Tag Archives: holiday

St Patrick’s Playdate

I had a few, very cute, little girls over on Friday to play. My daughter was elated to have company. I made some snacks to go with the holiday– you know me. Anyway, I just wanted to share the pictures.

I think you can see where this is going…

Irish Soda Bread

The Irish Soda bread recipe I used is from the Cakewalker blog, with 3:1 bread to whole wheat flour and mixed raisins. The hint of caraway was nice. I really liked this bread.

Guinness Chocolate Pudding. So cute, right?

The recipe for the pudding is here.

The cat in repose.

Kiss me, I’m 1% irish.

White Christmas

The snow came just in time this year and has been progressively more beautiful every day since Christmas. The whole countryside is frosted in lovely blue-white powder and the sky is regularly filled with snowflakes.

My daughter discovered the joys of sledding with her older cousins. She was pulled around in a sled last year, but going down a hill is so much more fun. We were on an every-other-day cocoa schedule (or else there would have been non-stop cocoa and premature diabetes) and I’m pretty sure I went through 30 lbs of flour (not counting bread flour) in the last few weeks. There were cookies and cakes and pies, breakfasts and lunches and dinners, 16 houseguests, 6 visitors, 5 dogs, 20 stockings hung with care or thumbtacks, 9 christmas trees, and way too many store-runs.

It was a busy, interesting, memorable, and happy Christmas.

And we all loved that it was a white one.

Happy Saint Lucia Day

In Sweden, they celebrate the feast of St Lucia by sending the oldest daughter down to the kitchen to whip up some buns (with saffron and cardamom) and deliver breakfast in bed to all the adults in her white jammies with her head encircled with a flaming centerpiece. Sounds like fun, huh?

I have a 2 year old so flaming centerpieces are right out. She put the raisins on the buns and was happy to carry the tray, but that was about it. She looks adorable in her white flannel dress.

I could eat these buns all day.

Saint Lucia Buns

1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 beaten eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 strands of saffron
1 tsp ground cardamom pods
4-6 cups bread flour
1 package (2.5 tsp) dry active yeast
1/4 cup warm water

To top buns:
Swedish pearl sugar or 1 tablespoon granular sugar
pinch saffron

1. Dissolve yeast in warm water with 1/2 tsp salt and let foam until doubled. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Add butter to milk, heat until melted. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add salt, saffron strands, and 1 tsp ground cardamom.
3. Mix butter/milk with eggs, slowly, tempering the eggs.
4. Add sugar and 1 of the cups of flour.
5. Add the yeast and the rest of the flour, 1 cup at a time until dough is no longer sticky and wet. Knead for 5 minutes.
6. Sprinkle dough with flour and let rise until doubled (2 hours-overnight).
7. Turn out on floured board and shape into S shaped or }{ shaped buns and allow to rise again on baking sheets, 30 min-1 hour.
8. Brush with beaten egg, decorate with sugar and saffron (optional nuts and raisins).
9. Bake at 350 F for 10-20 min until golden.

Harper’s Index of our Holiday

Number of cities/towns visited: 6
Total number of cars in which I had to install the godforsaken car seat: 5
Quantity of beds I had to put the “oh what is this new blanket?” child to sleep in: 4
Number of airports I had to schlep a toddler, a huge suitcase (49.5 lbs, holla!), a carry on (possibly also 49.5 lbs), a diaperbag, and the aforementioned godforsaken car seat through: 4
Airports where I had the joy of only schlepping the toddler and her immediate affects: 1
Baked goods consumed: 506
Items on my sister and my “List of Holiday Activities” that remained undone versus done: 6:24
Activity am I saddest to have missed: “Make it into the Post-Journal”
Presents received by me: 15
Presents received by my toddler: 47
Presents given by my toddler: 5
Likelihood that I left something at each home/hotel I visited: 100%
Types of More cupcakes sampled: Chocolate Caramel, Salted Caramel, Margarita, Valrhona Chocolate, Gin and Juice, Lemon Meringue
Amount that was magically on my CTA pass that has been living in my wallet for god knows how long: $10
Quantity of toys at my daughter’s grandparents’ houses: 7.4 million
Toys at my house: 105
Estimated length of time before I want to “travel” again: 45 days

Grandma’s house is like a parking lot

Look, this is 1 of 4,225!

My daughter and I have now visited BOTH grandma’s houses during this holiday break. I have learned a thing or two about having a precious toddler in residence at their doting grandma’s domiciles.

1. All the toys in the world are not more interesting than unexplored kitchen cupboards.

2. Breakfast consists of whatever Grandma makes plus whatever mommy ends up serving up because a certain toddler didn’t eat the former.

3. If putting the kid to bed isn’t hard enough, add to that the long good-night adoration fest and your tot’s awareness of an attentive grandma just steps away, ready to play night-time games.

4. Grandma’s house is like a parking lot: there are almost no rules. You want to play with that? Sure, why not. You want to eat that? Here take a bowl. You want to make noise? Have a large aluminum bowl and a stick!!

5. Bath-time at home is going to seem totally Dullsville now.

6. All attempts to destroy property are considered “cute” and “clever.”

7. There is almost no sense of proportion when it comes to photographing the minutiae of your child’s daily activities and especially none when there is something “traditional” going down.

Egg Nog Pancakes

This morning, while attempting to make pancakes (ok, it wasn’t really “morning”) my mom handed me what she THOUGHT was milk out of the fridge and I didn’t really look at it until after I dumped in a cup and a 1/2.

It was egg nog.

They turned out pretty well, and it’s a nice way to use up any leftover egg nog you have laying around.

Egg Nog Pancakes

1 1/2 cup flour
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cup egg nog
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix dry, add wet, mix together until smooth. Heat a pan/griddle to medium-low. Melt a pat of butter or similar. Pour pancakes. About 4-5 min on the first side and 3-4 min on the other.

After we had pancakes, we went out and played in the snow. It was quite festive.

The Holiday Newsletter I Should Have Written

Dear Friends, Family, and Other:

This year was wonderful. By which we mean boring, and full of crap. We did absolutely nothing that you care about. Well, yes, we did go to the Caribbean, but I don’t want to rub it in. I guess I could mention something nice about how much our daughter has grown up and is walking and babbling like a little drunk person, but it’s not really a revelation to any of you that kids do that.

We are still in Canada. Yes. We will be there longer. Yes, I know. If you really want to know about my husband’s adventures in academic law, you may visit the Archives Nova Scotia. Tell them “Charlie sent me.”

Montreal has been interesting for the past year. It transitions from “holy mother of goats it’s cold out here” to “oh look, it’s raining again” to “why does the day-moon hate me?” back to “oh look, it’s raining” to be promptly followed by “does that bank sign say -19 C?” Summer was nice along our street with the PEOPLE and RESTAURANTS out in full force. I suspect that they go somewhere else for 9 months of the year because I sure as hell don’t see them in January when I’m making my 5th trip of the month to the drugstore to buy more tissue, baby tylenol, and poutine. Yes, you can get poutine at drugstores in Canada.

No, I’m just joking.

Anyway, we are all pretty unhealthy. One of us is teething, one of us has a death cough, and the other is just messed up in all sorts of ways PLUS death cough. You should probably not visit us for 6-12 months. Or ever. Seeing as how none of you do.

People. You really need to get passports.

For Christmas, we are visiting our families, starting with my mom’s house in Western New York. The traditional Christmas stockings were stuffed with chocolate and toothbrushes and a melange of other items. The child was gifted with an abundance of toys and achieved present saturation after about 2 hours of unwrapping. She liked her box of blueberries the best. In second place, an empty cardboard box. Her nap schedule has gone to hell in a handbasket. Which is obviously on fire. She is fueled by sugar cookie and attention.

We wish you all the very best for 2012 providing we aren’t all killed by some sort of apocalyptic meteor. In which case, we wish you the best meteor-death one could hope for. Like a movie or something.

Take care,


PS. Our parents are still alive, and living in New York and Indiana with their pets. Would you like photos??? Or the pets?

Silent Night, whatever…

Last year, it occurred to me that anyone with a newborn knows that you’re not going to have a “silent night” for quite some time. I wish someone had maybe told me that the middle of the night freak-outs would extend this long. I may have considered outsourcing my kid to someone else until she could put herself to bed and stay there.

I think there was something like an hour or crying around 2am. Ridiculous.

She was so tired that I if I even just laid her down and put my hand on her back, she’d fall back asleep. But the moment I moved my hand away, she’d pop back up and scream. I even tried fooling her by placing a book of some heft (in the dark, I grabbed what turned out to be “Harry Potter: Goblet of Fire”) on her back. This pretty much only worked just long enough for me to lay down and close my eyes.

All of this is extra disappointing because USUALLY my daughter sleeps so much better at her Grandma’s house. I was even using this as an incentive, for myself, to get through her past week of bad sleeping at home. I guess it was not to be.

The cookies have been going well. I guess that’s something. My sister and I have really dominated the cookie production. We have gingerbread men (women and babies too), Rosenmunnar (Swedish jelly cookies), sugar cookies, and peanut butter-hershey kiss cookies. We have to make more chocolate chip because we ate them already. My sister wants to point out that “I like to make messes and she has to go around cleaning them up. End of Blog.”

Taking the Train with a Toddler

Yesterday, I took the train with my daughter to go to Grama’s house for Christmas. We have done this trip several times now, so we have our system down, but that’s not to say that it’s ever easy. It’s do-able. It’s 8 hours. It’s not fun. We manage.

-People smile at her, What a cute baby!

Oh people, you don’t realize if you are nice to her that she’s just going to keep coming back to see you. You’re fine with that, you say? Oh, we’ll see about that.. after the 11th time she stops at your seat to see what you are up to. Not so cute anymore, huh? I told you so. Shut up and watch your Office reruns on your iPad and try not to let my kid see it.

-There is a critical toy-per-hour chart for each child at every age.

You can’t burn through all your toys in the first 30 minutes (though you will really be tempted too). You have to pace yourself. You also have to leave the most interesting toys for last. That last 2 hour window might kill you. For some reason, no matter how long my trip is, if it’s over an hour, the last hour always sucks. I know some people who buy new toys for their trips. That’s nice too. For my daughter, nothing beats tearing apart my toiletry bag and putting things back in it over and over and OVER.

-Layovers help.

You would think that schlepping bags and a kid would be awful, but even with all the back strain, it’s really good to get off the train for just a little while (our layover is usually only 30 minutes) and grab a drink/snack. If it weren’t for our having to change trains in Toronto, I would seriously lose my mind after the first 5 hours of the trip.

This particular layover my kid spent running around the Via terminal in Toronto like a prisoner who’d done months in solitary experiencing a sunlight meadow for the first time. I was trying not to leave my bags “unattended” lest they be stolen/reported to the authorities, but she’d just take off and there wasn’t much I could do.

-Pack a bottle of water, snacks. For yourself too.

The food and beverage on trains, if they even have them, are so overpriced. You’ll probably need to buy a stupid bottle of water anyway, because your kid will have knocked yours over on your lap and an hour later, you’ll be parched in your mouth but damp in your lap and $2.50 won’t seem so bad. But at least you’ll have saved yourself the first $2.50.

-The critical napping window.

You should consider carefully when you want your child to nap. It helps to have your departure/arrival at times that don’t interfere with napping. Sometimes you don’t really have a choice and ultimately, it’s up to your kid if they will or won’t nap. However, I have been able to successfully tweak nap-time by a combination of bedtime and wake-up variation that I usually get my toddler’s necessary train nap to come about 30 minutes to an hour into our trip. This is most ideal for us because it leaves us plenty of time for her finish the nap as well as fewer stops during that nap that might waking her up.

-The last hour you’ll probably spend walking up and down the aisle anyway.

This is where taking the train beats car trips soundly. When all else fails, you can just walk back and forth from the front to the back of the train saying hello to all the baby-friendly-now-totally-annoyed people you met on your first pass. You’ll also discover EVERY feature of your train: the trash compartments, the seat bases, the variation of decor in each car, the window blind technology…

-There will be about 30 minutes where you swear you will never ever do this again.

But it sure beats the hell out of flying, even though it takes a bit longer. So you endure.


There are many days a year that I complain about everything. Merely being alive is sometimes stressful and requires some venting. I’m sure whining is a tradition of humanity as old as the capacity to speak. But on this one day a year, Thanksgiving, we are supposed to give our ranting a rest and put up with our family members and not scream at anyone. And most of us moms are probably required to cook. A lot.

That being said, if you have family coming over, you will probably scream at someone. You are just supposed to do it sotto voce and with as much gratitude as you can. Like “I know this kitchen is the most popular room of the house but could you get yourself and your adorable smug expression to another room?” This is what I say to the cat.

Canadians are like “Yawn, we did this over a month ago, lady. We are back to complaining and Christmas decorating.” I can’t believe there are already trees for sale here in Montreal. What do you people do? Get a second one on December 15th when all the needles have fallen off the first one?

Besides behaving yourselves, Thanksgiving is all about plenty. I like that word to describe the holiday because it implies that you don’t have too little nor does it suggest you need more. You have enough. You celebrate what you have. You thank your lucky stars that you have more than nothing. Even if you are eating alone, you appreciate that you don’t have someone yelling at you to get out of the kitchen. At my friends’ in Chicago, they go around the room and say what they are thankful is NOT happening because they are at this dinner and not with their families. It’s not always about loathing your family, it’s usually about enjoying where you are and sharing the amusing quirks of thanksgivings past. And that’s enough. There is plenty for which to be grateful. If you can’t think of something, you haven’t really looked.

And for the record, I am very grateful for my warm apartment, running water, means to buy food and rent movies from iTunes. I am thankful for my family and friends, near and far, who amuse me and do nice things for me all the time. I wish my sister were here because she makes any family holiday more sparkly. My husband once said about us (as he rolled his eyes) “they get like this when they’re together.” And my sister said, “if you mean more awesome, then yes.” And it’s true. But more than I can describe, I am thankful, every second, for my adorable, healthy, funny, happy little girl. (Was that plenty of commas or what?) She is my cornucopia of amazing plenty.

While I wish I could pull off a Lady Gaga Thanksgiving Special for this post, I can merely say something about being grateful, if for no other reason that to remind myself that I am. I hope you can find something to be thankful for and someone to share it with. And then get the hell out of the kitchen.