Can't Be Beet Semi-Sinless Double Chocolate Muffins

They're only semi-sinless because there's no way that much chocolatey goodness could be utterly sinless! Actually, its because of the chocolate chips, no matter how you switch a recipe around, chocolate chips will always add a little sin. I firmly believe a world without the sins of chocolate wouldn't be much of world at all, though. So eat on my chocolate lovers!

These muffins are moist, chocolately and taste plenty sweet even though they only contain 1/4 cup sugar.

These muffins use beets as both a sugar and fat subtitute. I find many people have caught on to using fruits and vegs to replace some or all fats in baked recipes but that most don't seem to realise that you can also use it to substitute for sugars. Sometimes you have to add a little extra flour or other dry ingredient in order to make up for the missing sugar, but overall it works out great.


Disney Movie Rewards Review: Why Disney Can Kiss My A##

Are you one of those people who effortlessly sail through all transactions with companies: ordering from catalogues or internet sites, signing up for services, etc? Have you never had a problem buying something on EBay and everything you've ever ordered from Amazon has arrived in a timely and still-together manner? If so, you won't understand the rant I am about to make. And it's long-winded and full of inane detail so feel free to go make a cup of tea instead.

Because, you see, I am not one of those people. I follow instructions; I am everlastingly polite; I provide detail of my complaints. And yet I constantly and consistently have problems and then receive crappy customer service.

It's getting hard, really, not to take it personally.

How I Get Through My Day: In Mottos and Ridiculous Rhyme

I've decided to take part in the Writing Workshops over at Sleep is for the Weak. But, of course, this week Josie posted a bunch of prompts, all of which spoke to me and I wanted to write to. Today I've settled on this: "What is your personal motto?"
Sometimes I sing my way through my days. Sometimes I grumble my way through. But isn't grumbling in rhyme so much more poetic? Plus rhyming makes things silly and therefore you can laugh at yourself.
Really its a win and win -
This rhyme I'm talking in.

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days

If I thought moving to Australia would help I'd be on the next steamer out of here!

I've been pissy. Best way to explain it. I am out of sorts and all those little things that occur throughout the day that can push you off a little have pushed me over the deep end and into misery. Usually I'm the type who's absurdly pleased by the little things that are good and quite good at ignoring the little things that are not so good. Not so since Tuesday. Here's a photographic tour of all the "little things" from the past two days.


Let's Talk about Sex . . . Maybe?

Have you heard the news? Apparently, teaching children that it's okay to want to wait to have sex and that sex brings with it some dangerous implications is more effective at preventing teen pregnancy and STDs than showing them how to use condoms and sending them on their merry way. Shocking isn't it? Of course these results are based on a rather small study that only lasted 24 months, certainly not a longitudinal study of a huge population. Still, doesn't it seem like common-sense?


The Shame, Oh The Shame - My First Vlog

Oh my.

Oh oh oh oh my.

Can I explain?

First of all I didn't look in the mirror before I did this. On purpose. I had just returned from a walk to the cornerstore to buy a couple quick things and had removed the hat I'd been wearing most of the day. It's obvious. I hate my hair even on a good day so there's no getting around the bad hair. My hair will make you feel better about any hair issues you are having, trust me.

Made a mistake part way in where I said "dryer" instead of deep freezer. No, my dryer is not that big. Also, filmed this with my digital camera which only takes 3 min of video and had to transition in the last 55 seconds. Forgive me. I am new at this.

So, here goes. This is THE SHAME OF MY LIFE . . .

So, now that that's out of the way. How about you? What's your messiest room, area, whatever. Show me with video or photographic proof and you could get this super-cool award (another first for me, creating this - it's really sad but so is winning it)

You have until Feb. 28th to write your own post about your mess. Please provide photos or video. Come here and leave a comment with a link to your post (yes I know I must get McLinky, but I can only handle so many firsts in one day). At the end I will select the Messiest Mommy and she can proudly shamefacedly display this special award.


Things that make me go mmmmmmm

So, Heather over at Notes from Lapland tagged me in the latest meme to hit the blogger scene (okay, I doubt it's the latest as there's a new one every 2 minutes, but you get my drift).

The idea is to write about ten things that make you happy and then tag your blogger friends to do the same. And you get the great honour of displaying this handy-dandy Happy 101 badge. My first ever badge! I'm thrilled! It makes me so . . . . happy!

Want to know what else makes me happy? Read on . . .

*UPDATE - I forgot to tag my blogging friends I'm passing this along to. So here goes,
My wants-to-remain-anonymous friend Entropy Girl
Tara at Mushy Peas
Andreae at With the Crickets


Am I "A Reliable Wife?"

My husband used to buy me books, scads and scads of books and comfy sweaters. I love books and comfy sweaters. But, even though I'm not a Cosmo-reading, cosmo-sipping, high heels and long earrings kind of gal I also like the occasional girly gift - like some nice understated earrings or perhaps a spa certificate. So, after about three years of marriage and 7 years of being together I finally got the gall to mention that I might like a pair of earrings.

Okay, what I actually said was (upon opening a book birthday present) "there's a woman behind this brain, you know."

Good choice of words, bad timing? Bad choice of words, bad timing? Who knows. But he took it to heart.

Never a book as present since. Heck, I'd have to literally beg him to bring me home a book from the library WHERE HE WORKS!!

And then this Valentine's Day (even though we never exchange presents, just cards) a surprise! Two new books for little ol' me - brand new, not from the used bookstore or loaners from the library. I thought that I had given up my consumerist thrill in new books, but the idea that my fingers were the first to brush their tips through the pages completely titillated me.

I finished the first in two days (I'm way too quick a reader which is why I have mostly given up on the idea of buying new books for myself). It was A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick, an absolutely amazing novel set in rural Wisconsin at the turn of the twentieth century. I must write a proper review of it as it was stunningly brilliant in its subject matter, the writing, the use of character and landscape. If you want to be a writer you read a novel like that and think to yourself "this is who I want to be - this writer."

But that's not what this post is about. See the novel revolved around two characters: Ralph Truitt, a wealthy widower who places an ad for a "reliable wife," and Catherine Land, the woman he choses. Land, however has hidden motives upon hidden motives, some obvious, some not so. She lies to him from before they meet, at first hiding herself from him in order to fulfill her motives and then hiding herself from him in order to keep him from thinking badly of her.

Okay, so I've never planned to kill my husband (not really, there've been moments where I've pondered his death with a little more relish than grief, but fleeting moments in which I was not truly myself), but I wonder if I'm a liar too.

After all, it took my 7 years to reveal to him that I might like earrings sometimes. Just last night he finally learned that I'm afraid of the dark. He was really surprised, actually, which I find remarkable as I thought it was obvious. It's not something you want to confess to people as a grown woman, though, is it? I've done it now though and confessed, but it'll take a while before I reveal why I'm afraid of the dark.

There've been other things that he's been shocked to discover too: my feelings about certain controversial subjects; secret fantasies (no I'm not talking about my imagined letters post); aspects of my childhood; aspirations.

Considering we've been together 10 years you'd think I'd have no secrets by now. There are only two explanations:
  1. 1. He's incredibly dense and needs to be told literally everything.
  2. 2. I'm incredibly secretive.

It's probably a combination of both, though I probably am a bit of a secretive person. I'm the worst kind, actually, the kind that seems very forthright and open but holds back a lot. And he is rather dense quite often. Perhaps not a match made in heaven in terms of that . . .

What about you? Are you an open book to your spouse? Does (s)he know everything there is to know or do you still surprise each other after years together? And is a little held back and revealed over time or not at all healthy for a relationship or does it just make us unreliable?


Social Development of a Mother

This is the course of my life. This is its route.

I am a primate:
Seeking to hold my head high,
To walk upright,
When I feel I've just left the ground.

Looking for connection:
With others;
the world around me;

I am a Cave Artist:
My womb a canvas
To create perfect images
Of expected life.

My blog a space
To splash the walls
With creative impluses.

I am a Hunter-Gatherer
Hunting about the house for:
clean laundry;
my son's homework;
a working pen;
a favourite toy.

Gathering from the floor,
discarded toys and garbage.
Gathering from the world,
ideas and impulses.

I am a tool maker;
a fixer of toys;
an improviser;
a make-doer

I am an Agrarian:
Growing, growing, ever growing
vegetables, flowers, herbs, children:
Tending and cultivating

I an Industrialist:

Seeking a new form of connection
Through common work
Shared industry
A community of labourers.

I am Post-Industrial:
Service minded;
Information oriented.
Creating out of nothing and everything.

I am human, humanity, stages of development.

Nothing is complete; everything is gestalt.

A Tiger Bracelet Craft for Chinese New Year

The kids and I made this super-cute Tiger bracelet to send to friends and relatives for Chinese New Year. Not just super-cute, they're super cheap too. And super fun! Seriously, the kids loved it and were able to do most of it themselves.
Read on to discover how to make your own!


These Are My Married Life Fantasies

Perhaps you've noticed, but then again maybe you're too distracted by the kids' rantings and ravings: children don't let their parents talk.


Never ever ever so long as we all shall live.

Given our busy days with hubby at work and me living my workish life at home we hardly even get to email each other.

Gone are the days of love notes penned on pretty paper left for each other on the table. I'm lucky if I can find a blue crayon to write my grocery list on the back of one of my son's innumerable worksheets (I maintain, the only work involved is for the parents to find somewhere to put them)

So this is my fantasy. I write notes to my husband in my head. And like a puppet I have him respond. Oh his responses are often quite lovely, though sometimes they are designed to put whiney, unappreciative me in my place.

Todays note goes something like this:

Dear Husband,

My migraine is finally gone (praise the Lord), but YOUR daughter is working hard to bring it back. Yes, I am sure she's your daughter. I do not have a temper; you do. Therefore the temper tantrums she exhibits in excess of ten times a day are definitely as a result of your (less than desirable, I may add) genetic material.

I don't need medicinal Coca-Cola for my migraine, but I do need preventative chocolate. Please bring me home a chocolate treat from work.

The baby has broken another plate. Next time YOUR parents visit can you explain to your mother that I not a negligent parent, bad dishwasher, or lazy housewife that throws out dirty dishes instead of washing them? I know that she will comment (again) on our lack of sideplates and glasses. We are almost out of sideplates now and I have not broken a single one. No, I was not there when he flung his plate from his highchair. I was in the bathroom peeing - I'm trying not to get another bladder infection. I think I deserve two two minute breaks a day to pee.

Anyway, seeing as how it's only you and he that manage to break dishes on a fairly consistent basis I'm certain that that too is genetic and ultimately it is your parents' fault anyway.

The laundry will not be done when you get home. If you mention it I will probably cry. So please don't mention it.

The devil just dropped in. After our daughter's last tantrum measuring 12,000 decibels and a 8.9 on the Richter Scale she apparently shook hell so badly that the dog run broke. Apparently we have unleashed the hounds of hell. He claims I must round them up as it's my responsibiity.

Must go. Love you.

Dearest, most darlingest wife,

First, allow me to apolgise. I will try my hardest to remember your chocolate, but you know my sieve-like mind. I am sorry my poor genetic material caused such a monster to be born.

Tell the devil to shag off; you're too busy to deal with the likes of him.

I'll buy dishes before my parents visit again. And perhaps I am finally willing to admit that your idea of spending more money on stainless steel ones may actually end up costing us less in the long run.

Try to remember, my dear, that faulty genetics and all, you chose me. And we chose to have children. The children did not get to choose who their mother was. I think they did pretty good out of it. I admire your patience and skill with them. I know they can be absolute beasts and that's all my fault.

I am, as always, your ever-admiring, ever-loving husband.

PS: If you don't get the laundry done today does that mean we can get the bed sheets dirty tonight?

And that, dear folks, is how my sordid little fantasies work out. In actuality there will probably be this exchange at the end of the day:

Husband walks through door.
Me: The laundry isn't done. The children have been horrible. At least supper is made. Did you bring home any chocolate?
Husband: Was I supposed to bring home chocolate?
Me: Oh never mind . . .

Later that night in bed . . .
Husband: There's something sticking into me.
Me (verging on tears): I told you I didn't get the laundry finished!
Husband: You did? oh. Right. Mmmmmmmmm . . . I love you.

You picture the rest. Or don't because that would be a little wierd.

Now dish! I know I'm not the only one that does this more grown up, more literary version of talking to the mirror (Oh Gawd, I hope I'm not!). Blog your own and leave a link in the comments here. One of these days I'll work out that McLinky thing.


So much depends upon a red . . .

I'm still about 10 posts behind in this blog - have them all written on my brain. The problem is getting them from my brain to the laptop and juggling all the little techno-glitches while my son tries to climb in my lap to nurse and my daughter comes into my office to spread her mess.

Ah well. C'est la vie; n'est-ce pas?

I had to do this one, though. My friend Tara has been waiting since forever for me to continue this little cyber-tag bloggers game. So here it is.

The idea is to photograph 7 red things in your home and then tag your blogging friends to do the same.

So here goes. Here, in no particular order, are a few of my favourite red things

Teaghan's crayon roll - a super duper handy crayon keeper loosely modeled after this tutorial.

An image from Little Red Riding Hood - my kids' favourite fairy tale.

Our red Fropper - bought on clearance at Toys R Us and worth every penny. The older kids can still ride it and Emers scoots around the house on it yelling "wheeeeeeee!"

The red walls of our bedroom. Sexy, wha? Now if only we could get the kids to stay out.

It's obvious who gets the fancy clothes in the family, isn't it? My favourite shoes are old worn-out LL Bean clogs, Teaghans are these gliterry red Dorothy shoes. This is actually her third pair of these, one came in a hand-me-down bag and I've since found two more pairs at the Thrift store. These are about 2 sizes two big but she loves clunking around the house in them.

My kids' first collaborative artwork done on red paper, of course. The H and T are done by Harrison, the blue dots by Teaghan and the yellow scribbles by Emers. The cutting and gluing was a dual effort by Teaghan and Harrison.

My very best friends, if you go by the amount of time we spend together. Does it make me feel better about sweeping and mopping about 20 times a day because my broom and mop are red? NO! But it does make them easier to find when they're hiding under the couch.

Last but not least, a poem by one of my favourite poets. You've probably come upon this one before

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white

Now it's your turn Entropy Girl, Valerie, Kia, Darrell, and Cathy.


What I've Been Doing Instead of Blogging:

So the past few days have been crazy hectic. We were hit with a second cold just as we were getting over the first. Of course this one had to include pinkeye!

I've been working on getting some contacts out to syndicate my weekly parenting column.

AND I've been working on the class gifts for Valentine's Day. I came up with a great craft I thought the kids would be able to help with. But as I made the "prototype," I realised it was way too fiddly for the kids. Their help consisted mostly of creative input and holding things - neither of which they're too patient for.

Here's what "we" made for his classmates:

For the girls - flower topped pens, complete with lollipop and butterfly pick - and of course, disney princess hologram cards (bought on clearance last year) as gift tags.

For the boys - pom-pom creature topped pens plus a feather pen, complete with lollipop and some flora - and of course, spiderman hologram cards (same clearance sale) as gift tags

For his teacher, principal and school secretary :
An origami heart box - he coloured the heart part with a bingo dauber

Filled with raspberry-champagne truffles - the kids helped roll them

And sealed with love

And everyone's getting one of our beet stamped cards complete with the following hokey verse made up by mommy:

A Valentine card and a special treat
To celebrate a friendship so sweet
For, as said by Winnie the Pooh,
"It's so much more friendlier with two."

We printed the verse on computer paper, cut it out and glued it in the cards. And can you believe that after all of mommy's hard work the boy complained about having to sign his name to 19 cards?

I wasn't going to post a tutorial for the flower pens as it's pretty well too late for Valentine's Day. But then it occured to me that they'd make great Easter gifts, or bridal shower favours or some such as well. So, tutorial is upcoming!


No added Sugar (Avacado) Strawberry Chocolate "Pudding"

We'll call it pudding and it's your call whether or not to tell your kids there's avacado in there!

The final product is a little runnier than commercial pudding, but it requires no cooking or cornstarch.

You'll need a food processor or blender for this one.

You'll also need:
1/2 ripe avacado
1/2 ripe banana
2 Tbsp no added sugar strawberry jam
3-4 strawberries (optional)
1/2 cup plain, vanilla, or strawberry yogurt
1/2 tsp vanilla (unless using vanilla yogurt)
3 1/2 TBSP cocoa

Just put it all in the blender and whiz away. I added the strawberries because I had a few on hand that were about to become over-ripe. They're not neccessary, though. The chocolate flavour isn't very strong but the cocoa is neccessary to cover the green color from the avacado. If you want a stronger chocolate flavour I suggest melting some chocolate chips and adding them. However this will increase the sugar amount.

My kids all loved it and literally licked their bowls.


Frugal and Simple Valentine's Day Print

Have you ever peeled or cooked beets?

If you're like me, the moment you saw the purpley-red color that seemed to be permanently staining your hands you thought "I can do something with this!"

Alas, it turns out beet juice is no good for staining clothes. Even if you manage to get a faint pinkish tinge, it washes out immediately. I had envisioned using all those peels and bits in a dye soup. But a google search told me "no" before I even tried

I gave up on the idea for a while. Then the other day inspiration struck!

Remember potato prints? Your mom would cut a shape in the potato, you'd dip it in paint and use it as a stamp. I've done this with my kids, but they don't quite get the concept that less is more in stamping - usually the result is just a huge mess. A mess they're proud of, though.

Let me introduce the BEET PRINT.

No paint neccessary!

Just proceed as you would with a potato print: cut a beet in half, etch your shape in and cut away around the shape (hearts are perfect!). Just make sure to cut deep around it, leaving at least an inch of the "stamp" sticking above the rest of the beet.

Hand to your kids and let them stamp away.

After 3 or 4 "stamps" the juice will begin to dry. This is why you cut a deep shape, just peel a thin amount from the top of the stamp shape and you have fresh juice. Alternatively, you could dip the stamp in a little vinegar. The vinegar stamps are not quite as vibrant, but if you don't want to be running back and forth with a knife or peeler, it's a good alternative.

The finished product looks somewhat like this (my camera is really not doing well lately, the color is off on this, but you get the idea)

We made about 24 from one beet with juice to spare. You can also use the bits you cut off as "crayons."


The Search for a Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookie - Part 2

My husband declared these "adorably edible" and the kids say they're "simply the best." My son's classmates loved them too! I think I may have perfected the low sugar, low fat chocolate chip cookie!

Darn it I forgot to take photos again! Will update as soon as I make them again.

16 dates
½ small zuchinni peeled
3 tbsp marg
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup white flour
¾ cup whole wheat
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
3 cups oats
1 ½ cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350

First puree the dates and zuchinni. No need to cook them first. Then cream together with the margarine and sugars (I think you could eliminate the white sugar and just use the 1/4 cup brown, but try it this way the first time). Whip in the eggs and vanilla.

Now I know you're supposed to mix your dry ingredients seperately, but I just whip them right in there and it always turns out fine. Add your flours and baking soda and salt and mix at a low speed. Don't overmix or they won't rise. If you want to be correct about it, whisk your flours, baking soda and salt in a seperate bowl and add gradually to the creamed mixture.

Using a stiff spoon stir in the oats and chocolate chips.

Drop by teaspoonful onto a lightly greased or parchment lined tray. Bake for approx 13 minutes (this was perfect for me, but ovens vary, they'll rise a little, spread a little and the bottoms will become quite golden). Let cool on tray for 5 minutes than remove to wire to cool.

This makes a crispy on the outside chewy on the inside cookie. If you prefer an entirely chewy cookie, don't let them cool on the tray first or add a little juice to the mix. If you prefer a good crispy cookie, press the dough down before baking and increase temp to 375.

I personally like this version and they're practically guilt free.


My Son Eats Rainbows! Rainbows I Tell Ya!

They skipped a line in the Rainbow song. For a much more "civilized" version, check out the original song on the Today I Ate a Rainbow website.

I have to admit, I didn't really think this chart would work that well. My son has refused to eat any recognisable vegetable for over 2 years now. For at least a year he's had a line on his star chart that gets a star whenever he takes even a bite of vegetable. In that entire year, he's had a star only when we've had spaghetti (thank God he never turned up his nose at spaghetti sauce) and once -at his 5th birthday party - for trying a bite of raw carrot.

I've been sneaking vegetables into everything from cookies to casseroles. I've always made a point of letting him know "you just ate a vegetable!" when I snuck it in. While it wouldn't make him turn up his nose at foods, it wouldn't make him want to try a bite of the vegetable in its natural form either.

I'm afraid, though, that my food processor is going to burn out! While I enoy the creativity of finding new ways to add vegetables to our diet, there are days I just wish he would eat a darn bite! It makes it incredibly difficult to eat out or even at my parents.

When I saw a second mention of this chart I thought I'd better check it out. I visited their amazing website and began to think it might be worth the $19.95, just to try. Never one to miss an opporunity to save money, though, I contacted the owner, Kia, to ask if I could get a discount in exchange for reviewing her product on the blog. She did even better and sent me a free demo version!

Yes I got this for free. But knowing now how it has affected our lives, I would have paid ten times what she's asking for it.

Seriously, it is that good.

Let me tell you why:

1. It eases your mind. Though I knew my son ate lots of fresh fruit even though he ate no vegetables, it wasn't until we started using this chart that I realised how great a variety of fruit he eats. I was sure it was mostly apples and bananas. But once we started tracking the colors of his fruits we quickly saw that he eats a rainbow every day.

2. It works better than a behaviour chart. The great graphics and design make your child really want to fill in the whole chart. If they can eat one fruit or vegetable from each of the color categories (red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple) then they get to put their rainbow on. It rewards baby steps and a huge accomplishment, unlike a slot on your behaviour chart that just rewards one effort. You wouldn't believe how strongly my son wanted to complete his chart so he could put on his rainbow and sing the song.

3. It provides a platform for discussion. The color categories and the discussion of how to meet them really lets you talk to a child at their level about the importance of fruit and vegetables. There are amazing tips on the website and blog for furthering this discussion.

4. It made my son a vegetable eater!
Yes, that's right. We are still working on it, but the boy who ate no vegetables is willing to eat them in order to get his magnets. Not only that, he has actually asked for vegetables!

Two weeks ago we had a breakthrough of the kind I've never imagined. I'll share with you what I wrote to Kia, the owner and creator of Today I Ate a Rainbow

I wanted to share some excellent news. Tonight I was making some couscous blend and curried chicken stiry fry for supper. I envisioned a battle with Harrison but I had no idea what was going to happen.

As I was preparing the couscous the kids were bugging me for snacks -as they always do the moment I step into the kitchen. I told them no but mentioned I was about to slice some vegetables and they could snack on a few bites of those before supper. The minute she saw me take the green pepper out of the fridge my daughter got excited - she just loves raw pepper. So I sliced some and put it aside, the red pepper and the baby carrots as well. She walks off happily munching her green pepper and I hear Harrison ask her "what have you got?"

Next thing I know, he's asking for a piece. I ALMOST said no because I knew he would take one tiny nibble and throw the rest in the garbage. But he at least has been taking a nibble lately, so I thought I didn't want to discourage that. I handed it to him and he took a big bite, then grinned and went to show his sister that he had a piece too.

I almost fell over! He ate the whole thing. And when Teaghan came in asking for a piece of red pepper, he followed shortly behind her wanting the same. And then baby carrots.I was actually fishing vegetables out of the wok for them.

AND THEN he sat down to supper and ate all his vegetables including the zuchinni and onion AND a piece of curried chicken (until now we've basically only been able to get him to eat processed meats).

And then he ran straight to his chart and said "can I put on my magnets now?"

I Am Sooo Behind

Bad head cold turned into bad chest cold verging on lung infection. That plus some issues at home have made my blog posting the past two weeks non-existant. Oh yeah and did I mention my keyboard is broken?
Anyway, I am back and have a gazillion things to post. Of course day after tommorrow we have my friends two sons visiting for the weekend - so we'll see how that works out!