Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Til Next Year...

I'm starting the post-Christmas clean-up today. Somehow, what was festive a week ago, looks a bit tired to me now.

However, I'm always sad to put away the Christmas stories, but I do it. It makes them more special the next year.

So, today, I say good-bye to our beautifully illustrated The Nativity by Julie Vivas. The Angel Gabriel descends on wispy, watercolour wings to give the message to Mary...and he's wearing work boots. There's a page with the sequence of Mary's belly growing, much to her surprise. My favourite illustration is when Mary (being GREAT with child) is trying to steer the donkey down a steep hill with a big smile on her face. This book makes the story of Mary and Joseph so human. The baby Jesus looks like a real baby in both his posture and his expression. Kieran is also fascinated by his anatomical accuracy. Love it.

Then, there's bear. We love Karma Wilson's bear stories in our house. And I love the fact that she breaks the publishing house rules of having both rhyming text and anthropomorphic animals. Perhaps it's because she does this so well, there's not much room for less skillful approaches. I also appreciate Jane Chapman's illustrations of the animals. They look like real animals but have convincing emotional expression.

Poor Bear slept through the previous Christmas. This year, his friends make sure he stays awake. As they make their Christmas preparations, Bear keeps falling back into hibernation. Finally, he's the only one awake when a special visitor arrives. Kieran enjoys all the little gifts the animals make for each other. Go back to sleep until next year, Bear.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

When Stella was Very, Very Small

Our buddy, Lukey J, gave Kieran this book for Christmas. The watercolour illustrations evoke magical images from childhood, making the world seem endless and mysterious. Stella has her own way of looking at the world and her role in it. A snow fall hides everything in sight, while a windy day makes her sandbox into a stormy desert. Young Stella's world certainly is an exciting place.

Then, as Stella grows up, the world is no longer as daunting--she gains mastery over it. Her imagination doesn't disappear, it changes. Yet, when her little brother, Sam, comes along, she's able to share her wonder with him. It's a good story for cuddling and admiring the beautiful artwork.

Thanks, Lukey...

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Mole Sisters

I'm the boring aunt and mother who buys kids books for Christmas. My theory is that after the excitement of toys wears off, kids turn to their books. At least, I used to. After a tiring day, it was nice at bedtime for Kieran and I to read some of his new books.

Here's one of our favourites, published by Annick Press...

Kieran loves this story because he loves animals, especially cute, mischievous ones. I love this book because of the eternal optimism of these two little moles. Everything is an adventure and obstacles provide opportunity. There is a subtle celebration of nature whether the sisters befriend a piece of moss or go roaming through a field of wheat. There are four little illustrations per page and the text is poetic in its economy. Even though the protagonists are feminine, I think the story appeals to both boys and girls because of the sense of adventure. These girls are resilient and resourceful. Lovely...

Oh...and each story takes about two minutes to read so you can read FIVE WHOLE STORIES in ten minutes...not that time matters for a tired parent trying to negotiate bedtime...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

Nothing makes a cat happier than a cardboard box.

Photographic evidence : yes, there really were THREE wild turkeys in our backyard...
And thanks to everyone for the suggestion that this would make a nice Christmas dinner--we are big fans of eating locally.
Kieran's homemade wrapping paper...

"And Mole pops corn to string upon the tree..." from Bear Stays Up (For Christmas)
We made some popcorn and cranberry strings the other day. Kieran thought we should move them outside to feed the birds. Awwww...

Merry Christmas everyone!~

I'll be back in a few days...

Must make merry!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Busy Bee Gluten Free

I've started a separate blog to provide information and recipes I've gleaned throughout my two year gluten-free adventure. I will post ingredient information and tips on how to be gluten-free with a busy schedule. For those of us who don't have time to grow and grind our own buckwheat, there is hope...

So...I won't write about gluten-free cooking/baking in this blog as much.

Make sure you also check The Brockville Voice link to the left for my Christmas column.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Today, I Love My Job

It's the last day of school before Christmas. Students tucked sweet little gifts and home-made cards onto my desk throughout the day. "The Mustache Something-or-Other Man Choir" rehearsed in the cafeteria (which is also my classroom) for much of the morning. The school buzzed with preparations for the annual talent show and my Grade Nine Drama class performed several creative and unusual dramatizations of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." The hi-light was the party we hosted in my Grade Ten Drama class. Everyone brought treats that we enjoyed by candle-light and one of my students played Christmas carols on his violin. Some days, I can't believe this is my job.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Home-made Christmas

Every year, I vow that I'm going to make as much as I can for Christmas: gifts, decorations, cards...
Every year, I get a few things done, but never as much as I imagine.
I so ENJOY making things--there's just no time.
Here's my best effort this year--and my friend's best efforts.
Shari collected these boughs and arranged them in my urn. Last year I made the dog's breakfast of the project. My designer friend couldn't bear it. This year, she rescued me from this decorating travesty. Now I have a lovely urn of which I can be proud. Thanks!

Shari also taught me how to make these little snowflakes from rolled paper (not rolling paper, although that might work too). Just cut the paper into strips (or use a shredder) and roll the paper around a skewer. Glue the end to form a little spiral. Then, glue them all together in any shape that looks snowflakey.

Kieran painted coloured paper with glitter. Then, I cut out shapes and made this card. I also used his finger paintings to make snowflake cards. Maybe if I start now, I'll have enough for next year.

To Lisa Smith

I am your Secret Santa!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, La La La La La La Laaaaaaaa

These photos are a few weeks old but I've been having camera trouble.

everyone needs a pair of super goggles

Daddy's helper

on the way home

the final moments of our precious twig's now in tiny pieces

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Metaphor...

Thank you to Jackie Gardiner for taking this photo. Or should I say this visual metaphor of my relationship with my son. From day one, he's been full of surprises, many of them scary, most of them good.

Some days we're moving in different directions. We often have different goals. For instance, I want Kieran to use the potty, and he clearly can't because of his language barrier, being Spanish and all. I toil all morning making gluten-free, sugar-free chocolate chips cookies (for which the ingredients cost more than the sweater I'd love to buy) only so he can eat the first two out of the oven and shun the rest. So--as Jackie so eloquently said--Kieran enjoys the view while I slog away uphill.

Man, I love that kid. And he's lucky I do...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Snow Day!

During my first few years of teaching, I remember feeling annoyed about snow days. I had things to do. I had exciting lessons planned. Curriculum needed to be covered. There was nothing more important than what I was going to do in my classroom that day. A cancellation would disrupt everyone's learning.

Things have changed.

Now, I wait in joyous anticipation as the radio lists off the bus cancellations. Do I love my job any less? No. I just accept the gift of snow days more graciously. Actually, I've come to my senses.

I no longer worry about the curriculum. Maybe that's because I teach drama and no one but me knows (or cares!) what the curriculum covers. But even in an academic course, a day off for the students now and then can boost everyone's energy. Now, I see snow days as a chance to get all those little things done that keep piling up. I feel refreshed and organized when the kids come back.

Because teachers still go to school on snow days.

However, there's a different energy in the air. Since we're all in separate classrooms most of the day and then fly to extra-curriculars at lunch and after school, there's little time to chat. Staff rooms on snow day mornings are magical places. People linger and laugh with coffee. Love it.

And I like to imagine the kids at home: sleeping in, watching soaps, going sledding. It's all good.

C'mon Mother Nature--one more before Christmas!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I'm envious of my cat. No matter what the weather on these wintry mornings, he's in the same place when we leave the house. As Kieran and I bundle to face the elements, Findley looks up at us from his chair by the fire as if to say,

"You poor things, having to go out in that. Try not to make noise on your way out the door."

I used to find it especially frustrating when Findley would wake us at 6:00am with persistent purrs and kitty kneads only to be back asleep on his chair by seven, just as we left for work.

But life is not all tuna fish and cat nip for our kitty. Poor Findley's life has changed. He was my baby before Kieran came along. While I still adore him, he knows his status has changed. He has to sleep in the basement now. Sometimes, we run out of soft food. We forgot to unpack his Christmas stocking this year. I would say he's accepted these changes with grace and dignity. In those rare moments, when Kieran is occupied and I sit down to read a book, Findley is right there, willing to take whatever love he can scavenge.

Or, maybe he never really cared, which is more likely. As long as he's fed, has a place to sleep, a clean litter, and the odd scratch behind the ear, he'll stick around. And we're glad he's here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ahead of My Time?

Transcript (unofficial) of today's phone call:

Peter: Hello? Andrea Cameron?

Andrea: Oh great, a telemarketer. Yes...

Peter: Hi, this is Peter ______ from the annual ______ Literary Contest.

Andrea: Hi. Why is he calling? Am I shortlisted? Did I win? Oh, I must have won. Of course!

Peter: I'm calling regarding your submission.

Andrea: Oh... I'm shortlisted! I knew it! I'm a literary genius and now the world will know! I will become part of the canon of Canadian literature alongside Alice Munro, Timothy Findley, and Margaret Atwood. Yes, my name would look lovely in that list.

Peter: Well, actually, it's about your payment. Oh no, I think she thinks I'm calling to tell her some good news.

Andrea: Is something wrong? Oops. Maybe I'm not a genius.

Peter: Actually, your cheque was returned to us...This is so awkward.

Andrea: That's strange. Insufficient funds? Identity theft? A joke?

Peter: You dated it 2010. Loser.

Andrea: I see. Can I still send another? I am such a loser.

I was having such a good hair day. I should have known it would end like this.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cookies and Pots


I feel like shouting this news from the rooftops! I just made a delicious gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free chocolate chip cookie. Kieran and I both ate one and stared at each other in disbelief. We are both accustomed to my creations turning out a little...dry...crumbly...chick pea-tasting...blah. Now, we rejoice.

What they heck was in them then? you ask. Bob's GF flour, coconut oil, vanilla, applesauce, ground flax seed, xanthan gum, salt, evaporated cane juice...nothing too strange or difficult to find. I found the recipe from--you guessed it--Baby Cakes. I'd love to include the recipe here but I didn't create it so then it might be an intellectual property sort of issue.

Honestly, I'm not working for them or anything. It's just the best darn cookbook I've found for my boy's food issues.


Sue's Christmas Pottery Sale

Saturday, December 5th, 11am-5pm
293 Albert St., Kingston, ON
*some of Sue's early work
*pots from a personal collection
*new work
*sale items/end of line selections

***a portion of the profits go to the Stephen Lewis Foundation

Sue is a dear friend of mine and an amazing potter. She was my first pottery teacher. If you're in the area, going would be worthwhile.