March Breakin’!

We worked so hard. We studied and tried our best. We did our homework and learned lots of new stuff. We woke up on Mondays and went out bravely into the cold even though there were some days when it was physically painful to do so. We had our hair brushed and braided. We were on time for band. We made healthy lunches (or, at the very least, interesting ones). We suffered through cold and flu season and survived. We finally made it! Yippity biscuits! It’s March Break!

*blink blink*

Now what?

Monday morning coffee in a customizable mug. LEGO! (Bonus: Math book)

Well, first of all a healthy dose of relaxation is in order. That is what the weekend is for, in my not so humble opinion, and we relaxed as much as we could knowing we didn’t have the same obligations we usually do, to be up and at ’em, come Monday. There is something so glorious about the Sunday before March Break “officially” starts. We were mellow. There was no acute case of the “Sunday Stresses”. It’s a beautiful thing, I tell you.

Yesterday was great! We had a day free of scheduling and just relaxed and spent time together as a family. We played an epic game of LEGO Champion, had a simple lunch,  went outside into the sun (and cold!) to play at a local park close to the water (well, it’s still ice actually, but I digress..) – we even invented a new game while we were there! Then we went grocery shopping (Yes all four of us! Crazy, I know, but it works for us.) for the week and came home to prepare dinner. We really kept it simple because everyone needs to minimize stress, not just the “students”.

After dinner there was time to do whatever we wanted on our own before we all got jammified and ready to watch our feature presentation. Thing 1 had some CPU time with Daddy-O, Thing 2 watched a TV show and made more Rainbow Loom creations, and I went to my happy place. Yup. Social Media. Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. Pinterest. I even perused Linked In. (WOT!) It was wonderful!

Then we all piled into the big bed to watch our movie. It was one of our favourites. We used a randomizer app – just for fun – to choose between “A Bug’s Life” and “Enchanted”. “Enchanted” won. Yay! Silly technology FTW! The movie was great, as usual. The Princess saves the Prince and they all live happily ever ever after.

Now it is Monday. March Break has officially begun, and we, like many families are looking forward to five days of freedom and some frugal fun!

So, without further ado (Hah! That’s totally further ado, isn’t it?!), here are some ideas for free, frugal, or relatively inexpensive fun, for the coming week.

From Monday to Thursday of each week Video Difference allows families to borrow two DVDs gratis.

Of course you know we are readers and we love the library. There are special events planned for each day of the March Break at Halifax Public Libraries branches all over HRM.

Chapters Indigo also has a free special activity for children in store every day this week.

All week long from Monday to Friday Cineplex has a March Break promotion called Toonie Matinees.

With many fun museums to choose from, in and around Halifax, there is plenty of entertainment and even a bit of education (Awww. Mo-OOmm!) to be had by just picking one and going for it!

I think we might choose to spend some of our March Break budget on something grody! The Discovery Centre has “Animal Grossology” as its feature exhibit. Ewww!

As always, we will go out and play as often as we can this week – even if it is a bit chillier than we would like – because playing is simply the best way to get exercise and have fun together as a family. Getting outside into the sun is good for everyone!

Hopefully, we can swing a play date or two and maybe even meet up at one of the special events mentioned above with some good friends.

How will you be spending your week? Will you have lots of time with your children? Does this fact frighten you.. or is it business as usual? Are you on a beach vacation? (What?! And you didn’t invite *me*?! *harumphs*)

I’d love to know what you will be doing and what kinds of activities your family enjoys during these long school breaks. I hope you will share some of your fun ideas with me by leaving a comment. Let me know if you decide to take in any of these cool activity suggestions! I’d love to hear what you think!

Happy March Break, everyone!

Let there be cake!

Today is a very special day because two of my favourite people in the world – my NS BFF and my Ottawa BFF – celebrate their birthdays on March 6th. Isn’t that an awesome coincidence? I think so.

I always took it as a bit of a “sign” that Ottawa BFF was put in my path. She is generous, kind, smart, funny and knows more about wine than I could ever hope to know. We actually met because of one of her acts of kindness. Remind me to tell you about it sometime.

My NS BFF and I met in the first few weeks of our first year of university and we have been friends ever since. There’s nothing like a dry sense of humour and a mutual love of music to bond two people together so quickly! Also, you know someone is destined to be your BFF when you can call each other out on your B.S., pretty much right off the bat, which we did and it was awesome! Of course, there’s a story there, too, but I’ll also tell you that – wait for it – another time.

In honour of these very special women on their very special day, I am sharing a recipe for the most decadent and amazing chocolate cake in the universe… EVER! Yay, cake!

This cake is my NS BFF’s “Birthday” cake, made by her Mom every year. Isn’t that sweet? Since she is my BFF, I will not be telling you how many times this cake has been made. (Though, if you really wanted to, you might be able to figure out a round about number when you see the copyright information, but I digress..)

So, without further ado, I give you:

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

This is a rich chocolate cake that freezes beautifully and looks as good as it tastes. (Serves 8 to 10)

2 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

3/4 cup sour cream (190 ml)

1/4 cup butter

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs

4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted (3 x 85g squares)

Frosting

1/2 cup butter

4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate

4 cups powdered sugar

1 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Measure all ingredients into a large bowl and beat for 1/2 minute at low speed, scraping the sides of the bowl constantly. Then beat for 3 minutes at highest speed. Pour into greased and floured cake pans: 2 9-inch pans or 3 8-inch pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. For the frosting: In the top of a double boiler, melt butter and chocolate over barely simmering water. Remove from heat and cool. Add powdered sugar, then blend in sour cream and vanilla, beat until smooth.

Important Rules that Make this my BFF’s Birthday cake

Use a bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 – 70 minutes. Bundt pans make cakes fancy without anything “extra” at all.

The cake itself is very rich and doesn’t really need frosting. NS BFF’s Mom uses a chocolate glaze rather than the frosting.

My thoughts

A little dusting of confectioner’s sugar would be beautiful and is one way to lighten up this cake. Filling the centre with fresh raspberries or a variety of berries is also a nice healthy garnish.

This recipe is from a cookbook called “San Francisco à la Carte”* (p. 432), and though I have a scanned copy of the recipe, complete with sweet and personalized hand written notes from my NS BFF’s Mom (I like to think of these as “historical documents”), you can still find this cookbook by searching online and maybe, if you are lucky, at a second hand bookstore or yard sale!

As often happens in my life when I delve deeper into things I am interested in or working on, I discovered two very fun facts today about this book.

The first is that it was a Junior League of San Francisco project. I had no idea, as I had never seen the actual book before.  This is interesting to me because another friend of mine – a new IRL friend – is a Junior League member here in Halifax and when I found the book online I had one of those “Eureka!” moments.

The second is that this cake recipe is featured in the beginning of “San Francisco à la Carte” in the suggested menus section, under “Barbeques-Picnics” as a part of a “Wine Country Picnic” menu. Ha! If that isn’t just perfect for my Ottawa BFF, I don’t know what perfect is!

Happy Birthday to my BFFs! My life is better with you in it and I am ever grateful for your presence.

Now, let there be cake!

  • “San Francisco à la Carte” Copyright 1979 by the Junior League of San Francisco, Inc. A Main Street Book published by Doubleday

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! (Part Deux: Cupcakes!)

You already know we love celebrating Dr. Seuss’ Birthday, and do so every year, but this year in addition to our dinner of Green Eggs and Ham I decided to bake some cupcakes for dessert and let Thing 1 & Thing 2 decorate them in the style of Thing 1 & Thing 2. I mean, how else would Thing 1 & Thing 2 decorate anything other than in the style of Thing 1 & Thing 2? It’d be impossible! That being said, allow me to clarify. *MY* Thing 1 and Thing 2 decorated the cupcakes in a way that would pay homage to the very famous Thing 1 & Thing 2 from Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat“. Clear as mud!

It was totally on the fly and I used a cupcake mix and canned frosting – yeah I did – and you know what? They were awesome! The kiddos loved them, loved decorating them and thought they were scrumptious!

I had never used Duncan Hines Frosting Creations, before, but I read a cautionary tale about the product over on Curtains are Open and took it as a challenge. This tells you so much about me. Really it does.

I knew there was a blue flavour (Yes. Blue is a flavour. Usually “blue raspberry”, which is just weird, but I digress…) and was so excited to read that it was *not* raspberry, but rather cotton candy. Sold!

Anyhoo…

I followed the instructions and the flavour packet actually mixed in very well (using a butter knife – fancy!), but it lacked a certain over-the-top blueness that I felt was required to properly convey the idea of a “Thing”, so I added extra royal blue food colouring and it turned out just right. Then I handed the cupcakes and frosting over to Thing 1 & Thing 2 and armed them with butter knives and this is the end result.

Frosting with “cotton candy” flavour + a royal blue boost.
See the spiky and twirly hair? All done with a butter knife!
I’m not going to lie. I wanted to run away with this one!
Here is the finished product. What do you think?
This one is my favourite. I was so pleased with how this little impromptu dessert turned out!

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

I love Dr. Seuss. I have loved him for as long as I can remember. I am convinced that Dr. Seuss is the reason I learned to read at an early age. Well, Dr. Seuss via my brilliant mother and big sister who would have reading races with me using the very famous “Fox in Sox“. What a wonderful way to learn to read!

You never feel like you are the only one making mistakes when the mistakes are so utterly ridiculous and impossible not to make as is proven by your brilliant Mummy’s tripping over phrases like, “First, I’ll make a quick trick brick stack. Then I’ll make a quick trick block stack.” and reinforced by your beautiful big sister, whom you admire more than any other (still do!), who struggles to spit out, “Who sews whose socks? Sue sews Sue’s socks. Who sees who sew whose new socks, sir? You see Sue sew Sue’s new socks, sir. That’s not easy, Mr. Fox, sir.”

The goal was to read as far as you possibly could without making a mistake. When (not if!) someone made a mistake it was time to pass the book and give the next person a chance to beat the record. On and on it went until eventually we reached the end of the book. Great fun! The excellent repetition a beginning reader needs in a funny, colourful, entertaining book through a fantastic activity. Perfection. It is one of my fondest childhood memories. Honestly. There were some serious belly laughs shared over “Fox in Sox”.

Dr. Seuss’ birthday is on Sunday March 2.  If he was still celebrating birthdays he would have a BIG cake with 110 candles this year!  Isn’t that remarkable? I bet he’d have a pretty amazing cake, but I digress…

Every year on Dr. Seuss’ Birthday at Chez Peady we celebrate by having Green Eggs and Ham. Oh yes we do!

“Greener-than-Green” Green Eggs! How? Blue food colouring because yellow and blue make green! Yay! Science & Art!
Here is a plated portion of green eggs & ham with a tortilla.
Green Eggs & Ham + Tortilla, cheese and salsa! Olé!

So, you must tell me…

Do you celebrate the Birthday of Dr. Seuss?

Is it a formal occasion? Do you really let loose?

Are there Green Eggs and Ham on all of your plates?

How do you mark this most important of dates?

Do you have a big battle in a bottle with paddles?

Do you tell lots of stories, some tales and some tattles?

Is hopping on Pop more of your scene?

Just tell me right now, you’ve got to come clean!

P.S. We will also be reading all of our Dr. Seuss books tomorrow and there will definitely be a “Fox in Sox” race! After all Thing 1 and Thing 2 have Dr. Seuss built right in!

P.P.S. Here are a few links to help you with your own Dr. Seuss Day celebrations!

P.P.P.S. Please come back and tell me what kind of fun things you did to celebrate! Thanks!

Random House maintains this most excellent “Seussville” site. http://www.seussville.com

An interesting set of surprising Seuss facts. http://www.history.com/news/9-things-you-may-not-know-about-dr-seuss

Terrific list of Dr. Seuss’ books. How many have you read? http://childrensbooksguide.com/dr-seuss-books-list

Here are 10 interesting facts about Dr. Seuss books. http://visual.ly/10-facts-about-dr-seuss-books

This list of 30 quotes is simply awesome! I especially love #17! http://www.mamiverse.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/30DrSeuss_quotes.jpg

This is an amazingly comprehensive collection of Dr. Seuss goodies! Yup! Totally obSEUSSed!

obSEUSSedLinkCollection
You can even follow @Seussville on Twitter, but it seems like there isn’t anyone manning their account lately. That’s a shame! Twitter is such  great way to engage and celebrate.

“A” is for ABBA

This morning I was sitting here (No it was NOT procrastination! It was an exercise in collecting my thoughts. Believe, you, me, that’s a job in and of itself. SQUIRREL!) about to open iTunes and choose my soundtrack for the day. I had this really fun idea to just go alphabetically and see where that led me, when suddenly a tweet popped up over on “the” Twitter that my friend Alex was doing the same exact thing! Proof that there are no original ideas.

Not only was I going to do this, I was going to do the thing I always tend to do, which is skip ABBA because I have the “Thank You for the Music” box set and listening to “People Need Love” every time I open iTunes and randomize it, kind of grows old, so I have taken to just skipping ABBA. I know it’ll come up again when I get to movie soundtracks in the “M”s, so I just wait for “Murial’s Wedding” or “Mamma Mia!” to pop up and enjoy “Dancing Queen” and “Money, Money, Money” like everybody else on the planet who grew up in the 70s.

Well this little twitter conversation made me press pause (heh heh) and reflect on what my plan was actually going to be. Would I skip ABBA (iconic satin pants wearing Swedish band of my youth) and go right to Adele or would I – nay should I – start with ABBA and commit to listening to the very first band in my collection of CDs? (Yes. I own the CDs. They’re all in iTunes now and I have a love hate relationship with that fact that I can tell you all about that at another time.)

The answer was clear. Thanks to that little Twitter exchange, I decided to begin with the beguine. It had to be ABBA.

Do you know how many songs ABBA has? Do you know how many have been enormous hits? It’s astonishing.

Disc 2 has just started. “Knowing Me, Knowing You”. I LOVED this song when I was kiddo and actually I think this section of the box set is my favourite because it brings back the best memories of summers in Cape Breton as a free-range kid. Up and OUT! All day. Biking and swimming and climbing trees with best friends. Or building forts  or walks to “the” woods (like they were the only woods in the world – and when your world is that tiny they are the only woods in the world!) to eat.. er.. pick blueberries. It was the life, I tell you!

Anyway, I am currently on a glee-filled, ABBA induced, high and – quite possibly – couldn’t be any happier at this moment in time. My cheeks hurt from smiling and if it’s possible even my ears are happy right now. Despite the fact that they are being forced to hear me belting out all the songs .

Speaking of singing, can you even imagine a better song than “Thank You for the Music” for a little girl (or boy) to listen to when they have dreams of being on Broadway, or singing at the Met, or playing in Carnegie Hall or becoming a professional musician in any capacity? I defy you to try. It is THE best. I love it. I have loved it since the moment I first heard it, decades ago, and I love it still. I love hearing it and until I breathe my last breath (many, many years from now when I am a crazy old lady who rambles on and on about things) (Which is vastly different than now, when I am young and perfectly sane and ramble on and on and on about Things!) I will love it.

There are so many great, inspiring songs and lyrics in ABBA’s catalogue. I mean, they have had a feature film made about the band, their music has graced a stage on the Great White Way and then went on to become the soundtrack for the movie adaptation of the Broadway production. (“Mamma Mia!” I know *you* know, but I felt that maybe some people might need a refresher.) “Mamma Mia” has been a hit time and time again around the world. That’s some pretty amazing “reach”, wouldn’t you agree?

With lines like, “… try once more, like you did before, sing a new song [Chiquitita].”, or  “… one chance in a lifetime, yes I will take it, it can’t go wrong”, or  “… if you see the wonder of a Fairy tale, you can take the future even if you fail..”. (Come on! That is gold!) it is practically a collection of “Life Lessons from ABBA”. In fact if Benny, Bjorn, Agnatha or Frida were to write that book, I’d probably buy it. No. Not probably. I would definitely buy it. *coughs* Pre-order *coughs*

Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty, what would life be?

Without a song or a dance what are we? So I say thank you for the music. For giving it to me.