More Happy Headlines

In my last post, Making Our Own Headlines, I wrote about the idea of writing our own headlines for each day, focussing on the little things that matter to us and bring us joy, rather than all the huge world news and depressing statistics. If we can each find more beauty in our days, and be grateful for it, we can bring more hope to the world.

So here are a few more of my “happy headlines.” I hope they inspire you to notice many joyful moments in your own day, and if it’s a harder one for you today, here’s sending you a giant hug, and wishes for a better tomorrow! 🥰

Bees Keep Buzzing, Blissfully Ignoring World Pandemic

There’s hardly ever I time I go into the garden without being inspired by its wild and hopeful beauty. Just keep planting seeds…and so much life keeps springing up. It always gives me hope especially as a parent, that if I keep on loving and learning with my kids, they’ll blossom in ways beyond what I can imagine.

Tired Mom Receives Home Spa Treatment from Tiny Masseuse

I was trying to put this little beastie to bed, but she decided I needed a little love first, and slathered my arm with lavender cream from Lush instead, all the while sticking out her little pink tongue in concentration.

Summer Brings More Family Time For Fancy Baking

My eldest daughter learned this recipe at a girls club; it was really fun to try it out together, and fairly simple for such a fancy looking result. I really want all my kids to be empowered in the kitchen, and to know how to take care of themselves. It’s good for them to learn to cook, and it’s a lot of fun for me not to be the lonely only chef! I really like the extra time we have to do things like this together in the summer. It’s the stuff of memories, and when they’re older, and cook for themselves, they’ll be able to recreate the taste of home.

Mother and Daughter Bring Joy to Neighbour by Sharing Home Baking

My 8 year old and I had such fun baking these mini-apple pies in muffin tins and weaving tops for them. When they were hot and ready, we brought one to our friend next door, who is a recent widow, along with flowers from our garden. She was touched to be pampered in this way, and is constantly showering my kids with yummy snacks as well. We have basically adopted each other, and our Tupperware goes back and forth over the fence filled with little sweet signs of love. “Never return Tupperware empty,” her mother told her. We are both so much enriched by this exchange, especially in these isolated times. My littlest kids love to chat with her from our back porch to hers, and feel that despite everything right now, the world is still a friendly sort of place.

Save-On-Foods Grocery Delivery Service Saves the Day for Car-less Family

Yes, I really do think the save-on drivers, and the people who work night shift to shop all night for morning deliveries, are super heroes! My kids get so excited when they come to drop off the groceries, and they almost always have a kind word for the kids, who like to help carry them to the kitchen to put away. As I have seven kids and no car, you can see why I think the save-on trucks should have capes flying off them!

Well, I realize many of my happy headlines have to do with food…I guess feeding people is my love language, and stocked cupboards make me feel safe. I am so lucky to be able to take such good care of the kids in this way, while my hardworking accountant husband slogs away to earn our daily bread. Thanks, honey.

Misadventures in Housekeeping, Part 2: Magical Hummus Goes “Poof!”

Lately, I’ve been trying to be resourceful about using up the food at the back of the cupboard, since our grocery delivery service is so busy they can usually only make it once every two weeks, and we are trying to avoid going out as much as possible. If our pretending we live in our little house in the big woods, and making homemade bread instead of running to get some can, help less people get sick, then we are going to do it.

So, even though we actually live in a big house in the city, with seven kids instead of three, I’ve been trying to find my inner “Ma Ingalls,” because she could make do with almost no stores and make everything from scratch. With varying results–my attempts that is! The most explosive result, so far, came from making homemade hummus.

If you know my husband at all, you will know he is a hummus connoisseur. Yes, that’s actually a thing. Having been to Israel, and tasted the real deal, he is pretty hard to impress. Not that he won’t eat store-bought or homemade hummus quite cheerfully, but he will often make reference to the truly amazing hummus he had in the Middle East. Probably it’s partly just nostalgia. Doesn’t everything taste better overseas?

However, like the rebellious obliger that I am, I felt two things:

1. A challenge to create a really great hummus at home, so it’s not always just “alright.”

2. The pressure to make it good enough to compete with holiday memory hummus.

Kinda silly the whole thing. In any case, all we had was dried chick peas, so I soaked them over night. Then, I followed the instructions for “Magical Hummus” from my husband’s Israeli cookbook step by step. Mostly. Ish. After rinsing off the soaked chickpeas, I was supposed to cook them in a pot with baking soda for 40 minutes or so, until super soft and soupy, all the while skimming off the foam bubbles in the top.

I don’t have time for that; I’ll just do it in my instant pot.

Famous last words. Normally, I absolutely love my instant pot. It’s so handy! You can whip up dinner all in one pot in less an half an hour, even if things are frozen, and it comes out tender and delicious. It’s the closest thing to having another woman in the kitchen without polygamy.

But! I shouldn’t have ignored the instructions about scooping off the foam…and when I flicked open the pressure release valve to let the steam out after cooking the chickpeas for 25 minutes, out came sputtering hot and foul smelling yellow scum!! Aaaagggghhh!!

I had to throw a towel over the pot to close the pressure valve without getting burned by my hissing, volcanic pot. After wiping chick pea scum off the cupboards and floor, and letting the pressure release naturally, which is what I should have done, I opened the lid to see a mass of bubbly, frothy soupy greyish chick peas, and to smell…. awfulness!!

Mom, what’s that gross smell?! Eeewww!! Are you making fart soup??

The house did indeed smell like one giant diaper; the kids weren’t even exaggerating. So I went around laughing like an idiot and opening all the windows and doors and putting the fans on. My poor neighbours!!

That Eastland family, what are they up to now?

I thought this attempt at homemakerliness was going to be a total fail, but here’s the suprising part: after I partly drained, then blended the chick peas with lots of tahini, some lemon, garlic, and salt, it turned out great! Except quite a bit too salty…as I was worrying about masking the imagined awful taste…but after I added some water, more lemon and olive oil, it was lovely. And it made a great dressing for homemade falafel, the next day, which surprisingly, turned out just fine, and even satisfied my Middle Eastern loving hubby.

All’s well that ends well. Sometimes it just really stinks along the way!

The Kamakazi Toddler and Other Adventures in Eating Out with Kids

We went to the Dosa Factory restaurant

with a very good old friend

and our seven kids.

They were very good:

one napped quietly and the others played card games like “Go Fish”

and set up their Littlest Pet Shops on the lazy Susan

to show our sweet friend

who expressed genuine delight.

They sat in their seats and were very good indeed…

except the toddler

who played musical chairs

and repeatedly catapulted himself off his high chair,

grinning delightedly under his cropped golden mop:

“Wheee! Whahoo! Wheee!”

Of course the encouraging smiles of the surrounding people

just added fuel to the fire

and when he hid under the table

it wasn’t in shame but in jest…

he was playing house!

It was all well and good until he spilled water all over his pants

and decide to strip down, then and there, in the high chair….

and then bolt–laughing!–

as Daddy followed in hot pursuit.

After being bribed with “Coffey” (sweet milky chai tea)

he temporarily settled back into his high chair

(now in his pants again…which were only pjs…but still)

and sipped his drink off a spoon with relish:

“It’s yummy, Mama; it tastes GOOD!”

And while all this went on

we ate mutter paneer dosa, and chicken korma and naan

and talked faith and philosophy,

the importance of being yourself

and why the little things matter,

and I nursed the baby

and bounced her as she cooed and giggled

those new little laughs

that are like spring flowers

meeting with the world for the first time

to share their loveliness.

And once the kids escaped their seats

and scampered about eating fennel seed candy,

we settled up and walked home in the slight rain

to the scent of June roses

perfuming the grey evening with hope

and splashes of colour.

Dairy-Free Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Recently we discovered that one of my daughters is lactose-intolerant, and have been modifying our cooking and baking to accommodate her. Avoiding the stomach aches, headaches, and general bad moods that follow her consuming dairy make the extra effort worth it. This morning we turned a classic lemon loaf recipe by Jean Paré (author of the Company’s Coming series) into moist dairy-free muffins that were great for breakfast. 


Ingredients:

Wet:

1/2 cup Vegan Becel margarine

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup original almond milk

2 tbsp lemon juice 

Dry:

1 cup sprouted whole wheat flour 

1/2 cup white flour

1 tsp baking soda

 1/2 tsp salt

Grated rind of one lemon

Optional: a handful of blueberries. 



Instructions: Mix wet, mix dry, mix together gently until flour just blended in. Spray muffins tins with oil and scoop in the 12 muffins. Since half my kids like blueberries, and half not, I just stuck about 5-7 blueberries in the top of half the muffins, and left the others just lemon. 

Bake at 350 C for 18 minutes or until golden brown. 

Mix juice of one lemon with 2tbsp white sugar until dissolved. Slowly pour a little lemon glaze on each muffin and let sit a few minutes.

The muffins were nice and tender, and had a bit the texture of cornmeal muffins, likely due to the sprouted whole wheat flour. Enjoy for breakfast or afternoon snack with coffee, tea or juice! 

Super Simple Lentil Dahl

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This is one of my favourite easy, cosy recipes the kids love.

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It comes from this book I was given at my wedding shower 11 years ago! Lots of good ideas for healthy meals.

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Here’s what it looks like cooked.

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But I blend it because my kids like to eat it by dipping naan bread in it, and this way there’s no chunky veggies to pick out! 😉

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So here’s my quick and dirty way to share the actual recipe with you! You can tell from the splattered book I’ve made it often.

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My littlest eater likes to dip carrots in it and recommends hummus and cucumbers on the side.

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His big sister ate this many pieces of naan bread with it! Yum! Of course if it’s for dinner and not just lunch you can make some other curries to go with it or serve with salad. And if you’re gluten free it’s great with rice as well, instead of naan bread. Enjoy!

Summer Supper Save 

   
Here’s a quick recipe for one of those days when you feel like you have nothing but odds and ends in the cupboard. I usually make this as a black bean and rice bowl in the rice maker, but was missing lots of the essential ingredients…black beans, onions, garlic, salsa….so here’s what I made instead! This recipe was inspired by Robert Irvine’s Red Beans and Rice recipe on the foodnetwork.com.

  1. First cook a cup of brown rice with two-and-a-half cups of water with a tsp veggie powder, or use veggie broth instead.
  2. While it is cooking, heat up a large pot with a little olive oil and sauté several chopped sweet peppers (I used yellow), and a chopped red hot pepper.  
  3. Wander into the garden and pick a few cherry tomatoes, 5 or 6, a handful of chives, a some fresh basil.  
  4. Wash and chop the tomatoes and add to the pot. Stir in salt and pepper and a tablespoon of hot sauce. 
  5. Then drain and rinse two cans of kidneys beans and add to the pot. 
  6. After this all cooks for about 10 minutes, add chopped chives and shredded basil. 
  7. Once the rice is ready, mix it all together and serve with corn tortillas or tortilla chips. It’s really yummy….and just spicy enough to give a little heat while retaining lots of flavour. Pretty good for nothing in the cupboard! Can’t believe I cooked without onions and garlic…but it still had flavour! Enjoy!

 

Pregnancy Health: Getting Enough Fibre

  

This might seem like a less than thrilling topic, but it’s actually really important. Keeping your system cleared out when you’re producing waste for two people instead of one is quite essential. I know; I get really sick if I don’t. 

In all of my pregnancies but one, I’ve gotten a late pregnancy condition called colistasis, which means that at that point my body can’t cope well with the toxins from baby and myself, and doesn’t know how to get rid of them. So instead of eliminating them, it puts them under my skin. Sounds fun right? 😬 Especially when you’re too itchy to sleep.  So you see the importance of trying to prevent such a thing…but how? 

The only really effective way I’ve found to keep my body regular and on track is to eat Bran Flakes every day. Yup, good old Kellogg’s has done more to keep me healthy than trying to eliminate sugar, fried fat, excess salt, etc, even though those things are of course important, too. My OB suggested trying this in my third or fourth pregnancy, and when I’m really faithful to it I am much better. With my fourth I didn’t even get colistasis at all.

  
The tricky bit is keeping on eating bran every day. But this seems to be the key. A few times I went through most of the pregnancy healthy, and then when I got a bad cold or cough neglected my bran flakes for a few weeks. That was enough to do it; I got colistasis again. And this condition is not only uncomfortable but increases the chance of stillbirth as your pregnancy progresses. I’ve experienced this. I don’t wish it on anyone. 

So that’s why I thought I’d share this simple trick, to keep up your bran which clears out your guts and keeps your system running clean, so you can be a safe environment for your baby to grow and develop. Here are a few ideas on how to consume it:

  1. As All Bran Flakes cereal at breakfast. With milk or yogurt, or if you have a cold, try almond milk instead for less mucous production.  If you’re getting bored, add berries or make it half Corn Flakes.  
  2. Bake the flakes into muffins…chocolate covers a multitude of sins, so just add cocoa powder to make dark, moist chocolate bran muffins. Or blueberries of course for a classic muffin. 
  3. Buy bran as a powder and throw it into your homemade pancakes…you can also make them healthier by adding applesauce or mashed banana instead of oil, and ground flax with a bit of warm water as an egg replacer. Oats or oat bran is also good to add to baking.
  4. Buy the All Bran Breakfast Bars and pack them in your purse for snacky moments, or days when you can’t stomach another bowl of cereal. 
  5. If you forgot to eat it for breakfast, have your Bran Flakes at bedtime with some chopped banana. Both milk and banana will help you sleep  better, and that’s always a good thing.🍌
  6. Buy other healthy, fibre rich cereals on occasion, to give you some variety. But don’t stay away from fibre all together for any length of time. 
  7. Buy fibre-rich crackers like Ryveta and eat them with cheese or peanut butter for a good protein snack. 
  8. Eat whole grain pasta and brown rice instead of white whenever you can. Quinoa is also a great choice for a hearty salad or as a side dish.  You can even throw it into bean burritos or stews.
  9. Eat other fibre rich foods like lentils and beans, and try to avoid things that will plug you up, like white flour products, too much dairy and fried fat. 🍟🍰🍩 Stinker I know…Some dark chocolate bars have a surprising amount of fibre, though, so if you promise just to have a little…🍫
  10. Finally, coffee is a diuretic, so while some women choose to eliminate it in pregnancy, I find a cup in the morning also helps to move things along. Besides me! 😉 Good luck and please share any ideas you have as well…happy baby baking! 🍼

    soft arms scented with cinnamon and sugar

    My big sister—

    the poet, the editor, the mediator

    the strong survivor,  the loving mother

    the beautiful woman

    my inspiration, my friend—

    gave me this Dutch cake mix for appeltaart

    when she last came to visit us.

    And though she’s a province away,

    when I make it with my girls—

    carefully chopping the apples together,

    blending in the butter,

    brushing with egg to finish the masterpiece—

    I am with her, too.

    “Lekker gezellig!” deliciously cosy…

    The love of my sister

    wraps around me like these strips of dough

    around the nested apples,

    soft arms scented with cinnamon and sugar.

      

    Brainless No-Bake, No-Measure Cookies

    Perfect for a quick snack on a lazy afternoon! Ready in 5 minutes…so you can please your low-blood sugar critters before they eat each other up…even if you forgot to plan their after-school snack!

      
    Here’s the basic idea…but feel free to ask for more details in the comments if you like!

    1. Warm about a cup of peanut butter in a pot on medium heat. 

    2. Add some apple sauce and stir.

    3. Throw in some chocolate chips and mix to help them melt. 

    4. Pour in a bit of (almond) milk and stir till creamy. 

    5. Dump in some ground flax. 

    6. Mix in quick oats until the whole thing sticky but fairly solid. 

    7. Remove from heat and drop by spoonfuls on a cookie sheet. 

    8. Let cool a few minutes or until little fingers grab ’em!