Thursday, 31 May 2012

One kind elderly lady...(and homemade granola bars, too!)

It is almost impossible to smile on the outside without feeling better on the inside. - Unknown

When I first began working with the elderly, one lady in particular won my heart.   She had Alzheimer's disease and was trapped in her own world until a song was sung.  Then slowly she would walk over to me, sit down and listen.  Every week I looked forward to being with her.  She was gentle and never spoke.  Occasionally, she would sing a few words together with me and smile. When she passed, I was asked to sing at her funeral. I was impressed at the number of people who got up and spoke about her.  Every one of her four daughters and every one of her four son-in-laws spoke.  I had not known much about her life, but I found out more that day. When her four daughters were small, she had lost her husband.  She, however, was never defeated.  She tried to make her daughters' lives beautiful, even though things were not easy. One point mentioned stood out in my mind.  It was her love of picnics...because she never wanted her girls to miss a beautiful day. Every opportunity she could find (with good weather), they would eat outside. Since then, I have had a love of picnics..and have been searching for the perfect picnic food.  Here is what I have found today.  I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did.  

Homemade  Granola Bars
(adapted from Better Food For Kids Cookbook, by Joanne Saab RD and Daina Kalnins, RD)
makes 16 large bars

4 cups large flake rolled oats
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 natural wheat bran
pinch salt
1 cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, etc...)
1/2  cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup honey
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup corn syrup
4 Tablespoons brown sugar
2/3 cup peanut butter
1/ 4- 1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1.  In a microwave safe bowl, combine:  Oats, coconut, bran, salt, dried fruit, sunflower seeds.

2.  In a one cup measure, whisk together honey and oil.  Pour over oat mixture; toss until well mixed.

3.  Microwave on high for about 6 minutes, stirring every two minutes, until mixture is slightly browned.
4.  In another medium size microwave safe bowl, combine syrup,sugar, and peanut butter.  Microwave on high for two minutes or until mixture is just bubbling.

 5.  Add sesame seeds and cinnamon to oat mixture.
Add the microwaved sugar/peanut butter to oat mixture.  Mix well.

6.  Press into lightly greased pan.

7.  Wait until cool..  Cut into bars. Uneaten portion can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Of Mice and Boys

Sometimes the gift of an inquisitive nature to the young can be greater than that of the wisdom which comes of age. - Brian Jacques

My son as Matthias...the main character of the Redwall Series

Our house, being a country home, has mice.Yesterday, my husband and I woke to the sound of my daughter shrieking at the sight of one scurrying across the floor.We tried to catch it...but it is still roaming the the dark of the night.
That aside, somehow my family loves mice. Even my littlest son's pet name is mouse. But the mice my family love the best are the ones in storybooks and the ones that live in their imaginations.
I have spent many nights reading aloud these favourite stories.
Check them out, too!

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert O'Brien


The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques

The Mouse and His Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

Mouse and the Motorcycle.jpg

Friday, 25 May 2012

Pink and more Pink...and a Picnic

I believe in pink.  I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls.  I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.  - Audrey Hepburn

My one an only daughter, sandwiched in between a family of boys, just had a birthday.  She did not ask for a lot.  She just thought that having a picnic would be nice...and if I didn't mind making pink cupcakes. 
I had a fun time preparing for her birthday picnic...and watching the skies...hoping that it would not rain....
as it shifted back and forth from overcast to clear.
Here was her picnic lunch...
Enjoyed by both children and adults, I served...
Italian sodas
grilled chicken on toasted buns and honey mustard sauce
vegetables sticks
potato chips
layered pink jello with whip cream
pink cupcakes

For the chicken....
My husband placed the chicken in a marinade of  fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper for one hour.  Next he browned the chicken breasts on a large hot plate ( a skillet would work fine as well).  After all the chicken was browned, he transferred the chicken to be grilled until thoroughly cooked and juices ran clear.  Buns were then buttered and lightly browned on the hot plate.

For the honey mustard sauce...
I mixed in a glass jar
1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons mustard

For the potato chips and the vegetables sticks...
I made pouches to hold the potato chips and vegetables sticks.
 I made the wax paper pouches for two reasons.
1.) to make the vegetables sticks look more exciting to little children.
2.) to give a proper serving size for the potato chips
To make the pouches, I just folded wax paper into a cone shape.  Folded over the base and affixed stickers to hold the shape.

For the layered jello...
 six servings
2 packages of strawberry jello
6 fresh strawberries
1/2 block of cream cheese, softened
1 cup cool whip

1.  Make 1 package of strawberry jello according to package directions.  Divide evenly between six clear dessert bowls.
2.  Finely cut six fresh strawberries and evenly divide into the bowls.
3.  Set the bowls into the fridge and chill until firm.
4.  Once the first package of jello has set in the bowls, begin making the second package of jello.
5.  Dissolve the second package of jello in one cup of boiling water.
6.  Pour into a blender.
7.  Add 1/2 cup cold water, cream cheese, cool whip to blender.
8.  Blend until smooth
9.  Pour into the dessert bowls, on top of the firmed first layer.
10. Chill until set.
11. Serve.

For the cupcakes...
Cupcakes waiting to be frosted
These were definitely a hit with my kids.  They had the best flavor and they were finished off in no time.
I followed the recipe from the blog Sophistimom  If you, too, would like to make these cupcakes.  You can find the recipe at this link:  Pinkalicious Cupcakes
I followed the recipe pretty much exactly as written, however, I recommend  increasing the measurements to 1 and a half make larger cupcakes.
In addition, for the frosting....I used half the butter recommended and used cream cheese for the other half.
Instead of using both vanilla and strawberry extract in the frosting I used a few drops of coconut extract.
The frosting came out wonderful!  And the cupcakes were delicious!  Making a perfect ending to a pink picnic.
I hope this gives you some ideas for your own summer picnic...

Monday, 21 May 2012

And now, Canadian Summer Begins...

And so, with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer. - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Today is Victoria Day in Canada.   The country roads around my house, which normally are peaceful, have become active with vacationers...Vacationers pulling trailers, boats, or canoes strapped to their rooftops.  I think today is one of the most anticipated holidays in Canada.  Sure,  it is to celebrate the longest reigning monarch of England's Empire's History, Queen Victoria, but, that is not what stirs the heart of a Canadian.  It is this Northern Land's unofficial beginning of summer. The first day when we can plant in our gardens...without fear of frost.  It is the day that we take the snow tires off of the car and pack away the winter boots.  No banks are open.  All stores are closed.  Everyone is on holiday.  Today, all Canadians stop and enjoy the first day of a short, beautiful, summer season.  Here is our celebration of Victoria Day...
Resting Canoe at Sunset



First bonfire of summer
Silhouette of a "summer " evening

Roasting marshmallows

Sunday, 20 May 2012


Hope is a thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune
Without the words,
And never stops at all. - Emily Dickenson

I like to teach my children poetry.  For in a few lines, guideposts can be given and learned.  No lectures needed.  No long discussions.  Just simple words that can inspire and be easily recalled and remembered. 
I can not pull the bumps out of the way for my children.  I can just give them a road map...and say don't worry...we all sometimes hit the pot holes in the road.  You will make it through.

Here are a few favourites:
If by Rudyard Kipling
Invictus by W.E. Henley
O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman
Magic by Shel Silverstein
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Step by Step

What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

My eldest son was struggling over his math problems this afternoon.  He asked me to help, and I have to admit, I was lost.  I called my husband and complained.  I hated math the first time around, now, just to make sure my life was not too relaxed, it has come back to haunt me.  In front of me sat a scratched up piece of paper with my failed attempts to solve the problems. I picked up the phone to call my husband.  He was on an errand,  walking through a store.   He asked me to read the problems over the phone.  Without pencil and paper he was able to solve the problems...and shop at the same time. As he mentally worked through the problems, he explained...
The key was to break the problem up. To solve it step by step...starting with the simplest functions...and in the end...the answer will be made clear.  Initially, I had just looked at the problem as a whole...and felt overwhelmed.
It is funny, for all my dislike of math, this really made sense.  Not only in that moment of doing math with my son, but that little lesson helped me throughout the day.  When things became daunting... I just tried to solve it one step at a time...and in the end...the problems were no longer problems...and tonight I will sleep peacefully.  Who would have known.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Happiness, Oranges and Muffins

We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognising and appreciating what we do have. - Frederick Koenig

When I was in grade school I had a friend who believed that oranges could improve your mood.  So, when she was feeling blue...she would eat an orange, twist its peel, and let bits of it's essence spray onto her face. Whether it is true or not, I can not say.  Till this day, however, when I see an orange, I smile thinking of my childhood friend.  So, I suppose it is true, but perhaps for a different reason.

Today I share my very favourite recipe for Orange Muffins (or if you would like: happiness muffins).  I made them in honour of my little sister visiting from Florida.  I hope they can make you smile too...and help you find a bit of happiness in your day....

Orange Juice Muffins (recipe adapted from
(makes 12 muffins)

1 orange, quartered, seeds removed, with peel
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (approx. the juice from one orange)
1 large egg
1/2 cup butter
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease muffin tin and set aside.
2.  Put quartered orange into blender along with the orange juice, blend well.
3.  Add egg and butter to blender and continue to mix.
4.  Combine all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Then, add orange mixture all at once.
5.  Stir to combine.
6.  Fill greased muffin tin.
7.  Bake for 20 minutes.
8.  Sprinkle with icing sugar (optional) when slightly cooled.