. She loves her principal and all the teachers and gets along with pretty much everyone. It's a tiny school where everyone knows almost everyone (I don't know a lot of the parents of the younger grades anymore) and it just has a nice community feel to it. It's been a great experience for all of us and a big part of our lives for a long time.
 
This is going to be a year of "lasts" for us. The last first day ... the last Halloween ... the last school carnival ... the last walking to and from school together. I know I'm sounding dramatic; but it's the last first day, so leave me alone.
 
The good part is that by the end of this year, Neve will be ready to move on. It's awesome being the oldest in the school, but by the end of grade six the kids are always ready to burst out of their comfortable cocoons and move on to bigger things. So I will cling to that thought and enjoy this last elementary year to its fullest.

I wonder if one day Neve will say, "Mom! Why did you let me wear that headband to school?!"

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Back to School - Part 1

 


Chloe may have graduated from high school in June, but the back-to-school photos are far from over. She’s got 5 years of university ahead of her, not to mention the other kids’ university years. We probably have about a decade to go.
 
 
Sending a kid off to university is pretty painless when school is a 20-minute bus or bike ride away. Chloe still lives at home and with less time spent in class than in high school and not having Cheer two or three times a week, we’ll probably see more of her than we used to. I get a little stomach ache at the thought that she could be living in a dorm in another city or province or country, like so many kids her age are. I think Chloe wishes she was one of those kids; she craves independence. However, she’s also practical and knows that for now, she’s got a pretty sweet situation. Because how could you NOT want to live with such cool parents?! Don’t answer that, Chloe.
 
She spent the summer working as a lifeguard at the outdoor pool of an apartment complex. It was a good job; decent pay, no supervision, being outside all day - but not very stimulating. When no one was swimming, she spent time reading. I’m sure she lost count of how many books she read. The girl who she shared the job with quit a couple of weeks ago, so Chloe worked every possible shift since then. She was very happy after her last shift yesterday.
 
So off she went this morning to the University of Winnipeg to start her education degree. She is so ready for it; she’s wanted to be a teacher ever since she was a little girl. I hope it’s all she dreamed it will be because there is no plan B. She’s always been a planner and has her future laid out in great detail. As much as I tell her life doesn’t always go according to plan, but it doesn’t really sink in. She believes that may be true for other people, but not for her. Well, that’s not the worst thing. Follow your dreams and deal with curves in the road as they come. Confidence and determination go a long way.
 
Chloe had a couple of classes this morning, then another later in the afternoon. She planned to meet friends and go to the bookstore during the break, but suddenly she showed up at home. Her phone did this annoying thing where it wouldn’t turn on and since she couldn’t get through an entire day without it, she came home to get her old phone. I don’t know what would’ve happened if she hadn’t had a back-up phone. That would have been terrible.
 
With her precious phone in hand, I drove her downtown to pick up some paperwork she needed, and then dropped her off at the university. She did not cooperate with my photography efforts.
 

It turns out her afternoon class was cancelled. She found out later that the teacher had posted a note online somewhere that their first class would be Thursday, but Chloe didn’t even know of the existence of this site. It wasn’t a complete waste though; she met and bonded with the other kids that had also shown up. Now she’ll have some familiar faces when she goes on Thursday.

And now it’s the eve of the other kids’ first day of school. Neve wanted to do something special to mark the end of summer holidays, but I couldn’t summon up the energy to do anything more than make popcorn and watch The Amazing Race. In the end, that was good enough.
 
So that was summer vacation. I’m not ready to wake up early and shoo everyone out the door and rush around every evening. But it was a good summer and I guess it’s time to move on.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

August

 
 

 
The one and only thing I don’t like about summer is that it always has to end. Maybe if it never ended, I wouldn’t like it as much but I’d like to find that out for myself. As much as I tell myself that September is still summer, things are different.  Dale and I went for a bike ride Friday night, but by 9:15 it was pitch black on the trails and we were wiping out and almost hitting deer. It just wasn’t the same. But despite today’s miserable weather, I know there are lots of pleasant days ahead. And we will enjoy them to the fullest.
The rest of this post is mostly just lots and lots of pictures of what we’ve been up to the past month or so.
 
Hanging out with Dale's family. The Miami relatives were here for much too short a time this year and we didn't see nearly enough of them.

We spent some time at Bob & Janet's cottage while Dan was here. It was a great few days of enjoying the lake, watching Olympics, hiking, playing games and more.


Neve giving a tutting lesson. Don't worry if you don't know what that is.


 


 
Hike to Pine Point Rapids. We took the short way back and it seemed like double the distance.



There should be a prize if you can tell me what's going on in this picture.

This wasn't even the large!!

Back in Winnipeg, we celebrated Dale's mom's birthday at Beachcomber. Unfortunately it started raining during our meal and some of us (mostly me) got soaked. But it was a delicious meal and a fun time.


The very next day we went out to LaRocca to eat with some of my family. They have a beautiful patio area and the food was so good.

If I look a little stiff, it's because I am. I had a bike mishap the day before and my neck was so sore. I am totally fine now but I still cringe when I look at this picture.

We had an extended family get-together at my grandma's old yard (the house has been demolished), which is right beside my parents.' My dad and others transformed this yard from its dilapidated state in the weeks before this and it was a lovely spot.

 
I was sorry we had to leave early, but I had to send Neve off to camp. This was her first year of sleep-away camp and she was nervous, but excited. My friend and I drove our girls to Kenora Sunday night and stayed at another friend's cottage, whose daughter was also going. We brought them to the dock Monday morning and waved goodbye as they got into the boats that took them to their island camp. Then us moms went back to the cottage and spent the day hanging out at the lake.
 


Before camp
 
After camp. Looking a lot less nervous. And yes, the two girls probably did wear the same shirts all week.

It was a quiet week with Neve away. I was amazed at how productive I was. It was a nice break but by the end of the week, I was ready for a little more noise and activity in the house. She had a fantastic time and is already talking about next year.

Between work and going to cottages or trips with friends, it's been very rare to have Chloe home for a whole day this summer. We had to plan way ahead to get in a Grand Beach day. It's too bad it happened when Neve was at camp, but it was probably more relaxing. Luckily, it worked out that my sister could join us, so the three of us spent a perfect day at the beach. Not a cloud in the sky, super hot, and no wind. The downside was little flecks of algae in the water. A lot of little flecks. I'm not a lake water diva, but the water was not very appealing. I couldn't get myself to put my head under water. That was unfortunate, but it was still a great day. We stayed on the beach until it started to get dark, then had a bite to eat at a little restaurant at Albert Beach.



We've eaten dinner on our deck every possible day this summer. Sometimes even in the pouring rain. Just ask Doug and Lorie. Outside is definitely my happy place. I instantly feel more relaxed and can even breathe better when I'm outside. Maybe there's something wrong with the air quality in my house. Here we are on a pleasant summer evening when Dan was over.


 

Wait, how did Bean get in these pictures?!


Then came the sad time when Dan had to go back to his real life. It's become a tradition that we always go for a picnic in Assiniboine Park before he goes to the airport. Luckily his flight times are conducive to that; if he left at 8 a.m., that tradition would become less appealing.

Surprisingly, a good percentage of my family was able to come to the park for lunch on a Tuesday afternoon.
 

Blowing bubbles
Grandma and grandaughters

Ice cream

Until next year ....

 
 
You may recall Neve planning and preparing a meal in one of my previous posts; this week was Spencer's turn. He didn't think much of this idea so he tried to think of the easiest meal possible. When I vetoed hash browns (frozen from a bag) and cereal, he decided to do salmon. Dale was the supervising parent and they ended up with this meal. It was really good and now Spencer has something he can cook to impress a girl someday. Because that's my goal in life.
 


Watching Shrek at Rainbow Stage.

The girls and I usually have a "girls day" during the September long weekend, but due to Chloe's work schedule, we moved it to the weekend before. We did some shopping, some eating, more shopping, and more eating. Here we are at Confusion Corner Bar & Grill. The daisy chain headband was one of the day's purchases and let me tell you it has gotten a lot of use so far.


Silly shot with 2.5 of us
 
Another day, my friend Kristin and I took our girls on a macaron-tasting excursion. We bought macarons at four different bakeries and then did a taste test. We had score sheets where we gave each place points for different things, ie. the look of the shop, the friendliness of the staff, the appearance of the cookie, the filling, etc.
 
 

 
 
We went to some cute shops and met some really nice workers. Then we went to the park and ate four macarons each (well, Kristin & I shared). It was a tough job but someone had to do it. We concluded that Jenna Rae's macarons were our favourite. It was such a success that we want to do it again with another food comparisons; maybe doughnuts or French fries next time. 
 

I also went to my parents' one afternoon this week to help my mom make salsa. Neve came too and brought a friend. They had a great time running all over the yard and ziplining and finding things in the garden.

Digging potatoes

Salsa ... mmm
 
Whaaaat?! More cat pictures? Neve is still enamoured by her foster-pet. She is a good little kitten with a laid-back personality. But we're still not keeping her.
It's been a great long weekend so far. Mike & Darla and the girls came for dinner last night. Darla and I coloured our daughters' hair and I won at Rook. The hair turned out pretty good - I have never ever done anything like that before but Neve is pleased with it.
 
This morning we went to the Pancake House at the Forks for breakfast. I had pictured riding our bikes there but then it rained and apparently not everyone in the family has bikes that work. Oh well, it was fun anyway, especially after I confiscated Spencer's book.
 

 

We spent a great evening at Rob & Gab's tonight. We went for "faspa" (light dinner) but it was like no other faspa I've ever seen. Definitely a faspa on steroids. I regret not taking a picture of the huge spread of food. It was great to catch up with some friends we hadn't seen for a while, including Teresa's kids.
 
Okay, I'm up to date. It's been a really good summer, especially when I look back at all these pictures and remember all we've done. It's a good life.