October 27, 2011

Books and kids

The title pretty much sums up the spare time in my life--it is filled with books and kids. Sometimes reading with those kids and sometime's reading my own books in spite of those kids. I feel slightly lazy about this. Some people knit, some people quilt, some people exercise, some people write letters, some people reorganize closets in their spare time. I read. And I am not even reading to improve my mind. Just reading for the fun of it. It is my dirty little secret. Lets all pretend that I actually organize closets, knit, AND write letters in my spare time. It will make me feel more worthwhile.

To make the time I spend on books (during meals and right before sleep generally) useful, I will give you a run down on the books I have been reading lately and tell you whether you should bother wasting your spare time on them.

But first, just a few kid pictures. Today was mis-matched day at school. This week is drug awareness week, so mis-match day is to show that drugs and I don't match. (Alright, total tangent here. I was just reading Parents magazine this morning about prescription drug abuse among young mothers. Pretty scary. Heroin and Opiates are the same drug. One you can buy in the store, the other you can't. Apparently some people don't realize how addictive they are, how addicted they have become, or how unfunctional they are. One lady was finally sent to rehab by her husband and two kids with funds raised from the church community. Humbling! The withdrawl is as bad as being on heroin. And the terrifying thing is that you can hardly go to the doctors office these days without the doctor offering you a little something for the pain.One lady, I don't even know how this is possible, was taking a cocktail of 53 pills, FOUR times a day. She overdosed, but didn't die even though the drug levels were high enough to kill 3 people. Help us. I think doctors need to re-evaluate their prescribing habits.)

Back to Orianna and her innocent self. She got to choose her clothes and did her best to make sure they didn't match. I think she did a good job.

Last night on the way to meeting, Orianna fell asleep and only woke up intermittently when we got to meeting, took her back to the car, and put her in bed, so she got about 12 hours sleep and was full of beans this morning, refusing to look normal for even one picture.

Gilbert and Lily with their tea yesterday morning. Gilbert had Chai vanilla and Lily had Peppermint. They were in love. 

Popping popcorn. I am a really bad mother--occasionally I let them just eat popcorn for lunch. Lily likes to call herself a popcorn piggy.  

Lily with her tea and toast this morning. I don't just feed her crusts, I promise. 

Lily rediscovered the headlamp grandpa got her for her birthday, so she has been wearing it a lot. This morning after breakfast, she decided to keep the lights off in her room so she could wear it while drawing. Last night, I was in the bathroom trying to change Gilbert's diaper and put on jammies without waking him too thoroughly, so I had the lights off. She comes in and promptly trots back out. A few minutes later she came slowly in, stopping to peer at everything on the floor because it was suddenly so much more interesting in the glow of her headlamp. And then she perched on the potty, headlamp and all. I think she might be a miner when she grows up. 

Now that I have put some cute kid pictures up and this post is now much more about kids and less about books, I think I will start into the books. 

As I told you awhile ago, I was reading Pat of Silver Bush by LM Montgomery to soothe my soul after reading (or at least beginning) some frightful book. I am now reading Mistress Pat. Clover said she didn't see how the Pat books could soothe my soul, since they were some of the most depressing of the books Montgomery wrote. And this is true. But LM Montgomery's worse is still better than a lot of authors best. And these aren't really her worst. They are just the least, everything-falls-into-place. They are realistic. I shamelessly pull book images off Amazon to put them on her, hence the weird, double shot of the Pat books and I found this book cover, which is delightful. Especially since Pat is dark haired and definitely NOT into wearing 1950's clothes in a seductive pose. But it is still pretty great.  

Pat of Silver Bush

Girls in White Dresses

And no, you can't click to look inside this book. 

Girls in White Dresses 
Jennifer Close

This was an interesting book. All about a group of college friends and their journey through the mid-twenties in New York City. Mostly about the various friends getting married and the rest being roped in as bridesmaids. It was unemotional, which was interesting. You felt like an observer, rather than a participant. It was refreshing to not feel like the author was trying to manipulate your feelings every other page. But when you get right down to it, this book is about a completely different demographic than I am. I am not a city girl, I am not a liberal, and I don't drink. So while I enjoyed this book, it wasn't a MUST READ this kind of one. If you want to know more about this demographic, it is a must read.

Product Details

In the Small Kitchen: 100 recipes from our year of cooking in the big world
Cara Eisenpress and Pheobe LaPine

This is the cookbook for the NYC, mid-twenties demographic. Again, I enjoyed it, and some of the recipes look great. BUT a lot of them are vegetarian (check it out, Ver), which is okay, but they often call for ingredients that are a lot more difficult to find in NNY than in NYC. They are budget conscious, but still... it just isn't a Justin and kids will like this cookbook. Still worth a read if you like reading cookbooks. Apparently these two girls have a blog, big girls in little kitchens. 
One thing I have really enjoyed since reading this is their spinach pie Quesidillias. Basically you cook your scrambled egg add ins (spinach, whatever you want) throw in whipped eggs, cook, remove from pan, coat pan with oil, put in tortilla, sprinkle in some feta (or any cheese) and put the scarmbled eggs in, fold, and cook, flipping once. YUM! I have had this more times for breakfast AND lunch than you need to know. 

Product Details

The Tale of Castle Cottage
Susan Wittig Albert

I had a really hard time getting into this one. It wasn't gripping from page one and then, of all the stupid things, the animals started talking. This is based on the life of Beatrix Potter, so I should have been warned about the talking animals. As I soldiered through it, I realized that the animals weren't talking to the people, just each other, which made it sort of okay. And there was a very interesting story here. I ended up really, really enjoying this. Beatrix Potter was a really interesting character. Buying a farm against her parents wishes, and then buying more and more farms as she got more money from her little books. She was worried about the farms being chopped up into subdivisions. And this was in the 1910's. At the time of her death, her husband and her owned some 3000 acres in the lake district and deeded it to the National Trust. One word of warning, this appears to be the last of the series, so don't start on this one. It is difficult to make interesting fiction books based on non-fiction, but this author seems to do it. 
A great, cozy, low key read. 

Product Details

Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta
Carole Nelson Douglas

I read this one before the Castle Cottage one, and to be honest, I never finished it. Apparently this series started with A and is not to V. I might give A a read at some point, but the cat seemed to be talking to his mistress, which I canNOT put up with when you combine it with a cat like character who would wear a fedora, smoke a cigar, put his feet up on the desk, and refer to clients as "little ladies" if given half a chance. I just wasn't in the mood. And plus, Vegas is not my favorite place. Entirely too much heat and vice in one spot in my humble opinion. We visit Justin's family there and enjoy them, but not the city so much. 
So I didn't give this one a fair chance, but it just wasn't me.

Product Details

Oh Danny Boy
Ryhs Bowen

I am not sure if I have mentioned this author, but I love her! I discovered her after reading Her Royal Spyness which I got from a library book sale. This series, seperate from the Royal Spyness one, is about Molly Murphy in New York City at the turn of the century. She becomes a private investigator. A bit of a stretch of the imagination, but she is a really spicy, freshly arrived Irish girl, so it seems plausible. In this book, she comes up againt Sibella Goodwin, the first female investigator on the NYPD. And Molly realizes she isn't a female Sherlock, she has basically been lucky in stumbling across things. Which made this book more enjoyable. I have enjoyed the other ones, but it was difficult to pretend that she was a marvelous detective. To be fair, I am not sure that the author was trying to make you think that or not, but I just liked that Molly realized it. If you like history with a bit of fictional spice thrown in, you will probably enjoy these books. They are fairly true to the era, not like some books where characters act like people from the 1990's in the 1890's. 
If you want to read these, start with Murphy's Law, the first one. 
Love it.

Product Details

Pardonable Lies
Jacqueline Winspear

This is the third Maisie Dobbs book. Again, a fictional historical woman detective. I might be a bit in a rut in my reading genre. This was my favorite Maisie Dobb book yet. They are  set in the between the wars era of London. Maisie came through the Great War as a nurse and she is a very reserved girl, which made the first book or two sort of... stand-off-ish. I think you get to see a much more human Maisie in this one. Her cases are generally not life threatening, but there is generally someone wanting her out of the way. So a little bit of danger, but a lot of good historical fact, tons of interesting tidbits about this time period in England. In this book, she travels back to France, which is a majorly emotional trip for her. 

Enjoyed it! 

Magic for Marigold (L.M. Montgomery Books)

Magic for Marigold
LM Montgomery

When we were at Clover's a week and a half ago, I finally decided I was going to read this one. Clover is the only person I know who has a copy of it. Clover told me it was utterly too-too. Which is easy to imagine with LM Montgomery, since she has never turned down an opportunity to call stars fairy dust or to describe the evening sky as purple. But I enjoyed this one. I don't think it was too-too. Yes, it has a LOT of that in there, but LM sensibly threw in several very UN-fairy like people and situations, which salvaged it in my opinion. If you like LM Montgomery (as right thinking people should) you will like it. Clover admits she may have been in a bad mood when she read it. 

And now, after all that, I am off to meet a pediatrician in Malone to FINALLY try to switch our kids to a pediatrician who is not an hour and 5 minutes away. Brilliant! 

October 25, 2011


I was going to post pictures of this past weekend, but my camera bag was a recent casualty in the organize my life campaign and is among the missing. You would think this campaign would produce things, not hide them, but sadly, that is not the way it works.

This matters because the camera bag holds the cord that connects my camera to the computer. It is about the only thing my camera bag holds. Occasionally, when it has no where better to be, my camera lowers itself to rest in the camera bag, but generally it is floating around the house waiting to be used (by me) or broken (by the kids). Some houses have floating ghosts, but we go in for floating cameras--more functional.

So instead of anything recent, I will hark back about 2 months and do a post about our trip to Montreal. JoAnna already put up a lot of pictures on facebook, but I am not afraid of redundancy.

When JoAnna was out visiting for a week and a half at the end of August, we all got the brainy idea to go to Montreal. Ashley, JoAnna, Olivia, and Tori wanted to go, and being the spoil sport I am, I decided to tag along and bring my three kids. Oh yeah, I am that cool. Since there were 8 of us going, we couldn't travel in one vehicle, which was sad AND annoying. Still, JoAnna remembered Dad's walkie-talkies, so it wasn't too bad. Walkie-talkies are so much more conversational than cell phones. None of this finding the number, dialing it, and THEN talking. You just press a button and voila! you are talking. Since I was in my car with my kids, I used it a lot more than they. I felt they were having interesting conversations in the van, so felt my need to horn in on them and hear it too.

Of course, I wouldn't feel the need to blog about this 2 months later if things had all gone smoothly. They didn't. Our first ker-fluffle was at the border. I remembered everything, EXCEPT a note from Justin saying it was okay for me to take our kids across the border. And once I say I forgot it, I can't exactly forge it. No, my conscience does not hinder me from forging in a good cause. So they took Justin's cell phone number and told us to wait over there. Over there was a little shed facing the raging English River. This river flowed through the Douglas farm, so it was mildly interesting to look at. Particularly, since it was a LOT higher than it normally is. And the Raging English are always interesting to watch. Anyway, after calling Justin, the border people must have decided we were legit. (A side note, Justin was working with Evan, David B, and Owen that day and for the rest of the day, when there was a lull in the conversation, someone would think up a witty remark Justin could have made to the border patrol people that would have got me in a lot of trouble.)

So off we went across the Quebec countryside, pointing out points of interest to each other. (Mom was born there, the turn off to their town is there, etc) As we got closer to Montreal, we got in a lot of construction traffic. Fortunately, we were pulling out of that, when the tire on the van decided to blow. This tire had gone flat a few days earlier and had been patched/fixed after the girls sat beside the road for hours while Dad tried to get the spare tire out. Apparently the spare had never been used, since it was rusted into it's position and refused to come out. If the tire hadn't gone flat that day, it may not have gone flat near Montreal, but also if Dad hadn't finally managed to get the rusted spare out, we would have been majorly in trouble trying to get it out then. JoAnna is a remarkably resourceful girl and between her, Ashley,Tori, and Olivia, they had the broken tire off and the spare on in a matter of minutes. Very impressive.

And that is the event we have the most pictures of in the entire day. Look, they managed to not get their clothes greasy and dirty. The plan was to walk around Old Montreal for awhile, have poutine for lunch, possibly drive by Notre Dame, go see the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, go to Ikea,  and drive up Mont Royal. For some reason we did not add in an hour and a half of trying to find each other. I was leading the way, which was a bad idea, since I was not accustomed to the signs in Montreal. When it says Vieux Montreal above one lane, I think, we should stay in this lane. Nope. You should actually be 4 lanes over. NOW. I didn't think that they should try this in the van with a donut spare one, so I told them we would take the next exit, not even trying to get over four lanes. They did. And they managed to get off exactly where they were supposed to be. With neither driver being familiar with Montreal, it took us an hour and a half to be reunited. I think JoAnna was about to check me into a mental institute by the time we were together again. They parked in front of this huge domed building with a noticeable green copper roof. Should be easy to find right? Not really. Not when the streets are all one way, you don't know the name of the green roof building and you can't even see it half the time. Then we decided to meet at the Palais de Congress, for which there were lots of signs. By the time I got there (it took me awhile to get back to signs for Palais de Congress) they had decided to go back to the green roof building since they couldn't find a parking spot. Finally, we met up and decided to all ride together in the van with someone holding Orianna on their laps. By then, most of us were sick of Old Montreal and didn't want to walk around. so we found a poutine joint and got take away. We drove up to Old Montreal for a picnic by one of the lakes. It was gorgeous!

(Joanna's picture)
The green roof building I was incapable of reaching. The V-something.

On one of my loops of Old Montreal

(JoAnna's picture)

The Poutine place was across the road. We parked in a lane of traffic. I had discovered in my driving around that people generally stop for you if you are stopped in a weird spot. Like the delivery van blocking two lanes, the guy trying to pick up a friend when he was in the middle of 5 lanes, like me driving gaily down one way streets the wrong way. Plus we had the added advantage of being a stupid American. It really frees you. There is none of this trying to be sophisticated or urbanite. Well not for me anyway. I liked having everyone know I was a stupid American and would do exactly as I pleased, which was probably the opposite of what right thinking Montreal-ians would do. They just look at you and sort of pardon any stupidity you may have managed to get yourself in by saying, "Oh they are American." No further explanation needed. I am probably a part of the reason America has a bad reputation internationally, me driving down one way streets and parking in front of the palais du Justice in a car lane.

I think this was some Oratory thing. I forget. Impressive whatever it is!

Orianna and Lily were fascinated by the lake. Running back to us for an occasional bite of poutine.

Poutine was yum.

Ashley and JoAnna trying to keep my kids from falling in.

JoAnna helping them fish out their votive candleholder. They saw this pink thing in the water and were determined to get it out. 

A dark picture of us without Ashley.
Joanna has a better one from facebook. Lighter, but doesn't have JoAnna.

The glass votive thing they finally managed to get out. In my mind, I was thinking about someone throwing that in the lake in a drunken orgy of remorse that so and so who bought them this would never love them again. Or holding a candlelight vigil for some unknown person. I was all in favor of them throwing it directly in the trash. An old man walking by saw all this and stopped and said in a slow, old man way, "Let them keep it. After all that hard work, let them keep it." Which seemed wise. So I did. They still have it and cherish it. 

Taking pictures of the girls and their hard worked for and get to keep glass thingy

Huge old trees!

While at the park, we noticed the donut was flat. So we stopped to get it pumped up. We borrowed the gas stations guys pliers to get the cap off and he was most kind. 

After Mont Royal, we went to Ikea and spent some time there. It was great. We ate supper there, Swedish meatballs. Someone spilled water by our table, which made me slip and spill more water. We tried to get someone to come mop it up, but they were very unconcerned about it. So we spent the rest of our meal watching people slide around in it. I parked the stroller right over it, thinking people would have to walk around it, but it seemed to complicate things and make people give us dirty looks. One slip-ee dumped her soda on top of Gilbert and I. It was a very interesting meal. We laughed a lot. No one suffered lasting damage. As we were leaving, JoAnna said she was going to run to the bathroom and would meet us outside. Or at least that is what I thought she said. Instead, she said she would meet us at the cafe inside. So we waited for her outside for half an hour. Olivia and Ashley walked all over Ikea looking for her. They finally found her sitting patiently at the cafe like she said she would be. 

After a day like this, of mishaps after mishaps, you would think fate would be done with us and just chuck us home as fast as it could. But no. A few miles outside Montreal, my car started overheating. We have had a really slow leak in our car that Justin had not been able to pinpoint. It wasn't a big issue, since we just checked the fluid every once in awhile and added more water. Since Justin was busy working in Tupper Lake, he forgot to check that morning. And being a stupid, enabled girl, I never think of checking. Finally, after filling it with water, limping it to a gas station and pouring in a few liters of ice cold water, and driving slowly through the cool night, the heat dropped and stayed at normal. I think it was about this time that the girls in the van thanked their lucky stars that I came with them. Otherwise, the day would have been a lot less interesting and much more enjoyable. 

Finally, finally, we arrived home. Despite all the whosy-whichits, it was a very nice day. I really enjoyed being in Montreal much more than in Ottawa. That might have more to do with the time of year or having Ashley and JoAnna with us, but I would choose to go back to Montreal before Ottawa. 

And that is our saga of Montreal.

October 19, 2011

Olivia's pictures of this past weekend

As I downloaded and looked at all the pictures of this weekend, I realized that Olivia took every single one. Apparently I just bring my camera with me so Olivia can use it. Which takes pressure off me. Olivia is a photographer without a camera right now. Very sad. So I let her use my wonky camera that makes a weird noise every time you focus it.

This weekend we went to Clovers. Since we were both single mothers, we decided we might as well commiserate together while playing games and eating ice cream sauce (it WAS on ice cream--we aren't that depraved. Although the sauce is good enough to eat straight from the dish.). Olivia and Tori went down with me and Marilyn was already staying at Clovers, so it was a great, female filled weekend. Gilbert, Elliott, and Lincoln do their part to add maleness, but.... doesn't quite cut it. Justin and Evan are supposed to be homeward bound today, so happiness is rampants.

We got there in time for supper Friday night and a game of put-the-overexcited-kids-to-bed, followed by a greatly interrupted game of progressive rummy. It was swell. On Saturday we headed to the Farmers Market, then Carousel Mall (free Carousel rides that day!), and were home in time for quesidillas for lunch. If you have ever shopped with me before, I hope you will realized the enormity of that statement. I don't browse while shopping, I take up residence in the store and become intimately acquainted with all local merchandise before moving on to the next store. But this time, it was fairly zippity, zippity.

Here are some words of wisdom for anyone following in my chopping up credit card footprints--return everything you bought on the card that needs returning BEFORE chopping it up. I got a good stock of store credit. Which is fun, but at the same time, I thought this was going to be decreasing my credit card bill. Oh well. Live and learn. Fortunately, j.jills allows returns to credit cards without the card being physically present. So that return went smoothly. Grand total spent in Carousel mall (well excluding the gift card debacle--I spent $100 of that, in conjunction with Olivia, Tori, and Clover) was $7.89 for a pair of Gymboree jammies for Orianna, which were actually needed. Whee! Since cutting up my credit cards, I have spent exactly $50. Which includes a grocery shopping trip. But does not include gas. Gas is a law unto itself.

On Sunday, Clover and Marilyn treated us to Texas Roadhouse--yum! We caused a ruckus in the restaurant, making people move (I do NOT want to sit near children) and taking up two booths. Clover thinks the people saw how excited Gilbert got over getting his milk (Gilbert is very good at enthusiasm) and decided they did not want to see how excited we all got when the steak came. In any case, we enjoyed ourselves and our server thought the other people unbearably rude.

Our 3 hour trip home morphed into a 6 hour trip home due to vehicle malfunctions. When we went to Montreal in September, our car overheated on the way home, so when I saw the van (Mom and Dad's) overheating, I knew just what to do--pull over, turn the heat on high, pour water in the resevoir, and drive a little slower. Except this time, it didn't work. After an hour and a half, we had made it 20 miles. A nice EMS guy stopped and sorted us all out. He confirmed our suspicions that the radiator was completely dry, followed us for a mile or two and said that he saw the stuff leaking steadily out and hitting the muffler. This produced a lot of steam, which was then lit up in orange from passing car lights, making me think the van was on fire. Yeah, got our hearts pumping. We realized we were not going to be able to limp home and began making other plans. The nice EMS guy (on the way home from a 2 day conference--super kind of him to bother!) went to his house, filled up some water jugs so we could at least reach an exit to get off 81. He has kids, so he was worried about the kids and all of us sitting on the highway. A trooper stopped to follow us off the highway and then we cautiously headed back to Clovers. Clover drove us halfway home in her van, where we met Dad with his toolboxes. After switching our stuff for the second time, we headed back home in Mom's car while Clover and Dad went back to Clovers and the sad and lonesome van. The diagnosis was a hole in the line leading to the rear heater, so a simple plug-up and Dad was home a little after lunch time Monday.

And if that all doesn't make your head spin, you are a better person than I.

Anyway, we survived.

Here, in pictorial format is our weekend. Well the interesting bits anyway.

Carrots are always an extremely interesting part of life

It was cold

Who put that long straight NON-carousel riding skirt on their daughter?!?!?

Even Tori got to ride

Riding the escalator

Then home to cuddle in front of the fireplace with the lights off so they can read archie with a flashlight. Can a day get better than this? Carousels, escalators, flashlights, archie, and cuddling? 

Texas Roadhouse

Rilla is so grown up looking!

Woebegone Lily

A convoy we passed

These are from sitting next to the road wasting time

Dirty faced Orianna who doesn't really look like Orianna

So there we are. I just totally made a post out of Livie's pictures.